• Mitchell’s Wine Course

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    Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants are delighted to announce the details of their 4 week Introductory Wine Appreciation Course to be held in September/October 2014.

    The aim of the course is to help participants get to grips with what is on offer in the Irish wine market, and how to get the best from a bottle of wine. Myths are challenged, prejudices are confronted, and all proceedings take place in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. There is a strong emphasis on tasting, as we believe that this is the best way to learn about wine.

    7pm on Mondays from 15th September in Mitchell & Son’s Glasthule shop
    €160 per person

    For more information or to book a place please contact Robert or Donal:
    01 230 2301

  • Wine Course

    MitchellSon Logo NewMitchellsRed WhiteBackground

    Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants are delighted to announce the details of their 4 week Introductory Wine Appreciation Course to be held in September/October 2014.

    The aim of the course is to help participants get to grips with what is on offer in the Irish wine market, and how to get the best from a bottle of wine. Myths are challenged, prejudices are confronted, and all proceedings take place in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. There is a strong emphasis on tasting, as we believe that this is the best way to learn about wine.

    7pm on Mondays from 15th September in Mitchell & Son’s Glasthule shop
    €160 per person

    For more information or to book a place please contact Robert or Donal:
    01 230 2301

  • Bloody Marys

    An ice cold Bloody Mary has long been noted as the ultimate hangover cure but in recent years the famous cocktail has developed into more than a quick fix for the shakes.

    Once a simple ‘half tomato, half vodka recipe’, the Bloody Mary has evolved into a meal rather than the simple bevvie once intended, with an array of savoury accompaniments almost expected.

    The most recent publicised Bloody Mary elaboration which hails from Milwaukie bar Soleman’s Pub and Grill, feeds four people and boasts a whole fried chicken, two skewers of bacon-wrapped cheeseballs as well as a cacophony of sausages, pickles, onions, prawns and celery.

    While such a monstrous feed could only be found in the States, one need not travel across the water to wrap shaky hands around a pumped up tangy tipple as Dublin is also paying attention to the Bloody Mary.

    On Drury Street, Super Miss Sue has manipulated the cocktail into an impressive appetiser, the celery salt rimmed glass towering with fresh prawns, clams, mussels and creamy avocado urging you to dig a spoon into its depths. Trendy SMS also host a BM topped with a delicious Dublin Bay prawn or occasionally an oyster, brunch’s perfect indulgence.

    Sister restaurant Dillingers in brunch hub Ranelagh also boasts a delicious Bloody Mary, garnished with streaky bacon, a pickle and olive as well as a soft boiled quails egg.

    Hungover heads in Dublin 4 need only trot along to the Marker Hotel where an adorned Bloody Mary will hit the spot as part of their swishy Le Drunch Menu. Across Grand Canal Dock, a luscious Dublin Bay Prawn swings off the edge of the cocktail in question in Mourne Seafood Bar, the perfect cure on a sunny day

    Bloody Mary at Dillingers

    On the north side, The Morrison Hotel offers a very interesting twist on the classic with the addition of beetroot and pomegranate, served with sprigs of rosemary, slices of lemon and a plate of crunchy crudités.

    If your hangover is on atomic side of bad and you can think of nothing but the deep fried Bloody Mary goodness on offer in Milwaukie, Sin E on Dublin’s Ormond Quay perhaps offers you the closest alternative.

    Adorned with a scrumptious slider, pickled onions, olives, a chicken nugget and a celery stick there’s probably nothing more delicious to be plunged into our chilling tomato cure.

    The twists may be a far cry from what was intended of the classic Bloody Mary but it doesn’t make them any less gob-worthy, especially on those terrifying Sunday Mornings.

     

  • California’s wine industry counts the cost of latest earthquake

    The quake struck just as the grape-harvesting season was getting under way in Napa County, a significant wine-producing area that generates thousands of jobs in a region famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The full extent of industry damage had yet to be assessed, but one Napa winery spokesman said the quake would do little to harm what was otherwise expected to be a superb 2014 vintage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In Napa, a number of building facades crumbled in the historic district, and numerous wineshops were strewn with broken bottles. Disaster modeling firm CoreLogic estimated that total insured economic losses could range from $500m to $1bn, though it acknowledged “a fair amount of uncertainty” around those numbers. Roughly a quarter to half of that projection could come from residential losses, CoreLogic said, noting that $1.8bn in insured claims were paid to policyholders after the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco in 1989.

