Myth and Fact!

This Myth is one we here at Karwig Wines are asked regularly:

Red wine contains sulfites, and therefore causes headaches


The term ‘sulfites’ is an inclusive term for sulfur dioxide (SO2). SO2 is a preservative and widely used in winemaking (and indeed most food industries), because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. SO2 plays a very important role in maintaining a wine’s freshness.

Consumption of sulfites is generally harmless, unless you suffer from severe asthma or do not have the particular enzymes necessary to break down sulfites in your body. The amount of sulfites that a wine can contain is highly regulated around the world. Any wine containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must affix to the label ‘contains sulfites’.

In the EU the maximum levels of sulfur dioxide that a wine can contain are 160 ppm for red wine, 210 ppm for white wine and 400 ppm for sweet wines. Quite similar levels apply in the US, Australia and around the world.

The fact that red wines typically contain less sulfites may seem surprising to people who blame sulfites for their red wine headaches!

Red wines contain tannin, which is a stabilizing agent. Additionally, almost all red wines go through malolactic fermentation. Therefore, less sulfur dioxide is needed to protect the wine during winemaking and maturation.

 So there goes myth #1.

Have you a question about wine you’ve always wanted to ask? Email (info@karwigwines.ie) the question to us and we’ll post your question and answer here.


Irish Connection Part 2 – Domaine Aonghusa

Continuing on with our Irish Connection Wines, we are proud in introduce Pat Neville and his Corbieres wines – Domaine Aonghusa. Remember between now and the 17th March, we’ve 30% OFF our featured Irish Connection Wines

The Region:

Fontjoncouse (‘Source of the rushes’) is a small picturesque village set in a ruggedly beautiful, unspoiled chunk of garrigue in the Haut Corbieres. Fontjoncouse is one of those French villages where you would be forgiven for wondering if there is anybody home. From its hillside perch you can see the Mediterranean. Up here it’s quiet. There is, of course, a purr of traffic to its two-star Michelin restaurant, Auberge du Vieux Puits.

The Story:

The Irishman, Pat Neville from Wellington Bridge, Wexford, now lives an hour from Carcassonne; a couple of hours flying time from Dublin and a world away from St Peter’s College, Wexford, where this journey began. It’s a passion he shares with his wife, Catherine McGuinness. From their very earliest days, the couple spent holidays visiting vineyards wondering why it was that people were prepared to pay for a particular soil, a year. Eventually the lure of a return to formal study led him to UCC, a degree in English and Greek and Classic Civilization, an MA exploring language through Old English riddles, and a couple of years as a senior tutor. The couple then moved to Holland and later to Geneva.

He was 45 and “almost giving up” in 2001 when their search for their own vineyard ended in Corbieres AC, one of a number of winemaking regions in Languedoc- Roussillon.

The Vineyard:

A house in Fontjoncouse with its own winery and eight hectares of vines and Domaine Aonghusa (McGuinness) was born. They have added another four hectares, including a plot of 60-year-old Grenache vines. The vineyard work is geared to producing high quality fruit in the most environmentally friendly way possible and yields can be as low as 20hl/ha. Treatments are limited to what’s necessary to avoid disease but the approach is based on common sense, not cosmological tomfoolery. In well established vines natural fauna is left to compete / cooperate with the vines and is generally is controlled by mulching and strimming. This sometimes result in ‘untidy’ looking but living vineyards.

The Vines:

The vines are planted on fossil strewn slopes at between 200 and 250 metres altitude. Soils and textures are varied: clay limestone, shale, scree are most common and sometimes occur in the same vineyard. In places the vines are planted almost directly into the mother rock, and struggle to gain a foothold. The grape varieties planted here are typically Mediterranean: Grenache, Carignan Syrah, Cinsaut. Some of the vines were planted as early as 1903, some 100 hundred years later.

 The Process:

The grapes are harvested in small fruit baskets and are sorted in the vineyards. They are destemmed and slightly crushed and depending on the year and the sugar levels, the fermentations are carried out by wild or selected yeasts. In general, Pat tends to use selected yeasts if the sugar levels are very high. The fermentations take place at their own pace in the relatively cool cellar.

They try to use as little of SO2 as possible at all stages. Depending on the year or particular vat, maceration can extend from 10 to 25 days.

