The good taste of independent wine importers
Some of the most interesting wines come from just a few importers
The independent wine trade has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. However, in Dublin at any rate, there seems to be something of a revival going on. This week I look behind the scenes at four independent importers who recently came together to host Spit, an acronym for Specialist Professional Independent Tasting, in Smock Alley theatre in Temple Bar. You probably won’t have come across them before but they and a few other importers are responsible for most of the wines in your local wine shop or off-licence.
There were some amazing wines on show. There was only three wines from the New World, partly I suspect, because it is difficult for small importers to ship long distances, but also because much of the interest currently centres on Europe.
I have covered Enrico Fantasia and his company Grapecircus before; his fascinating, eclectic range of wines is available in Sheridan’s cheese shops, a few other independents and some restaurants. His list is mainly Italian, but the wines that really stopped me in my tracks at the tasting were from Spain. Bodegas Mengoba are made by a Frenchman Gregory Pérez in Bierzo, right up on the border of Galicia in northwest Spain. The Brezo Blanco is wonderfully pure and textured; the red equivalent, made from Méncia, is light, fragrant and plummy. Both offer amazing value for money at around €17.
Charles Derain worked for seven years as sommelier in Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Working with another sommelier Thierry Grillet they run Nomad Wines. As you would expect from classically-trained French sommeliers, they have excellent palates. The company specialises in high-end burgundy. Most of the wines are sold to restaurants or directly to private customers. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org. One or two of his wines are in retail shops; I have featured his Lombeline Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire valley, and the Bourgogne Rouge from Domaine Cacheux on these pages.
Having worked for various wine importers over the years, Ben Mason set up his own wholesale operation, WineMason with Barbara, his wife. She is two thirds of the way through the prestigious Master of Wine exam. They have an amazing selection of German, Austrian and Portuguese wines among others. Their wines are widely distributed through independent wine shops. Pedro Marques of Vale de Capucha was at the tasting to show his range of excellent wines, alongside several other producers. See winemason.ie.
Simon Tyrrell has featured here before. With a degree in winemaking, he spends part of the year making wine in France, as well as producing Craigie’s cider in Ireland with Angus Craigie. His wife, Emma, takes care of the business side. Together they make up Tyrrell & Co, specialists in the wines of the Rhône. See tyrrellandcompany.com.
Antonio Lorente and Rafael Salazar both studied law in Madrid before moving to Ireland, where they fell in love with Irish women to whom they are now married. As you might expect, they have a fondness for Spanish wines. Vinostito, their company, has the widest, most cutting edge range in the country, alongside some real gems from Italy, Austria, and France, including, most recently, the Jura. In recent years, they have developed a fondness for natural wines. Their wines can be found in most shops where Spanish wine is taken seriously. See vinostito.ie.
The wine trade lost a good friend recently with the sudden death of Joe Karwig. Originally from Bremen in Germany, but adopted by the city of Cork, Joe was a wonderfully entertaining and knowledgeable man who championed the drinking of quality wine. He will be greatly missed by many.
Wilson on Wine 2016 by John Wilson is now available to buy from irishtimes.com/irishtimesbooks
BOTTLES OF THE WEEK
Le Paradou Viognier 2014, IGP d’Oc, Ch. Pesquie
Rich peach and apricot with a tangy citrus acidity.
Stockists: One Pery Square; Green Man Wines; 64 Wine; Kelly’s, D3; Clontarf Wines; Jus de Vine.