Am I Independent?

The moniker ‘Independent‘ is bandied about the wine trade with such regularity we tend to ignore it more often than use it as a useful tool. What does it mean to be ‘independent’?

Independent Wine Merchant:   This should be an easy one! Does it mean ‘not part of a group’ or owned by a bigger group? Well, no is the answer or O’Brien’s Wines with 33 stores (I think….look out for the transformation of Molloys at Nutgrove to an O’Briens soon) could hardly be considered an independent – neither could Fine Wines or indeed O’Donovan’s claim the distinction even though Gary O’Donovan is the current chair of NOffLA (The National Off Licence Association).  At the other end it can’t possibly mean stand alone stores only or excellent stores such as Mitchell & Son or Curious Wines or The Corkscrew or The Wine Buff franchised outlets or McHughs could never be described as being independent …… besides if it did mean this then ‘independents’ would be prohibited from ever expanding their business!


‘Independent Wine Merchant’ seems to translate only as a negative ie Not a Supermarket! Mind you this doesn’t always work. I can remember Searson’s Wine Merchants (now gone but parts are still alive in Tindal Wines) treated O’Brien’s Wines as a multiple and as they would not supply multiples they refused to supply O’Briens!! As for me I still think of SuperValu outlets as being independent and franchised. Ah, I hear you all telling me that SuperValu has a centralised buying department at Musgraves and they take their wines through that route. Agreed. They do – but some stores choose much better than others which wines to stock and when to sell them.

If you think that’s muddied the waters try ‘Independent Wine Producer‘. I know dozens of these and meet them all of the time. They’re the ones who own their own business – right? mmmm, well, almost. How independent is a family owned wine business leveraged to the hilt with the banks? Won’t they have to run their trade according to who they can find as customers? Otherwise they’ll go broke. How independent is that compared to the big, solvent multinational free to make its own decisions as to who to sell to, what to make and when to expand?  Gallo is the world’s biggest wine producer, is family owned and is independent. But that’s not really who we’re talking about when we use the term ‘Independent’ now, is it?

A Recent and Excellent O’Briens Tasting

My absolute favourite is ‘Independent Wine Writer‘. This is used all of the time to imply impartial and objective judgement. What it really means is someone working freelance. Maybe its the wording but these days this reminds me of ‘sellswords’ in ‘Game of Thrones’! (Maybe mercenary is going too far …. ) How do ‘Independent’ wine writers visit regions of interest? They are brought there. How do they taste so many wines? They are given them. They may be capable of independent judgement but wine writers are actually beholden to the trade they are supposedly independent of. The only way around this is to mention the where and when (and who paid) of the wine that was tasted. Does it not seem odd to you that your fave wine writer on a Saturday morning suddenly delivers brilliant detail about the wines and restaurants of a small island in the  middle of nowhere. They have either been there or they’re plagiarising or they’re chancing their arm. Every wine writer needs to have an accessible code of ethics page. (Look up Jancis Robinson’s (or mine) – they’re brilliant! Basically if someone gives us a bottle of wine then its business. If they give us a case of wine its a bribe!)

 ‘Independent’ in the wine trade is extensively used to imply that its wearer is better in some way than others in the same trade. NOffLA tells us that, ‘In excess of 600 wines were submitted to The Irish Wine Show Star Award adjudication panel of NOffLA judges and independent wine writers‘. These writers work for newspapers and will now report on their own findings. At times wine writers have been proven over the years to be biased towards style of wines that have been favoured by the very publications they write for!! Circular wine writing is rampant and if its not circular it can often be fashionable. Who’d have thought Prosecco and Pinot Grigio would command more space than Cava or Chardonnay?


What to do? Well, lets agree that its useless to describe merchants or producers simply as ‘Independent’. It means nothing unless we’re told what they are supposed to be independent from or what the independence actually is. As for writers, first of all Be Honest. Tell us who paid for the trip or the sample. Then tell us what your personal preferences are. Do you love Chardonnay and so you might not always give a Sauvignon Blanc the thumbs up? Have you lived in South Africa so long that you don’t recognise the brilliance of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon? Maybe (as one wine writer/educator in Dublin used to tell his students) you just think all wines from Chile are crap anyhow?! Maybe you’re  a paid consultant to a wine company in the trade already? Maybe you have full time paid employment other than your wine writing? Just tell us. Give us context. Somewhere. Because if you don’t you are not truly Independent at all.

