It was only a matter of time for quality wines from Slovenia to make their debut on the Irish market. Ever since the country joined the EU in 2004, its wine industry has been in the process of modernisation with the help of EU funding and a small but significant number of wine growers are now producing bottles which can match those of West European competitors in terms of quality and value.
Lower end Slovenian wines can be found in some multiples, but Cases Wine Warehouse from Galway is listing a small but interesting selection from Vina Poljsak in the Vipavska Valley.
At a portfolio tasting in Dublin this week, Cases md Peter Boland showed a Sauvignon Blanc and Rumeni Muscat from this producer, both of which were good examples of their varietals and indeed of this region which also produces quantities of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and the indigenous Zelen, Pinela, and Vitovska Garganja grapes. Both wines were from the quality end of the Slovenian industry and with rrps of €23.95, they are likely to appeal to either the adventurous or the specialist consumer.
Established six years ago, Cases Wine Warehouse is a signficant supplier to restaurants in the West of Ireland, but it also has on-trade clients nationwide and sells to the public through www.cases.ie. Customers must buy at least one case (which can be mixed) and there is a €5 delivery charge, unless you are lucky enough to live in Galway, Mayo or Roscommon.
Dundalk-born Peter Boland worked for C and C, Bulmers and Beamish and Crawford and his experience enabled him to spot an oppoprtunity in a wine range which drives value rather than price. He has built a portfolio of wines which are sourced directly from France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Chile. They come from larger producers such as Boutinot, Luis Felipe Edwards and Freixenet (for their niche wines), through sales collectives such as AFW in France and down to very small family producers such as the Casavecchias in Piedmont and Domaine des Anges in the Ventoux. Wines are also purchased from other Irish importers.
Given his focus on restaurants, Peter has devoted attention to France, listing wines from Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Gascogne, Languedoc and Southern Rhone. Among those tasted were the exceptional Alsatian varietals (Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer) from Domaine Charles Baus with rrps from €17.95-€24.95. A Domaaine Chevallier Chablis 2010 was flinty and dry and a white Chateauneuf du Pape 2011 from Domaine de Sait Siffrein was a splendid blend of five grapes. A wine called 'Seraphin', in both red and white, from Domaine des Anges, caught the eye and seemed good value at €19.95, but curiously there was no sign of the same producer's wine called 'St. Patrick'. But a taste of its AOC Ventoux from 2010 confirmed why it won a bronze medal in this year's Decanter World Wine Challenge.
Italy is well represented on the Cases list with wines from Cantina Offida in Marche, several producers from Siciy, Adria Vini from Veneto, Remonti from Montepulciano and Casaveccia from Piedmont. The latter's 'Pianta' Barolo 2006 was huge and powerful, earning its €49.95 rrp with aplomb.
Spanish wines on the list are from La Mancha (Dominio de Punctum) Catalunya and Rueda.
Cases blissfullly ignores Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and California with Chile the only 'New World' representative at the tasting. Its principal suppliier is Luis Felipe Edwards through his 'Autoritas' brand
The history of Luis Felipe Edwards Wines dates back to 1976, when Luis Felipe Sr, purchased the Fundo San José de Puquillay estate, located in the Colchagua Valley. The estate was planted with 60 hectares of old vines dating back from the beginning of the 20th century, consisting mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenere and Merlot. In the early Nineties he decided to make wine under his own name and built a modern winery.
Today, Luis Felipe Edwards Wines has grown to be the largest 100% family-owned wine company in Chile with 1850 hectares of estate vineyards and a production of more than 25 million litres which is exported to 60 countries. LFE Wines also has estate vineyards in Leyda and Maule Valleys. The LFE Gran Reserva - Family Selection Malbec 2011 won the Prix Special Hemisphere Sud 2013 at the Malbec International Competition earlier this month.
With a busy local restaurant market in Galway and a resurgent 'West', Cases Wine Warehouse is well placed to build both its customer base and portfolio based on 'value' rather than 'price'.