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12 Blogs of Christmas- Mulled Wine!

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So here we are… its Christmas time and for your enjoyment we have decided to do 12 blogs of christmas this year. Because after all Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without wine! So over the coming weeks we will be bringing you a host of different things to do with wine and Christmas. It will vary from the practical- such as mulled wine, and what wine to serve best with Christmas dinner- to the not so practical- like how to make christmas decorations out of unwanted wine corks. So before we dive right into this season where we all strive relentlessly to make it the perfect time of year, we would like to wish ye all a Merry Christmas- and good luck!

So our first in our little series of Blogs will be on mulled wine. Mulled wine started as a way of making wine that had gone bad drinkable again by adding spices and honey. But its much better if you use wine that hasn’t gone bad- having said that if feel free to use bad wine, but I think your guests this Christmas might prefer good wine! The main ingredients used are Cinnamon, Cloves, and Nutmegs (which we all sell in store in handy little packets for €4.45). But you cam also add 2 clementines, peel of lemon and lime, and 250g caster sugar. (I’m stealing Jamie Olivers recipie for this so here’s the link). But the most important aspect of Mulled Wine is the…. Wine!! Now a lot of people say it doesn’t matter what one you pick- but others disagree. I don’t see why you wouldn’t pick a wine you like. Me personally I think i would go forn the Canidido Primitivo because it alreeady has that bit of spicyness to it anyways, or maybe the Yalumba Bush-Vine Grenache! But like anything else to do with wine its down to personal preference- just don’t pick a white!!

12 Blogs of Christmas- Sweet Wine, How is it made?

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What a wonderful Christmas image Grapes covered in Snow, during the production of Ice Wine a variety of Sweet wine. Sweet wine or Desert wine as it is sometimes called is a type of wine produced in small amounts. There is no definate defination for sweet wine as many would consider wines such as sherry and Fortified Ports and Madeiras sweet wines yet they are general catergorised by themshelves. the first thing you will notice about sweet wines is they normal come in distinct bottles and are usually 375ml (half bottle) or 500ml in size. This is becuase it is customary to serve less sweet wine than you would normal wine.

How is Sweet wine made?

Makers of dessert wines want to produce a wine containing high levels of both sugar and alcohol, yet the alcohol is made from sugar. There are many ways to increase sugar levels in the final wine:

grow grapes so that they naturally have sugar to spare for both sweetness and alcohol.

  • add sugar, either:
    • before fermentation as sugar or honey (Chaptalization)
    • after fermentation as unfermented must (Süssreserve).
  • add alcohol (typically brandy) having not fermented all the natural sugar in the grape juice – this is called fortification or ‘mutage’.
  • remove water to concentrate the sugar:
    • In warm climates, by air drying the grapes to make raisin wine
    • In frosty climates, by freezing out some of the water to make ice wine
    • In damp temperate climates, by using a fungal infection, Botrytis cinerea, to desiccate the grapes with noble rot.
In the coming weeks I will discuss some of the various Sweet wines we have on offer including a Special fellow from Italy and a Sugar Daddy from New Zealand.


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On Sunday at our Christmas wine fair we showed three mystery wines. The wines one white and two red were available for tasting by anyone who wished to try them and guess as to their origin or grape varities. We had some pretty wild guesses and some that weren’t to far from the mark, but no-one to my knowledge successfully idetified any of the three wines. The wines were as follows.

The White:

Paul Blanck Pinot Gris 2006, Alsalce, France

This wonderful Pinot Gris, surprised many allot of people. Many believed this wine was a new world white. Musky aromas of citrus peel and pine resin, plus a whiff of brown spices. Supple, ripe and off-dry, with good concentration and palate presence but with only moderate definition and grip. Nicely round in the mouth but a tad diffuse. Finishes with decent length, though, and a slightly tannic impression, making this wine feel bigger on the palate than it is.

