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Bubble Brothers

Blogging wine, champagne and more since 2006

  • Red wine from Brittany makes a reappearance

    Red wine from Brittany? I don't see any Breton wine at all

    The ferry service from Cork to Roscoff means that Brittany is popular with Irish tourists, and especially those who want to bring a car on holiday and fill up with wine at French prices. A little discomfort in the passenger seats on the drive home isn't much to ask (c'mon, kids) compared to the weeks of post-trip wine value this kind of expedition can bring. But the shelves of Breton supermarkets and cavistes alike are noticeably empty of wine from Brittany itself. Neighbouring regions are well represented, but there's nothing from the Côtes-d'Armor, from Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine or from the Morbihan. Beer? Yes. Cider? Mais oui. But wine? Nothing. What's going on?Breton crêpes and crockery, which might conceivably contain wine from Brittany

    The answer lies in the soil

    Two principal things are going on. The soils of Brittany are just too good, too rich in trace elements near the surface, to produce anything but lazy, greedy vines that can't be bothered to send their roots deep. Shallow roots equals feeble wine: in fact, fruit on the whole not worth vinifying in the first place.
    In consequence of that first thing comes the second. French wine law says it is illegal to sell wine from Brittany, even if you persist in what it no doubt imagines is the folly of making the stuff.

    So what's new?

    Nothing under the sun. A few favoured sites in Brittany made wine in the distant past, at least since the days of the Romans, but Louis XIV's thrifty and pragmatic finance minister Colbert had any remaining vines grubbed up in the mid-seventeenth century and replaced with orchards whose abundant crops yielded a great deal of excellent and lucrative cider.

    A couple of recent articles, including this one from 20minutes.fr, have drawn attention to what you might call a bit of a renaissance (with some heckling in the comments to suggest that the story's not that simple). In recent years, however, groups of enthusiasts have been making a few hundred litres of white wine here and there in Brittany; though for reasons stated above, you won't see it in the shops. Now one of these groups is looking forward to its first harvest of red grapes from vines that have been growing for three years on high slopes above the river Rance at Saint-Suliac.

    Nothing ventured…

    "We thought we'd give [making red wine] a try" says Bernard Tardivel, the group's cellar master. The band of enthusiasts took professional advice and settled on Rondo, a grape variety used for wine with some success in damp, dark, northern regions such as England, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden—though one of England's most distinguished winemakers, Owen Elias, formerly of Chapel Down, has his doots:

    "Rondo is a red grape that promises everything but invariably disappoints as a red wine."

    Experiments at home chez Tardivel, however, produced a strong, tannic wine last year that Bernard felt showed promise.

    I could crush a grape

    It seems unlikely that we'll be stocking wine from Brittany any time soon, but there's no mistaking the lean charms of bottles from just down the road in the pays Nantais and Anjou-Saumur. Neither let it be forgotten that the tremulous dawn of an indigenous Irish wine supply continues to shimmer on the horizon (hail, all-promising Rondo): here's Fionnuala Fallon's Irish wine round-up from last year.



  • The Well Review: a new poetry magazine

    Turning over a new leaf

    Every idiom has its idiot, and I'm a terrible fool for poetry pamphlets and similar booklets in the literary vein; or at least I was, until other demands on any little bit of surplus cash pushed further investment in what oft was thought… way down the domestic-budget charts. And this is no bad thing, since I probably have more than enough back issues, perfunctorily read, ready for rediscovery or not read at all, to see me out, supposing there ever is time again for reading.

    shelf of envelopes from poetry publishers

    The publication itself

    Still though, there's a bit of a tug somewhere inside when a brand new literary journal is announced, so we were very happy indeed to be asked to supply wines for today's launch of The Well Review, a new journal named after the Sunday's Well area of Cork city. Poets and wine, I hear you cry—what a novel association! But I have it from very reliable sources that the fermented juice of the vine is not unknown at gatherings of the laureate, their acolytes and admirers. If you'd like to sip from their glass, as it were, editor Sarah Byrne astutely chose the Parnassian focus of Christophe Godet's Domaine de Marcé Touraine Sauvignon and the wine-dark red… wine from Domaine d'Arton. You'll find them for sale in the English Market and at our Marina premises, even if stock of the dark and delicious d'Arton blend is getting a bit low just now.

