About Me

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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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eat, drink and be merry...

Odd post this because it is prompted by the death on Monday of my cousin Donal Broughan, who was only 55. It was a sudden death, utterly unexpected and leaves his wife, Karina, and sons Ruaidhri and Conall totally devastated at the worst time of year.

So, this is a short post with no real wine content other than this - with Christmas coming up, if you have any decent wine that you've been saving for an occasion then why not take this opportunity to drink them? After all, among the worst things that happens when you open an aged wine is that it is too old or faulty; in the latter case there was never a good tie to drink it but if the wine is too old then there was, at some point, a time to have consumed it!

My cousin's death was a shock, especially when it makes you realise that we will never know the day or the hour, so try to enjoy your life as best you can. If that means drinking a good or great wine a little too young, or with people who don't get it then so what? You will have tried a wine  which you will enjoy and will have shared your joy with others. Santayana said "There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval" so off you go and crack open some real goodies this year and spread the joy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who pays?

For a variety of reasons I think it might be worthwhile to set out all the wine trips I've ever done in my life and to clearly indicate who paid for these trips. This is prompted by some recent articles on other blogs (Jancis Robinson MW recently posted an article about this, as did Tim Atkin MW, Jancis's post was triggered in part by Tyler Coleman's post in relation to the ethical policy of The Wine Advocate); it's worth pointing out that I rarely publish any wine reviews so I trust that my independence in that regard can be taken for granted.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Diploma Graduates

Dermot Nolan Wine Services is pleased to announce that there are eight graduates this year from the WSET Level 4 Diploma Course. These are:

Dorothy Dillon, Paul Kiernan, Noel MacMahon (Febvre & Co.), Stephen McFarland, Beverley Mathews (Wine UnCorked), Paul O'Flynn (Treasury Wine Estates), William Tindal (Tindal Wines) and James Tobin (O'Brien's Wines).

There are two prizes awarded – the Wine Australia Scholarship which is awarded to the graduate with the best overall performance in the Diploma, and the George O’Malley Tasting Cup, gifted by Maggie McNie MW, awarded to the student who gets the highest marks in the Tasting Examination.

This year, the winners are:

Wine Australia Scholarship - Paul Kiernan;
George O'Malley Cup - Michael Sweeney (Inis Wines).

Well done all!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Eighth Irish Master of Wine

With this week's MW exam results the Institute now has 300 members, 8 of whom can claim Irish nationality. The eighth is Mary Gorman-McAdams; Mary is a wine educator with the International Wine Center in New York, a wine columnist for www.thekitchn.com, a freelance wine writer and a wine judge. She has a BA (Hons) in Languages and International Marketing from Dublin City University and an MBS from University College Dublin. She passed her WSET Diploma in Ireland in 2003.

For those of you who can't count, the eight are, in order of passing: 

Robin Kinahan (Northern Ireland), Alan Crowley (Republic of Ireland), Martin Moran (England, of Irish nationality), Dermot Nolan (Republic of Ireland), Jane Boyce (Northern Ireland), Fergal Tynan (Republic of Ireland) and Carmel Kilcline (Republic of Ireland).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Brilliant visual aid...

I just saw this on Tyler Coleman's blog (Dr Vino) - a great map of the French wine regions styled like a metro map! It looks good and is fairly inexpensive! Check it out.

Some interesting scientific news

A new report from the Federal Center for Disease Control in the US is worth reading - it identifies moderate alcohol consumption as one of four pillars towards a healthier lifestyle and reduced mortality. Specifically, when combined with healthy eating, regular exercise and never having smoked, moderate alcohol consumption offered the greatest benefit!
Also of interest is research in Australia suggesting that the use of sulphur actually helps grape berries improve their own defence system. Potentially, this could mean that less sulphur could be used but that great benefits will accrue. There is still a lot of work to be done, however.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A good response

Today VinPro, the South African grapegrower association, released a response to the recent Human Rights Watch report on condition on South African fruit farms. I think it's a pretty good response, pointing out some anomalies in the HRW report but also promising to come down heavily on any farm which is identified as behaving improperly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The other side of the coin?

