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copy of newsletter sent to Moncrieff show subscribers following show on 14th jan 2011

And the winner is…………

 It’s awards season with the Golden Globe awards on Sunday and the Oscars due in late February but it’s not just the movies that have awards; the drinks industry in Ireland has a few awards too. This week saw the National Off-Licence Association (NoffLA) hand out their gongs at a black tie ceremony and I’m also announcing my own choice of Wine Supermarket of the year 2010. 

I spend a lot of time cruising the aisles of the nation’s supermarkets and attending their tastings and reviewing samples and (pause while envelope is opened) the Wine Supermarket of the Year 2010 is Superquinn. My full ranking over the last 12 months is:

  1. Superquinn
  2. Tesco
  3. Marks & Spencer
  4. Dunnes
  5. SuperValu
  6. Aldi
  7. Lidl

 Congratulations to Superquinn who have come a long way in the last couple of years on so many fronts. Five years ago they were, frankly, a mess. They had made experienced shop staff redundant, an experienced buyer had retired and the range had been run down. Today though is a different story as buyer Richard Moriarty has given the range real shape and direction while also in store they have specialist wine staff to look after the drinks section and answer questions and that alone would lift them out of the ordinary.

 What makes the range stand out though? Like any supermarket you’ll find the top selling big brands from Chile and Australia like Santa Rita or Rosemount but Moriarty has introduced a core range of keenly priced basic own white label wines that are pretty consistent and sometimes down right excellent. You’ll struggle, for example, to find a better value red than the €7 Cotes du Rhone sourced at a small but excellent co-op. Then there are a range of well chosen exclusive brand imports not just from obvious places like Bordeaux or Barossa but the kind of left field choices, usually the preserve of a serious specialist wine shop, that makes a wine lover like me stop in my tracks and say ‘wow, I didn’t know they did that’. How many supermarkets stock white Crozes-Hermitage, half bottles of dry Oloroso Sherry or Gewürztraminer from Italy’s Alto-Adige?

 It’s not the biggest range, Tesco has that probably, but every wine is there for a reason and the result is something for everyone without ever dumbing down, whether you just want a cheap party white, a bottle to impress at dinner or to broaden your horizons with something new. Honourable mention also needs to go to previous buyer David Orr and John Wilson of the Irish Times acting as a consultant who started the rebuilding process on which Richard Moriarty has so successfully built.

NoffLa announced on Monday that their National Off-Licence of the year is Sweeneys in Glasnevin. I’m delighted as it’s local to me and I’ve known Finian Sweeney probably 16 or 17 years. It really is a deserved award for an excellent shop. There’s an enormous range of wines and specialist beers and two of the staff, Kevin and Lynda have WSET diplomas, so advice should be good. They run tastings regularly and wine courses and now also have a little food as they stock cheeses, charcuterie and condiments from Sheridans Cheesemongers as well as specialist breads from La Boulangerie des Gourmets. What’s not to like? The wheel has come full circle as Sweeneys started out as a licensed grocer in Dorset St and gave up food and got serious about wine in 1995 and now the food is back, all be it in a small way.

Dublins North Side almost swept the board as Jus de Vine won ‘Wine Specialist of the Year’ while McHughes of Malahide Rd won ‘Beer Specialist of the Year’ and Gibneys of Malahide won ‘Dublin Off-Licence of the Year’. Deveney’s in Dundrum got the ‘Sprit Specialist of the Year’. Full details of all the NoffLA awards here

Martin Moran MW

 Wines Tasted on The Show

 Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz – Riesling 2007, €10.99, Superquinn
A pretty unusual blend to put in mildly. Adding a little of the white grape Viognier to Syrah (Shiraz) is part of the recipe for Cote Rotie, an idea replicated in many other countries but Riesling is a radical take on the idea of the white grape adding a little perfume and suppleness, but as the News Talk sales ad says ‘It works’. I know the winemakers and said it was a bargain and they said ‘yeah, Superquinn are underpricing it. They charge the same for this as the whites and we charge them less for the whites so they’re making f**k all on it. All of which makes this my best value red of 2010.

Chablis Premier Cru 2007, Charles Meras, €12 reduced from €17.99
Dunnes had a Chablis 1er Cru on offer last month for €12.99, which was a keen offer even if the wine wasn’t really up to 1er cru standard; this is though. Maybe it’s up to scratch because it has filled out with age but it has the required depth and richness. Snap it up as it’s the sort of thing that reminds you why the Chardonnay grape got famous in the first place before Pinot Grigio made it less fashionable.

Farnese ‘Don Camillo’ Sangiovese 2009, Terre de Chieti, Italy, €13.99 Sweeneys.
From the Abruzzo region, on the east coast, level with Rome, this is a richer softer version of Sangiovese than you’ll find in wines from its home base of Tuscany. Expect to find flavours of liquorice and dark cherry and it softens further with a little air or enjoyed with a hard cheese.

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