Do we need Independent’s? In the true sense of needing honest brokers, yes we do. We most certainly do. Do we have them? Now there’s the rub!

Last week BWG Wines & Spirits sent out twelve wines to ‘the press’. I was one of them. I like Italian wines and I really like the laid back full fleshy and soft fruit feel of their PASSORI red from the Veneto (€10.99 regular/€9.99 on special). 60%Merlot gives it softness and fleshiness while the 40%Corvina gives it backbone and richness. Super style. Available nationwide in Spar, Eurospar, Mace and Londis stores.

 Image result for passori

Lidl’s latest French Wine Sale – How Good?

First off I need to make it clear that I am a fan of many wines that Lidl carry. When they run a French Wine Sale, like the one due to begin this Monday (Sept 12th), they bring additional wines into their stores. So, buy ’em now ‘cos they won’t be there when they’re gone!

(I should also add (as it may be a mystery) as to how the wine press is so familiar with these wines? Lidl bring us to France to taste them! This year the tasting was in Alsace and was led by Richard Bampfield MW – you know him by his friendly face in all Lidl supermarkets!)

Strasbourg looking good

Back to business. This Lidl French Wine Sale has something for everyone, is good value and the wines are available nationwide.

Here are a few that stood out for me as being fabulous: (they will sell quickly ….)


Alsace Grand Cru, Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2013      €12.99         If you ever want to find out what the fuss in relation to well made Riesling (with a touch of age) from Alsace is then grab this. It’s fantastic.

Chateau Roylland, Saint- Emilion Grand Cru 2012  €19.99   Drinking quite young with a ton of well integrated structure and rich fruit to allow it to age well. Love the big strong finish!


Alsace Sylvaner Vielles Vignes  2015  €8.99  This may be all peach and pear in a light body but it has a really fine poise that gives it good length and balance.

 Chateau Pey de Pont Medoc Cru Bourgeois  2012  €11.99    Incredible Bordeaux red at this price. Finely perfumed with a generous heart of well ripened fruit stitched to a brilliant structure; all leads to a strong and exact finish. (Tuck a few away for Christmas?)



Comte de Moucheron Beaune 1erCru  2012  €34.99  Burgundy is often (correctly) quoted as being out of reach of our pockets! Perhaps this still is. That said it offers us the chance to try a truly excellent example of a rich vibrant wine with plenty of years ahead of it. If Pinot Noir does it for you then give this as a gift where you know it will be opened before you head home!

Virginie de Valandraud Saint-Emilion Grand Cru  2014  €32.99    A really exceptional wine with a ‘big’ pour (always impressive – foolish, I know!) This just keeps on giving more as it opens up in the glass. Generous to a smooth fruit fault and held together with ease by a smooth but definite structure. All good.


Gorgeous vineyards at Blestheim Alsace


Besides the Alsace Grand Cru above I really like the following two. Both have their faults (might not get high points on the Bampfield scale!) but they deliver for my palate and here’s why ..

Chateau Lalande Mausse,  Fronsac   2013   €9.99  Beside the value here the fruit is exciting. I like to find young vibrant fruit in a wine. (I’m personally not a great fan of aged wines…!) In this case my money is well spent on a soft heart of richness and rewarded in a long and satisfying finish.

William Nahan Chablis 2015  €14.99  This has an edge of smokiness to it and a well textured palate. I like the ‘verviness’ of this where there seems to be a nervous tension ready to uncoil!


Super Lidl Tasting

A Pair that I disagree with the Bampfield score on!

I don’t like 100 point scales but as they seem to work so well (ie consumers buy into the higher the score the better the wine ..) I do have to appreciate them. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with the scores!  In general, though, if the taster is expert enough then these numbers will relate back to an objective set of criteria. Richard Bampfield is one such expert and in general I do agree with most of his scores. A couple caught my eye where we disagree:

Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2015  €17.99 (91 points) I despair at red Chateauneuf du Pape wines that drink no better, or indeed differently, than a good Cotes du Rhone Villages. Admittedly, this one drinks better than many of the €14.99 examples we see every weekend as cut price offers but then a €17.99 wine should drink well! I think this is poor value for money for a Chateauneuf du Pape and  much prefer another Rhone in this sale the Vinsobres 2015 at €9.99 (89 points)

Mignot Pere et Fils Fleurie 2015  €10.99 (90 Points) This is a very dry wine. Too dry! Gamay should be succulent and overtly fruity with an imprint of the village it hails from. In this case it comes from Fleurie but tastes like a dried out Morgon.