In general the wines are aged half in barrels of different ages and size, half in vat. Again the percentages depend on the year and vat. Bottling usually takes place 12 – 28 months after the harvest. The wines are sometimes lightly fined but are not filtered and a minimal dose of SO2 and gum arabica is added to ensure stability.

 The Wines:

Domaine Aonghusa Noah

Climate: Hot, dry, windy Mediterranean modified by altitude.

Vineyard: South /south east facing slopes of clay limestone / shaley marl at 150-220 metres altitude.

Harvest: By hand in small 10kg fruit baskets. There followed a separate selection process in the vineyard where all remaining sub-quality fruit was removed.

Fermentation: The fruit was destemmed and lightly crushed and the alcoholic fermentation was carried out by indigenous yeasts. The wine was lightly fined and bottled unfiltered.

Domaine Aonghusa Cuvee Laval

Climate: Hot, dry, windy Mediterranean modified by altitude.

Grape varieties: 50% Grenache (25 year-old); 50% Carignan (101 year-old).

Vineyard: South /south east facing slopes of clay limestone / shaley marl at 225 metres altitude in a lieu known locally in Occitan as ‘Laval’ or ‘The Valley’.

Harvest: By hand in small 10Kg fruit baskets. There followed a separate selection process in the vineyard where all remaining sub-quality fruit was removed. Both varieties were picked in several goes.

Fermentation: Traditional fermentation of both grape varieties together. The fruit was destemmed and lightly crushed and the alcoholic fermentation was carried out by indigenous yeasts. Half of the wine then spent 10 months in 2-year-old 225 litre casks (origin – Chateau Tertre Rotebouef) before being reassembled with the remainder in vat for another 10 months. Bottled by hand, no fining or filtration.

Pat is no longer merely visiting, but working vineyards. “I want to make a wine where the third glass is more interesting than the first, not one where everything you want to know is in the first mouthful.”

It hasn’t all been easy, but Pat says this was about pursuing a passion rather than fulfilling a romantic dream. “We do it because we want to and have been able to.”



The Irish Connection

German – Irish Wines?

With St. Patrick’s Day, our national holiday just around the corner, it got us thinking again about our ‘Irish Wines’. We have a number of wines which can someway or another be traced back to Ireland.  So between now and the 17th March, we’ll be publishing a blog on each of our featured wines which we are offering 30% off from now until Patrick’s Day.

So let’s get started with Germany:

Burgerspital is located in a fantastically beautiful courtyard right in the middle of Würzburg, is one of the largest wine-growing estates in Germany and one of the most important with a wine-growing area of 110 hectares.

The slopes and steep sites of the hills along the River Main offer ideal conditions for growing wine. The sun smiles upon the vineyards quite early in the year, the Shelly limestone soil (Muschelkalk) storing the warmth.  The location, the soil, the climate, the proximity to the river, the selection of the types of vine and the art of the Bürgerspital wine-growers enable exceptional wines to be grown here.

Burgerspital is renowned for using the “Bocksbeutel” – a flattened, round bottle-shaped like a leather pouch for bottling the wine – and yes it is a full-sized bottle holding 750ml.

In 1726 the Council of the City of Würzburg decided that the “Bocksbeutel” be the mark of quality compared with poorly produced wines. To this day, the first sealed specimens of the Bocksbeutel are stored in Bürgerspital’s cellars.  Bürgerspital has been totally committed to the Bocksbeutel’s claim to quality right up to the present day

The Vineyard:
The most favourable conditions for viticulture in Germany are the south and southwest-facing slopes of protected valleys, e. g. along the Rhine and its tributaries as well as the valleys of the Elbe, Saale and Main rivers. The exposure to sunlight is more intense on slopes than on flat sites and slopes with a southern exposure also profit from longer periods of sunshine.All Bürgerspital sites are Einzellagen (individual vineyard sites) and located in the heart of the specified wine-growing region Franken (Franconia).
Würzburger Stein
They only cultivate classical varietals (Riesling, Silvaner, Weißer Burgunder, Gewürztraminer, Rieslaner, Scheurebe) on some 30 hectares in the world-renowned location Würzburger Stein. Its terroir being a rare combination of the micro-climate, soil and the slope inclination, direction and proximity to the river – offers wines of the very highest quality.
Bürgerspital wines have been awarded numerous prestigious national and international prizes and have won wine-tasting competitions held by celebrated sommeliers and wine journalists.
This wine-growing estate is a founding member of the VDP (Association of German Top-Quality Wine-Growing Estates). The VDP is the elite of Germany´s wine producers. A distinguishing feature all VDP wines show is the eagle on the neck of the bottle.


