Wine: Legendary importer Joe Karwig was much loved

Sad news to report as in case you didn’t hear the legendary Cork-based wine importer Joe Karwig died suddenly on October 26.

Joe was much loved and this week’s column is dedicated to him and the great wines he brought to Ireland.

I first spoke to him in the 1990s when I discovered he was importing one of my favourite wines (and my wife’s desert island wine) Domaine Tempier from Bandol. This silky, elegant wine from Provence is still imported by Karwigs and also sold in other shops such as Terroirs in Donnybrook.

Many of the wines on Karwigs list have been imported by the company for decades — Joe was supremely loyal, and others were loyal to him.

Joe was born in1943 and grew up in Bremen, Northern Germany, and after discovering wine in his 20s (a revelatory bottle of Schloss Johannisberg Rheingau Riesling did the trick) he found himself working for a large German wine company. In 1975 Joe was promoting their wines at the Cork Ideal Homes show and spotted an attractive girl on the Cork Examiner stand opposite.

Four years later he married her, and he and Betty went on to have three children — Yvonne, Gillian and Jurgen who later joined Joe in the family wine business. Karwig Wines was founded in 1979 and Joe also founded the Cork and Bottle Wine Club with Dr John O’Connell — the renowned former wine correspondent of this newspaper.

While Joe was always a passionate advocate of German Rieslings, his other major passion was Italian red wines. However Joe actually had rather eclectic tastes.

All my wines this week are from Karwigs, Kilnagleary, Carrigaline. The shop is a little wonderland but is a little out of the way so it is best to look up directions on their website or use Google Maps. If that sounds like too much trouble simply order online.

For the diary: O’Donovans Cork Wine and Craft Beer Fair, 4-9pm, Thursday, November 26, Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork. Tickets €15 through O’Donovan’s Off-Licences or via www.odonovansofflicence.com.

All proceeds go to Cork Simon Community.

Velenosi Montepulicano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy — €13.49

Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie

Karwigs have been working with Velenosi for more than 20 years and all the wines in their range that I have tasted are fruit driven and excellent value — I also recommend their violet scented Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. 

The Montepulciano is classic in style — red and dark fruits on the nose with supple slightly spicy fruits on the palate. Excellent value.

Winzer Krems Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal Austria — €14.95

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, 1601, Karwigs, www.karwigwines.ie

If you haven’t gotten into Gruner yet you are behind the times. This is Austria’s classic grape variety and at its best it can be fragrant yet lively and characterful. 

This has aromas of white pepper, citrus and white flowers, soft and fruity on the palate at first before fresh clean acidity kicks in and on the finish the pepper and spice linger nicely.

Greyrock Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand — €14.95

Stockists: Matsons, Gibneys Malahide, Karwigs www.karwigwines.ie

While Karwigs does have a little more emphasis on Old World wines Joe was always happy to embrace the New World and Greyrock is all you would expect from Marlborough with ripe grapefruit and gooseberry aromas, a rich fruit-driven palate and classic searing acidity.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2003, Piedmont, Italy — €32.20

Stockists: Terroirs Donnybrook, Whelehans Wines Loughlinstown, Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie

Joe Karwig first began importing from this Co-Op in the 1980s and with good reason as they are one of the most consistently excellent producers in Italy. Fragrant red fruit aromas, supple complex red and dark fruit on the palate, lingering and profound — one of Italy’s great wines.

Carl Ehrhard Rheingau Ursuck Riesling Trocken, — €24.90

Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie

Karwigs have the best selection of German Rieslings in the country including some older vintages (Rieslings age beautifully). This is made from late-picked grapes and given long lees ageing to add body and aroma. Exotic fruit scents with lemon oil and a hint of spice, rich and complex on the palate with balancing citrus acidity.

Loredan Gasparini Capo di Stato 2007 IGT, Veneto, Italy — €43.35

Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie 

With a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, this is said to have been Charles de Gaulle’s favourite wine which he likened to a great St Emilion. The comparison is very fair as this is generously fruited with rich plum and blackcurrant fruits, structured fruit-driven palate with a hint of spice and cedar, balanced and elegant.



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