Enjoy this Sale. In total it brings us 44 wines from across France. All good? No, but sure that’s the fun of it all! Some good? More than just some!

(Anything absolutely Worth Avoiding?  I hate to point to a wine that just doesn’t work for me at all. After all, tasting is inherantly subjective. Every now and then though a wine just seems ‘wrong’! For me the Chateau de Roussellet Cotes de Bourgs 2011 at €9.99 is just ‘not right’.)

It Smells of Boiled Potatoes with a Dollop of Butter

When I am asked to describe the bouquet of a wine I always preface my answer with something along the lines of, “this is what I smell and it may not be what your nose is picking up….”   ( ah, sorry about the picking bit…. )DSCN6290

When it comes to recognising bouquets we are all victims, and beneficiaries, of our environmental histories. Some of these are deep seated and cultural while others are ephemeral, transitory or even learned.

This is all quite apart from the fact that each one of us is more or less sensitive to various types of bouquets. To assess a wine for possible inherent faults, for instance, it is reckoned that five people need to be involved!


So, do we have an Irish sense of smell as opposed to an English one and, if so, how might we use it to our advantage?

Let’s put this into context. Recently I asked Wine Australia Research if they might forward to me one of the Wine Flavour Cards that they have produced so that they might better understand the Chinese market and its unique character in relation to wines.

It’s a fabulous piece of research that looks at whether cultural and lexical differences are important when it comes to buying and selling wine. Clearly Chinese is an extreme as the following results makes obvious:

  • Generic descriptors are used more often than specific descriptors. The most commonly selected generic descriptors are smooth (平滑), fruity (果香), sweet (甜), mellow (醇), and lengthy aftertaste (回味).
  • When using specific Chinese descriptors, the most prevalent terms are: citrus fruits such as pomelo and lime for white and sparkling wines, red fruits such as yangmei and dried Chinese hawthorns for red wines, jackfruit and longan for dessert wines

Source: Wine Australia, Research Development and Extension

So, what about Ireland?

Ireland has taken to wine quite recently and as such can claim to be an ‘emerging market’. We have a unique heritage and are known across the world to express ourselves individually, coherently and, one might add, often! As we speak English it has been assumed that whatever is written on wine for the market in England is alright for us IMAG1371in Ireland. Is it? Why would someone in ‘Jackie Healy-Rae Country’ relate to what ‘fruity’ means to a wine drinker in Oxford? Alternatively, why would someone in Newcastle understand what a wine described as having ‘the whiff of an oxter’ about it? Language alone is not good enough to assume we know what the wine maker is talking about.

Then there’s the culture. While the food we eat has changed a lot since our grandparents’ days we are, many believe, imbued with the smells and tastes of at least one, if not two, generation(s) gone by. (I shudder to think that future generations will share an international commonality in this respect …’ah the smell of a Subway Store’, or, ‘get that McDonalds Fries bouquet?’..)

Relate wines to your own sense of smell and to no-one else’s! If you can balance yours with others and get a common result so much the better. Thus, if we all reckon a slightly aged Riesling from the Rheingau exhibits a sense of petrol fumes. Great. If you think that it doesn’t but you always get a whiff of your favourite cheese, then go for it. It is not up to you to accommodate producers as much as it is their responsibility to accommodate you. They cannot do so individually but as with the Chinese example they can, and should, relate to us culturally.

 Is our wine tasting so different from England? I believe its similar but different. This certainly works in our favour with many of the inexpensive and sweeter supermarket styles that have found favour in the UK. We tend to find them either too sweet, too simple or not ‘real wine’ at all!


It may work against us in that we don’t have a wide appreciation of older or indeed expensive wines – we have such a limited history of buying and drinking them. This is a generational thing and will improve in sophistication with time. Right now we possibly err on the side of ripe fruitiness a bit too much. Mind you, we are adventurous with the grapes we are prepared to look at, in contrast to the labels we are influenced by most of which tend to be classical rather than modern/funky.

