Category Archives: Other

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

(Confused about the title of this blog post? Click here for an explanation)

Since 2008 I have had the pleasure of playing a small but very enjoyable part in the Irish wine trade, first in sales and then marketing in Findlater Wine & Spirit group (now Findlater & Co) and then latterly in Pico Communication, Ireland’s only dedicated wine & spirit PR company.

But in September 2017 I made the move to ‘the real world’, joining corporate PR agency MKC Communications¬†(which I’ve also enjoyed immensely since). My plan back then was to continue attending the wine tasting events that I so thoroughly loved, albeit now in my spare time and in the full capacity as a ‘blogger’ (or ‘blagger’ more like). Service would continue as normal on The Motley Cru where I would update my, oh, dozens of readers about the wine goings-on in Ireland.

Alas, it has not come to pass. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it originally, but I quickly discovered that virtually all of the portfolio tastings and wine events happen during work hours, making them effectively out of bounds for me during my 9-to-5.

And for those that could feasibly be attended during my lunch hour, factoring in time travelling to and from the venue would have meant that I would only perhaps enjoy 20-25 minutes with the wines, the winemakers, and the importer, which is less than enough to do any wine event justice.

So my blog has languished over the last year and a half or so, to the point where I feel I can no longer call myself a blogger or consider my self sufficiently up to speed with trends and developments in the Irish wine trade.

Sure, I could write instead about any interesting bottles of wine I enjoy in my spare time, but I’ve been finding that I’ve been spending those hours instead helping to look after my two children, attending courses and doing assignments, or, you know, actually switching off and enjoying the stuff instead of analysing it.

Now, each time I open Twitter there is a reminder in my profile that I have a defunct blog hanging about online; every time I open my internet browser there is a WordPress folder in my bookmark bar taunting me about the lack of updates I’ve posted.

So the time has come to pull the plug on The Motley Cru. It’s been a blast … here are some highlights off the top of my head:

There have of course been so many more excellent memories, not to mention all the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure meeting and socialising with on the way.

I’ve not gone away though, only that now I’ll pop up at consumer events rather than professional tastings. We’ll catch up then and reminisce about old times and get up to speed about what’s new and exciting in the wine world.

Until then…


Charity Focus: Football for Refugees

This has nothing to do with wine, but I wanted to give some publicity to an amazing and innovative charity initiative set up by some friends of mine.

They’ve established¬†an¬†Irish-based NGO called Football For Refugees, a volunteer organisation that runs football festivals and funds football training for refugee children. They¬†are presently operating on the island of Lesvos, in Greece.

Their core aim is to use football as a means to promote health, social integration and Рmost importantly, given everything that these children have already been through Рfun.

They are having their first¬†fundraising gig on Tuesday 20th December in Whelan’s¬†in Dublin from 7:30pm to 11pm, in aid of the 2nd Football Festival that they¬†will run in Lesvos in January 2017.

There will be good music, some merchandising for sale, and good craic¬†on the night. Tickets are ‚ā¨15, which all goes to the charity, and are available on the door (or you can register your interest via the Facebook Event page here.)

Please follow them via these social media links, and there’s an opportunity to donate and/or get in touch via their website:

Instagram: and
Twitter: @karatepeunited and @futbol4refugees


Here is a brief summary of who they are and what they do from a recent press release they sent me:

The 1st Refugee Football Festival in Lesvos took place in September and it was a great success.

Since then we have been sponsoring weekly football training for refugee children and youth of the Kara Tepe Refugee Camp, in partnership with a Lesvos-based NGO called Movement on the Ground.

Most of the volunteers are from Ireland, but some have come from Catalonia, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and UK.

As you know, there is a protracted refugee crisis in Greece and in Lesvos in particular (as it is a designated hotspot for the processing of asylum applications from refugees arriving from Turkey).

Refugees are stuck there until their applications for international protection are processed, and the processing time is almost as long as it is in Ireland!


The living conditions are very precarious in Kara Tepe refugee camp and absolutely appalling in the bigger one, Moria.

This projects aims to extend European solidarity to the people of Greece as they have taught a lesson to the world in the humane manner in which they have treated hundreds of thousands of refugees who have landed on its shores, even when Europe let them down with the infamous, immoral and illegal agreement with Turkey which entered into force on 18 March this year. The project is implemented with the support and in partnership with the local Greek authorities and people.

If you cannot come to the gig but would like to support this project, we also welcome donations ¬†ūüôā

We also welcome football gear i.e. football boots/shoes, socks, shin guards, shorts, and jerseys.

Any and all help and support will be most welcome as the kids will need shoes/boots for sure!


Irish Startup Wins Best Digital Food Magazine in the World 2016

Regular readers will know that I contribute monthly for Ireland’s biggest (and best!) online food & drink magazine, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed¬†working with the small but passionate team who¬†have been generous, fun, and great craic since they set up just a year and a half ago.

So it was with great pride that I heard last week that TheTaste won Best Digital Food Magazine in the World at the 2016 Gourmand World Awards in Shanghai, an incredible achievement by any measure and a worthy acknowledgement of all the effort Keith & Jules have put into building their digital empire.

