Wine with Blake Creedon

On BBC1’s reality TV show The Apprentice during the week, the aspiring entrepreneurs were challenged to develop marketing campaigns for English sparkling wines. I’m taking a closer look at how they fared on the blog today ( but some more immediate questions are raised by the programme.

To many, the discovery that grapes for wine can be grown on these islands at all will come as a surprise. But yes it can be done — particularly in the south and east of England. In part, the spread of vineyards beyond its traditional climatic boundaries can be put down to climate change. But really, just as much credit can be claimed by the three factors that have had a far more profound effect on winemaking in recent decades — improved grape-growing and winemaking technology; the hike in standards of education; and more open markets.

The second surprise is that this neophyte wine industry would aim at making posh sparkling wines — when one might expect them to start with ‘ordinary’ table wines. This, too, is based on a misapprehension. In fact, sparkling wines are most closely associated with the cooler margins of the wine growing world — in the northern edge, Champagne; and its mirror image in the southern hemisphere — from Tasmania in the icy Antarctic waters off Australia’s south coast, to the southernmost wine region of Chile, Bio-Bío.

So, can wine be made here in Ireland? Well yes, and a few plucky oenologists are doing so. But I’d wonder why they bother. Unlike England, which lies on the margins of the continental climate, out here on the Atlantic the climate isn’t the most apt for growing vitis vinifera grapes. We are good at growing wheat and hops for beer and spirits, and apples for cider. They’re the wines of Ireland. Still, though, we do like our wine, and below I’m taking a look at some bargain bottles on promotion in Dunnes until Tuesday.

Alamos Malbec Mendoza 2010

Dunnes Stores, €8

If it’s any indication, I was happy to recommend this at e11.17 six months ago, so really this is a pretty good price for a typically vivacious classic, all rich but brisk red fruit laced with spice. Remember that Argentina’s national sport is neither soccer nor rugby — it’s barbecue: If rich red meat is on the menu, this’d be my first choice from Dunnes’ selection.

Gallo Family Vineyards Pinot Grigio

Dunnes Stores €6.49; any two for €12

Don’t listen to the voices who dismiss white zinfandel or soft Californian pinot grigio out of hand. The only problem with those easy-drinking styles is that they often cost about a tenner, which is far too dear. At this price though, this is terrific: A delicious, fresh, apples-and-pears white that’s just right for those summer days which we are surely due.

Château de Pennautier Rosé 2008 Cabardès

Dunnes Stores, currently €8

And if you do dare to dream of a summer this year, you might consider putting the likes of this on the shopping list — an expressive, fresh rosé from the south of France with delicious savoury bite. And while you’re at it, try a bottle of the luscious Pennautier viognier too.

Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve 2008

Dunnes, currently down to €11

One of my favourite ranges at Dunnes, Clos Malverne makes some stellar yet moderately-priced wines in Stellenbosch, South Africa — reds and whites alike. The current promotion at Dunnes features a handful, but this is the best value of all the ones I’ve tasted: bright, fresh, fruity and laced with lovely spice.

Burchino Chianti Superiore 2008

Dunnes Stores, €10

If Italian wine exporters get their act together they could take on Rioja as our default source for deliciously-perfumed and yet affordable reds. Here’s a fine example — a wonderful, totally modern elegant Chianti stuffed with ripe and rich spicy fruit.

La Baume Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

€10, or six bottles for €35 at Dunnes

I wouldn’t rush out to buy this Vin de Pays d’Oc at a tenner a pop — but if you take advantage of the bulk deal (working out at under e6 per bottle) it’s a perfect party red wine — a soft and off-dry but spicily engaging cabernet. Open a good few hours in advance to let it breathe.


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