Some Christmas Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again and, while we refuse to have decorations or Christmas music in the shop until December 1st, we do think it’s time to plan ahead and so we thought it would be a good idea to present some Christmas gift ideas. First, though, some hints about giving wine as a gift.

First off, less can be more. For example, instead of giving somebody a few bottles of wine that they might get themselves anyway, give them one or two special bottles for the same amount of money. A couple of years ago, one of our customers was given a case of supermarket wines as a corporate gift. He threw them all down the sink. His comment: “I wish they’d spent the same amount of money on one or two special bottles”.

Another trap to avoid is giving very recognisable wines. Mass-produced wines tend to be dosed with chemicals that ensure their stability. These are the type of wines that have you saying “I didn’t think I drank that much last night”. Not that we’re suggesting over-indulgence, but well-made wines shouldn’t cause hangovers if taken in moderation. The problem here tends to be over-reliance on herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers by the producers. These are poisons, and you are guaranteed a hangover after a few glasses.

So, what wine gifts work well? The best approach is to work from a budget and then consider your ‘audience’. A simple twinpack in the €25 to €30 range can tick a lot of boxes. We have a few examples below – , The French One, The Organic One (which is also The Spanish One) and the Italian One:

The French Twin - A red Bordeaux and a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. €26
The French Twin – A red Bordeaux and a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. €26

The Six-Pack:

We have similar suggestions – you can go French, Spanish, etc. However, working from a budget is a good idea. If you are going for a six-pack, €90 – €100 should be the starting point. Below that you just end up with wines that your customer would buy anyway, and a triple- or twin- pack would work better.

If you decide to go this route, think of three options: the Red Hamper (€90-€100), The Black (€150) and The Wooden (€250+), as pictured below. They can be tweaked to budget – these are just examples of what can be done.

A Silver option - an old world special, with two wines each from France and Italy and one each from Lebanon and Spain. €150.
A Black Hamper – an old world special, with two wines each from France and Italy and one each from Lebanon and Spain. €150.
Gold - A Bordeaux/Burgundy beauty. Six great wines from great vintages, presented in a wooden box. €360
The Wooden Hamper – A Bordeaux/Burgundy beauty. Six great wines from great vintages, presented in a wooden box. €360

Welcome to our Wine On Tap system

20170801_124011-1We are delighted to announce our new Wine On Tap service, in association with WineLab. We are the first shop in Dublin to offer this service. It has proven a big success in restaurants, but both ourselves and WineLab see no reason why our customers can’t enjoy its benefits. It’s a beautifully simple system for supplying premium wines at a significant discount from their regular price. Here’s how it works:

The System
We have kegs of quality wines in the shop, hooked up to a cooling system designed to present both red and white wines at the perfect temperature. Customers ‘buy’ an empty bottle from us for €7 – it’s effectively a deposit – and we fill the bottle from the tap.

The Wines
We are starting with two wines – a Pinot Grigio from the Friuli region of Italy and a French Malbec.

Stocco Pinot Grigio 2016: From Friuli in northern Italy, this is hand-harvested, unoaked and aged on the lees for three months. 12.5% abv.

Fortant Terroir de Collines Malbec 2014: Hand-harvested at night to preserve freshness, with four months of ageing in small French barrels.

The Bottles

After you’ve enjoyed the wine – and we’re confident you will – just bring the bottle back for a refill. We will supply a new clean bottle, washed in our specialist glass washer machine. If you’d prefer to bring your own empty bottle rather than use one of ours, that’s fine. You just need to be sure it’s clean, so that it won’t affect the win in any way.

The Price

Both of our initial wines – the Pinot Grigio and the Malbec – are €9.99 per half litre and €18.99 per litre.

Rioja Tasting this Thursday

We are having a Rioja tasting night this Thursday, and it will be a good one. The details are as follows:


Where: Clontarf GAA Club, Seafield Road, Clontarf.

When: Thursday April 6th, 7.30pm to 9pm.

What: A tasting of selected wines from Rioja with Rafa Salazar of Vinostito.

How Much: €25 per person, which can be paid on the night.

Booking: By email to or by phone to 01-8533088


This will be a good night – these tastings are always good fun. Rafa is one of the most knowledgeable people in Ireland when it comes to Spanish wines (and food). It’s surprising how diverse the wines from one region can be, and this is a great chance to try some very good, and different, wines from Rioja.

Places are limited, so give us a shout if you’re interested.

Fridays at 5.30 – Free hosted tastings

We have been running tastings on Fridays since we opened, but this year we have special, hosted tastings every Friday on the run-up to Christmas, starting about 5.30 until 7.30ish.

So far, we’ve  had Mick O’Connell (MW) showing some marvellous Rieslings (we had more than one convert that night), followed by Gay McGuinness of Domaine des Anges, with his winemaker Florent Chave, covering their range from the Southern Rhône. Joe Coyle of Liberty Wines then joined us to show six wines from their expansive portfolio. They went down extremely well.