‘Freshly boiled new potatoes with melting butter’ resonates with me. ‘Yangmei and dried Chinese hawthorns’ do not.  For all I know they are the same thing (although I doubt it!). The point is, take wine descriptors in English with a grain of salt and don’t always believe that what you read on the label actually means something.

  • Taste the wine first!
  • Follow a critic that seems to taste like you do.
  • Begin to interpret key wine descriptions back into your own meaning of whatever language you speak.

This might be a ‘Jackie Healy-Rae dialect’ or a south Dublin yuppie expression saying the same thing but sounding very differently indeed. Above all, taste for yourself and don’t let others do it for you and just like a fabulous bowl of freshly boiled potatoes keep it simple.


…….. ‘Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance’ or ‘Send three and four pence we’re going to a dance’!

Lidl has Italy (and its wines) covered!

Way back in the 1980’s …. sounds like a bit of an old song … start again.

When the ‘modern’ Irish wine trade was in its infancy (early 1980’s) my two brothers and I began to import wines from Italy. (The Verling brothers did likewise). We were, I suppose, trendsetters. Were we? Perhaps it was a bit of bravado but in truth it began out of a necessity to be different and to make a profit in an industry dominated by a few large companies who not only controlled distribution channels but also had control of profit margins. Italy had such diversity and (at that time) only a few of its wines were being imported – Chianti, Frascati and the big three from the Veneto; Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino.

Today, profit margin is controlled by the supermarkets, distribution is more amenable than ever before and quality wines from Italy are easy to find. Lidl has now added to this mix by introducing value through a range of carefully chosen Italian wines to complement the Lidl Italiamo Food Theme in all of its stores from the 13th of this month.

The range of wines on offer is very good and the following are well worth checking out:

WHITE WINES202728_Podere_M_Vernaccia

 Podere M. Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2015          Vernaccia (from Gimignano) needs to be ‘found’. It is one of the world’s best food grapes that no-one seems to have heard of! This is a well dressed up wine that’s drinking very well to a fine finish – the mid-palate of this wine craves food to bring it ou202888_Gavi_di_Gavit: creamed pasta and a well-chilled Vernaccia …. €9.99

  Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2014          I’ve always had a grà for Gavi. It comes from just above Genoa and is made from the Cortese grape. Everything in this wine is pitched well: fine structure and great fruit acid balance; lean and lightly warmed, straw like, fruit with loads of textural mouth feel. €9.99

RED WINES208659_Morellino_di_Scansano

Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2014         This region is on the Med coastline of Tuscany and uses the Sangiovese grape to brings us fresh, crisp and soft fruited wines. Really fine summer drinking. €9.99

(Try the Nero d’Avola IGP from Sicily at €13.99 for the magnum (1.5liters). Reall206888_Babarescoy great price for a barbecue/party wine!

‘WTG?’ In my notes means ‘Want To Try The Grape’? I am constantly encouraging folk to broaden their grape horizons. It doesn’t always work (at times it’s a grape deeezaster …..!) but how else are we to find out what we like and what we don’t like? Take Nebbiolo from the north of Italy; high tannin, high alcohol, high acid, high fruit; throw in a touch of warmed asphalt. Fabulous?!

 Barbaresco DOCG 2013         Light tawny and a light warmed tar, great acid and fine ripe fruit, rich tannic grip and long warming finish. You just have to love it with a medium rare, juicy sirloin. €12.99207534_Valpolicella_Classico

  Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOC 2012          The name here covers all bases! Valpol Ripasso 2012 does it for me. Cherry like fruit, ageing, some baked fruit cake and fig, soft, rich mellow wine with a highish alcohol that makes you sleepy in the sunshine. Great price for one of Ireland’s current favourite Italian categories.  €9.99

M&S Wines – a Go To Place

Marks and Spencer recently held a fabulous tasting of its Summer Wine Portfolio. Here are a few of the wines that stood out for me.     old063

SPARKLING         M&S is always a good source of variety within its sparkling section. Beside very good Champagne (Oudinot, Abel Charlot) Cavas (Segura Viudas) and others they often include wines from exotic locations such as Brazil and New Zealand! 

