About Me

My photo
Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stone the Crows...

Well well, stone the Crows – or rather, don’t stone them but praise them. The first footie game I’ve been to and the Adelaide Crows beat Hawthorn against the odds. Not at all fancied before the game, playing last year’s out of form Grand Final winners they showed some great spirit more or less throughout.

Having scored first, Adelaide then went behind as Hawthorn got a goal and a behind but then went on to score 4 goals and a behind to take a fairly commanding lead. Over the first two quarters Adelaide kept up the pressure and were, I think, about 40 points clear by half-time. Then came the dreaded “third quarter fade” for which Crows are, apparently, renowned. They lacked the same zip and for the first time in the game were second to nearly every ball. The Hawks got back into the game but not enough to really make a difference and the Crows ended up winning by 27 points. Go Crows!!

This was an enjoyable afternoon, spent with the guys from Orlando Wines – James Keane, Bernard Hickin with Matt, Sam & Nola, John, Eddie, Carries and others I didn’t get to meet fully. There was great craic in the box we were in, especially as a few Hawks fans were there and none too happy at the end of the game.

Later that evening, the Landmark Dozen (likely to be a dirty dozen at the end of a gruelling week) met for the first time. After a lovely supper at Sparrow Kitchin & Bar the tired 11 went to bed whereas I went into the Casino beside the hotel. Two hours later, after a 143% return on my investment I also retired. Overall, as good a day as you can have!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Off to Clare...

Day three of the big adventure started early with a two hour drive up to the Clare Valley. I started at Paulett Wines where Matt Paulett and Kevin Mitchell of Kilikanoon had brought some wines to taste. Obviously, Riesling was the emphasis but Matt had a really good cabernet merlot and Kevin had some very good grenache!
The next stop was at Tim Adams where Tim, Neil Pike of Pike Wines and Richard Wood of Crabtree put on a good range of wines for tasting. There was some interesting discussion about stelvin versus cork, especially in relation to red wines, the way bigger companies had, to some extent, destroyed some of Australia’s old brand heritage as well as the identification of Clare with Riesling.
Then Peter Barry of Jim Barry Wines brought me off to his house for a lovely bowl of soup followed by a visit to his winery where we tasted 4 vintages of La Florita (a Watervale Riesling) as well as three bottles of 1999 Lodge Hill. Two of these had been bottled under cork and were over-mature, the third was stelvin and in much better shape.
After this I was met by Neville Rowe of Sevenhill and we headed to the Sevenhill Hotel (which is actually a pub) for a mad evening of good food, great beer and wines and very intense discussions about wine. Also present were Adam Eggins from Taylor’s (Wakefield), Matt Paulett and Harry from Jeanneret Wines. We covered things from biodynamics to Clare = riesling to MW exams to the alleged impersonality of some of the big names in the Australian wine industry to a lot more. After a mad drive through a vineyard after midnight looking for a hole in the ground I eventually collapsed into bed at about 1 am!
An interesting thread through the day was the apparent sense among the winemakers of a lack of confidence in relation to the outside world’s view of Clare. For me, it has long been one of the only two world class regions for white wine production in the New World (the other being Hunter for Semillon) but many of the winemakers I met felt this message was not necessarily getting through. Some also felt that Clare = riesling was good while others felt that shiraz from the valley also deserved some recognition.
Anyway, it was a mad and interesting day where, once again, I was impressed by the level of generosity of the people who hosted me. They all give so generously of their time and put up with my mad debates that I have no idea of how to thank them properly. Hopefully, letting people know through the blog, as well as through my work, will begin to repay them for all their help.
Today has been a day off, although Neville and I had a very good discussion in re biodynamics, wine judging, tannins in wine and a few other points on the drive back to Adelaide. Tomorrow it’s off to the AAMI stadium to watch the Adelaide Crows play Hawthorn as a guest of Orlando Wyndham – the Crows are expected to lose but, as they’re the home team I’ll be cheering for them – go Crows!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Landmark...

So, after some 33 hours of flight I arrived in Adelaide at 08:00 today. Tired but excited by the prospects of the trip.

What is Landmark and why does it exist, I imagine you asking! Well, it is a week long tutorial where 12 selected people will learn about the finest wines Australia has to offer and the regional styles available. The tutors are some of Australia's finest when it comes to wine - Michael Hill-Smith MW AM, Dr Tony Jordan, Andrew Caillard MW with help from luminaries such as Brian Croser, James Halliday, Jeff Grosset, Louisa Rose and others. This is going back to school in a big way!

That, then, is the what so how about the why. Well, the world of wine is similar to the world of cars - if you want to be able to buy a Lamborghini then a few thousand people have to buy Fiats! That is, there has to be some basic level of product in order to sustain the esoteric. With wine there are the big brands and the small estates. For many generations Australia has produced both but I think it is fair to say that in recent years, say the last 25 (recent to an old geezer such as myself), the general emphasis has been very much on the brands. For a country which has natural limits to its production it is important to get consumers moving up from the base into the value-added wines.

I believe that in markets such as Ireland and the UK there is an inverted snobbery about Australian wines - when people buy everyday wine they think Australia. But when they want to buy a fine wine they think France. Now, there is a lot of good everyday wine produced in Australia and the French do have a knack for making some very fine wines but this is not the whole picture. Not only are there some lovely inexpensive French wines but there are also some very fine, age-worthy Australian wines. Furthermore, these have been available for generations.

Landmark, I believe, seeks to open the world's eyes to these wines by choosing people who can spread the word. As a educator I can obviously do this so, I suppose, this is why I was lucky to get picked.

Today I met with Toby Bekkers of Paxton Wines and Mike Brown of Gemtree Vineyards, both producers in McLaren Vale. Toby drove me around and showed me the basic geography, geology and topography of the Vale. We then met with Mike and discussed biodynamic farming (both farm their vines biodynamically) and then had a tasting and lunch at the Star of Greece in Port Willunga.

My feelings about bio are simple enough - it works but not for the reasons espoused by many. We know, from extensive medical research, that homeopathy is little more than a placebo effect and, since bio uses preparations in homeopathic quantities, I believe that all the happens is the vines get sprayed with water from time to time. However, most good doctors would happily offer you a placebo or a homeopathic remedy if they think that will help you cure yourself so why worry about bio vines? After all, in most cases, excellent fruit quality results and so long as the winemaker doesn't muck things up in the winery then the resulting wines are usually very good. Furthermore, there is a marked increase in the biodiversity of the vineyard - soil, flora and fauna - which can only be beneficial in the long run.

Mike has a series of trials running in one of his vineyards where comparisons between bio, organic, light conventional and heavy conventional farming will be made. These should prove interesting because they're measuring things such as cost as well as wine quality! One day, though, I'd love to see a trial where someone simply sprays a set of vines with water whenever they do a bio spray just to see what happens. But maybe that's a blog for another day.

Well, faithful reader (who may well be as imaginary as the bio forces!!) I am exhausted after some 45 plus hours of travel and tasting, so more anon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Off to Landmark...

Hi to anyone who is reading this - I'm not sure which of us is the sadder! Me for writing this or you for taking the time to read it ;)

Tomorrow, Tuesday 26th May, I fly off to Australia as a guest of the Wine Australia to attend the inaugural Landmark Australia Tutorial.

This is a serious honour and I'm looking forward to it very much. I hope to learn about some of Australia's finest wines, as well as to meet some pretty impressive people.

So this new blog (my first attempt at blogging) is here to allow me to gather my thoughts as the tutorial develops and tp express them here. I hope, dear reader, that you find these idle musings of interest.

Dermot Nolan MW