Fun(d)raising wine tasting

Wine glasses

Most of the glasses were M&S Windsor Large Red Wine Glasses, €20 for four.

THURSDAY’S fundraiser at the Sexual Violence Centre (see below) was a social event rather than a straight tasting. The mood was even more convivial than I’d expected. So I merrily abandoned some of the planned stuff, including a few fun wine-tasting exercises and pretty much all of the editorialising. It’s best to go with the flow – but I did briefly interrupt the lovely chatty ambience by bellowing brief  telegrams on the identity and provenance of each wine.

The people gathered for the do were great fun, both newcomers to the gaff and the centre’s own people – Mary, Dola, Humaira and other staff, volunteers and friends. It’s always a good feeling to be one of many, all of us coming together to support and even celebrate the work of the Sexual Violence Centre. Some couldn’t be there that night unfortunately but we did raise a glass to them – photographer Clare Keogh (whose work I’m going to be returning to here again at a later date) and, for the gorgeous food they provided, Bridget Healy and Vourneen Fayer.  The Olive Stall in the English Market plus one other supplier also contributed. I’ll name the latter here when I can do so.

We were particularly well looked after by the seamless no-hassle work of the pouring crew – Jacinta O’Shea, Marie-Claire Kah, Linda Barrett, Erica Seffastsson, Andrew Lane and Ray Boland.

Oh yes, there were wines too 🙂 I picked out what I think are good (and good value) examples of some important points along the wine spectrum, all available to buy in and around Cork city.

All of the wine was donated by its importer/distributor as detailed below.  I put together a wish-list and wrote to each of them asking for that specific wine. With humbling generosity, each of them immediately said “great cause, yes”. Here’s a roundup of the wines, their importers, and where to buy them. It’s traditional to say please support our sponsors. In this case, going by the responses of the gathering, you might be doing yourself a favour by doing so.

Michel Lynch

Michel Lynch

Michel Lynch Bordeaux Blanc 2007 (€15)

Imported by Barry & Fitzwilliam
Widely available at off-licences, supermarkets and wine shops.

Bordeaux blanc of substantial weight but sizzling with lemony acidity.

B&F’s inspirational story started in the depths of the last recession when a few executives in Murphy’s Brewery – on the verge of collapse at the time – left to form a wine importing company.  I’m sure the 1980s was a scary time to start trading. The big industrial employers in Cork, Ford and Dunlop had shut down. A leap of faith then, but hindsight tells us B&F caught the wine wave early on. Between organic growth and acquisitions they’ve grown into the biggest indigenously-owned wine importer. Their portfolio includes dozens of commendable ranges, my particular favourites including Brown Brothers and Tyrrell’s from Australia; MontGras (Chile), and Boschendal (South Africa).

Bluff Hill

Bluff Hill

Bluff hill Sparkling Rosé NV (€10.99)

Marks & Spencer

Strawberries and cream in a glass in a champenoise chardonnay pinot noir bubbly from New Zealand.

M&S effectively make their own wine. Their wine-buying team led by Chris Murphy is enriched by winemakers such as Gerd Stepp who commission a range running the gamut from cheap and cheerful to fine specialities. Famous names making wine for them include (to pick just three heroes of mine) Alvaro Espinoza in Chile, Clairault in Western Australia and Dr Loosen in Germany. The result, apart from some fantastic value is a surprisingly comprehensive and up-to-date wine shop.

Tagus Creek

Tagus Creek

Tagus Creek Chardonnay Ferñao Pires (€10 to €11)

Imported by Classic Drinks. Available at Next Door off-licences; Brian Barry’s Midleton; Matsons, Bandon; Village Greengrocer, Castlemartyr; River Lane Cafe, Ballineen; Pinecroft off-licence, Grange.

EVEN leaving port aside, the reds and whites made from Portugal’s indigenous grapes consistently overdeliver on price / quality. But the country is having to innovate, if only to attract our attention  with more readily recognisable wines, styles, grapes and packaging. The new wave includes everything from fab douro rosé (from port grapes) to things like this smashing classic/native blend from the Ribatejo region.  Named and packaged in that Australian way, it’s a beautifully nuanced soft-structured and gently tropical white.

One of the relative newcomers in the wine trade, Classic’s line-up includes Seifried Estate  (New Zealand) O’Shea & Murphy (Australia) Torreon de Paredes (Chile) Ferngrove Estate (Western Australia) and Bodegas Muriel (Spain).