    The Insurance Information Institute in New York likewise estimated that insured quake damage would probably measure in the hundreds of millions of dollars, although overall economic losses will likely run several times higher. That is because only about 6pc of Napa area homes are covered by earthquake insurance, said Robert Hartwig, president and economist at the institute.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Parts of Napa’s wine industry ground almost to a halt on Monday as workers raced to clean up and salvage their products. Managers at Napa Barrel Care, which stores product for a number of area vintners, were busy siphoning up spilled wine and scrambling to find barrels to store the spoils until they could be disposed of, owner Mike Blom said. Behind him loomed a mountain of barrels, many shattered, that had fallen over and piled up during the incident, and the pungent odor of fermenting wine hung in the air. “It’s a big mess right now,” said Rick Ruiz, operations director for the wine retailer TwentyFour wines. “It’s a logistical nightmare.”                                                                                                                                                     Also hard hit was the 19th-century wooden building that houses the tasting room and offices of Trefethen Family Vineyards. The first floor was shifted 3 to 4 feet by the quake. Despite damage on the premises, the timing of the quake helped Trefethen and otherwineries escape major production setbacks because it struck after the 2013 vintage had been bottled and sent off for delivery but before most of the grapes were ready to be picked. 27/8/2014

  • Sacre Bleu

    TV chef Raymond Blanc has kicked off a storm by praising McDonald’s and attacking the organic food movement. But with fast food improving in quality while the costs of organics stay sky-high, could he be onto something? asks Ed Power.With tongue perhaps ever so slightly in cheek that is one interpretation that may be applied to controversial remarks by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc, who has lashed out at organic food as ‘elitist’ and 
congratulated McDonald’s for investing in quality ingredients.

    In proper TV chef fashion, Blanc, owner of a Michelin two-star restaurant in Oxfordshire in the English Home Counties, merrily put the boot into the organic industry, suggesting free-range producers have placed themselves beyond the reach of the majority of the public by not paying attention to their cost base.

    “It has shot itself in the foot by creating a movement that has become elitist by being so expensive,” said Blanc.

    Conversely, he lavished praise on McDonald’s, a chain he previously disparaged as standing against everything he believed in. “I was amazed,” he told a UK newspaper. “All their eggs are free range; all their pork is free range; all their beef is free range.

    “[They show that] the fast-food business could change for the better. They’re supporting thousands of British farms, and saving energy and waste by doing so. I was as excited as if you had told me that there were 20 new Michelin three-star restaurants in London or Manchester.”

    You might expect foodies – of which there is no lack in Ireland – to grumble at his observations. Actually, many seem sympathetic. Yes, we’d all love to eat organic, they say. But, with non-factory farmed meats and artisan veg costing multiples of the no-frills variety, it is hardly a surprise that a huge number of us don’t. It isn’t the principle – it’s the cold, hard cash.

    “I don’t think it is fair to refer to the organic food movement as elitist. Nonetheless, I do agree that organic food is prohibitively expensive,” says Sheila Kiely, author of popular cookbook Gimme The Recipe. “As a mother of six, I would love to be buying and using all organic ingredients. Of course, it simply isn’t practical: it is impossible for an organic onion to compete with non-organic on price level in the 
supermarket, which is where I do most of my shopping.”

    In his outburst, Blanc may have touched on the wider issue of how much we should expect to pay for food in the first place, says Ian Marconi, the chef behind Dublin’s Parlour Games pop-up restaurant. We have come to rely on cheap consumables, not understanding the true costs of low-price foodstuffs. This should worry us all.

    “Without going into the organic movement as such, I do feel that as consumers we have lost touch with the cost of producing the food we eat on a multitude of levels. The price of feeding the growing number of mouths in the developed world is not being paid for by the consumer. We are offered, and therefore demand, lower and lower 
prices for our food. Someone or something is paying the price somewhere in the chain, whether that be in suffering for the battery reared animals, lower and lower prices for farmers from the multiples or the [compromised] purity of our food from growth hormones etc.

    “I think what is implicit in organic food offerings is a return to smaller scale. That is, natural production methods which will obviously incur higher costs, yield less and be relatively expensive compared to what people expect to spend. However, if you went back 60 years, I expect an organic chicken for €15 would have been a great deal as most people could afford this luxury rarely, if at all.”

    The key is finding a balance, he says. “It is about compromise. We can’t and or don’t want to spend all of our 
income on groceries if at all possible and, with unavoidable bills coming from all sides at the moment, the cost of eating organic everything is out of reach. I agree that the quality [of organics] is not always great and it can be by default elitist in that it’s not available everywhere at a price everyone can afford. I don’t think that’s a choice the organic movement has made. There are examples of great and bad value to be had in organic food as much as in non-organic.”

    If Blanc erred, it was in lumping all organic producers together, says Bill Gunter of Slow Food Dublin. Sometimes higher prices are unavoidable. On the other hand, it can’t be denied that gouging does occasionally occur.

    “Is organic food elitist because it’s more expensive? Or is it more expensive because it’s perceived as elitist?” asks Gunter. “The farmer down the road growing organic cabbages is in all likelihood just passing on costs; the company flogging organic muesli is probably cashing in on the organic label. It is apparent that Mr Blanc is a strong proponent of organic-growing principles and techniques. I do find it strange that the head chef of a restaurant with £40-£50 main courses would complain about elitism.”

