Frequently Asked Questions on Wines and Courses

Do you have this wine in another Vintage?

This is a very good question, but generally, vintages do run out rapidly.  Even after you just discovered that a particular vintage is just right for drinking now, you can then find out that what is now only available in that particular wine is the next two vintages up, and worse. This can be very disappointing.  What I would suggest is that I help you find the same vintage in a similar wine with comparable qualities from the same district.

Where can I get this specific wine?

Sometimes the specific wine you are looking for is not available in the Country, or is just available in a restaurant, but a quick description of what it was you liked about a particular wine can help with selecting something else that fits your taste. After all, you opted for a new wine at least once and the choice of wines available in the world is vast. For the Shop Stewart, if you are too vague with your query or too precise that you want nothing else it can make it difficult to help, then you go away feeling disappointed, which is not what anyone wants. It is a bit like asking for Oysters in a fast food restaurant, or frozen chips in Thornton’s Restaurant. So when shopping in a fine wine shop, for a specific wine which is not available, why not, with some expert advice on hand, pick an exciting new wine that suits your taste?

 

I only want an Organic wine!

I am delighted to address this question because when it comes to wine at least I believe that people are being misguided into believing the once a wine is declared “Organic” it must be good quality and therefore better for you.  This sadly is not always the case.

 

What most people do not know is that quality wine producers never use fertilizer, of any kind, or irrigate the vines for growth. On top of that there is knowledge, care, hard work, and respectful practice from the growing of the vines, harvesting etc. to making the best quality wine.  Whilst on the other hand an organic wine maker only has to declare themselves organic, not use chemical fertilizers but may use animal fertilizer, may then not have any other merits in the art of wine making but comes up with a liquid they call organic wine and expect us to jump with joy in admiration.  

 

Although I do stock some Organic and Biodynamic wines that I would recommend; I always have to instruct that they may not be the best.

Some wines give me a headache, what do you have with no sulphite?

Bio Dynamic wines etc. use all their science on the vineyard management. Wine making is another thing, and adding sulphite(so2) is common to all wine making procedure. However it is the amount of sulphite used that can be the problem. Small and big producers with a good reputation are very careful at controlling the sulphite at bottling time (to prevent occydation). A very small amount will not be detected by the body, but excessive amounts can lead to stomach reactions, or headaches.

 

Sugar in the wine can also give similar reactions, so will high alcohol levels in the wine. Overall the good producers will control the level of so2 to a minimum. They will also follow the dispatching and destination of their precious flasks, hoping for them to be found on the best tables across the globe, and handled with care by expert professionals. Outlets with professionals of dedicated approach will be storing those wines.

I do not want a Chardonnay, Sauvignon-blanc, Pinot Grigio, Merlot etc..!

When you have a varietal approach to choosing a wine to buy you are limiting yourself.  The problem with these varietal wines, Vin de Pays, and table wines with grape variety as a sole sales pitch, is that they are limited and subject to fashion. No sooner do we like a particular style then we move onto another one and are fatigued with the previous one.   

 

I believe these grape varieties deserve better for instance:

Chardonnay in Burgundy makes the most sensual wines ever and the most expensive Red Wines in the world are made with Merlot and the grape variety is not mentioned on the label. Why?  Because the essential purpose of a Varietal is its Adaptability….to Terroir (Soil, Climate, Elevation).  The varietal is part of the Terroir of course.  Change the varietal to a successful patch, and you may not meet with success again. Great producers, with Estates of varied soils and sub-soils, know which Grape to plant and where, and the final Assemblage will also vary according to the Vintage.

I am looking for a good red/white, not too expensive!

This can be a hard task, to please a discerning wine lover on a budget, but it can also be the most rewarding. Firstly knowing the budget helps me to get started with the selection.  

 

In Ireland, what with the cost of duty, vat tax, transport costs and retail mark up it is near to impossible to find a quality wine under €10.  However on occasion an importer will make the retailer an offer, to off- load some of his stock, so bargains, although rare, are sometimes available. Nevertheless I find the best starting price for quality wines, for sale in Ireland from quality wine outlets, are between the €10-€15 price category.

 

Do you have any bargain wines?

When somebody comes into a fine wine shop and asks this question I know they are still looking for a good wine.  So I translate what they are really saying, that they want a Good Quality Wine for Less; and not a lesser quality wine for more, the later which is the case, in my opinion, in a lot of big chain stores.  Real, genuine bargains are rare and few between and when they do come along I am always happy to pass on the good buy to my customers.

So do you have any wines for under €10?

The answer is yes, even though the choice is very limited, I have a couple of red and white wines, that are honest and have some geographical indications that I am happy to recommend.

I do not want an Italian, French or Spanish wine, I just want a Merlot!

This statement would be comparable to going to a Japanese Restaurant and saying to the chef “I don’t like Sushi”; which I am sure does happen from time to time. As I do hear this statement regarding wine occasionally I would like to address it.

 

The Merlot Grape originates from Bordeaux France, and if I were to suggest Merlot pairing with food for Merlot Lovers, I would think of Pomerol, St Emilion in France; as well as Rioja, Bierzo, and  Ribera del Duero in Spain, and indeed Super Tuscans, Rosso Piceno, and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riservas, in Italy, that will impress the Merlot aficionado.  So the Merlot world is your Oyster!

Do you only stock French wines?

Even though I am French and know and represent my country’s wines well, I also represent wines from all the best wine regions of the world. France has the largest wine production in the world with Italy coming second. Within France there are several regions and districts, with extremely varied styles. What this means is, in order to have a comprehensive selection of wines from the best wine regions of the world, a large portion will come from Europe and especially France.

How should I store wine when I do not have a cellar?

If it is a small amount of wine, say 12 bottles, putting them in a suitcase under the stairs should do the trick and maybe on a blanket for trepidation for passage ways.

 

To store wine you must think like a mother does for her baby (obviously not as important but almost)… the area should be neither too hot or too cold, be dry but not too dry without any light or noise.  So avoid proximity to a heater and no storing in a fridge for too long.  Do not keep the wine standing for long periods.   Also it is important to avoid strong smells i.e. petrol in a garage, cheese in a room and stale air.

What do you have from California?

Ah the Market is fickle! Ten years ago Californian wines were all the rage, but now things are different and these wines are just not in demand. Prices for the better wines are high, and the small wineries of the central Coast, which offer great value but small volumes, are just not brought in. We are then left with the central valley factory wines. That Market in entry level is better supplied by South America. So my American friend, when in Rome...

How good is Beaujolais this year

            The best yet, highly recommended

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