Bushland Estate

Bushland Estate

Bushland Reserve Chardonnay  (€6.49)


Big, oaked chardonnay isn’t to everyone’s taste but I
think there is a place in the repertoire for the likes of
this one made by Michael Hope at, well,  Hope Estate in
Australia – an arpeggio up the keyboard from cool
citrus to rich tropical buttery notes.



Pikes Red Mullet Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre Tempranillo €14.67

Imported by James Nicholson Wines
Also available in a handful of stockists including (Cork) Abbot Ale House, Devonshire Street North; Parson’s Wines, Carrigaline; (Donegal) McGrory’s, Culdaff; (Dublin) Sweeny’s Wine Merchant; (Galway) Harvest off-licence; (Waterford) Fahy’s; Worldwide Wine.

I am a great fan of Pikes, who make top-class wines  including of course riesling, in the Clare Valley.
A handful of their reds play delightfully with Spanish and Italian styles that are as yet relatively unexploited  in the new world. Here, the addition of aromatic tempranillo to a soft gluggable rhone blend adds a gorgeous toffeish note. In general I like my reds served quite cool and this is one that would benefit from a slight touch of chill. Unlike Thursday when I thought it was a bit too warm.  But nevertheless it was gorgeous. Arguably the joker in the pack because of the mash-up of styles, it proved to be pretty much the popular hit of the evening.

Nicholsons, based in Co Down, is the only wine retailing site I know of that can seamlessly take orders from either the republic or UK and deliver to either jurisdiction, if you know what it mean. (I found it handy when picking out a gift case for a colleague in Britain last year). More importantly they have a superb list. I find myself at their portfolio tastings desperately trying to find the duds. If you are buying online, make sure you select the correct  location/currency on the website as of course different excise duty rates apply in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

De Martino

De Martino

De Martino Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2007 €14

Imported by Febvre –
Stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, and a version of it is sold by the glass in The Pavilion bar on Cary’s Lane

Maipo Valley Chile. Made with organically-grown grapes.
I adore this. While I love lots of ‘obvious’ wines – those fruity numbers that parade their charms up-front – there’s a special place in my heart for wines like this: a dignified and elegant cabernet blend that slowly and coolly unpacks a perfectly-packed box of leafy currants.

Febvre’s list is a fantastic blend of posh and approachable. They’re also innovators. They were the first to introduce quarter bottles and also spearheaded screwcaps. Plus they’re adding another interesting dimension which I’ll return to here soon.

Clos Malverne

Clos Malverne

Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve Stellenbosch 2007 (€13.95)

Dunnes Stores

You’ll rarely hear anyone suggest “it’s a special occasion – let’s trade up to something from South Africa”. But one destination for posh reds you might consider is Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch. And long before you reach the heady heights of their flagship Auret, their range includes some excellent affordable reds that behave like posh premium wines.
When the pinotage grape doesn’t work properly it can have an unpleasant green medicinal edge. But here, perhaps due to a combination of factors (primarily, I guess, old vines in relatively cool vineyards) there is something marvellously supple and seductive about a wine that is so layered and complex. Mature and open, this was the red in the tasting that least needed airing or decanting.  (One of my abandoned fancies was to hold back one of each red intending to open them just before pouring and thereby illustrate the benefit of breathing.)

As supermarkets and symbol groups go, Dunnes stand out from the crowd. Jacinta Delahaye and Richard Ecock head the wine buying team who source top-class  exclusives including  Laurent Miquel, Vignerons de Chusclan, Inycon, Nieto Senetiner  and a whole range of Bordeaux reds.

Glass action

Finally, quite a few people were asking about the pretty good wine glasses we were using. My, ahem, ‘collection’ of glasses is quite a mixture at this stage but most of them are the M&S Windsor Large Red Wine Glass, €20 for a pack of four. The even more impressive Bordeaux glasses in the same range are also only twenty bucks. I don’t know why anyone would pay any more than that. Glasses break, for pity’s sake. So why would you have anything in the house you’d be fretting over?


One Response

  1. […] glasses to the most sincere evaluation, informal blind taste tests. At various dinners plus one fundraising event I distributed €45 glasses unannounced among the €5 ones, and no-one detected any difference. […]

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