    Not everyone agrees. “The increase in the amount of small producers has been staggering in the past few years and the range of high-quality products available, especially in supermarkets,” says Dee Laffan, editor of Easy Food magazine. “The value has risen significantly. It is a very competitive market. I think there is enough variety in the products and prices to suit every budget. More people are cooking at home every evening and using these ingredients to create delicious home-cooked meals.”

    In a few years, Blanc’s complaints may seem quaint suggests Juan Manteca, who blogs at Juan’s Food Journey. While organics may be (comparatively) costly now, the trend is going in one direction – towards lower prices.

    “I can understand what Raymond Blanc said and agree that organic food is pricier that the non-organic alternative,” he says. “It is not a question of elitism or not. Rather it is a question of basic economic supply and demand laws: because the production is smaller, the prices are higher. It happens with any other product in the market.

    “In the last 20-25 years prices have fallen as the appetite [for organics] grows. And they will continue dropping and dropping as, in my opinion, people are eating better and buying with greater responsibility. I hope this continues. Eventually the prices [for organic and non-organic] could be the same and the benefits, both for us and for the planet, would be enormous.”

    As to Blanc’s assertion that McDonald’s – bete noir of gourmands globally –  could serve as an example to other restaurants… well, who can take issue with its move towards sustainable dining? “I have no hesitation in munching into and enjoying a 100pc Irish beef burger,” says Sheila Kiely.

    “I think he wanted to be provocative by exaggeration, so he named McDonald’s,” says Ian Marconi. “I am not saying that McDonald’s has unhealthy food, but I don’t think their food represents [Michelin-quality]. If that was the case, then Blanc could use the same ingredients and drop his prices 90pc. I’m sure he uses much better quality ingredients that McDonald’s, and that his dishes are more expensive as a result.”

  • Wine sales plunge by 10pc as tax hikes take their toll

    WINE sales have plummeted by up to 10pc this year as repeated government tax hikes eat ever further into the cost of each bottle

    The taxman now enjoys a windfall of nearly €5 every time you pull out the cork on a bottle of wine costing just €8.

    And the repeated price increases are having an impact, with a new survey showing that 28pc of people are drinking less wine than they used to.

    A survey by Wolf Blass & Lindeman’s ahead of Christmas showed that for every €1 increase in the price tag, the number of consumers who stop buying a brand almost doubles.

    This means duty hikes of €1.50 a bottle slapped on wine over the last year have forced many customers downmarket in their choices.

    Revenue figures to the end of June show a 10pc fall in wine sales this year.

    Irish people drank 107 million bottles of wine last year, according to Irish Wine Association figures.

    Well over half the bottles purchased cost under €8 and eight out of 10 of them cost less than €9.

    Irish adults drink around 17 litres of wine a year, which is less than half the 40-plus litres a head drunk in France, Portugal and Italy.

    16/8/2014

  • A vinous investment tastes a lot better than most – Samuel Muston

    Once, in a land that now seems very far away indeed, wine merchants had a dictum – buy five cases of five different Bordeaux wine first-growths when your child is born and by the time they marry, you’ll be able to pay for the wedding with the profits. It was the closest thing to a psalm that they had.

    Today, though, with new buyers from China driving prices up, unless you have a spare £15,000 down the back of the sofa, your chances of owning a case of any wine with names such as Mouton Rothschild, Latour or Haut Brion and Margaux are so slim that they could be on a catwalk. It’s a shame because there is something nice about the idea of going out to immediately buy wine on the birth of your child.

    There is an alternative to the big-bucks option, though. IG Wines is now offering a scheme whereby if you have a minimum of £250 to spare, they will invest it for you in the highest yielding wines it can find, be they from Italy, the US, or the lesser French regions, such as Burgundy or the Rhone Valley. IG, founded in 2011 by wine experts Paul Hammond and Jonathan Hirsch, is fairly well-placed to do it, too, being both a wine merchant and also an investment advisory outfit.

    You might be thinking, why bother? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is cold and hard: over the last 20 years, the index of leading wines (Liv-ex 100 Index) has had a rate of return approaching 8 per cent a year. It goes without saying, that can all change – you could buy a booby and get nowhere. There is another reason, though, a better reason: it’s a really, really cool thing to do. You go out, you buy the wine, lay it down and let it mature, gracefully – a symbolic mirroring of the favoured child; each bottle a bet on the future. You might say that it is the commodification of food and drink, and you would be right. But the recipients of the vinous largesse have a choice. Yes, they can flog it and keep the money, or they can enjoy it, as the vintner would want it. You don’t get that with a gilt.

    I must admit, I am smitten with the idea. Doubly so given that cellar-less flat-dwellers like me could even do it. If you “buy in bond” from any wine merchant in the UK, not only do you not have to pay VAT and duty until you sell it, but you can also store it in a government bonded warehouse where for around £10 per year it is looked after and insured. I’ll drink to that.