About Me

My photo
Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm a Master of Wine (MW) having passed in 1997. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library and this is my personal wine blog. There should be no conflict of interest between my work with The Wine Library and the opinions expressed herein but I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. From June 2013 until May 2017 I was the Retail Manager for The Wicklow Wine Company. I was a member of the Council of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events, Trips, and Governance Committees. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let's do lunch

In the dim and distant past the now defunct Wine Board of Ireland had enough class to throw a decent graduation party for those who completed their WSET Diploma. Now, in these straitened times all I can afford is a good lunch so, starting last year and in conjunction with John McDonnell of Wine Australia, I host a lunch at L'Ecrivain. John is involved as Wine Australia sponsor the prize for the best overall Diploma mark and he sponsors the wine for lunch while I pay for the food.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sweetness and light

Here's the thing - apparently a lot of people think sweetness in wine is not good, so they look down on consumers who drink sweet wines. These sweet critics are partially responsible for the poor commercial state of classic German wines (based, as they are, on a balanced palate of sweetness and acidity) but they also make ordinary folk feel bad about their choice. Indeed, some years ago I was gently slagged in a well-known NOffLA off-licence for buying Blue Nun - "There's a Master of Wine and he drinks Blue Nun!" - but imagine if the punter in the queue behind me had just picked up a bottle of BN as well? They'd think to themselves, why spend my money here?

Get a life - take a wine course!

There was an interesting article in the Scotsman recently about a survey which showed that consumers are bamboozled by wine. In it, we are told that consumers are confused by the wines on offer and are confused by the specialist staff - this is in supermarkets, now. There are a few things about this survey which one might argue with but the really interesting thing is this simple question: why do consumers think they ought to know about wine?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

See what happens when you try to regulate quality?

The admirable Jane Anson has an article in Decanter in relation to a new "classification" system to be introduced in St Emilion for the 2012 vintage. Apparently, a number of producers got a bit annoyed the last time the rankings were evaluated and now, a whole new system has had to be put in place.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where does a decade go?

And I'm not talking about rosaries LOL! It seems hard to believe but it is ten years since the winemakers of the Clare Valley, in South Australia, decided to switch more or less en masse to using Stelvin closures rather than cork. Since then, a lot has changed in the world of wine for the better and we really should appluad their foresight and bravery.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's in a good cause...

What is? Why, the Corkscrew wine fair this Sunday - tickets from the Corkscrew so why not enjoy some fine wine tasting and help others at the same time?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Never strikes twice...

They say lightening never strikes twice but what about bad spring frosts? Well, in 1991 the whole west coast of France was hit by a devastating frost which caused a loss of about 90% of crop in Muscadet. This coincided, at least in the UK and Ireland, with the arrival of Jacob's Creek which meant that shelf space lost was never regained. As a consequence, Muscadet growers struggled to make a living and quite a few went out of business. So, what have they all done to deserve a second hit?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What makes a good pinot noir?

My MW colleague, Gerard Basset, recently said that he is reluctant to recommend pinot noir as he finds it has become a safe drink - easy, not demanding. Following on from yesterday's Central Otago tasting I wonder about the role of pinot noir and how we view it and the wines made from it around the world. We know there are great wines from pinot in Burgundy, and we know (I hope) that there is very good pinot made around the world, but is Burgundy the only place where great pinot is made?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simple complexity?

At a tasting of Central Otago wines today, the excellent winemaker/presenter Jenn Parr responded to a comment about brett in one of the wines (I didn't note any fwiw) that sometimes this can add complexity. I've heard this comment a lot and I don't agree - to me, what makes a wine complex is not just one more flavour.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gulliver in the land of Lilliput

Well, having spent one day at Livingston getting a good overview of Gallo's operation, I spent the next day with Professor Hildegarde Heymann at U C Davis. Hildegarde works in the Robert Mondavi Sensory department and gets to do some really fun things. In terms of scale, however, going from the world's biggest winery to one of the smallest (I think Drew Noon MW actually has the smallest winery in the world) was interesting in its own right.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Livingston, I presume?