The Reds:

Bogle Petite Sirah 2006, Clarksburg, California

This wine was one of the stars of the day. Thirty-one years after it was first produced by the Bogle family in 1978, Petite Sirah is today considered Bogle’s “heritage” varietal. Ripe summer blackberries and plums overwhelm both the nose and palate of this wine. Its trademark inky, jammy qualities are a barrage of black fruit and spice, adding layer upon layer of complexity. Notes of supple leather and toasty oak envelop the flavors through the finish, giving way to wisps of caramel and vanilla. The firm tannins make this a wine that can develop for years to come, but you won’t want to wait that long to enjoy it!

Heartland Dolcetto-Lagrein 2006, Langhorne Creek, Australia

This was a hit with many and is certainly a wine nobody was expecting. This adventurous blend of two Italian grape varieties – Dolcetto and Lagrein – earned winemaker Ben Glaetzer a major trophy at the 2006 Sydney International Wine Competition for his 2005 vintage. The 2006 is an opaque purple colour with hints of brick red. On the nose there are lifted aromas of mulberry, cassis with a hint of currants. Nuances of dried straw and eucalyptus add freshness and density. In the mouth, flavours of cracked pepper, cedar, cherries and wood smoke. The palate is rich, balanced by firm savoury tannin.


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Over the weekend we held our Christmas wine fair in the G-Hotel, we had over 100 wines on display and 3 mystery wines more on them later. Despite the terrible weather over the weekend we had a great turn out. We had some fantastic feed back regarding the wines on display here is a selection of my top five wines.

1) Ten Minutes By Tractor 10X Chardonnay €24.95

A rich luscious Chardonnay from Australia’s up and coming Mornington Peninsula. Fairly lean and focused stone fruit, lemon and peach, the feel is fresh and infused with appealing chalky minerality, fresh lemon acids, and delectable creamy French oak that compliments the delicacy of the fruit. Lovely honeyed vanilla nuances on a long lingering finish.

2) Bogle Pinot Noir 2006 €19.95

The cool confines of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County provide a near perfect climate for the development of delicate Pinot Noir aromatics and flavors.Soft suggestions of violets and rose petals couple with notes of wild cherries and cola. Subtle cocoa and toasty oak notes closely follow the lasting fruit flavors, creating an earthy finish of both structure and finesse.

3) Hazana Rioja Reserva Especial 2003 €24.95

Made From hand selected grapes this wine is then aged for 36 months in New French oak casks. This wine recently was recently awarded 2nd place of all Spanish wines available in Ireland over €15 in a tasting run by the Spanish Embassy. The wine itself is developing beautifully at present and displays dark fruits, tobacco, smoke on the nose. The wine is smooth yet powerful on the palate. This wine will continue to evolve over the next 10 years.

4) Monte Zovo Ca’Linverno 2003 €17.95

An extraordinary wine born from the inspiration of Diego Cottini, chief wine maker at Monte Zovo. The grapes are selected and left on the vines to fully mature until the first signs of winter when the morning mists hang over the normally sunny Veronese hills. This method allows the grapes to be not just fully ripened but also slightly dried. They are then harvested and left in plateaux to dry for a further 20-25 days in well aired storage rooms. These conditions help to create a wine with rich, full body, rare smoothness and charming aromas.

5) Domaine des Valanges Macon-Fuisse €16.95

This wine was one of the top whites on show on Sunday, almost everyone who tried loved it, proof once again that good chardonnay will win over even the most hardened of doubters. This wine is 100% un-oaked chardonnay, it has a wonderful backbone of crisp acidity and great lemon and citrus notes on the palate. A wonderful refreshing wine.

Rioja- Still the King of Spanish reds??

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Rioja Wines have never been more popular than now. But by the same token… Spain has never been so popular. It seems every second person who comes into the store goes straight for the Spanish section. But why wouldn’t they?? They are, after all, producing some of the best full-bodied reds in the world at the moment. But what is so special about Rioja?? Cause i don’t know about you… but i never heard of the place until i started drinking wine… And it seems that there are some reds from Toro, or Ribera del Duera that could easily challenge for the crown. Well like other wine producing regions in Spain, their grape of choice is- Tempranillo. Now Tempranillo may go by other names like Tinta Fino in Ribera Del Duero, or Tinta de Toro in the Toro region- but at their heart they’re all still Tempranillo! So the same grape… the same country… what’s the point? Well like anything with wine- it comes down to the little things. And region affects the Grapes in so so so many ways.