But what has this to do with Ireland I hear you ask, well, St Killian, who is the Patron Saint of Wurzburg, hailed originally from Co.  Cavan. Burgerspital Cellars sit in the heart of Wurzburg town, in the shadow of St. Killian.

Saint Killian’s feast day is July 8 and he is usually portrayed, as in his statue at Würzburg, bearing a bishop’s crozier and wielding a sword. The Kiliani-Volksfest (two weeks in July) is the main civil and religious festival in the region around Würzburg.


James Halliday scores Pfeiffer reds 95, 95 and 94

“Chris Pfeiffer’s daughter Jen was four years old when she accompanied her parents to an auction for a then-vacant building in Waghunyah, Victoria. “I can remember how cold the floor was, and being incredibly bored,” she told me recently.

Rutherglen was in a dismal state: Lindemans’s had closed its Corowa fortified winery (across the Murray River, on the NSW side). Seppelt was also turning its back, selling off vineyard land in pieces, and the old Seppeltsfield Distillery plus a couple of hectares of adjoining vines.

Chris Pfeiffer had been the winemaker/manager of the Corowa winery, and had decided to accept the redundancy package rather than transfer to another part of the firm’s business. Thus he had enough money to buy the distillery, start establishing the “brood stock” (very old muscat and Topaque), refurbish part of the building for making table wine and eventually introduce a cellar door.

Life went on for Jen. At university she enrolled in science-law (because she didn’t know what else she wanted to do). Almost accidentally, work experience at Brown Brothers and overseas travel in France and Portugal added to her winemaking experience. On her return there was an option of joining the family business and she did so in 2001, still with no certainty that this would become a lifetime job. There was no Eureka moment, but in 2005 she became de facto chief winemaker, albeit with Chris ever able to give advice when needed.

Jen has the same self-set mission as any good winemaker: “To make better wines than I have ever made before”. In 2010 she did spectacularly well; Pfeiffer Wines won the trophy for Most Successful Exhibitor at the 2011 Victorian

Wines Show, Trophies for the 2010 Merlot and the 2010 Shiraz, and top gold medals for the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, NV Grand Topaque and NV Classic Topaque.

Overall, the 2011 year showered Pfeiffer with eight trophies, 16 gold medals and 15 silver medals. Bronze medals? Too many to count.

 2010 Pfeiffer Shiraz

A blend of two parcels, one feremented in stainless steel to conclusion, the other pressed to American and French oak halfway through fermentation. Bright, clear crimson; particularly notable for its elegance and fragrance; light-to medium-bodied, but very long; fresh cherry fruit, controlled oak and tannins. 14.5% alc; screwcap

95 points; to drink to 2025

 2010 Pfeiffer Cabernet Sauvignon

After a cold soak of four days, fermentation took place in two stainless steel fermenters; one of these was split two-thirds of the way through fermentation, with the standout portion transferred to new French oak hogsheads for the conclusion of fermentation. Excellent crimson-purple; has an expressive, varietal bouquet with blackcurrant/cassis to the fore; the medium-bodied plate is long, silky and very well-balanced, new oak making a contribution, the tannins fine-grained. 14.5% alc; screwcap

95 points; drink t0 2020;

The Weekend Australian Magazine February 11-12, 2012 – Article By James Halliday


Australian Stickies Tasting

With a savoury budget due on December 6th, a touch of sweetness is in order to, as Mary P would say, make the medicine go down.

So Wine Australia are hosting a delicious sweet wine tasting in Cork on the 6th December in the Hayfield Manor Hotel, Cork City.

Affectionately known as “Stickies” Down-under, the story of the Australian wine world is steeped in fortified and dessert wine making. Often tricky to sell, the one time that they do find favour is around Christmas. So perfect timing for you to join us and try a range of these wines from Australia.

Joining us to lead the presentation duties is Chris Pfeiffer, owner and wine maker of Pfeiffer Wines in the Rutherglen. A regular visitor to Cork with a huge passion for these wine styles, Chris is the ideal person to take us on this sweet journey.

So whether you have a sweet tooth, are looking for a different present for the wine lover in your life or on occasion you’d just prefer to pour (instead of make) your dessert, this is the tasting for you.