    The Well Review poetry magazine

    Hurtling down the slipway of poetry

    I think it extremely unlikely that anyone's literally going to bash a bottle of anything off the stern of The Well Review to send it on its way, but if you'd like to be a part of the figurative heave that sets it on its maiden voyage, you'll have to hurry along to the Cork City Library for five pm today.

    Literary review?

    This is not the place, and neither you nor I have the time, for a critical appraisal of the new arrival by a wine merchant, for goodness' sake. There are hints, though, of what you can expect in this article from The Irish Times last week. Suffice it to say that the handsome publication pictured above is stuffed with good things, balances local with international poetry talent (including some vibrant (parallel) translations), and isn't too proud to scoff at the tradition of a propitiatory flaw in the carpet. We wish all the very best for the future to The Well Review and all who sail in her.  The launch should prove a highlight of this year's Cork International Poetry Festival, and with a fair wind will carry this smart publication from its source in Sunday's Well far across the oceans.

  • Wine Enthusiast European Winery of the Year 2016: Weingut Pfaffl

    Glad rags for the Pfaffl family as they head to Miami awards

    As we've mentioned before, our suppliers in Austria, the Pfaffl family, were nominated by American all-things-wine company Wine Enthusiast among their finalists for the award of European Winery of the Year 2016.

    Each year, Wine Enthusiast honors the individuals and companies that made outstanding achievements over the past year in the wine and beverage world.

    Wine Enthusiast? I've heard of that

    The first thing to know is that, in the wine lake of all kinds of awards and awarding bodies, Wine Enthusiast are no minnows: this is a proper bona fide big deal. The other finalists were Gonzalez Byass (Spain), Paul Jaboulet Aîné (France), San Felice (Italy) and Schloss Johannisberg (Germany). Heavy hitters all.

    Wine Enthusiast European Winery of the Year winners 2016 are Weingut Pfaffl
    …I'm putting on my top hat, tying up my white tie, brushing off my tails. I'm duding up my shirt front, putting in the shirt studs, polishing my nails…

    Black tie gala for the European Winery of the Year

    I'm not sure who exactly is travelling to represent the winery when they collect their gong in Florida next week. I hope the Pfaffls can find someone to hold the fort while they all go, but if not we wish the delegated travellers a very swell time indeed at the ceremony in the lavish surroundings of the Nobu Eden Roc in Miami.

    Pfaffl, Grüner Veltliner 'Vom Haus'

    Worthy winners

    Our first consignment from Austria arrived in Cork just in time for Christmas, so a good few of our seasonal customers will have had the chance to try one or more of the Pfaffls' wines by now. You can see our Austrian range here, and of course we highly recommend all these wines, red and white. A cool glass of zesty, peppery Grüner Veltliner might be just the thing to raise to the continuing success of an energetic winery that has no plans to stand still. Bon voyage and congratulations!

  • From pig's back to horse's back as new Chevalier Isabelle accepts French honour

    Unaccustomed as I am…

    We are very happy to learn that our English Market neighbour and pal Isabelle Sheridan of On the Pig's Back has once again been rewarded for her long service in the cause of promoting French food and culture in Ireland. And it's a pretty good reward, as such things go, coming from the top this time in Isabelle's native France.

    Top brass

    Today, Friday, Isabelle is being made a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by the French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault. They don't give these things away, and shortly the proud new recipient will join an elite of both French and foreign statesmen, actors, scientists and others, many of international renown. It's a pretty smart club to be a member of.

    Medal of the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, like the one Isabelle will receive

    Appetite for success

    Isabelle's contribution to the cause of good food and her development of Franco-Hibernian trade links during more than twenty years in Cork are the principal reasons for the award. The On the Pig's Back stall is the epitome of artisan food retailing, with all manner of good things to eat brought together and attractively and knowledgeably presented to the public. Isabelle's contribution to the life of the modern English Market, and her inspiring presence at its very heart, certainly deserve significant acknowledgement given their influence on a generation of shoppers and cooks, not to mention the benefits to the market and city as a tourist attraction.

