This is award season in the wine trade as much as in the movie business.
However, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition’s attempt to close down small independent off-licences and wine importers with their draconian budget increases last year did a lot to dampen celebrations at the National Off-Licence Association awards a couple of weeks ago. Finding the holy grail of inexpensive but drinkable wine was all anyone was talking about.
The Government claims minimum pricing will help, but in reality it will have zero effect. The minimum price for wine is likely to be set at around €8, meaning the actual wine in a supermarket bottle will continue to cost around 15c. The only thing that can save the independent wine sector is a ban on below-cost selling by the multiples.
Anyway, enough of the gloomy predictions, let us focus on the successes in the sector.
The 2014 off-licence of the tear is Dicey’s Off-Licence in Ballyshannon, which makes it two years in a row for Donegal’s most innovative pub/off-licence/microbrewery.
The shop itself is not large but seems to stock just about everything you could possibly need, from craft beers and spirits to niche wines.
The Munster winner was World Wide Wines in Waterford, another shop it is a pleasure to visit.
The Dublin based Molloy Group won responsible retailer of the year at the awards and O’Donovans won specialist off-licence group of the year. Baggot Street Wines deservedly won beer specialist for the second year in a row and Jus de Vine once again won wine specialist of the year.
The Wine Centre Kilkenny won the Leinster title, McCambridge’s, Galway, won the Connacht/Ulster title and Gibneys in Malahide won the Dublin award.
Fair Trade Fortnight runs from the February 24 to March 9 with a small selection of wines in Aldi, Lidl, and a larger one in Marks & Spencer. I will feature some of the wines next week.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Point West Touriga Nacional 2009, Portugal — €9.99 (was €12.99)
From the Lisboa region on the Atlantic coast of Portugal and made with that country’s most renowned indigenous grape variety. This has a lovely scent of violets and plums and has a beautiful soft texture and not a little lusciousness. In general I am a big fan of Portuguese wines and this bargain will help explain why.
Ophalum Albariño 2011 — €11.99 (was €15.99)
Another wine from the far west of the Iberian peninsula, this time Galicia. The Albariño grape is easy to love with its balance of peachy fruit aromas and crispness. Pear and white peach aromas with a light clean balance of fruit and acidity. Perfect for feast of Moule Frites.
Vignerons de Valencay Sauvignon Blanc IGP, Loire, France — €13.99
Stockists: World Wide Wines Waterford, Drink Store D7, Fallon & Byrne
This Sauvignon Blanc is well made and showcases apple fresh acidity and crisp juicy fruit. This is closer to Sancerre than Marlborough in style and would be perfect with some Ardsallagh or Selles-sur-Cher goats cheese.
BEST VALUE UNDER €25
Il Passo Nerello Mascalese-Nero-d’Avola, Sicily — €19.99
Stockists: World Wide Wines, O’Briens, Jus de Vine, Sweeneys, Deveneys Dundrum, Fallon & Byrne
Made from two classic Sicilian grape varieties and grown on the hills around Lake Arancio to the far south of Palermo. Rich ruby colour with aromas of morello cherries and flavours of blackberries and summer fruits. This will brighten up any southern Italian pasta dish or perhaps a slow cooked lamb shoulder.
Heitlinger Pinot Gris Trocken, Baden, Germany — €16.99-17.99
Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline, www.karwigwines.ie, Baggot Street Wines, Deveneys Dundrum
There aren’t all that many German wines imported into Ireland. Thank God then for Colin Egan of Distinctive Drinks and of course Joe Karwig who came to Cork for a Rory Gallagher gig and stayed (so they say!). Elegant, mineral and complex with length and grace — this is about as good as Pinot Gris can get.
Heitlinger Riesling Trocken, Baden, Germany — €16.99-17.99
Stockists: Karwigs Carrigaline, www.karwigwines.ie, Baggot Street Wines, D6 Wines, Deveneys Dundrum
Many consumers remain unconvinced by Riesling but I promise you it is a habit worth forming. Some are put off by the petrol aroma the grape sometimes exudes but fear not, this wine is all tropical fruits such as guava and pineapple on the nose with a lively crisp palate and a dry finish reminiscent of lemon bon bons. Delicious stuff.
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