Stars in their eyes

Bren Smith and Christine Smith, Mackenway Distributors, Thierry Redde of Michel Redde, Robert Smith, Mackenway Distributors
Bren Smith and Christine Smith, Mackenway Distributors, Thierry Redde of Michel Redde, Robert Smith, Mackenway Distributors

Ever the highlight of the Irish Wine Show, the Gold Star Awards revealed the gems of the trade this year, most especially the Wine of the Year



13 October 2009

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The ninth Irish Wine Show, held at The Pavillion at Leopardstown Racecourse on 29 September, was an enormous success. The highlight of the day was the presentation of the Gold Star Awards by NOffLA Chairman, Jim McCabe.

Wine of the Year went to Michel Redde Pouilly Fumé AC ‘Petit Fumé’ 2008 from Mackenway Distributors, which was chosen from the 15 category award winners as being the most outstanding wine choice for 2009. This wine was the clear selection from amongst more than 600 wines that were submitted to NOffLA for consideration in the 2009 Gold Star Awards.

Mackenway Distributors swept the board, winning three out of the 15 Gold Star awards, including the much coveted White Wine of the Year award and Overall Award Winner for Michel Redde Pouilly Fumé AC ‘Petit Fumé’ 2008, and the equally prestigious Red Wine of the Year 2009 for Museum Real Reserva 2003.

In announcing the Gold Star Award winners, NOffLA chairman Jim McCabe pointed to the key role in communicating the variety of excellent wines at different price points available in Ireland.

“The awards are categorised by price and so have gained a reputation over the past eight years for being the essential guide for selecting great wines at any price. There is sometimes a misconception that the higher the price, the better the quality of wine. But four of NOffLA’s Gold Star winners retail at under €8 so we are confident that consumers will be able to pick up some superb wines, whether they want to spend €7.99 or €49.99.”

The awards genuinely represent the very best of what is available across the independent off-trade in Ireland. What is distinctive about them is that they are the selection of the very best according to wine distributors, wine retailers and wine writers.

As Jim McCabe remarked previously: “The tasters have no idea what wines they are tasting or by whom they have been submitted. So this really would appear to reflect the importance of the pre-selection process of wines by wholesalers, before they are submitted to NOffLA. More and more wholesalers are spending a huge amount of time on this selection every year so, for those who do not take the time to pre-select, I do recommend that this is an area on which you should concentrate.”

Parental responsibility

NOffLA chairman Jim McCabe used the occasion of the Gold Star Awards to address a topic of concern to everyone involved in the independent off-trade in Ireland – that of responsible trading, and the role of parents in preventing underage drinking.
Pointing to the National Off-Licence Association’s Responsible Trading in the Community (RTC) training programme, which all members of the National Off-Licence Association must undertake as a requirement for membership, the NOffLA chairman reminded his audience that the scheme has already been acknowledged in Ireland “as the most positive proactive initiative to promote responsible retailing of alcohol.”

Jim McCabe went on to explain why the scheme is successful and why it has become a fundamental part of best practice in the Irish off-trade. “The integrity of the RTC is founded on the basis that companies and individuals involved on a day to day basis with consumers of alcohol, need to make a binding commitment to conduct their trade in the most responsible and professional manner.”

However, Jim McCabe expressed the frustration of many in the trade when he admitted that the off-trade could not tackle the problem of underage drinking alone. “This binding commitment however will only work in partnership with parental responsibility. The legal age for the purchase of alcohol is 18 years of age but often this is not being observed by parents when it comes to their children.”

The NOffLA chairman went on to underline the contradiction present in many Irish families today. “The tacit agreement of parents to allow their underage children take the odd drink undermines the law of the land and if parents permit their children to take alcohol in unsupervised situations, this may result in binge drinking and arrested social development in the teenager which is irrevocable. And so, the cycle continues from generation to generation.”

NOffLA is committed to Responsible Trading in the Community, but there is a limit to what we can achieve alone.

Selection panel

Jim McCabe expressed the gratitude of all those attending the Irish Wine Show to those who had helped to select the winning wines. The 17 judges are all WSET Diploma or Higher Certificate holders and/or members of the Champagne Academy: Pat Carroll, Daragh Cassells, Linda Coogan, Julie Cullen, Ruth Deveney, Niall Dooley, Niall Finn, Barry Forsyth, Evelyn Jones, Andrew Kinsella, Cathal McHugh, Niav McNamara, Ann Moran, Niamh O’Callaghan, Gary O’Donovan, Jimmy Redmond, and Kevin Summons Walsh.