Ask anybody in the trade have they ever visited Gallo and the most likely answer is "no" (which often doesn't stop them from bad-mouthing the wines, by the way). If they say "yes" then most likely they visited the Frei Ranch facility in Sonoma, which I visited on my first ever MW trip in 1999. But today, I achieved a minor landmark in my time in the wine trade: I got to visit the biggest winery in the world - Gallo's crush facility in Livingston, California.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monopolies are bad for you, aren't they?

Hmmm, all of us who are lucky enough to survive in a so-called free-market economy are well aware that one of the worst things that can exist is the monopoly. It's anti-capitalist, anti-consumer and probably the most evil thing that keeps economists sweating in their sleep at night. Read on, faithful reader...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One to buy and one to try

Buy Canepa Classico Pinot Grigio, available in most small off-licences and independent wine merchants. Try Chatus, from Les Vigneron Ardechois, available in the Wicklow Wine Company.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Serving suggestions

Isn't life grand? Last week I was invited to attend a tasting of Riedel glasses, organised by Mitchell's with the able assistance of Jean Smullen. The tasting was held at the newly opened Convention Centre (aka the tube in the cube) and was carried out by Maximillian Riedel, the third generation involved in the design and sale of hand-blown glassware. As you no doubt know (given that being a reader of my blog means, by extension, that you are wine-worldly aware!) Riedel claim that their glasses improve not just the aromatic qualities of wine but also the actual taste. Is this true?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good news

For those in need of some good news I can tell you that one of the current crop of Irish MW students, Barbara Boyle, has been awarded the AXA Millésimes Scholarship. This is awarded annually to up to three MW students at any stage of their studies (including Dissertation).  It  includes two to three days at AXA Millésimes’ Bordeaux properties with tours of the Chateaux estates,  work in the vineyards and cellars, tastings and blending with the individual winemakers; two days at either Mas Belles Eaux in Languedoc or Domaine de l’Arlot in Burgundy; a visit to either Quinta do Noval in the Douro or Disznóko in Tokaj. Selection is by essay, written in or translated into English, to a maximum of 1000 words. So well done Barbara!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wine education - why bother?

As someone who makes a living from wine education I am naturally biased, so I'm likely to answer this question with something such as "It's fun", "It's social", "It's a useful skill". However, some years ago, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of Great Britain (WSET) did some research in partnership with the now defunct Unwins to see whether wine education had any real value.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Chilean topography

I recently posted a short item about the importance of the east-west axis in Chile. here are a few more thoughts, to hopefully help you to understand the wine regions of Chile better. If you visit the excellent Wines of Chile website you can look at the maps to see the way the country looks from a topographical point of view.

Karma carmenere

One of the great things about wine trips is the chance to learn more. Having been to Chile in December 2008 courtesy of Wines of Chile, this current trip has given me the chance to confirm some of the things I learned about then and also to help me deepen my knowledge. One of the outcomes of this past week's trip is a better understanding of carmenere, the almost uniquely Chilean red grape.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aconcagua

The Chile trip started the minute we hit the ground at Santiago Airport where we were met by Susana Gonzalez of Brandabout. We drove immediately into the Aconcagua Valley to visit Errazuriz, a winery which is 140 years old this year.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

North, south , east and west

Hi all - currently I'm in Chile as a guest of a wine marketing company Brandabout, with journalist Paul O'Doherty. We arrived here last Thursday 10th June and are in Valparaiso at present. I will have a few posts shortly about the various tastings we've had so far but I thought a brief post about Chile might be useful.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

More from Vienna

Now that we're on the second day of VieVinum it's time to briefly reflect on the events so far. Yesterday was a very busy day - perhaps too busy. Huge numbers of people all crowded into the Hofburg resulted in a difficult tasting atmosphere. Also, for me, the wines were generally too cold - young wines (2009 mainly) served so cold the glasses frost are really difficult to taste. Having said that, there were some very good wines to taste.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Back in Vienna

Well here I am in Vienna at VieVinum as a guest of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and struggling to figure out how to get a comma on the german keyboard. Since I always instruct my students not to use commas perhaps I should try to practise what I preach! VieVinum is a big tasting of Austrian wines and it's an opportunity to get to know the country and its wines better.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Back to the land of Oz

Well, well - Diploma hits Oz, home of Landmark, Skippy and lots of realy great wines - even if the DipStuds did seem underwhelmed by them at times! My colleague and fellow Spurs fan, Martin Moran MW, led the way and gave the students a good review of what is too big a subject for the paltry one day it gets. As always, stockists/suppliers in parentheses, details at the end.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bubbly fun...