I love these:

 Prosecco Brut NV  Masottina, Italy €12.49     I’m only a fan of Prosseco when I trust the producer! Masottino is one of those. He has a track record of being brilliant. This wine is reasonably full on the palate as the dosage (sweetening..) is highish at 11.0g/l but this is offset (to a degree…sic) by a low alcohol  level of only 11% vol. Everything here is bright, summery and delicious. Serve well chilled.

 ‘The Rhona’ Brut Rosé NV  Graham Beck, South Africa  €22.50     I like a lot of what Graham Back produces and I absolutely love everything his sparkling wine maker Peter Ferreira makes. This is fabulously well balanced Rosé wine where Pinot Noir (59%) is allowed to dominate Chardonnay. The result is a textural delight with a deep seated, rich berry fruit allied to a fine autolysis leading into a long and very satisfying finish. Every celebration should have one!

WHITE WINES     There are some really great white wines around these days where technology is taking a back seat (at long last) to the grapes themselves. Northern Italy has a treasure trove of these where the likes of Verdicchio, Cortese, Garganega, and many others, are shining through (note of caution: be very careful with P Grigio – some are downright ordinary..!) 

 Cantina di Monteforte 2015 Garganega Pinot Grigio  €11.79 Veneto, Italy     The wine maker here has respected his grapes to the extent that they are allowed to give us a great value wine and at the same time a whole lot of interesting fruit. Light almond and nutty elements blend in well with broad melon. Really good and yet gentle acidic structure contributes to a fine mouthfeel and a finish worthy of more expensive wines. Way to go Veneto!

 Pierre de Préhy Chablis 2014, Chablis, France  €22.00  Winery: Jean Marc Brocard     Good Chablis has just the right amount of ripe fruit balanced against a steely expression of the Chardonnay grape grown at a relatively high latitude. I don’t expect any great local character (but if it’s there its bonus time!) as that really is reserved for Premier Cru and Grand Cru sites. Good, honest, regional white wines like this grown in northern France are brilliant for so many food dishes that’s it’s hard to recommend just one – oh, alright: a bowl of steaming mussels and a crisp Chablis alfresco.HT_FD_F23A_00695152_NC_X_EC_0

 Mayne de Beauregard 2015, Bergerac Blanc €11.79 Hugh Ryman     Very good Value for Money with a super Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend.

 Domaine de Villargeau 2014, Sauvignon Blanc Coteaux de Giennois, France  €14.79     Top class style and very well made wine

 Cascara Casablanca Chardonnay 2015, Casablanca, Chile  €13.29 Winery: de Martino   Taut and energetic. Very fine. Shows how versatile and brilliant Chardonnay can be.

 Colinas del Itata Old Vine Field Blend Muscat Corinto 2014, Itata, Chile  €14.99   Winery: de Martino      Muscat rose petal and lychees aromas blend very well with the more neutral Corinto. Super blend and very interesting, very dry wine. (Corinto is thought to be Chasselas but more likely a mutant of Pedro Ximinez?)

 Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2015 Stellenbosch, South Africa €13.29     Highly recommended. Rich, tight, some wet wool, tons of rich fruit, top class acidity, gorgeous.

 Paul Cluver Ferricrete Riesling 2015 Elgin, South Africa €18.99     Auslese style with a whack of residual sugar to balance the acidity. I don’t think Cluver knows how to make anything but Excellence.


 Flaxbourne Sauvignon Blanc Rosé 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand €15.99     Winery: Yealands Family Estate     How do you make a Rosé from a (white) Sauvignon Blanc? Blend it with a dollop of colour from Merlot (2.5% here). The result is everyone’s favourite New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ripe exuberance in a Rose wine!! And it Works!

RED WINES          It’s not too long since we were given a choice of a few grapes and or a few regions to choose from. Nothing wrong with Cabernet or indeed Rioja but what of the rest of Spain or indeed the rest of the thousands of red grape varietals? Well, times have changed and the variety on offer is pretty impressive these days. Here’s a few that caught my palate.

 D’Aragon Old Vine Cariñena 2015, Cariñena, Spain  €11.79     Excellent style with a ton of young, ripe fruit, structure and quality wine making. GVM (Great Value for Money!)

 Abel Mendoza Rioja 2012 Rioja, Spain  €47.00     100% Tempranillo with impressive and very soft fruit. If you ever want to know what a ‘modern fruit forward’ style of Rioja is then you must wangle a try of this sometime (might be difficult given the price tag!) It really is an excellent wine.

 Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Chianti Classico, Italy €44.00     Wine maker: Baron Ricosoli     As traditional a house as you can find but the wine is a sensational mix of the new (fruit and ripeness) and old (age and structure). Absolutely Love it!

 Domaine Mandeville Shiraz 2015 Pays d’Oc, France €12.79     (Shiraz HT_FD_F23A_00989855_NC_X_EC_0from France?) Lovely wine. Great example of how approachable inexpensive Syrah can be. Lively, rich and interesting. Looking forward to a few sizzling meats from the barbecue now!

 Underwood Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon, USA  €12.49     Really good price from a well-made Pinot from Oregon. ‘Excellent and Accurate’ meaning a fine structure supporting a fruit with a light coloured pour and a rich nose of red berries and dusted warmed herbs leading to a rich finish. Fine ‘teaching’ wine.

 Colomé Altitude Malbec Tannat Cabernet Franc 2014 Salta, Argentina  €17.49       Salta is a high place – up to 2600m – and very dry. I really like the intensity here where you can almost feel the grapes suffering as they struggle to ripen. The winemaker has carefully aged this wine to both protect this nervousness and also to elevate it in a very ‘French’ style. Lovely. (don’t like the label!)

 Campos de Solana Tannat Malbec 2015 Santa Ana, Bolivia  €15.99     Cripes. I’d love to visit this vineyard. Tannat and Malbec from Bolivia! Modern red with ample fruit and all very well blended and structured. Well worth checking out – and then asking your mates where they think it’s from!!

 Earth’s End Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand  €25.00                A Classic. Fabulously rich red berry effect and wonderful deep seated sense of time and place. There is something incredible sensuous (to me at least) from such brilliant Pinot Noir fruit.

 Willson Family Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Langhorne Creek, Australia  €19.99     Australia is pushing itself into being a supplier of ‘premium’ category wines. As such it needs to deliver the quality that matches its ambition. This is 100% brilliant and reflects both the grape and the region very well indeed. A premium price. A premium wine.

What a fabulous array of wines. Countries, grapes, regions and styles. Marks and Spencer is a genuine difference to our wine trade in the very best way possible. Sometimes the mix is a bit too ‘English’ or ‘British’ (if you know what I mean) but if you want to follow grapes or, best of all, some off-beat countries of origin then this is the place for you. Bolivia for heaven’s sake!! Fantastic.  

New Zealand Wines Needs to Add Another Gear – for Ireland

Recently we were told that, ‘New Zealand’s wine industry is gearing up for its largest ever presence at the Prowein International Wine & Spirits Trade Show, following a record $1.54 billion in exports in 2015, up 14% on 2014’.

As I’ve blogged before, don’t read headlines to be impressed. Read them to be informed! Up 14% on what? 1.54 billion sounds impressive but with a conversion rate of 0.6 to the Euro the final result shows that its big but not THAT big!!

New Zealand by necessity needs to express itself well. It is far away from its export markets – especially the UK – and within a world scale of things it has a small, but important, wine trade. Without Sauvignon Blanc (66% of its 2105 harvest) its trade does not exist in any meaningful way and so gearing up ‘for its largest ever presence’ means a lot more Sauvignon Blanc than before. Nothing wrong with any of this.

Very often I can buy an excellent bottle of Lone Kauri New Zealand Riesling from SuperValu at €9.00 a bottle. I rate it very highly. Earlier this year the cover of featured The Family of Twelve from New Zealand. In that we emphasised diversity, energy, innovation and quality available from New Zealand’s Vineyards. Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc are all excellent from New Zealand.


Where are we going with this blog?

Right now NZ wines occupy a small single digit market share in Ireland. You might think that this is pretty good given the size of the Irish market, its distance from NZ and how important other markets must be to the New Zealand Wine Growers. Well, that’s where we are going here! It could, and with a degree of ease, be a whole lot better!

Currently Ireland ranks an impressive 9th in terms of value of wine exports from New Zealand sent to any country. Mind, you this only equates to 1.24% of the overall $1.54billion and falls seriously behind the likes of the US, Australia and the UK who account for 77% between them! Put it another way positions 7 to11 inclusive in the table account between them for only 5% of the export value from New Zealand. Ireland is in good company – Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore. (Source table: New Zealand Winegrowers Annual Report 2015)

(As we have mentioned before) if we add in exports we  import from Germany and the UK via Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and others, we begin to eat into that 5% as a very valuable overseas export market for New Zealand.