    The annual Cork French Food Festival and successive events at the Douglas Woollen Mills branch of On The Pig's Back have reinforced relations between Isabelle's native France and Ireland, and given the gourmets of Cork and further afield a steady menu of temptations.

    Hot off the press

    You can see the Irish Times's piece here, and the Evening Echo's piece here.

    Isabelle… I mean Your Magnificence…

    I wonder what the correct term of address is for a Chevalier &c.? Once we manage to beat a path through the crowds that separate the passer-by from all the extremely delicious meats and cheeses—and more—that fill the display cabinets daily at the Market stall, we'll have to remember to ask.

  • New Austrian wines from European Winery of the Year 2016

    Roman Pfaffl in the vines

    New in from Austria

    Some new Austrian wines are on their way to us from Weingut Pfaffl in Stetten, not far from Vienna. As soon as we tasted the samples we'd been sent, we knew we couldn't miss this opportunity to add an Austrian section to the ever-evolving Bubble Brothers catalogue.

    One as good as the next

    The reason for requesting samples was to see if we could find a good Grüner Veltliner. In fact, we found two, packed with all the luscious, vibrant fruit and pepper character you could wish for, and they're both on their way, along with two racy but mouth-filling Rieslings, a dry, food-mad Pinot Blanc and a lovely cherryish light red made from Zweigelt, Austria's most widely grown red grape. And there's further temptation for us, in the shape of more new samples, including some other reds, that we might add to our next order.

    Our new Austrian wines are due in Cork any week now

    These are terrific wines, all of them, bursting with freshness under the very best kind of screwcap. You'll have to taste them for yourself in a couple of weeks time when the first boxes are delivered to us in Cork. Not only are the wines outstanding, they're backed up by a comprehensive website and cheerful, super-efficient and English-speaking support from the Pfaffls.

    The Pfaffl family in the kitchen enjoying some of their own Austrian wines

    The icing on the cake

    As if that weren't reason enough to be sure that we'd made a good choice, we've just found out that Wine Enthusiast in the USA has chosen Weingut Pfaffl as its European Winery of the Year. The shortlist is a good enough place to be, but winning? Brilliant news. There's a gala do in Florida early in the new year. We'll try to bring you the pictures when the time comes.

    In the meantime, here are the wines we're starting with. All of them will be available to buy online and from our Cork shops in the next fortnight or so.

    European Winery of the Year 2016 Weingut Pfaffl

  • Italian wine tasting at Salt: the line-up

    Time flies when you're having fun,

    and although there doesn't seem such a lot of point in announcing the line-up at our Italian wine tasting in Salt after the fact, you never know when it might come in handy for someone. No harm in marking such a pleasant occasion, in any case.

    Italian wine tasting at Salt poster


    We tasted the following wines, with the appetizing punctuation of varied and perfectly matched canapés from the Salt kitchen:



  • Quinta de Gomariz Vinho Verde comes to Ireland

    Quinta de Gomariz banner from Facebook

    In which loaves, fishes and wine coincide rather nicely

    Cork's English Market is, many other things besides, a lively interactive soap opera where it's a privilege to have a walk-on part from time to time. As in any drama, some characters are more essential to the plot than others, and though we leave the hurling of rotten tomatoes to the greengrocers—in fact, we don't even boo or hiss much—we have our favourites like anyone else. It's thanks to one very welcome visitor to the shop that we now have a thrilling trio of Vinho Verde wines from Quinta de Gomariz to add to our list and to our Portuguese section. We took advantage of a collection from Portugal to stock up on the Maria Organic range of tinned fish, too, but that's for another article.