Having slipped and fallen badly on black ice in January, Maggie McNie MW was unable to come over to give the sparkling wine lecture. However, she has recovered and was able to get here for the 15th March and we had a very good lecture. Stockists in parentheses with details below.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Yet more on IWI

Well, it appears that JS has a brass neck - having caused no end of problems around the Irish wine education world she is now trying to sell off WSET bookpacks to other APPs as she no longer needs them! I'm sure her creditors would be interested in this news.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Germany and Austria

As a long-standing fan of German riesling, I love the Germany lecture, as it gives me a chance to taste some pretty good German wines, even if it isn't all that easy to get these in Ireland. By combining this lecture with Austria, I also have to chance to taste some pretty good Austrian wines, the range of which is improving. So, Monday 1st March was a "mittel-Europa" day; stockists in parentheses with details below.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are you a Diposomaniac?

Or, I should ask, are you a Certified Dipso? The Certified Dipsos are a group of WSET Diploma graduates in Ireland who meet regularly meet for tastings and also organise wine trips. Tonight I attended an excellent tasting of Loire reds hosted by David Rorke and efficiently helped out, as always, by David's wife Joyce.

Alsatian gems

In the afternoon, it was off to Alsace and we had quite an interesting range of wines to taste. Again, Linda Jotham MW led the class on a very good tour through the regin and its various varietals and soil types. As always, stockists/suppliers in parentheses, details at the end.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Burgundy - the lovliest wine region in the world

Yes, there might be places with more extreme scenery (the Western Cape, for example) but nowhere can really produce wines like you get in Burgundy. They aren't all good but the best are fantastic and really can change the way you think about wine. Linda Jotham MW came over to give this lecture and presented a very good class with a great tasting. As always, stockists/suppliers in parentheses, details at the end.

The spirit world

No - Diploma hasn't gone all seances and stuff but rather moved to the Spirits lectures, given by the very friendly and knowledgeable Peter Morris-Wilson. Unfortunately I couldn't attend these lectures in full so I can't really comment. However, I always get good feedback from the students about Peter's lectures so he's always worth listening to. There is a huge range of spirits to taste on this course and Peter certainly provided an excellent range.

Fortify yourself and be of good spirit

Poncey title, huh? Well, Diploma started back in January with the Fortified wines lecture. Again, I think the range was good, although it's getting harder to get some styles of fortified wine so a few came out of the old Wine Development Board stock. As always, stockists/suppliers in parentheses, details at the end.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chianti Classico

A quickie - some longer posts in re Diploma will follow shortly - but Decanter has news about Chianti Classico finally separating itself completely from Chianti.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More on IWI

A large number of people are owed money by the Irish Wine Institute - two lecturers are owed somewhere in the region of €5,000 - 6,000, a web design company somewhere from €5,000 - 10,000, as well as students who booked on courses which were cancelled. In the meantime, I have been told that JS was spending big money in various wine bars and restaurants in Dublin. On top of that, she is pestering at least one student for an "unpaid course fee"! Given that she never registered any students and was not, therefore, selling the service students expected to get, she has some nerve trying to get money off innocent students when she owes a fortune.
I understand she is still in Dublin - if anyone spots her, let WSET know - or me.
I should point out that the other schools and lecturers listed on the WSET website are honourable and honest people and that anyone thinking of doing a wine course should not be put off by the antics of the IWI.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Irish Wine Institute

If any one who reads my blog has taken a course with IWI, or knows someone who has, please contact WSET - you should email John Townley directly.
I understand that IWI did not register any students with WSET and that those students who attended courses and are expecting to sit examinations will find that those exams will not take place.
WSET has no record of anyone who took courses with IWI and the only way they can sort this out is if people get in touch with them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Irish company in lightweight bottle development

If you go to Jamie Goode's blog you'll find an article about Tesco's new, light weight bottle, the lighest in the world. One of the companies involved is Quinn Glass, owned by Irishman Sean Quinn and based in Fermanagh.