Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wine Fair Thursday, Nov 14th

Tis the season for the wine fairs and we have our 15th(!) one coming up....how time flies!

I have just done the list and we have some great wines lined up, from our new Greek range from Kiryianni to fine white Burgundies from Pierre Yves Colin-Morey and from a simple Sauvignon Blanc to some world beaters like Felton Road, this is a tasting not to be missed.

Over 80 wines, some great deals and a brilliant night out. Call Carol on 01 2353054 to book a place or turn up on the night and we will sort you out.

 Details as follows:

On the Grapevine Annual Wine Fair

Thursday, November 14th from 6pm - 9pm

Fitzpatrick's Killiney Castle Hotel, Killiney, Co. Dublin.

All welcome!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Another open letter to Michael Noonan

Last year, after the shock of the budget, I penned a letter to Michael Noonan, you can read it here. I have to say I only wrote it to vent my frustration at the time and wasn't expecting to get any response from the Minister or from the Department of Finance.

I was right. Tumbleweed ensued....

However, as we look forward with bated breath to our 6th austerity budget, and with the restaurant sector doing a great job with their Keep Vat % campaign, I have grown increasingly annoyed at the lack of voice for the wine trade. Where are NOFFLA? There was a press release from the Irish Wine Association in the middle of August when all politicians are on holidays and the rest of the country weren't paying attention, but nothing else. So here goes again.

Dear Minister Noonan,

I'm sure you are busy right now putting the finishing touches to the budget, but I would like to write a short letter in defence of our humble wine trade.

As you know, you put the excise duty up on wine in last years budget by 81c + VAT, bringing the current level of excise on a bottle of wine up to €2.78 per bottle. This is way higher than the excise (per degree of alcohol) on beer in this country, the highest duty on wine in the EU and six times higher than the EU average. In the country we are supposed to try and emulate in every way, Germany, there is no duty on wine at all! What I'm saying is that, no matter which way you look at it, duty on wine in this country is way too high and certainly shouldn't go any higher.

In our trade - and I personally am only a tiny, tiny cog in the wheel - we are in the almost unique position of handing over more than 50% of our monthly turnover to the revenue commissioners in the form of duty and vat. So, our revenue bill each month is by far our biggest outlay every month and this has gone up by 40% as a result of last year's budget.  Most of us are hanging on by our finger nails and any further increase will surely destroy the independent trade and hand even further power to multinationals.

Jobs. Businesses going bust will lay people off. I don't need to explain that one.

Smuggling. I already have had numerous cases of restaurants telling me about people approaching them offering wine at €4 per bottle for COD and out of the back of a van. This wine is obviously not coming out of a bonded warehouse. Any further increase will see this activity take off like a rocket.

Below cost selling - will is still on offer for €4, €5. Do I need to do the maths? OK out of €5, there is €3.80 in tax so either they are getting the wine for free and magic pixies are packing it and transporting it or this wine is below cost and is being sold as a loss leader. Not only does this fly in the face of any semblance of responsible retailing of a dangerous substance, but the exchequer loses out with every bottle. It makes all sorts of sense to stop it. At the moment, you can buy a bottle of Heineken for 0.90c or a bottle of Volvic for 0.99c.

I really hope you can see sense to leave what is left of our trade alone and, if you need to tap the alcohol industry for money, try to be imaginative and find it from the only sector who can afford it - the supermarkets.

All the best and good luck next week.

Yours sincerely,

Gabriel Cooney
On the Grapevine

Friday, August 2, 2013

August Offers and New Wines

August Offers and New Wines         

August Offer - 2 for €20

Two of our best sellers not at an even better price!

The Merlot is surprisingly full-bodied with rich plummy fruit and ripe tannins. Give it food and it will shine...

The Chardonnay is unoaked with the emphasis on lovely fresh appley fruit. A brilliant all-rounder.
COS Cerasuolo is back!

One of the first wines we ever imported and still one of our favourites is back in stock after a protracted absence. This delicious wine is made by COS - a trailblazer in Sicily known for the very high quality of their wines as much as their "natural" winemaking methods. They were biodynamic back when most people thought it had something to do with Steve Austin and their care and attention really shows in the wines which are always amazing, always interesting and always easy to drink. This bottle was pictured on my kitchen counter, empty, as Pam and myself had an argument about who drank it all.

No, it's not cheap.
Lots of new wines in with interesting grape varieties - Marselan, Fiano, Aglianico and more - don't say we don't keep you on your toes! Also a new range from Languedoc - tasty, elegant and good value.

Call in to the shop and Carol will point you in the right direction as always.

See you soon, Gabriel, Pam & Carol

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On the Guttervine Wine & Book Shop

Back in the mists of time when I was trying to figure out what to do when I grew up, I always fancied having a book shop. Wine shop was up there as well, but books have always had a fascination for me - from when I was a lad devouring every book I could get my hands on, through the embarrassing pseudo-intellectual phase that lasted longer than it really should have and through to my current love of reading, albeit in snatches here and there when not working/sleeping/eating/driving kids here, there and everywhere.

