Stored deep within the bowels of the Department of Foreign Affairs lies a significant collection of wines from around the world and, while it’s not an extravagant list, it does contain a few corkers.
Ranging from €8.48 bottles of Il Padrino rosso wine from Italy to some bottles of bold French Burgundies costing over €70, the collection is there for our top officials to entertain foreign guests when they come to visit.
All in the national interest, of course.
On a serious note, entertaining guests is a crucial part of international diplomacy, and the contents of the wine cellar held in Iveagh House have been revealed to the Irish Examiner on foot of a Freedom of Information request.
Last year, the department hosted 178 events “to advance Ireland’s political and economic interests, further reconciliation and co-operation on this island and advance Ireland’s values and priorities”.
As part of its catering for such events, the Department says it “maintains a limited stock of wine purchased at a significant discount” relative to the cost of purchasing it from caterers on an ad hoc basis.
Before the crash, the department had an annual budget of about €30,000 to maintain and develop its wine stock, which primarily came from vineyards with some form of Irish connection. In 2017, the Department purchased 850 bottles of wine at an average cost of €11.44, which equates to a spend of €9,690.
“Procurement of stocks is focused on ensuring value for money and appropriate quality and fitness for purpose,” it says.
The most expensive wine per bottle is the 1997 Chateau Léoville Barton Cru Classé which cost €75 apiece. The department’s records show 20 bottles in stock. The family behind the vineyard hails from Fermanagh and have been in Bordeaux for eight generations.
Château Léoville Barton is a vineyard in the Saint- Julien region of Bordeaux, ranked a second growth in the 1855 classification. Quality has soared since the 1980s, and it is now considered one of the most exciting wines in Bordeaux, gaining regular praise for its reasonable pricing.
The most popular wine in the collection is the 2005 Chateau Talbot, of which there are 180 bottles priced at just under €54 a head.
This represents a bit of a win as, on the open market, that vintage is fetching up to €85 a bottle.
Château Talbot is a property in the Saint-Julien appellation of the Médoc.
The château takes its name from the Connétable Talbot, an English soldier and governor of Guyenne who was defeated in battle by the French at Castillon in 1453. For the last century, it has been owned by members of the Cordier family, one of the most notable surnames in Bordeaux wine.
The oldest wine in the collection is a single bottle of 1995 Chateau Talbot and it is known that a number of the wines are being held in stock as they are not yet ready for consumption. Noticeably absent from the list is Chateau Pétru. the favourite tipple of former taoiseach Charles Haughey.
There are also new World wines, with 15 bottles of the 2005 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay from Australia, and two bottles of the 2016 Maui Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand among the collection.
Not much fizz but plenty of good quality in the State’s wine list
The national cellar includes some wines with distinct Irish connections, writes Irish Examiner wine columnist
The Department of Foreign Affairs wine cellar makes for fascinating reading from a critic’s perspective.
Former AIB banker Lochlann Quinn’s Château de Fieuzal makes the strongest showing with 126 bottles of red and 70 bottles of white, all from decent years.
Quinn is the older brother of former finance minister Ruairí, and father of former Dublin lord mayor Oisín Quinn. The 2005 white was served to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II along with Lynch-Bages 1998, a Château noticeable by its absence on the current list. (Charlie Haughey would not be impressed, it was one of his favourite wines.)
After de Fieuzal, the next largest stock is 180 bottles of Château Talbot (€39) from the excellent 2005 vintage that should drink well over the next 20 years — Talbot is thought to derive its name from the Earl of Shrewsbury, who also owned Malahide Castle.
Other ‘Wine Geese’ wines include Château Phélan Ségur 2006, Château Kirwan 2000, and a couple of cases each of Léoville Barton from the reasonably good 1998 and the rather less good 1997 — both will need drinking soon.
Burgundy has not been neglected, with good quantities of 1er Cru Beauroy Chablis 2007 from Alain Geoffroy, ‘Gevrey Chambertin 2007’ and a few cases of ‘Puligny Montrachet 2010’ on the list (no producer is listed for these so I can’t assess them for quality).
The house white seems to be Albariño, with a quantity from Contrapunto in Galicia (the grape’s home) and six cases of the excellent Les Auzines Alaina Albariño (€14) from Languedoc producer Laurent Miquel whose business partner (and wife) is Nessa Corish-Miquel from Foxrock.
The house red is clearly Côte du Rhône, with good quantities from renowned Rhône producers Guigal and Jean-Luc Colombo.
Overall, the list is surprisingly well thought out, although someone needs to remove some older wines and give them to the kitchen for making stock.
If I was in charge I’d buy more reds from Spain and Italy and stock up on Champagne — the only fizz on the list is Sipp Mack Crémant d’Alsace.
I would also invest in sherry, port, Madeira, and Sauternes, which do not appear despite the fact that these are easily the best-value fine wine regions on the planet.