Why does our market share hover in the low digits when we are clearly capable and willing to spend well for wines from a country as far away as possible as it is to get to from here? Surely we can do better.


It all comes down to ‘The Message’. New Zealand needs a Champion. It needs to have, at a minimum, 1.25% of its marketing budget assigned to Ireland and it needs to meet with our trade in a way that more shelf space is allocated across our country to show off the diversity on offer from New Zealand.

The Message, via the New Zealand WineGrowers Annual Report, tells us that it’s Board has, ‘signed off on an important 10-year major events programme which will bring key global influencers to New Zealand as we showcase our wines and our unique story.’ All good. Potential champions will travel to NZ and bring The Message back with them.

To date that has meant one person from Ireland per year. That’s not enough and we should say so!

New Zealand tells us that its Marketing Programme lumps Ireland in with the UK. The result in terms of market visits to NZ are clear to see:

2015    Ireland             1          (John Wilson: Irish Times)

Japan 1             Singapore 1            Netherlands 2

Norway 2          Hong Kong 2            Germany 3

Canada 4               Sweden 4                     Taiwan 5

UK 6                         Australia 10                       US 12

China  27

The two biggest losers, or at least those missing opportunity, are the UK and Ireland. The UK has the office. It can look after itself. Ireland is the mug hoping for a few crumbs.

Two marketing strategies in the Irish wine market have been proven time and again. The first is to have a local champion. The second is DO NOT RUN US FROM AN OFFICE IN LONDON. We will be side lined and we will Miss the Message.

The numbers here speak for themselves. The wine is available. The Quality is available. The Diversity is available. The Value is available. The Interest is available.  So, come on New Zealand. Take another look at your own numbers and help us to spread the good word. You can take anywhere from 5% to 8% of the Irish market and hold onto it.

Don’t tell us that you’re gearing up for Prowein. Tell us that you’re gearing up for Ireland!


Free Wine Tour to Australia!

Wine Australia has organised an interesting and very welcome event in Dublin. They call it an Immersion Training Day.

The invite email read as follows:

I am writing to send you details of the Australian Immersion Training day which will   take place in Dublin on Tues 31st May 2016.
This is an all-day course which will be presented by Laura Jewell MW and John McDonnell.
The target audience is key press, on and off trade and of course importers who are directly involved in selling Australian Wine.
We would like to invite you to attend, those attending will be entered into a draw and one person from Ireland will win a trip to Australia. 

Events like these are top class and allow us to get to grips with up to date info in a very real way. Well done Wine Australia. I hope it goes well for you and everyone who can attend.


 Now for the criticism – and it’s a genuine one. Why on earth are they offering an educational package by way of a raffle? What’s that all about? Let’s look at this in the real world.

Only those who can afford a full day can attend. So, everyone tied into school runs, difficult employers etc are out! No educational tour for you.

Some poor fella or gal might really, REALLY want this (and deserve it), turn up at every event like this forever – and never win. On the flip side randomness might mean that the same attendee could win this again and again!! That would be just plain stupid.

The actual invite read as follows:

this informative programme is aimed at those with some basic wine knowledge who will benefit from a deeper understanding of the Australian wine sector

Well, how can that possibly include key press? I’d have thought most of these already have a deep understanding as most have already been bought to Australia already. So, some poor fella or gal might very well take the day of work and watch as some press hack who has already been brought to the Land of Sunshine Down Under wins the prize to travel all over again.


 It might even be worse! Imagine the penniless wine student dreaming of a ten-day wine tour of Australia watching the owner of his main competitor winning the prize. Yes, that would be worse. It can be easily argued that importers should not be allowed to win.

 I could go on. The point is that Wine Australia have not thought the prize element out. Indeed, educational packages should not be doled out as prizes at all. They should be part of a strategy where the deserving and the most useful are granted the privilege.

Useful to Australia.

Deserving in Ireland

Right now Australia is in danger of hosting someone who attended just to get out of a days’ work   –   and has no interest in Australia or its wines at all!!!!

Want to win the Barossa Sunset – Immerse yourself