However, wine won the day and 14 years later, here we are. However, the Dalkey Book Festival is on this weekend June 14-16th and Dalkey finds itself without a bookshop. One of my favourite bookshops is The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar so I thought why not live the dream, just for a weekend and get these guys to open a pop - up bookshop in our shop for the weekend.

And that's what we're doing - this Friday through to Sunday, we will have wine and books - what a combination! - all weekend. We will have lots of bottles open for tasting, the Gutter will have lots of books by all the writers featured in the festival - we are all geared up for it; make sure you call in!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Drinkable isn't good enough

Why “drinkable” isn’t good enough

It won’t come as a big surprise to hear that I love wine. It is a drink to be celebrated and to celebrate with. It makes our food taste better and tastes better with food. It is a conduit for conviviality, sharing and enjoying time with our family and friends.

It is endlessly varied, every bottle a surprise. Grape varieties, producers and styles are constantly throwing up something new and interesting.  It can be a source of great joy and enriches our lives in many ways. Of course, there are good ones and bad ones, and all alcohol needs to be treated with respect, but on balance wine is a civilised drink designed to be drunk with food and not to excess.

This is why it annoys me to see wine reviews and recommendations where the wine is listed as “drinkable”. Is this not a basic requirement? Should we not set the bar just a little higher than this? I mean, a food writer doesn’t recommend a restaurant on the basis of the food being “edible”. Restaurants are rightly celebrated when they are showcasing excellence, innovation and value. So why do we set the bar so low for wine?

I realise that there are editorial pressures to keep it real and to offer wines that are widely available and not too expensive, but I think this can be achieved without resorting to recommending the €4 German “Pinot Grigio” in your local Lidl or Tesco on the basis that it is possible to consume it without falling ill. There are thousands of wines available in this market, a huge range of excellent wines, that surely deserve to be promoted and celebrated by our opinion leaders.

So, if you see the word “drinkable” in a wine review, use your noggin, read between the lines and understand that the writer is really saying “I didn’t really like this and wouldn’t drink it myself in a month of Sundays, but I was under pressure to put in a cheap wine and they sent me this sample. I’m pretty sure you won’t require hospitalisation after it”.

Aim higher folks, don’t settle for drinkable. Ask for one that is quirky, tasty, interesting, good value, stunning, amazing……….

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why you pay for below-cost selling

I'm not sure why I am on an email list for a certain symbol group drinks promotions, but I am and I got one yesterday that set me thinking....

We all know that selling alcohol is below cost is perfectly legal. We all know that it goes on all the time - supermarkets use alcohol as a loss leader to get you in to the store where you will then do the rest of your shopping and they can fleece you for bread or eggs or bananas or whatever you are into. I understand that many see this as a good thing, healthy competition etc etc. But what if you were told that the supermarket are not doing this as some sort of charity strategy, but that it was being partly funded by you?

How does this work? Ok, looking at the pricing sheet I was emailed yesterday and, taking a random example of Faustino VII Rioja, an unexciting but drinkable (this phrase is forming the basis of a future post) rioja from a massive factory in Spain somewhere. According to this, the normal wholesale price for this wine is €87.75 + vat  with the promo price at €83+ vat per case or a wholesale price at €102.09 including vat or €8.51 per bottle. Now this same wine is often on promotion in at least one of our leading supermarkets at €8 per bottle of 51c LESS than the wholesale price. Maybe they get a better price than this, maybe they are bringing it in from the UK, but lets take it as an example of how below cost selling costs you money. If it's not on this wine, the maths work the same on other wines, beers and spirits.

Let's say they buy the wine at the promo price of €83 per case or €6.92 + plus vat at 23% of €1.59 - a total of €8.51.
They sell it at €8.00 including a vat amount of €1.50. In their vat return, they pay €1.50 to the revenue and claim back the €1.59, so the revenue have to pay them back €0.09 per bottle. Now, 9 cent won't go far in funding Bertie Ahern's pension, but multiply it out and it adds up pretty quickly. Lets say 100 stores each sell 20 cases ( conservative) each of this wine - how much does that make? That adds up to €2160. Still not enough to make Bertie open a bank account. But say they do this on 20 wines and say they do it six times a year and all of a sudden you are up to a cool quarter of a million in reclaimed VAT. That's just one supermarket and its just one wine. Its probably worse on beer and spirits.

This is costing the country literally millions every year, is contributing hugely to the problem of binge drinking and is driving the independent sector, not to mention the pub trade to the floor, and every business that closes costs the revenue more. All financed you and I, the compliant taxpayers and to the benefit of whom?

So, after that little rant, just two questions:

1. Why don't the government ban below-cost selling? (Afraid of supermarkets - jobs)
2. Why don't any of the newspapers pick up on it? (Afraid of supermarkets -advertising revenue)

Cheers, and keep fighting the good fight!