The cost is €20 per person, which includes the tasting and tasty nibbles afterwards.

The tasting begins at 7pm, and with only 30 places, book your passage early.

To do so, please contact John at Wine Australia on ireland@wineaustralia.com or 065 7077 264.

 If you need any further information, please get in touch.


Beaujolais Nouveau, did you know?


Who knows what about Beaujolais Nouveau? Have you tried it? Did you like it? Would you buy it? We’ve put together some facts about Beaujolais Nouveau:

Did you know:

  •  At the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday of every November, the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released.
  •  Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a young wine only 6 weeks old, comes from a region south of Burgundy in France. French culture practically dictates that the light-bodied and fruity wine must be finished by Christmastime and the French government has put regulations delaying the wine’s release until the third week in November.
  •  The region of Beaujolais is 34 miles long from north to south and 7 to 9 miles wide. There are nearly 4,000 grape growers who make their living in this picturesque region just north of France’s third largest city, Lyon.
  •  All the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand. These are the only vineyards, along with Champagne, where hand harvesting is mandatory.
  •  Gamay is the only grape permitted for Beaujolais. While certain California wineries may label their wine “Gamay Beaujolais” this is not the same grape variety as what is grown in France, and is quite different in taste and growing habits.
  •  Beaujolais Nouveau owes its easy drinkability to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration—also called whole berry fermentation. This technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the wine, without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins.
  •  Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young-in average vintages it should be consumed by the following May after its release. However, in excellent vintages (such as 2000) the wine can live much longer and can be enjoyed until the next harvest rolls around.
  •  Serve Beaujolais Nouveau slightly cool, at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit / 12 degrees -the wine is more refreshing and its forward fruit more apparent than if you serve it at room temperature.
  •  Approximately 1/3 of the entire crop of the Beaujolais region is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau


There are approximately 120 festivals to honor the arrival of this enticing young wine in the Beaujolais region alone.

The biggest of which takes place in Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. This little city springs to life during this weekend in November, hosting a massive party called Sarmentelles. The party gets its name from the French word for cuttings from the canes of grapevines called sarments, which are burned in the center of town just prior to the grand midnight unveiling.

 Then the huge barrels are opened too much fanfare and party-goers indulge in the new wine for the festival’s 3 day duration. Other areas in France also boisterously celebrate the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau. Lyon hosts the Beaujolympiades (Beaujolympics), marking the release of the wine with music and fireworks followed by 2 days of sampling.

 In Paris, restaurants and bistros host their Beaujolais Nouveau parties, staying open through the night and uncorking hundreds of bottles after midnight.

So come Thursday 17th, we at Karwigs will be raising a glass to this age long tradition, will you?


Dinner Party anyone?

I love Dinner Parties, be it in my home or my friends, I find there is nothing better than sitting down with good friends over a meal, a few bottles of wine and having a good old natter. Added to this is my love of cooking and experimenting with food – and as of yet I have not managed to kill anyone!

With the (dare I say it) recession rumbling along in the background, a lot of us are turning back to ‘The Dinner Party’. This got me thinking, so with the help of our resident rep / chef – Marcus we sat down and talked food, then added the matching wines. Nearly all of the ingredients were locally sourced and in season. These recipes and wines have all been tried and tested by me:

Starter: Crab cakes with apple and beetroot salsa. We would recommend the following wines:  White Burgundy, German Riesling or a Sparkling Wine

Main Course: Roast loin of lamb with a spicy rub. Lamb goes incredibly well with a red Bordeaux (Cabernet), Italian Piedmont or Rioja

Dessert: Berry shortbread cheesecake slice – my own personal favourite, served with a Vouvray or delicious Dessert Wines

In the style of Come Dine with Me, we’re introducing ‘Come Dine With Karwigs’! Have you a favourite recipe you’d like to share with us?

Why not send it in to me, I’ll post it here on our Blog, Twitter and our Facebook pages and the recipe that gets the most votes, wins a bottle of wine.

You must be over 18 to enter the competition and delivery is to Republic of Ireland addresses only

Because Life Is Too Short To Drink Boring Wine . . .

Karwig Wines are importers, wholesalers and retailers of selected and estate bottled wines from all over the world. Its all about the wine. We have one of the broadest selections of wine from quality Old World and New World producers.



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