The new alcohol legislation proposed this week will mostly effect supermarkets which are important for convenience and value, but are of less interest to wine enthusiasts who seek out seek out the rare and the unusual, and often something simpler - a conversation.
Supermarkets often use cheap wine to drive footfall and I am in favour of a ban on below-cost selling which I believe is anti-competitive to the trade as a whole.
Sadly wine is fattening so providing calories is a good thing, and forcing retailers to separate alcohol from food and to market it responsibly has to be a good thing.
Overall I believe the proposed legislation will in the end, actually be good for wine enthusiasts.
Speaking of the independents - Redmonds in Ranelagh is the NOffLA 2015 Specialist Off-Licence of the Year – a deserved win for a fine shop with an enormous selection of wines, beers and spirits.
Munster Off-Licence of the year is Next Door The Forum in Waterford, a shop that gets better every time I visit. No. 21 Coburg in Cork won best newcomer and O’Donovans Mallow won for Customer Service - one of the most difficult categories as you are judged against all entrants.
McHughs Kilbarrack won for Dublin, Dicey Rileys won Connaught-Ulster and the Wine Centre Kilkenny won best in Leinster - all well worth visiting.
My selections this week are all to be found in independents, in particular Blackrock Cellar which won the Wine Specialist Award (Deveney’s Dundrum won for spirits and Martins in Fairview won for beer).
Blackrock Cellar is in the old Oddbins space in Blackrock, Co. Dublin with views onto the sea and a cornucopia of the rare, the unusual and the interesting – what’s more, the wine (beer or spirits) conversation could last all day, just as in any the winners mentioned above.
Imported exclusively by Blackrock Cellars this Pinot Noir from a tiny producer in an obscure region of the Loire is exactly the kind of wine you are unlikely to find in a supermarket. Light in colour with red fruit aromas and supple redcurrant fruit on the palate and a touch of structure on the finish.
Owned by Kilkenny man Gay McGuinness the Dom. des Anges wines are always worth a look. This is a blend of 50/50 Grenache and Syrah from a region that is technically Rhone but closer to Provence. Ripe soft red fruits with touches of chocolate and liquorice on the palate and hint of spice.
Made mostly with Bobal, a grape native to this region (west of Valencia), plus some Syrah and Tempranillo. Bobal is a grape to watch and one you will be hearing more about. Cherries, raspberries, a hint of tar and spice, and a fruity silky-smooth palate.
A former winner of NOffLA Red Wine of the Year made with Negoramaro and Malvasia Nera. Packed with spicy southern Italian flavours of sun-dried raisins, sweet red fruits and a hint of bitter cherries. A winter warmer to match spicy food and casseroles.
Cabernet is not traditional in the Ventoux so this is an IGP which replaced the old vin de pays category a few years ago. A distinctly southern take on Cab-Sauv with blackcurrants on the nose, soft plummy fruits on the palate, and a lingering juicy finish.
Italian Malbec is a first for me but this winery has grown it for 50 years on their estate in the Veneto (an ancestor was Doge of Venice). This is Malbec with a distinct Italian twist, refreshing and fruity with notable cherry overtones (as you would expect in the Veneto) and a dusky slightly smoky finish. Recommended.