So lets look at the contenders to the crown before we go any further.
Eternum Viti- Toro- €14.95
First of we have the Eternum Viti from the Toro region in Spain. Toro follows the flow of Duera river (which turns into the duoro river in portugal, which is home to some incredile portuguesse red wines) and is located right beside a great white wine region (what few of them there are in Spain) called Rueda. But here in the Toro region the grapes are realtively early ripening and are known for being thich skinned and potent- which means they are noted for their colour, strength, and jammy flavours.
Neo Sentido- Ribera del Duero €19.95 (but currently 20%off – €15.96)
Located to the east of the Toro region, but still on the Duero river, Ribera del Duero is well accustomed to the Tempranillo grape. It accounts for 95% of their overall grape production. So when it comes down to it… they know what they’re at! You can expect wine from this region to be bold, yet structured, with a good body, and powerful fruit flavours that intermingle perfectly with oak.

Hazana Reserva- Rioja- €17.95

So defending the honour Rioja i have picked the Hazana Reserva. I could have picked the Hazana Reserva especial which recently won 2nd place in the food & Wine magazine’s list of top wines over €15. But this usually retails around €24.95 and i figured we may as well keep everything fair, so i went for a Rioja in the same price bracket as the other 2. Rioja is divided into 3 sub-regions, and Rioja is different from the other 2 regions because it allows the inclusion of other grapes into its wines. BUUUTTT this Rioja is 100%Tempranillo. Rioja reds are characterised by being very balanced in their alcohol content, by having a body and structure offset perfectly by a gentle and elegant flavour, and by being generally fruity in nature when young and more velvety when aged.

Now i’m not going to tell you which wine i think should be seen as the real King of Spanish reds… instead i’m going to leave it to you! Becasue as some of you may know and others not, this Sunday we are having our Christmas Wine fair in the G- Hotel! We’ll have over a 100 different wines from all over the world for you to try, and all the money will be going to a good cause! So what I’m suggesting is these 3 wines will be there at it- and are defiantly worth a try!! but more importantly it will be up to ye to decide which one id the king of Spanish reds! Hope to see ye there!

Altar Wine

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We all remember being draged to mass as children every sunday!! And no matter what excuse you would try and come up with every week it didn’t work- you were still going to end up sitting on that bench for half an hour (usually much much longer) before you were free to play for the rest of the day!! We all knew every part of the mass when we were younger- and not out of any religious reason, but instead there were certain things the priest did which served as road marks for how long was left! For instance once the priest entered- we all knew what was coming next!! An hour (maybe less… probably not though…) or so of our lives that we couldn’t escape! Then came the handshakes- and the aim of the game was to get as many as you possibly could!! Which was followed by the collection plate which entailed seeing what was the biggest amount put in! And then we came to the bit with the bells- which we later found out to be known as the Eucarist! And always the priest would take a big gulp of Christs blood from a gold cup… wait- what? Why was he drinking Christ’s blood from a cup? Obviously as the years past I finally realised that it was wine… ahhhhh that explainds the genorous gulp!!

But what was so special about this wine that gave it such a huge part in our sunday ritual?? Well first off there are certain rules when it comes to Altar wine, but at the same time its not Gospel… (at this point I feel I should warn ye… I’ve spent most of the day trying to get information about what grapes they use… but I failed so if anyone knows please feel free to share this with me in the comments!!) But what I did find out is that it can be white or red, (in fact white is slightly preffered because it doesn’t make quite as big a mess if spilt on the priests robes) but the grape must be pure!!! And as such it should be grown by somebody who wishes to keep the grape “pure”… now believe it or not I’ve spent hours reading the rules about the grapes that go into Altar Wine, and all “pure” seems to mean to me anyways, is that it is organic (again I might be wrong… but feel free to call me on it!!)

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