Human Rights Watch has just published a report, Ripe with Abuse, on conditions pertaining on South African fruit farms. It's well worth reading as it outlines many of the serious issues affecting workers' conditions in South Africa. There are some aspects I would quibble with (I've never seen toilets or hand washing facilities in any vineyard, European or otherwise; South African wine farmers use very few pesticides although I don't know about the table fruit industry) but it is a pretty unsettling document.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Love of the sea

I am currently in South africa judging at the Michelangelo CCL international Wine Awards and decided to take the chance to visit Chris Williams, the current head wine maker at Meerlust. With me was one of my fellow judges, Guiseppe Rizzardi of the Guerrieri Rizzardi Estate in Verona. Meerlust means love of the sea, hence the title!

Black and white views

I am frequently told that I can be too dogmatic about things, that I see things in “black and white”. Well, here’s a tale that is black and white. On a recent visit to a wine farm near Stellenbosch we were told by the owner that his parents had been attacked on the farm. His father was in bed, his mother sleeping in front of the television when she was woken by the dogs barking. She opened the door to see what was the matter, and a number of men rushed in. They demanded to know where her husband was and, on being told, dragged him downstairs and then told him that if he did not co-operate they would kill his wife. They made off with some money and jewellery but not much more as an alarm had been triggered.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Small world, this wine world. Just on the phone to IMW executive office today in re AGM in September and was casually told that Richard Kelley MW, one of my mates from the great class of 1993, has apparently left Richards Walford, a company for whom he has worked for a great many years. It's a real shame - even though he's only been there since the mid-2000s you'd think he was a permanent fixture.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Biting off more than you can chew?

My Landmark colleague, Jamie Goode, posted a piece on his blog recently about natural wines and their role within the wine world. Personally, I have yet to be convinced by so-called natural wines - I've had some nice ones but also a few I wouldn't want to touch again. What is interesting is that Jamie's piece has no real basis and a number of disturbing statements are made within the article. Leaving out my own comments there are some very good responses to the piece. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sour gripes?

Max Allen, one of Australia's top wine journalists, has an interesting pice about wine in restaurants. Could we say the same here?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Man of La Mancha

The second tasting of the day was a portfolio tasting of Vinos Tito's wines. This excellent importer of Spanish wines is run by Rafael Salazar and Antonio Lorente and they have done a magnificent job over the last number of years in bringing some excellent new wines into ireland. Their job today was not made any easier by the conflict with the Australian tasting or Mr Obama's visit but I'm glad I made it there.

Barossa beauties

On a day of high winds, US presidential visits there were two excellent tastings in Dublin. The first was the Wine Australia A+ tasting, held at Croke Park. The quiet hour was good and I tasted some nice wines but then the Nowhere Man arrived and, as I cannot stand him and wish never to meet him again I decided to skip off early. However, help arrived from an unexpected corner: Mr James Marsh, formerly Landmark wine-elf (along with P J Charteris) and he allowed me to sneak into the tutorial room where a venerable range of Barossa beauties was lined up for a later tasting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wine tax follow up

As a quick follow up to pieces relating to wine prices and taxation here's an interesting article from the Sydney Morning Herald which notes a recommendation to increase taxes on cheaper wines but reduce them on high price wines. Note also the recommendations made in New Zealand! I still reckon this day will come so start planning!

Monday, April 11, 2011

We oldies could learn a thing or two...

A very short post - read this article from Tyler Coleman's blog and this article, spotted on Konstantinos Lazarakis MW's facebook page. Those of us who don't get social media should look, listen and learn!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Oddbins RIP?

Well, the recession hits again - although, in the case of Oddbins, this is more a long-term illness drawing to a much desired, though fatal, end. The original Oddbins, set up by Nick Baile MW, was a real odd bins shop - they purchased odd lots of distressed stock and then retailed these to really wine literate customers.

