Wine: Off-Licence of the Year Awards

The results are in and the 2016 National Off-Licence of the year is a shop that features regularly in my stockist list — Baggot Street Wines.
Wine: Off-Licence of the Year Awards

The shop is a former Oddbins and is opposite the old Baggot Street Hospital on upper Baggot St.

It’s owned by Garret Connolly and managed by Catherine Noakes, both of whom worked with Oddbins (as did other staff members) prior to that chain closing their stores in Ireland.

The best selections are in Spain, Portugal, and France, but there is also a decent showing from Argentina and other countries plus of course a comprehensive range of Irish and international spirits and an excellent craft beer selection with all decent Irish brewers in stock.

There is also a growler option where cask-conditioned beer from the likes of Eight Degrees and Trouble Brewing can be taken home.

Last year, the shop opened The Cavern wine bar which runs the length of the premises underneath the shop and includes a large heated outdoor area.

Any wine in the shop can be consumed downstairs for a corkage fee of €5 and the food menu changes daily.

This idea of expanding the business into a wine bar will be the future for many independent off-licences and is one area where the supermarkets cannot compete. Fallon & Byrne, 64 Wines Glasthule and Green Man Wines in Terenure all have a similar offering and are full most nights.

Such wine bars are particularly popular with women who are fed up with the meagre wine offering in the average pub.

Munster Off-Licence of the year for 2016 is Number 21 Midleton, a first time winner and only their second year in the competition.

There are now branches of Number 21 in Cork City (Coburg Street), Ballincollig, Charleville, Waterford, Listowel (formerly Stacks) and Carrick-on-Suir. Keep an eye on these guys as I suspect they will be opening more shops this year.

Leinster winner was The Wine Centre Kilkenny and the Connaught/ Ulster winner was McCambridges Galway and O’Donovans Ballincollig won the Customer Service Award.

Almost all the stockists suggested below are members of Noffla and deserve support.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Crash! Vino de la Tierra de Extremadura 2012, Spain — €11.95

Stockists: Baggot St Wines www.baggotstreetwines.com, Celtic Whiskey Shop

This is a bin-end and only available in these two shops but worth seeking out. A blend of garnacha tintorera (aka Alicante bouschet), syrah and tempranillo, this has a distinct blackcurrant aroma (ribena almost), soft spicy fruit and a lingering raspberry jam character.

Hungerford Hill Lower Octave 2015 Shiraz — €14.95

Stockists: Baggot St Wines, The Corkscrew, The Parting Glass

Hungerford Hill’s winemakers claim this is a city wine inspired by live music from the Opera House and from live Jazz so it should suit residents of the rebel county (imported by Cork-based Classic Drinks).

Soft silky shiraz with a lightness of touch and a lingering baked plum flavour.

Try with some grilled lamb chops or with Indian food.

Serres Lucie Corbières, France — €11.95

Stockists: Baggot St Wines, McHughs, Martins Off-Licence

Corbieres is virtually always value for money with supple characterful fruit and not a little complexity.

This is 80% syrah and 20% carignan and has solid blackberry and plum aromas, ripe spice-driven fruit and a little structure to help it match with food.

Try with cassoulet, winter casseroles or even with pizza.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Mooiplaas The ‘Coco Chocolate’ Merlot, Stellenbosch, South Africa — €15.99

Stockists: Baggot St Wines; Matsons; No 21 Off-Licences; Next Door Corcorans, Wexford

Good Merlot often has a hint of chocolate but this producer has used a particularly strong barrel toasting to intensify the chocolate flavours while retaining the plummy fruit character.

This will work with some good dark chocolate for Valentines Day, but also with rich stews and meat dishes.

Chateau Montus 2010, Madiran, South West France — €31

Stockists: Baggot St Wines; Le Caveau Kilkenny; Green Man Terenure; Bradleys North Main St Cork

Madiran is not the best known of French regions and nor is its main grape tannat.

Tannat is tannic as the name might suggest but Alain Brumont’s Chateau Montus is also elegant and arguably its finest expression.

Rich cocoa and spice aromas, dense black fruits. One for steak.

Secret Malbec – €17.49

Stockists: Baggot St Wines; 1601 Kinsale; World Wide Wines; O’Donovans; Next Door Kilkee and Ennis Co Clare

Chilean producer Viu Manent is based in the Colchagua Valley and the ‘secret’ bit about this range is that 15% of another grape is added to temper the main variety.

This has dark spicy berry fruit aromas with some floral notes (violet, iris) and a soft fruit-driven palate.

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