Weekly wine tips

Readers of this column may be getting tired of my raising the issue of excise duty on wine but bear with me for just a few sentences. 

Weekly wine tips

The budget is looming and if duty on wine is raised it will effect jobs and our wider economy as much as wine enthusiasts.

It should be remembered 1,100 people are employed directly by importers and tens of thousands of jobs are supported in the 13,000 pubs, restaurants and independent off-licences that sell wine. The huge majority of these jobs are in small family-owned businesses and many more will close if duty is raised.

Tourists regularly express their shock at the price of wine here – is this a trade we want to damage? Do we really only want to buy wine from the supermarkets? If not, then please do me and the Irish wine community a small favour: send an email to minister@finance.gov.ie and express your strong wish for an excise reduction to save jobs.

Better still, call the Minister Noonan’s Constituency Office on 061-229350 or call to his clinic if you are in Limerick and let him know your views.

Wine is an artisan agricultural product exactly the same as butter or cheese to an Irish farmer – our excise duty is 600% higher than the EU average despite the fact we drink just 13 litres per head per year – the French and Italians drink over 40.

Imagine if Italian and French supermarkets sold Kerrygold at €25 for 500g. Our excise rates amount to a trade barrier and we are already in trouble with our friends in Europe over our Corporation tax rates – our draconian wine tax will be next.

The wine suggestions this week are from some of the fine small importers whose livelihoods are threatened by our wine tax rates.

Most of these wines are from small wineries which would be of no interest to the supermarkets but are of huge interest to wine enthusiasts and perfectly suited to small enthusiastic wine shops and wine bars such as l’Atitude 51 and Meades Wine Bar on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork as well as other independent retail outlets.

Wine for under €15 

Pizarras de Otero 2012, Bierzo, Spain; €13.95

Stockists: No 21 Coburg Street; Bradleys; Hollands, Bray, Red Island Skerries; Drink Store, D7; Vintry, Rathgar.

Old vine Carignan from the Languedoc with lively red fruit flavours. Made in a very approachable style but still has a kick of chewy tannins and character on the finish. Imported by Cork-based River Wines and made by Jean-Louis Poudou who is a Carignan specialist.

Doricum Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane, Sicily; €12

Stockist: Neville & Nicholson Wines, www.kilkennywine.com

Neville and Nicholson wines were founded in the dying days of the Celtic Tiger and mainly supply restaurants but will be selling to the public through their website later this month. This is a light crisp fruity style with a lovely red currant and blueberry flavoured palate — great for the price.

Pizarras de Otero 2012, Bierzo, Spain; €13.95

Stockists: Ardkeen Stores; Next Door; Raheen; JJ O’Driscolls; Wine Centre Kilkenny

Made from the Mencia grape in green north-west Spain this is laced with violet scented fruits and is fragrant, characterful and eminently drinkable. One of the highlights under €15 at the recent Spanish wine fair and imported by Approach Trade based in Carlow.

Wine for over €15 

Domaine Clavel “Les Garrigues”, Coteaux du Languedoc 2012, France: €15.75

Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar and Arnotts, Dublin; www.winesdirect.ie

Garrigues refers to the typical scrubland landscape of the Languedoc where grapes are one of the few crops small farmers can grow. This is a 55% Syrah with Carignan and Grenache and its bright fruity style (damsons and blackberries) is perfect for autumnal evenings when food could be anything from a rich stew to a barbecue.

Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: €18.99-€19.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Bradleys, North Main St; Curious Wines, 1601, Kinsale; Hollands, Bray.

I’ve mentioned Eveline Fraser’s wines before (her Riesling is particularly fine) but if you want to know how Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand should really taste then this is one for you. Intriguing flavours of lemongrass, melon and crunchy green pepper with a mineral pristine finish.

The Flower and the Bee, Ribeiro, Spain: €16.99-€17.99

Stockists: 1601, Kinsale; Deveneys, Dundrum.

Imported by Colin Egan of Distinctive Drinks, one of the many small importers that has suffered unfairly since Michael Noonan became Minister for Finance. This is exactly the kind of unusual wine that will disappear if we don’t reverse excise. Vibrant chewy red fruit packed with character and flavour.

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