This Friday, December 2nd, we are joined by Rafa Salazar from Vinostito to taste what will undoubtedly be wonderful wines from the Vinostito range. It’s an amazing portfolio and, while the wines haven’t been chosen yet, you could throw a few darts at the VT listing and be happy with the wines chosen.

Friday the 9th sees Mick O’Connell return for a Port tasting. Very seasonal. Mick is one of the youngest Masters of Wine in the world, and it’s a great chance to taste, and discuss, various Ports.

On the 16th Colm Carter from Honest 2 Goodness will be here to explore the wines of Bordeaux, often seen as the perfect Christmas wines. They can be confusing, but Colm will put you at ease in relation to choosing the right style for any occasion.

Join us between now and then on Friday at 5.30 for a bit of fun and some great wines.

Which glasses to use?

Which wine glasses to use?
One of those perennial First World problems. But it is a matter of much debate among wine geeks. I have long been convinced that the shape of the glass can affect the taste of a wine. Not every wine, but quite a lot of them. We showed how this can be last year when we did a tasting in the shop on a Friday evening of the same sauvignon blanc tasted from two different glasses. One was a narrow-rimmed tasting glass, the other a broader-rimmed ‘dinner’ glass.

The difference was very apparent, even amongst the most sceptical of customers. The reason had to do with physics. The narrow glass forced you to tilt your head back further than the broader glass. This resulted in the wine being thrown back further in your mouth, where there are more taste receptors for detecting acidity, which the sauvignon blanc had in abundance. Tasted from the other glass the wine stayed nearer the front of your mouth, where the fruit character of the wine was more apparent.

As you know, our sense of smell is very closely related to our sense of taste. The best example of this is how hard it is to taste something when you have a heavy cold. Different wines, of course, have different aromas, generated by phenolic compounds rising from the glass. The shape of the glass affects how these compounds are released, and subsequently how we perceive them through our sense of smell. The right glass not only releases the aromas to maximum effect but also delivers the wine to the part of our palate that allows us to taste the wine at its best. I know this might sound like a load of phenolics, but I’m a convert, and so are most people I’ve spoken to that have tested the theory.

The Riedel approach
This is the science on which Riedel have built their range of wine glasses. Last November, I was fortunate enough to be at a tasting masterclass with Max Riedel, the son of the Company’s founder. The results were amazing. We tasted a Pinot Noir from two different – very different – glasses. Out of the ‘proper’ glass, it was soft, smooth and rich – gorgeous. Out of the Cabernet Sauvignon glass the bitter notes framed everything and the wine tasted distinctly average, with no balance between the fruit and the tannins. He then reversed the process, with a Cabernet Sauvignon tasted from both glasses, and while I didn’t think the difference was as strong, it was still noticeable.

He then took the exercise a step further, getting us to melt some white chocolate in our mouths before going back to the Pinot Noir. This is when it got silly, with people almost taken aback at the difference the glasses made. Now, I know, Max was there to sell his glasses, but he did make a good comment at the end – ‘pity the poor winemaker whose wine is poured into the wrong glass’.

Some pointers (these are our own, based on experience and a bit of research):

Stemmed or stemless? Stemless if you tend to knock them over. I prefer stemmed for white wine, as handling stemless glasses just heats up the wine as you hold them. Stemless glasses also get very grubby over the course of an evening.

Waterford Glass or regular? Regular. By a mile. Leave the Waterford Glass in the display cabinet. Or put a candle in them for effect. Maybe some pot pourri. There are other leading Lead Crystal glass brands available to similarly ignore. The thinner a glass is the better it does its job.

Cheap or dear? A matter of personal choice. Busy households, with children and dogs, for instance, tend to be hard on glasses. Glasses will break eventually, but having dearer ones tends to make people look after them better. And even if they say they’re dishwasher-safe, don’t put them in the dishwasher. And don’t hold them by the base when drying them – always hold them by the bowl. The only problem with using the dearer, top-quality glasses is that it is very hard to go back to the cheap, thick-rimmed versions.

I do think the whole thing can get a bit silly, with a separate glass for every different grape variety, especially when you consider that most of the wines we drink are blends. But getting a couple of different types that cover the main styles is worth it, making that glass of wine more enjoyable. The glasses below cover, I believe, most requirements.

The larger glass on the left in the photo below is Riedel’s Syrah glass, while the smaller one is their Chianti Classico/Riesling Grand Cru glass, which tells you that some glasses suit both red and white wines.


In this photo (below), are three glasses used in the Riedel masterclass. The very large glass, which actually holds more than a bottle of wine, is the one used for Cabernet Sauvignon, while the smaller, more angular glass is for Pinot Noir. Finally, the smallest glass was used for an oaked chardonnay.


