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.

Monday, December 10, 2012

More on the budget

The good people at Cases Wine Warehouse have an interesting piece following on from last week's budget and the way in which the Irish wine market is developing. All small retailers will have to increase the cost of wine in their shops at various stages between now and Christmas/New Year as duty-paid stock runs out. This means that their customers will see various wines going up by about €1.50 per bottle, or more. This will lead to a deal of customer resentment, especially as many of the big supermarkets may very well hold their price, either by losing margin or by negotiating better deals with the big wholesalers. I have been a long-time supporter of minimum pricing which would help deal with a major health issue as well as giving small retailers a somewhat more level playing field. If the Government had ring fenced 15%, say, of the new duty increase to help maintain carers' allowances, then maybe people might have felt somewhat better about paying a higher price - I drink, some who really needs care gets looked after - but there is a disconnect between policies and the social consequences. The real problem, however, is that the current alternative (FF, SF, PBPA etc.) aren't worth voting for!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Being for the benefit of Mr Flanagan (or simple maths for politicians!)

On Budget night, Charlie Flanagan made a right fool of himself by tweeting that the Budget can't have been too bad i the Irish Times was leading with the duty increase in wine. Immediately challenged by Conor Pope about this inaccuracy, he failed to respond. On top of that, he keeps churning out the standard political lie that it's only a €1 increase. So, for the benefit of politicians who have no mathematical ability and have never run a small business, here's the deal.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Is thinking critical?

I am something of a grumpy old man! I believe we should examine critically much of the information which comes our way and ask ourselves questions such as: Do I believe this? is the analysis valid? Is the premise valid? I mention this on foot of an article in Drinks Business in relation to world wide beer consumption as reported by the World Health organisation (WHO).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More minimum pricing news

An article in Decanter states that the Bulgarian Government intends to object to the European Commission (EC) over Scotland's plans to introduce minimum pricing at £0.50 per unit of alcohol. Now, the Scots defence will be that minimum pricing can be demonstrated to have proven positive effects on alcohol-related harms and they believe that will be a sufficient defence.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A surprising wine

Just back from an interesting tasting at O'Brien's, organised by Lynne Coyle who is the excellent buyer for the group. She had arranged for Eric Getten, Commercial Director of Domaines Baron Rothschild (owners of Lafite) to run a number of tastings of their wines.
Today, the tasting was of eight wines, mainly from Chile and Argentina. All in all, a good range, although I found the wines a little too "French" for my taste! However, there was a blind tasting of one vintage of Lafite, and that was the surprising wine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The cost of Fine Wine...

At last, an interesting article - Drinks Business reports today on a talk given by Jean-Michel Valette MW on the comparative costs of producing a Pauillac Cru Classe, a Sauternes and a Napa wine. Interesting data.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Do "experts" matter?

Many years ago, I submitted a bottle of wine to Chelsea FC as I thought it might be a good wine for them to serve. It was Blue White, the groundbreaking South African chenin blanc made by my very dear friends at Old Vines Wine Cellars in Stellenbosch. The wine was in a blue bottle which I thought would be a good fit for the club. Ken Bates wrote back, telling me the wine was too acid (!?) and that he wasn't interested. A short while later, I saw an interview with him where he stated that he didn't believe wine experts knew anything. I often wondered if he felt the same about the doctors who treated him, or the people who made the car he drove! In this day and age of blogs and the like, so many people wonder if wine experts are in any way valid so it's nice to come across a piece explaining why we are!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Australian fortified wine terms

Just a brief note relating to an article in Hospitality Magazine in relation to terms introduced a few years back for Australian fortified wines. Like many countries, Australia has a long tradition of making wines in both the Sherry and Port styles and, as with other countries, these wines were often referred to using Sherry, Port etc. Naturally, the European Union has been negotiating for countries not to use protected terms so the Australians came up with two new terms: Apera, which is a fino-style fortified wine, and Topaque, which covers wines formerly known as Liqueur Tokay. To see what these wines can be like, why not read one of my posts from Landmark 2009?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Branching out

Well, as the recession has hit I no longer have any wine education work and cannot seem to even get an interview for any wine-related work, either in Ireland or the UK, so I thought - why not try to do what I do best (education)n and combine with with what I like to do (travel)?
The upshot is an idea about wine trips and I am currently looking into organising a late Autumn visit to Burgundy. Based on 5 nights, with flights (from Dublin) and hotels and travel all included, plus one good meal, and visiting maybe 12 - 15 domaines in the time available, it could come to about €1,000 per person. A lot, I know, but you'll get great chances to try wines you might rarely get to see, as well as have some fun.
This is still planning but if you're interested, please let me know - learn@dermotnolan.ie

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Diploma course for Ireland

WSET have just announced the details of a new Diploma course, to be run in Ireland, on a classroom-based block release structure. There are two Semesters in this course and. to date, only the first Semester has been planned. There are three blocks for this Semester: Monday October 29th to Friday November 2nd (the first day is a Bank Holiday); Wednesday 16th January 2013 to Friday 18th January; and Tuesday 19th February 2013 to Friday 22nd February. Exam dates have also been set for exams based in Dublin. No venue has been announced as yet. Course fees have been announced: GBP1,655 for the Semester. Booking is done online via the WSET website.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Funny what people read...

Blogger has some very handy features, one of which is a note on my dashboard telling me how many page views there have been for my posts. I'm not sure that this translates into actual readings of the posts, but it's the only statistic there is. Funnily enough, where Blogger falls down is by not letting me view my posts ordered by views! So, I flicked through and discovered some interesting stats on what you, the readers, have read!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

End of an era?

