Wine: Pick of the bottles from the pick of the bunch
When times are tough, it can be even more challenging to keep motivated and ensure standards in service and retail are delivered. Putting excellence into customer service is like putting petrol into the Porsche – without it, you're going nowhere fast.
The National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) recently highlighted a number of exceptional off-licences in recognition of their dedication to perform at the highest level for the customer.
This week's and next week's columns acknowledge some of the highest achievers, along with their recommended wines that I have tasted.
1) Ciliegiolo 2012, Antonio Camillo, Maremma, Toscana DOC, Italy 14pc
Organically grown from 40-year-old vines. Youthful purple colour with fresh red cherry fruity aromas. Zesty and ripe cherry flavours, crisp acidity and floral violets. Serve fridge cold with piquant salmon in cajun spices.
€15.80, recommended by Brendan O'Reilly at Dicey's Off-licence, Market Street, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal: National Off-licence of the Year 2014.
2) Claude Val Rouge 2012, Pays d'Oc, France 13.5pc
Red fruit flavours and gentle tannins from the Carignan and Grenache are complemented by blackberry fruit and some backbone from the Syrah and juicy plum from the Merlot. Go Oriental with a Szechuan sizzling beef.
€13.99, recommended by Siobhan and Ann at Gibney's Off-licence, Malahide: Dublin Off-licence of the Year 2014.
3) Chateau Haut-Colombier 2009, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux, France 14.5pc
Ripe plum and hint of a farmyard bouquet. Concentrated flavours of Merlot's plum, Cabernet Sauvignon's cassis and firm tannins and Malbec's blackberry fruit. Unusually full-bodied for a Bordeaux. Needs a very rich meaty stew of pigeon or oxtail.
€15.99, recommended by Martin Kral at The Wine Centre, Kilkenny City: Leinster Off-licence of the Year 2014.
4) Merlot & Malbec 2010, La Bourdette, Jean-Louis Denois, Sud de France 13.5pc (Organic)
Perfumed with black fruit pastille and ripe plum. Intense flavours of ripe and juicy blackberries. Supported by Malbec's firm tannins. Surprisingly good with a turkey burger minced with sage and onion.
€12.50, recommended by Eoin McCambridge at McCambridge's, 38-39 Shop Street, Galway City: Connaught/Ulster Off-licence of the Year 2014.
5) Santa Duc Les Vieille Vignes 2009, Cotes du Rhone, France 14pc
Full-bodied, red strawberry fruit, soft tannins and smooth texture with balanced acidity and a warming alcohol finish, suggesting seductive Grenache dominates the blend. Try with a spicy chilli con carne.
€15.99, recommended by Declan Brady at World Wide Wines, Waterford City: Munster Off-licence of the Year 2014.
6) Chateau Teyssier 2008, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France 13.5pc
Sandalwood bouquet. Very peppery and spicy from oak aging and still evolving with firm tannins. Enjoy with a classic partnership of roast leg of lamb.
€19.99 from €29.99 until end of May, recommended by John Shiel at Shiel's Londis
PLUS, Malahide, Co. Dublin: Food Retailer Off-licence of the Year 2014.
7) Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Overstone, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5pc
Aromas of grass and freshly squeezed lime, mango and passion fruit. Lovely crisp and zesty grapefruit flavours and tangy citrussy finish. Exotic match with an Indian king prawn rogan josh.
€12.49, recommended by Carol and David at Molloy's Liquor Stores throughout Dublin: Responsible Retailer of the Year 2014.