Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

I wrote recently about the difficulties facing small wine shops given the predatory pricing in the supermarkets and chain stores. This week I want to focus on the companies that supply many of these shops, the independent importers.

In October, the Spit wine festival was held in Dublin featuring some of Ireland’s best small importers, the ones that supply the independent wine shops that feature here most weeks.

They and the shops they supply are under threat thanks to Fine Gael’s policies. These importers can’t supply the supermarkets due to the tiny margins and the fact that the winemakers they buy from often make small quantities.

The latest wheeze from the Government is to demand all wines have a label containing calories and dietary information. Yes, information like this is good, but why force new labels on wines when a requirement for a simple sign in the off-licence would suffice?

It is easy for a producer that sends 10,000 bottles to add a new label but no small importer can ask a producer to create a new label for the 400 bottles they send here (perhaps out of the 4,000 they produce).

Some suggest the importers make the labels. Just imagine receiving your nice wooden box of Chateau Latour broken open with a white label stuck on the back of the bottle telling you it will make you fat?

It is as if the Government only wants to support the large companies when everyone knows that small and medium enterprises are the backbone of our economy.

With Brexit and a Trump presidency in the US we need our friends in Europe — can we afford to alienate them further? We are already a truly hostile environment for one of Europe’s major exports due to our excise and taxes, yet tourists are encouraged to come here to try our wonderful hospitality?

Date for the diary: O’Donovans Wine, Spirits & Craft Beer Christmas Fair including food stalls and premium wine, whiskey and beers to taste — November 25, Clarion Hotel, Cork: Admission. €15. All proceeds to Cork Simon Community.

Best value under €15

Domaine de Ménard Cuvée Marine, Cotes de Gascogne, France — €12.95

Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

Stockist: Bradleys, Le Caveau Kilkenny, Baggot Street Wines

A blend of 60% colombard with sauvignon blanc and local grape gros manseng this is floral and fragrant on the nose with touches of lemon balm and white peaches, fresh and crisp on the palate with clean acidity and a lingering pear-peach freshness.

Gran Cerdo Tempranillo, Rioja Alta, Spain — €12.95

Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

Stockists: Bradleys, World Wide Wines, Greenman Wines, Le Caveau Fallon & Byrne, Blackrock Cellar

Le Caveau has lots of “natural wines” on its list and this is a typical example. Made with organic tempranillo grapes and minimal interference and dedicated to bankers everywhere (see label!). Best served chilled . This has lots of red fruit aromas and is fruity with a touch of minerality.

Quinta Milu, Ribera del Duero, Spain — €15.95

Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

Stockist: Green Man Wines Terenure, Whelehan’s Wines D18, World Wide Wines Waterford, Baggot St Wines

Forgive the extra euro — this is one the excellent Spanish wines imported by Vinostito run by two Spanish guys exiled in Ireland who have dozens of excellent micro producers on their books. This good value tempranillo has fine pristine fruit flavours with a bright spicy character.

Best value over €15

Principiano Barolo del Commune di Serralunga 2012, Piedmont, Spain — €42

Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

Stockists: Sheridans Galway, Dublin & Kells, Mitchells, 64 Wines

From a small, focused, bio-dynamic and ‘natural ‘ winemaker but with some of the purest fruit flavours I’ve tasted all year. The Commune of Serralunga d’Alba produces extraordinary wines and this is one — fragrant, delicate and fine but with underlying powerful cherry, tar and layered concentrated fruits. Stunningly good, Barolo at its very best.

Domaine Zinck Sylvaner 2014, Alsace, France — €18

Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

Stockists: La Touche Greystones, 64 Wine, Donnybrook Fair, Mortons Ranelagh, Greenman Terenure

An organic Alsace producer with a great reputation this spends a good amount of time on its lees giving it more body, which would be typical for a Sylvaner. Sylvaner is much maligned (and often over-cropped) but in competent hands (as here) it is often excellent — lemon, pear and lightly floral aromas and flavours this is taut, focused and quite delicious.

P. et. C. Breton Vouvray Sec ‘La Dilletante’, Loire, France — €21.95

Wine: The independent importers under threat thanks to Fine Gael

Stockists: Ballymaloe Garden Shop, Bradleys, World Wide Wines, Baggot St Wines, The Corkscrew, Green Man Wines, Le Caveau

From a biodynamic producer making ‘natural’ wines in this historic region — Vouvray with its troglodyte cave houses is well worth a visit. Lemon and straw aromas mixed with chalk and stones, dry and fresh with a pleasing limpid elegance — try with goats cheese, seafood or sushi.


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