Below is a slightly edited version of the release TheTaste issued online following the awards. Here’s to some more great years ahead!


At the Gourmand World Awards 2016 on May 29th, TheTaste was announced as the Best Digital Food Magazine in the World 2016.

At the awards, which each year honours the best food and wine books, printed or digital, as well as food television, TheTaste beat stiff competition from other shortlisted online food magazines from Spain and the United States.

At the ceremony, which this year took place in Shanghai, TheTaste was among a four other Irish winners. Michael O‚ÄôMeara scooped 1st place for his cookbook Sea Gastronomy: Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic, earning the title Best Fish Cookbook in the World, while¬†RT√Č‚Äôs Operation Transformation was also recognised in the Health and Nutrition Institutions category, winning 2nd prize.

Karen Austin was another Irish runner-up with her vegetarian cookbook, The Lettercollum Cookbook. Looking North, NI Good Food won third prize in the Culinary Travel category for its food and drink guide of Northern Ireland.

Trevis L. Gleason was awarded the Special Prestige Award of the International Jury for his book Chef Interrupted.

TheTaste Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2016

On winning Best Digital Food Magazine in the world, Managing Director Keith Mahon said, “Winning this prestigious award means the world to myself and Jules, and the entire team at TheTaste. To be known as Best Digital Food & Wine Publication in the world is something we never expected to happen, just to be shortlisted was an honour but to win means we have achieved something very, very special.

“We are so proud to write about the food scene in Ireland and feel this award is for everyone who has helped TheTaste since we started. There is a true passion for food in Ireland and we do our best to record this passion on a national and international stage. Finally, we would like to thank all the judges in Yantai and we are delighted to have won.‚ÄĚ

TheTaste is a family-run business, set up by husband and wife team Keith and Jules Mahon in October 2014, that strives to be a culinary kaleidoscope for food, wine, cocktails, whiskey and more. In its first year of business alone TheTaste generated over ‚ā¨2 million in revenue for the Irish hospitality market. Now, after 18 months, with the support of a small dedicated team, TheTaste has gained 1.7m readers, and 215,000 registered members that get a fresh taste of foodie news, recipes and more to their inbox every single day.



Last-Minute Christmas Wine Help!

So it’s Christmas eve-eve, and you haven’t picked up wine for the coming days yet.

No worries, there’s still time, and to help I’ve picked out some favourites¬†from a few importer/retailers around the country, so that¬†hopefully some of my suggestions below shouldn’t be too far from where you live.

Please not though that for the sake of brevity I’ve picked out only a tiny¬†selection of¬†wines I’ve sampled¬†recently from importers that have invited me to their tastings, so obviously this¬†is by no means a definitive or exhaustive list.

As such the best default course of action – as I’ve always strongly recommended¬†– is to go into your local independent off-licence (not supermarket) and tell someone there what you’re looking for; you’ll almost always end up with something exactly what you’re looking for and usually something better than expected, as well as supporting local businesses. Win win.

There are a couple of whites and a couple of reds from each supplier that I think will be pretty fail-safe for the coming days, covering both party wines and special bottles.

Good luck and merry Christmas!


Wth outlets now in Cork, Limerick, Galway and lots of other places, you’re not too far from an O’Brien’s and their great range of wines.
Open Wednesday 23rd & Thursday 24th: until 8pm or 9pm (click here to check your local store)
Brocard Chablis¬†–¬†now ‚ā¨18.99
I covered this recently in my post about the recent O’Brien’s Fine Wine Sale, and I’ve no problem recommending it again: simultaneously steely, mineral and generous, this is textbook Chablis at a great price.

Ch√Ęteau Fuisse Saint Veran – now ‚ā¨19.99
Though I would normally choose the more expensive wines of the¬†Ch√Ęteau Fuisse range – such as the¬†Pouilly Fuiss√© ‘T√™te de Cru’ I reviewed in the O’Brine’s Fine Wine Sale post, for ‚ā¨20 this is a great introduction to the brand and a fantastic white Burgundy in general. Zingy and refreshing but with some of that creamy oak influence underneath, this is perfect for those recovering from the oak overload of old.

Bellow’s Rock Shiraz – now ‚ā¨9.99
A consistently very good wine that’s always excellent value, this has all you’d want from Shiraz but without the usual blowsy, over-cooked characters: weight, balance and drinkability. An above-par party wine.

Monte Real Rioja Reserva – now ‚ā¨13.99
I continue to be perplexed as to how O’Brien’s continue to source this wine at this price. Rioja Reservas usually start around the ‚ā¨20 mark, but Monte Real often appears well below ‚ā¨15, which shouldn’t be possible given the quality. Still, take advantage while you can and buy a case or two then this comes on sale: it has all the trademark Rioja characteristics of dark fruit with vanilla and¬†leather over a silky supple palate. A real Christmas winner.


An award-winning Burgundy specialist, it would be remiss of me not to feature some of my (slightly) more affordable favourites from the iconic region
Open Wednesday 23rd until 10pm, and Thursday 24th from 10.30am Р4.30pm

Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne Blanc – ‚ā¨20.40
And excellent basic Bourgogne from an iconic producer, this ticks all the boxes and comes in at barely a shade over ‚ā¨20. Really highly recommended.

