Wednesday 16 June 2010


MAKING a good wine is one thing, selling it quite another.
Marketing might be a dirty word to winemakers but without it the results of their labour may stay on the shop shelf gathering dust.
Today much time and money is spent on presentation. And in the case of a very cheap wine the cost of the marketing, label and packaging can amount to more than the value of what is in the bottle.
Savvy wine buyers can tell quite a lot about the wine they are buying by examining the packaging. Wine labels can give up a lot of information. The two important tips are:
Alcohol level: By law, the alcohol content of your wine must be clearly visible on the label. It can tell you how ripe (and sweet) the grapes were. A very low alcohol wine (under 11 per cent) suggests that not all the sugar turned to alcohol during fermentation and the wine will taste a tad sweeter.
A low alcohol wine (11 to 13 per cent) will invariably be light bodied, a little more subtle and with more acidity and tanginess. Higher alcohol wines will be full of flavour, full-bodied - and strong.
Look of the label: Traditional - or old-fashioned - labels more than hint at old style winemaking techniques. It suggests a wine that has been made following a successful formula down the years.
Many new or modern-style label designs are only chosen after months of marketing research and are aimed at attracting a specific group - a young or female market for instance. 
A cartoon-based label may well attract a younger audience, introducing them to a fruit-driven, easy drinking wine in the bottle. Something a little more stylish with a vibrant colour scheme might attract a more female market and wines that are off-dry, fruity and low in alcohol.
Don’t forget to email with your wine queries to
Quinta Da Lixa Vinho Verde 2009
Minho, Portugal
€9.99 from good independents
Light, refreshing and low in alcohol, Vinho Verde is Portugal’s answer to Spain’s Cava. This fine example has the Trajadura grape giving it body and length and Loureiro its aromas of apple and grapefruit. Lively with nice minerality and a little sparkle.
Pouilly Fume 2008 Classic Collection
Loire, France
€12 from Superquinn
A nice golden yellow colour with distinctive smoky, gunflinty mineral notes on the nose and peach and mango flavours on the palate of this 100 per cent Loire Sauvignon Blanc. Great with grilled white flat fish or goat’s cheese. Excellent value. 


WHAT have Mexico, Algeria, Serbia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Paraguay got in common? 
Answer: All  have reached the World Cup finals, which begin in South Africa on Friday next - and all produce wine. 
Indeed, of the 32 finalists, only seven don’t have vineyards and winemaking facilities.
Algeria is one of the oldest winemaking nations, tracing their vinous heritage back to the Phoenicians.
The Mexicans have made wine since the 17th century, the Japanese can trace limited wine production back to 700 A.D., while Denmark and the Netherlands have burgeoning wine industries, as does England.
But it’s the traditional Old and New World wine nations, the ones that  dominate the shelves of our favourite wine shops - that look set to do the same in South Africa this summer.
The finals give wine lovers the opportunity to introduce themselves to grape varieties they have not tried. I will be spicing up my enjoyment of the tournament from the couch with some new varietals and bottles.
By the time the last 16 in the competition has been finalised I will have said goodbye to wine-producing nations like Greece, South Africa, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand.
So that bottle of Teliani Valley, Tsinandali white 2008 from Greece, a Pinotage (South Africa),  a Californian Zinfandel and a fresh Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand will have been polished off.
My quarter-final line-up gives me with the opportunity to open a Nyetimber 2005 Classic Cuvee, England’s most coveted sparkler from west Sussex, a dry German Riesling and a rich, full-bodied  Italian Amarone - as I say goodbye to these nations.
Surprise package in the last four - Uruguay - allows me to open a bottle of Tannat, the red grape from southwest France that has found a new home in south America.
My wine recommendations today represent my two finalists. May the best team win.
Catena Malbec 2006
Medoza, Argentina
€18 from good independents
One of Argentina’s great Malbecs. Dark violet in the glass, the nose has concentrated dark fruit aromas with and floral and vanilla notes. Nice soft fruit - cherry and blackberry - palate with spice, supple tannins and flinty finish. Drink with a nice, big steak
Marques de Murrieta Reserva 2005
Rioja, Spain
Around €20 in good independents
Classic Rioja with Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo grapes with characteristic strawberry and oak hints on the nose. Big, ripe red soft fruit flavours with a great balance of acidity, nice roundness and well integrated tannins. Roasts and hard cheese are the perfect match.


TOUCHING on the subject of en primeur a couple of weeks ago, I never thought I would be returning to the subject again so soon but there has been tremendous interest from our readers. 
En primeur is the process of buying wines before they are bottled and released onto the market. In a good year - and 2009, particularly in Bordeaux, has been been described as nothing less than outstanding - you can make anything up to 40 per cent savings.
All the talk right now is about the classed growths, your Château Latours, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild and Margaux. But top châteaux only account for around 3 per cent of the wines produced in the region. 
And if conditions were perfect for making fines wines at these superstar houses, then it had to be the same at many of the lesser known vineyards.
But remember en-primeur prices are based on the tastings and judgements of a team of experts - who have been wrong in the past - and that the value of the wine might only show a small appreciation over the coming years - or none at all.
If you want to take a punt on the 2009 vintage then seek out a reliable broker or importer, like Stuart Smith at FromVineyardsDirect (01 845 6745) or check out their website where a selection of solid wines from reliable châteaux are on offer right now at excellent prices.
Château Maume 2009, a predominantly Merlot based wine, is offered at €72 a case. With taxes, duty, and delivery charges paid,  the wine will be delivered to your door in late 2011 or early 2012 at around €8.60 a bottle.
I tasted the supple Château Maume 2004 recently and it was still drinking well. My notes record that it cost €12.65 when it was bought at a Dublin wine shop in 2007. So you can see the savings that can be made.
Grand D’Arte Touriga Nacional 2008
Estremadura, Portugal
€12.99 and available in good independents
Touriga is Portugal’s greatest red grape. This excellent example comes from a region influenced by the Atlantic, making for a wine that retains that characteristic violet nose with a wonderful soft texture, well integrated tannins and excellent length.
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2007
South Australia
€12.89 (€11.35 on promotion) widely available
Believe me, Jacob’s Creek make excellent wines - and the quality just gets better, particularly in the reserve range. Peach and citrus aromas with generous hints of oak, white peach and citrus flavours on the palate which is soft and has nice length.