It is awards season in the movie industry and elsewhere and so too in the drinks world.
The National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) recently gave their awards and NOffLA Chairman Gary O’Donovan spoke strongly about the need for a ban on below-invoice selling and for the government to actually introduce the long promised alcohol bill.
While I’m unhappy with parts of the bill I agree that action is needed or there may soon be no more independent off-licences.
The 2017 NoffLA Off-Licence of the Year is Blackrock Cellar which was opened in 2012 by Joel Durand who originally trained as a chef before turning to the off-licence trade.
The shop is in a lovely location with a view of the sea and has a very fine collection of wines, beers and spirits including wines they bring in themselves.
They also stock cheeses, chocolates and some other goodies (I bought some excellent glasses here earlier in the year).
The Munster Off-Licence of the year is O’Donovans Midleton at the Riversdale Centre (beside Hurleys SuperValu).
Gene and his team run probably my favourite O’Donovans shop and you should find a few gems on the shelves that are not in the smaller shops in the group.
The Wine Centre Kilkenny won best in Leinster and they have recently expanded with a new impressive 8m long Whiskey Wall and a 6m long Spirit Wall.
The expanded whiskey focus in the shop ties in to the Kilkenny Whiskey Guild which will launch later this month.
The Wine Centre now stocks more than 300 craft beers and ciders and in the old store room there is a Tap Room which opens onto a heated outside area with a wood-burning pizza oven.
Other winners included last year’s overall winner Baggot Street Wines (Dublin winner), McCambridges (Connacht-Ulster), McHughs (Responsible Retailer), Mitchells (Customer Service), Donnybrook Fair Malahide and D4 (first time entrant and food retailer), Redmonds Ranelagh (Spirits) and Jus de Vine Portmarnock for Wine Retailer of the Year.
All these shops are worth a diversion if you are passing anywhere near — our dining tables (not to mention our towns) would be a lot poorer without shops like these.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Tinedo Cala No. 1, Castilla, Spain — €12.95
Stockists: No. 21 Off-Licences Cork and Waterford, JJ O’Driscolls, Ardkeen Stores, Independents
A family run organic wine estate with strong principles about how they treat the environment and their workers. A blend of Tempranillo, Cab Sauvignon and Syrah with a touch of Graciano and Roussanne for extra zest this is a warm ripe sunny mouthful and great value.
Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein 2013, Langhorne Creek, Australia — €14.95
Stockists: O’Donovans Cork, Vintry Rathgar, www.wineonline.ie
A blend of 50-50 Dolcetto-Lagrein from winemaker Ben Glaetzer this manages to retain some of its Italian flavours despite the Australian growing conditions. Soft ripe blackberries with touches of liquorice and mocha this is a lovely ripe Aussie wine that still retains a touch of Italian black cherry freshness.
Ch. Dereszla Tokaji Furmint Dry, Hungary — €14.99
Stockists: Jus de Vine, D6 Wines, Wine Vaults Lismore, Mitchell & Son CHQ ( www.mitchellandson.com ), Independents
Furmint is the grape of in sweet Tokaji, once the world’s most sought after wine, but it can also make excellent fragrant dry wines. This is not the kind of wine you will find on special offer but it should be sought out for its stony mineral aromas mixed with stone fruits and its fine citrus freshness.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Weingut Geil Spätburgunder 2014, Rheinessen, Germany — €17.99
Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Mitchells, Baggot St. Wines, La Touche, Martins, Redmonds.
Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir and given that Burgundy prices are likely to increase again this year, keep a close eye on the German section in your local off-licence. This has lovely fragrant red fruits and soft fruit on the palate but with good earthy complexity.
Colomé Estate Malbec 2014, Salta, Argentina — €26
Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Mitchells, Worldwide Wines, Martins, Corkscrew, Independents
From the high altitude Calchaqui Valley in Salta in the far north of Argentina this is a warm dry region but with cool night temperatures giving lots of freshness to the wines. This biodynamic wine has lots of dark black fruits mixed with floral cherry touches and is ripe, velvety and satisfying.
Zenato Ripasso, Veneto, Italy — €24.95
Stockists: O’Donovans Cork, McHughs, Vintry Rathgar, Independents.
Zenato are one of the most consistent of all the Veneto producers with no dud wines in their range. This has increased in price a bit in recent years (mainly Michael Noonan’s fault) but is still worth seeking out for its ripe rich fruit and elegance.
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