A nice Easter present...

Absolute shameless self-promotion: if you're looking for a nice Easter present for some one why not give them my Introduction to wine tasting class! It's a fun day - you get to taste 12 really good wines, learn about tasting in a fun and simple way and you get 6 ISO tasting glasses and lunch as well, all for the great price of €125! To book, go to the Introduction to wine tasting page on my website or email me at learn@dermotnolan.ie.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do you like aged wines? Chianti, perhaps?

On Monday 4th April, on behalf of the the Institute of Masters of Wine, I am running a tasting of Chianti and Super Tuscan IGTs from the highly renowned 2001 vintage. This is a reprise of a tasting held in London in 2005 and in Dublin in 2006. There are 39 wines to be tasted in a standard producer-free walk around tasting. Tickets are €30 and should be booked in advance from Helen Williams in the IMW office or directly from the events pages of the IMW website, where the tasting sheets can also be downloaded.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A hint of mystery...

Those enterprising people at the Corkscrew wine shop have arranged a twitter tasting of a mystery wine for Sunday 27th March. Full details of how to buy and what to do can be found on their website. Go ahead and have some mysterious fun!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Minimum pricing - saviour of the small off-licence?

On Friday last I was in London for an MW course day, in our lovely new offices on Fitzroy Square. One of the questions we discussed was from Paper 4 last year - Is wine a social evil? In the discussion I mentioned that, in my opinion, we are not far from a situation where a Loi Evin style ban on alcohol advertising is likely to be enacted in the UK and Ireland, and where minimum pricing of alcohol is also likely. These ideas usually bring about a fierce response from the drinks industry but it's worth considering whether there are more than just health benefits to these ideas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

South African semillon

A while back, the very good people at Wines of South Africa (and they are good, fwiw) tweeted "Finally opinions about Pinotage are changing in a right direction" to which I replied "Ahhh, so SA winemakers finally agree it's not very good? LOL" - this is the problem with Twitter, with 140 characters a short snip can be read both ways. Having said that, while my tweet was somewhat tongue in cheek, there's no doubt that pinotage ain't all it's cracked up to be which is why I'm going to write about semillon instead! South African semillon, that is.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Comments to blogs

I have an issue with people commenting on blogs. Mainly it's about the whole anonymity of it all - my Google ID is DermotMW so it's fairly clear who I am and my profile is open to all to view. If I leave a comment then you can check who I am. However a lot of people leave comments without any way of checking who they are; further, the quality of many comments is poor. Let's look at one I've just deleted from my blog, made in response to an article about the cost of wine in Irish supermarkets.

The bigger they are...

News today that Constellation has finally managed to sell off some of its Australian assets, including the historic Leasingham winery in Clare Valley. For those of you who don't follow the business of wine, Constellation was, not so long ago, the biggest wine company in the world. Formed by a series of mergers (Canandaigua and Beringer, I think) it bought up BRL Hardy in Australia (itself a merger between Berri Renmano Ltd and Hardy's) and acquired gigantic status. However, its fervent acquisition of both production and distribution channels in the period leading up to a major recession left it in a fragile position.
I guess big isn't always better!
PS there's a very interesting contrast with Gallo (see my post from 9th October) who are now back in the position of being the biggest winery and, possibly the biggest wine company in the world. They just kept on doing what they always did!
PPS It's seriously good to see that Tim Adams has acquired Leasingham as he was really exercised about it when I visited in June 2009.

Monday, January 3, 2011

How low can you go?

One of the best wine bargains I've seen this year is in Tesco, where Mount Pleasant's two excellent Hunter Valley wines, Elizabeth and Philip, are currently available at €10 per bottle, down from €19.99. These are, respectively, a classic semillon and shiraz and are wines of great quality, with Elizabeth certainly capable of aging for 20 years or more (good job there's no wine called Charles, then!). However, it's worth wondering how a wine can be sold at half-price and still be profitable.