Monday 14th May 2012 saw the last WSET Diploma lecture to be held in Ireland for the foreseeable future. As I am not renewing my APP status WSET will take over the running of Diploma in Ireland. Their plan for this year is to start an online course only. This marks the end of some 27 years of Diploma classes in Ireland, which has seen 285 graduates (165 men and 120 women) and 2 MWs - myself and Fergal Tynan. Some of you might care to raise a glass to wake the passing of this fairly venerable tradition.

Monday, April 30, 2012


There is a report in Drinks Business (DB) about a recent survey carried out in the UK in relation to alcohol advertising and a number of conclusions are drawn. Now, the DB article doesn't give us a link to the survey so the methodology is unclear but I am somewhat sceptical about the conclusions. Apparently, "G2 Joshua surveyed 2,000 people [in relation to a proposed ban on alcohol advertising] and discovered that 90% of them would drink the same amount should a ban be introduced." Later, we are told: “Alcohol advertising is already heavily regulated and therefore in reality, as our research indicates, any complete ban on the practice would have minimal effect,” said Bobby Hui, executive planning director at G2 Joshua. Why be sceptical?

Friday, March 23, 2012

John Avery MW RIP

The last post was about the passing of Trevor Mast, this is about the passing of John Avery MW, who died today. John was a big, bluff man, with a booming voice, strong opinions and a great sense of humour and of history. I first met John on the MW West Coast USA trip in 1999, then again on the Australia trip of 2001 and the Portugal trip of 2002.
On the Australia trip, we spend Anzac day travelling from Coonawarra to Melbourne, via a morning tasting and lunch at Best's Great Western (and an afternoon visit to Mt Langhi Ghiran). On all MW trips every event has 2 MWs with specific duties - one is the scribe, who writes up the event for the trip report, the other is the official thanker, who thanks the hosts and organisers on the day. This day, it was John's turn and he gave an intensely moving speech on the topic of Anzac Day and Gallipoli. It was simply marvellous. John Avery RIP, 23/03/2012.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sad news

News today that Trevor Mast, of Mt Langhi Ghiran, has died. Trevor became ill with Alzheimer's some years back. He was a pioneer, in many ways, and a really nice guy. One of his innovations was enclosing a vineyard block in a wire net frame - four walls and a ceiling. This reduced wind flow and increased vineyard temperature resulting in riper fruit.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eye of newt, and toe of frog...

...Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing is how the quotation goes. Why quote Shakespeare? Partly, why not? But also to introduce an interesting piece by Fiona Beckett about some very smooooooooth wines.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another snippet

According to Harper's, the London International Wine Fair will be short a number of New Zealand producers. There has been a marked decline in numbers at London over the last few years, in both producers and visitors, but this is a blow and may well spell the beginning of the end for this venerable show. ProWein is becoming a far more interesting proposition for a lot of people, with a more diverse range of exhibitors. Sic transit...

Three snippets

Caveat Emptor (which means "buyer beware" and not "empty cave", as I recently saw on another blog!) is the most important rule when thinking about investing in wine. Why? Well, read this small piece from the indefatigable Jim Budd, who spends a lot of time exposing fake investment companies.
Jamie Goode has an interesting piece about some additions to the Jacob's Creek range, which I would love to see arriving in Ireland.
Finally, for those who are investing in China, or for those who think Australia should only promote big brands, here's an interesting piece about how the Chinese believe Australia should market its wines in China.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Viennese Ball

I am a lucky man: I was invited to Vienna last week to give a Masterclass on Northern Rhone wines by my colleague Frank Smulders MW, who works at the prestigious Palais Coburg hotel. Palais Coburg is one of the finest hotels in Europe with a stunning wine collection and is also a Major Supporter of the Institute of Masters of Wine. Part of the hotel's wine activities is a series of Masterclasses, hence my involvement. While for many, the chance to spend two nights in a 5 Star hotel would be a big thrill, for me it was the chance to taste some fantastic wines. The audience was made up of some of Austria's top winemakers, as well as wine professionals from central Europe and wine collectors.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Organic wine finally arrives!

Today the European Union formally announced that rules for organic wines had been agreed upon. This ends a log process of consultation which started in 2006 and was expected, originally, to have been completed by 2009. A major issue was the levels of sulfites to be allowed, as these varied among organic certifiers from EU country to country. With this agreement in place, a winemaker can now make a wine organically and not just, as was previously the case, a wine made from organically grown grapes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Could you spot a fake pinot?

There is news today that Gallo and Constellation (now Accolade) have agreed to pay out a lrge sum of money over the fake pinot noir scandal. I am sure many people will say how great this is, that these big companies have been made to eat humble pie but I'm not so sure. I happen to like Gallo, even if some of their actions seem clumsy (see items in relation to the Russian River AVA) and while Constellation seems to have imploded as a result of over-expansion in the boom years these are both companies which have done a lot to further wine internationally.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yeast and terroir

An article in Decanter informs us that scientists in New Zealand "have proved for the first time that wine yeasts vary from region to region." This is a idea I have had since I was an MW student - if you check the people who have commented, one is Peter Vinding-Diers and he put on a tasting, in 1994, for a very small group of 2nd year MW students in Sete to highlight the importance of yeast in winemaking. This tasting is mentioned in Patrick Matthews' book, "The Wild Bunch".

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Minimum pricing revisited

The Irish Sunday Tines carried a story today claiming that the government is considering introducing a minimum price for alcohol of €0.55 per unit. I don't buy the paper and don't subscribe to the online edition but it was reported on Today FM news today. Consequently I'm not sure if this measure relates only to beers and own-label vodkas, as reported in the news bulletins, or across the board.