    The wines you drink on holiday…

    A few weeks ago, Declan Ryan (of Arbutus Bread fame, Ireland's first Michelin star winner and interviewed here by Caroline Hennessy) called in. He'd just got back from Portugal, where Mrs Declan was walking a stretch of the Camino—maybe this one, which ends up in Vinho Verde country. Declan mentioned that he had enjoyed a really excellent glass of wine, a vinho verde, just before flying home; no, but really excellent…

    We've been thinking about adding to our Portuguese wines for a while, so I asked him if he'd by any chance kept a note of what the wine was. Marvellous! He had written the name down, and I copied it for later investigation.

    Around the world in eighty days

    There followed a little bit of research, helped no end by some international phone calls between Portuguese-speaking Cleidi in the English Market shop and fast-moving export manager Tiago (we hope we'll see him in Cork before too long). Next came the arrival and tasting in unanimous admiration of a trio of samples. It's not often that they're all keepers. Finally, and eagerly, we sent an order for the zippy, zesty and thoroughly delicious Vinho Verde wines from Quinta de Gomariz that have arrived in Cork this week. You can see what Wine Anorak Jamie Goode thought of the winery and its wines here on his relatively recent visit.

    The wines of Quinta de Gomariz

    Introducing the wines: our new range of Vinho Verde

    The three wines you can now buy from us, online or in our English Market and Marina shops, are all light, dry and aromatic whites. The distinctive gold and lime, chartreuse and yellow labels add a splash of colour to the shelves and make them hard to miss, while for wine-box spotters, the colourful, strong and secure outer packaging is a delight.

    Quinta de Gomariz, Loureiro 2015

    Quinta de Gomariz Loureiro Vinho Verde

    First up, in order of price, is the Loureiro—you have to try it! The grape gets its name from the laurel or bayleaf scent associated with the wines it yields. I must admit the tasting panel didn't especially chorus "Aha! bayleaves!", but the delicious blending of floral, citrus and herbal aromas certainly repays a good sniff, and for a relatively simple wine, on the palate this is a joyous thing indeed. Just what you want a glass of at the end of the week.

    Quinta de Gomariz, Grande Escolha 2015

    Quinta de Gomariz Grande Escolha Vinho Verde

    Next is the Grande Escolha or Special Selection, closer to traditional Vinho Verdes because it's made from a blend of grapes including Loureiro, Alvarinho and Trajadura and also because this one, more than the other two, seems to have a very fine, spritzy, shimmer of effervescence about it. A little carbon dioxide is sometimes used to hold off oxidation and add a hint of a tingle. There's more of a crispy crunch to the blend than in the Loureiro, and the extra couple of euro gets you an even longer finish. This would be a cracking accompaniment to sushi, for instance, or any of the new selection of tinned fish from Portugal that arrived here at the same time as the wines. More about those, anon.

    Quinta de Gomariz, Alvarinho 2015

    Quinta de Gomariz Alvarinho Vinho Verde

    And here's the Vinho Verde where it all began: the Alvarinho, which bears the legend 'Vinho Regional Minho' to remind us that, as elsewhere in the wine world, the producers of Vinho Verde would like recognition of their own very specific locality. The Quinta de Gomariz Alvarinho is a terrifically appealing wine from beginning to end, and it's not hard to see what appealed to the Ryans about this thrilling liquid. There's bright citrus freshness on the nose, with a softer, honey-ish, floral note, and in the mouth it's just as vivacious and juicy as you could hope for, before a long, long finish. Thank you Declan Ryan for a fantastic tip, not to mention all the great loaves from Midleton and Mahon Point markets…

  • Mas des Bressades Tradition rouge now in magnum bottles

    Double helpings from Mas des Bressades

    The arrival of a delivery from Mas des Bressades, just east of Nîmes at the very south of the Rhône valley region, is always good news, but this time the consignment included extra excitement in the shape of two new lines we've added to our range of Cyril Marès's astonishingly consistent and very drinkable Costières de Nîmes wines.

    One is his old vine Grenache, called Quintessence, whose grapes are trodden by foot in the time-honoured method, and the other is a favourite of long standing, his cuvée Tradition rouge—but this time in a double helping: a 1500ml magnum bottle. You can see the whopper in question below, just after being snatched from its carton in our Marina warehouse.