Vincent Girardin, Savigny-Les-Beaune ‘Vermots Dessus’ –¬†The 2011 I tasted is ‚ā¨28.70, but the last bottles of 2006 are currently on sale for the silly price of ‚ā¨15¬†Complex and creamy with excellent length, this is a really excellent, characterful Burgundy.

Louis Boillot, Bourgogne Rouge –¬†‚ā¨26.50
Beautifully fragrant and smoky, with sweet red fruit and a herbal tinge. Soft and generous and surprisingly complex for a basic Bourgogne.

Maison Ambroise, Cotes de Nuits Villages –¬†‚ā¨28.90
My tasting notes say that this tastes of Christmas, so no better time to grab a bottle then! Clove and baking spices are overlaid by brambly red fruits and a lush expressiveness.


GALWAY: Cases Wine Warehouse
A great outlet run with passion, yet not lacking in some great-value finds
Open Wednesday 23rd until 7pm and Thursday 24th from10am to 3pm

Autoritas Reserva Viognier – now ‚ā¨9.95
I had this marked as “Very Good Value for Money” when it was ‚ā¨11.95, so now it’s Excellent Value for Money at the discounted price for Christmas. A surprising treat for the cost, it’s full and rich with peach and honey, though beware the 14% alcohol!

Lady Sauvignon – ‚ā¨11.95
Another bargain from Chile. Though it’s typically expressive and flavoursome in the New World style, I found the acidity to be a little less aggressive than we come to expect from the style. Everything else is in place, such as the grassy pea characteristics. One to buy in bulk.

Mister Shiraz – ‚ā¨13.95
Yes, you guessed it, Mister Shiraz is the partner to Lady Sauvignon above. But I’m not featuring it just to complete the pair: I found this to be much lighter than expected, which is a pleasant surprise as New World Shiraz at this price tends to be over-blown. Still, it’s deep and satisfying with blueberry and blackberry flavours.

Bagante Mencia – ‚ā¨13.95
One of my favourites from the Cases tasting a few months back, and again great value for money (a running theme from Cases it seems). I wrote about this for before, and I’d recommend it again: juicy, fresh, lively and all pleasure, it’s fun and sun in a glass.


The famous JN Wine company has its wholesale business both north and south of the border and offer a mail-order service to match, but as it’s too late to avail of the latter then you’ll have to hop over to their store in¬†Crossgar,¬†Co. Down, to grab some of the bottles below.
(For more you can read a recent profile on James Nicholson – the JN of the company name – in the Irish Times here)

Sartarelli Verdicchio Classico – ‚ā¨14.99
I found this to be very good value for money: fresh and easy with approachable tropical fruit, but the¬†palate still has some weight and seriousness to it. I’d say this would be a very versatile choice at the Christmas table.

Weingut Salwey, “Salwey RS” Weissburgunder – ‚ā¨21.99
Weissburgunder is the German name for Pinot Blanc, and this is a fine, rich example of the variety: it straddles the line between¬†freshness and creaminess, giving sprightly citrus fruits over a lightly waxy palate. I’d recommend reading this post by Frankie Cook, where he gives¬†a more detailed¬†post on the background of this wine.

Bodegas Paco Garcia, Rioja Crianza – ‚ā¨18.99
Ah yes, where would Christmas be without Rioja? This is a younger Crianza style though, and as such is fresher and livelier than the Reservas we’re usually used to drinking. I thought the texture of this wine was excellent to, giving an all-round, crowd-pleasing quality drop.

Domaine Fournier,¬†Bourgogne Rouge – ‚ā¨24.50
Yes, another Bourgogne Rouge, but when done well it really is excellent and the ideal Christmas wine in my opinion. Fournier produce another excellent example, with the texture of this wine the first thing to catch my attention, followed by some clove and Christmas spices. A really delicious wine.

Back to Business: The Motley Cru


Has it been five months since my last post? How time flies. And, even then, updates were few and far between in the months preceding The Gold of Naples (and Puglia) –¬†had¬†The Motley Cru reached its sell-by date?

Far from it. I have a good excuse you see, or, rather, quite a few: moving house, getting married, and going on a month’s honeymoon – all wrapped around Christmas and the New Year –¬†has meant that the last 8-10 months have been pretty eventful to say the least.

As a result writing even the most basic blog posts were relegated to the bottom of the To Do pile where wedding lists, holiday bookings and DIY jobs were given precedence. Hence the de facto sabbatical for The Motley Cru in the last while.

But fear not! Christmas,¬†weddings, honeymoons and housewarmings are¬†ripe occasions for wine exposure, so I’ve bucketloads of things to write about. And now that I’ve (a little) more time on my hands I intend to write about them.

So from this weekend it (should be) back to business. I’ve even updated my ‘About’ page too – have a look.

I’ve never asked for feedback before, so now’s a good time to start – what do you like, not like, or more importantly what would you rather see?¬†Are the blogs too long, too short, too irrelevant? Too wordy, too basic, too technical? Let me know, warts and all.

It’s good to be back…