Working in pairs, each wine submitted was blind tested, with marks awarded under the headings of appearance, smell, taste and value for money. Then, having short-listed three entries in each category and tested them a second time, the selections were assessed by wine journalists Tomas Clancy and John Wilson.

In thanking all of those who assisted in the assessment process, the NOffLA chairman underlined both the importance and the size of the task undertaken. “Selecting just 15 wines from over 600 was an incredibly challenging task. However, the level of interest and the number of submissions tangibly demonstrate the credibility and standing of these awards, not just at an industry level but more importantly, amongst consumers.”

Each of the winning wines will now be sold in NOffLA member outlets and will be recognisable by distinctive award symbols on each bottle. In the pre-Christmas period NOffLA members will promote the Gold Star Awards 2009 Collection as ideal Christmas gifts, in a variety of special gift packs.


Each of the winning wines will be sold in NOffLA outlets with distinctive neck collars to highlight the awards

Each of the winning wines will be sold in NOffLA outlets with distinctive neck collars to highlight the awards

The Irish Wine Show could not be a reality without the partnership of the independent off-trade and their suppliers. NOffLA chairman Jim McCabe has previously underlined the importance of a partnership approach to the awards and to the success of the Irish off-trade in general, describing it as representing “a valuable marketing opportunity for our members and equally importantly for more and more suppliers.”

Jim McCabe continued by underlining the effort made by distributors, “who make the effort to ensure that the latest vintages are submitted for the awards, are finding that they benefit the most because they are in the best position to ensure that adequate supplies of the award winning wines are in stock and are promoted in our shops.

“In particular we are very pleased that a number of suppliers are now identifying our awards by producing special labels which allow customers to easily identify them.”

The NOffLA chairman has also pointed out that the Irish Wine Show “is one of the important initiatives that helps us to work together with our suppliers, to further enhance the great business success story that the Irish wine market undoubtedly is.”

It is important that NOffLA members acknowledge the significance of this ongoing partnership by supporting our associate members who supported the association in this instance. Associate members are: Ampersand, Barry & Fitzwilliam, Brinkman Beverages, Bulmers, California Wine Imports, Cassidy Wines, Diageo Ireland, Edward Dillon & Company, Fair Wind Wine, Findlater Wine & Spirit Group, Galvins Wines & Spirits, Gilbeys, Gleeson Group Sales, Heineken Ireland/Beamish & Crawford, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, Mackenway Distributors Ltd, Richmond Marketing, Spanish Flavour, and Taserra.

The Gold Star 2009 Collection

Wine of the Year: Michel Redde Pouilly Fumé A.C. ‘Petit Fumé’ 2008 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)
Red Wine of the Year: Museum Real Reserva 2003 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)

New World White

Under €8      Antares Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Ampersand)
Under €14    Wakefield Estate Clare Valley Riesling 2008 (Findlater Wine &     Spirit Group)
Under €20    Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling 2008 (Edward Dillon & Co.)

Old World White

Under €8      B&G Fleur de Vigne Ugni Blanc Colombard 2007 (Gilbeys)
Under €14    Cave de St Dezery – Viognier 2007 (Fair Wind Wine)
Under €20    Michel Redde Pouilly Fumé A.C. ‘Petit Fumé’ 2008 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)

Old World Red

Under €8      Canti Negroamaro/Zinfandel 2008 (Gleeson Group)
Under €14    Campo Viejo Reserva 2005 (Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard)
Under €20    Museum Real Reserva 2003 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)

New World Red

Under €8      GatoNegro Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Cassidy Wines)
Under €14    Secreto Carménère 2008 (Mackenway Distributors Ltd)
Under €20    Montes Alpha Merlot 2006 (Findlater Wine & Spirit Group)


Under €15    Marchesini Pinot Grigio Rosé 2008 (Gleeson Group)

Best Sparkling/Champagne

Under €25    Pere Ventura Cava Rosat Semi Sec NV (Gleeson Group)
Under €50    G.H. Mumm NV (Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard)




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