    We were encouraged to give these big bottles a go following the success of magnums from Château Jouclary. They're not too big to manage for pouring, or too ostentatious on the table—just a solidly imposing choice when there are enough guests to justify a bit of a statement.

    mas des bressades tradition rouge magnum

  • The wines of acústic celler: Montsant and Priorat tasting

    Another shake of the Salt cellar

    Later today, we'll be holding the latest in our series of tastings: Montsant and Priorat from acústic celler at SALT, the café bar bistro on Victoria Road.

    Sold out again

    The lucky ticket holders can look forward to some really magnificent wines from acústic celler and ritme celler, the enterprises of Albert Jané who works out of two DOs in eastern Spain: DO Montsant and DO Priorat.

    A breath of fresh air in Montpellier

    We met Albert for the first time at the Vinisud wine fair in 2008, right at the end, when everyone was a bit weary and we certainly hadn't any thought of shopping for something new from Spain. Even after days of tasting and talking and accompanying leathering of the palate, there was no mistaking the good fortune of this chance meeting. His wines just sang out. We couldn't resist.

    DO Montsant

    Montsant used to be a sub-region of the larger Tarragona DO, but won approval as a DO in its own right in 2001. The area almost completely encircles DO Priorat, and Montsant's varied soils, which include gravel and limestone clay as well as areas of slate, give rise to more generous yields from its mountainside vineyards than is usual in Priorat. With care, this fruit can give rise to wines of tremendous quality—which is something we hope to demonstrate this evening with the flagship blend of Garnatxa (Garnacha, red Grenache) and Samsó (Cariñena, Carignan), acústic. It's more than likely that Albert's adventures in white (blanc) and rosé (rosat) will get an airing too.

    vines in DO Montsant

    DO Priorat

    Priorat is the older DO, famous for the very powerful and concentrated reds that come from the low-yielding vines that grow on its slate and quartz (llicorella) soils. Albert took the opportunity when it arose to acquire some property in the coveted Priorat appellation, and the wines of his Ritme Celler follow the same philosophy as for acústic: old vines, small plots, and minimal interference in allowing the fruit to express its origins in the finished wine. Since his first vintage in 2004, Albert has worked organically.

    You can see our selection of Albert Jané's wines here.

    I'm including, to conclude, a slideshow that Albert sent on to us and which may be of interest:

  • Tastings at SALT café wine bar prove a success

    Good things

    We have begun a series of monthly tastings at Salt, the newly arrived restaurant on Cork's Victoria Road, just round the corner from our Marina warehouse shop. How could we resist getting to know the kind of neighbours who drop in a goody bag of baked delights as a calling card?Salt Food and Wine in Cork currently hosts tastings of wine from Bubble Brothers

    Getting the tastings ball rolling

    Our first event took place last month, and coincided with the visit to Ireland of Jesús Alvarez Otero of Agro de Bazán, our suppliers of Albariño Granbazán, and also of Bobal Crianza from Utiel-Requena in the south of Spain. The tasting sold out pretty quickly and a good time was had by all. In fact, there was so much enthusiasm for Jesús' prestige Albariños, which we don't normally stock, that we'll be adding a case or two to our next order.

    There was also early demand for the next tasting, so we've wasted no time in coming up with a plan for Tuesday 7th June…

    The twang's the thang

    Our June tasting at Salt will feature the extraordinary wines of acústic celler, made by Albert Jané in the The wisdom of Montsant's old vineyardsDO of Montsant in north-eastern Spain. The name acústic isn't just a handy way of staying near the top of alphabetical searches—it's also an indication of Albert's approach to his craft, in which he aims at a true, unplugged expression of his vines' potential. You might find a suggestion in the acústic experience of the thrilling cello of Pablo Casals, another Catalan maestro and an inspiration for the acústic label design, but if that's a synaesthetic bridge too far, try the wines with us next month and taste for yourself just how vibrant and individual they are.

    We'll be sampling white, rosé and red wines from Montsant and also getting a taste of the red Priorat DO wine from Albert's Ritme bodega.

    UPDATE: This event is now sold out, but we're already planning the next one.

    Tickets are available here for the tasting on Tuesday 7th June

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