So, if you want to narrow it down and go with with a couple of styles, base it on your choice of wine along the following lines:

Fuller-bodied wines (South of France, Bordeaux, Rioja (Crianza & Reserva)): The Cabernet or Syrah style of glass.

Medium-Bodied (Chianti, Garnacha, young Riojas): The Chianti/Riesling glass.

Whites: Depending on body, either the Chainti/Riesling for lighter whites, or the oaked Chardonnay for fuller-bodied wines.

Clear as glass?

John Wilson at Clontarf Wines

On Friday next (December 18th) John Wilson, the Irish Times wine critic, will be with us in Clontarf Wines for a free tasting of wines from his new book -‘2016 – Wilson on Wine’. It’s a free tasting, and promises to be both good fun and very informative.

We’ll be starting at 5pm and expect to finish at 7.30. It’s an informal event, so drop in any time from 5 to 7.30. John will be signing copies of his book and sharing his views on festive wines – or on any wines you’d like to discuss with him.

Our Loyalty Scheme

We now have a Loyalty Scheme. It’s fairly straightforward, the main points being:

You get 3 points for every €1 you spend in the shop
Each point is worth one cent.
When you’ve accumulated 500 points, you can redeem them against purchases in the shop.

If you want to join the scheme, just email us, and we’ll give you 100 points to kick things off, and we’ll have your card ready to collect the next time you’re in the shop. The Terms and Conditions are on the page listed above.

The wonder that is the Coravin


It’s not for everybody, and it’s not even for every wine, but the Coravin is the “most transformational and exciting new product for wine lovers that has been invented in the last 30+ years”, according to Robert Parker. Jancis Robinson is another fan.

What is it?
In the words of its inventor, Greg Lambrecht, it is ‘A Wine Access System’. It allows you to access a bottle of wine without removing the cork. It operates like a syringe, sucking the wine out of the bottle through a needle and replacing the wine with argon gas. Because no oxygen has entered the bottle, the wine remains unaffected and can be accessed at any time in the future and will continue to age as normal.

Why bother with it?
It’s not for everybody, and not for every wine. But it does allow you to enjoy a glass of that special bottle without having to open and consume the entire bottle. It also allows you to check on the development of a wine you have put away, and see if it is ready for drinking yet.

Does it work?

The answer would seem to be a resounding yes. Wines that have been accessed ten years ago, during the development stages, are ageing as normal. Extensive blind tastings of ‘accessed’ and fresh bottles of the same wines have taken place and no discernible difference has been identifiable.

Any downside?

It only works on wines with natural corks, because of the way they spring back to close the hole made by the needle. Not really a downside, as the wines that it works best with tend to have natural corks anyway. It doesn’t work on sparkling wines. Care needs to be taken with older wines, as the cork can be quite brittle in some cases. A special needle is available for these wines. Also, wines with a lot of sediment (Ports in particular) need to accessed carefully. Each argon gas capsule is good for about 15 regular glasses of wine, and then needs to be replaced.

What do the critics say?

Robert Parker: ‘Coravin is the most transformational and exciting new product for wine lovers that has been developed/invented in the last 30+ years. Coravin is a killer product’.
Jancis Robinson: ‘Nothing I know of preserves wine in an open or ‘accessed’ bottle for years as this system does’.

Our Free Service

If you have a special bottle that you’ve been wondering about, bring it down to us and we can let you try a sip to check on its development.

The Cost?

€299. This includes two gas capsules. Replacement capsules cost €19.95 for a pack of 2.

Yes, we do sell Romanian wine..

Indeed we do. We have the Umbrele Merlot – a soft, fruity Merlot that goes very well with watching rugby on TV. We wouldn’t claim to know much about rugby, but we’re reliably informed that we are better at rugby than Romania. Well, they are better at winemaking than we are.

John Wilson, in his Saturday column in the Irish Times last week, gave the Umbrele Merlot the thumbs up. And it’s only €9.99.

It’s our second birthday!

We turn two this weekend, and we’re celebrating with some tastings and some giveaways in the shop, starting today. We’ll have some nice wines open for tasting, along with some other ‘nice stuff’. We’ll also have some Spot Prizes – ten bottles of wine have been randomly chosen from around the shop, and each has a pathetic drawing of two candles on the back of the bottle. Anybody that selects one of these bottles will get it for free. Our usual rules apply – one bottle per customer and rules can change if required.

Oh, and we’re giving 10% off any six bottles (or more) purchased over the weekend. We do this on Bank Holiday weekends, but we reckon that Birthday weekends are just as important. Again, the usual rules apply – the discount replaces any other deals (the best deal of the two applies), and it excludes Sparkling wines.

As you know, it’s Culture Night tonight, so if you’re heading out to enjoy some high-brow stuff, give us a shout on the way there or back (we close at nine) and let us add a touch of something nice to the night.