To Dublin for a dinner accompanied by our wines at Patrick Guilbauld’s Michelin two star restaurant at the Merrion Hotel. I just can’t visit Dublin without tasting the ‘black stuff’ so, just before dinner, I pop into one of my favourite bars, Doherny and Nesbitt near the Dáil on Lower Baggot Street. The place is crammed with Friday night drinkers and, carrying a bag of bottles already uncorked for the dinner, I struggle to reach the bar. After a number of ‘excuse-mes’ I finally get my glass of Guinness and strike up conversation with a small group at the bar alongside me. One member of the party works for the FT in Dublin and, seeing my bag of bottles, he calls across to the barman for a glass to hold an impromptu tasting. It could only happen in Dublin! The dinner that follows is fabulous. It has been organised by Terroirs, our Irish importers. Terroirs is owned and run by Sean and Fancoise Gilley, an Irish-French husband and wife team. I first met them in a jacuzzi in the Napa valley twenty years ago and, with a shop on one of the best roads leading out of town, they import and sell a good range of wines with considerable style and flair. The dinner tonight is six courses beginning with Dublin Bay prawns, followed by a confit of aubergine, pressed game and foie gras terrine, ‘Roast Native Red Deer’, Irish Cheeses and finishing with ‘Madeira Baba’. I worry that the food will out shadow our wines but everything we serve seems to stand up well, especially Pedra e Alma 2009 which is on show for this first time and is perfect with the venison and the cheese. The Madeira baba is made to go with Blandy’s Alvada, a deliciously easy-going 5 year old blend of Malvasia and Bual. After another tasting in the Terroirs shop the next morning I board the plane feeling rather worse for wear. How is it that I never seem to leave Dublin without a hangover?!
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty