Not a lot of people know this, but Mike’s greatest achievement was winning a gold medal with the Irish fencing team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He’s also a Michelin-starred chef, having worked as Executive Head Chef at Le Meurice in Paris in the late 90s. And he’s killed a dragon with his bare hands, after it attacked a small school in West Cork and bit his leg off.
MY WINES OF 2012 by Mike
1. Domaine Ferri Arnaud ‘La Clape’ 2010 €11.99 (6 for 5 until 31st December)
Château la Négly’s top dog, La Porte du Ciel 2008, is the best wine I had the privilege to drink this year – but then, at €100 a bottle, it would need to be. This little cracker from the same winery shares so much of the La Porte’s appeal, though. It’s simply sensational for the price – dark and savoury, silky minerals, complex and beautifully balanced, it draws you in, covers you with a warm blanket and makes everything right with the world. I couldn’t stop smiling.
2. Pago de Cirsus Vendimia Seleccionada 2009 €13.99 (6 for 5 until 31st December)
I said in January this would be the year for Spain, given the quality and value we were seeing at the back end of 2011. Maybe it was self-fulfilling but I could have filled my top 5 with Spanish wines, such was the quality of the new wineries and regions we’ve introduced. The Oak Aged from this winery is the commercial superstar at just over a tenner, but this for me is the jewel in the crown. Thick, unctuous and massively complex, it’s a €20 wine for a lot, lot less.
3. Tiger Horse Old Vine Cinsault 2011 Normally €9.99, on sale €7.99
I’ve an old pair of Timberland boots, bought in Boston in 1994, and still going. They’ve been up most of Ireland’s mountains, across fields, bogs, rivers, walked on many foreign soils, and streets, and bars, and now in their middle age, my garden. They smell just like this wine: muck, sweat, a bit of farmyard and a whole compost heap of earthy goodness. It is ridiculously characterful and tasty for the price and so nearly my wine of the year.
4. Solonio Rea Silvia 2010 Normally €12.99, on sale €9.99
As I tend to drink more red, this is my type of white – rich and full bodied, with lovely ripe stone-fruit and soft savoury spice, and a buttery mouthfeel that concentrates all the flavour so that it doesn’t disappear instantly like so many lighter whites. I had melon, butterscotch and apple crumble in my tasting notes for this, and that’s the appeal – it’s got so much going on and just makes you feel good.
5. Castelo de Medina Verdejo 2011 €11.99 (6 for 5 until 31st December)
As with the Pago de Cirsus, the Real Castelo from Castelo de Medina is the commercial superstar, but this is the queen bee from this Rueda winery. It’s beautifully weighted, with tons of sweet fruit like pear and apricot but with an underlying savouriness and beguiling complexity, with hints of herbs, floral and spice. When we’ve bored people at home with The Ned, this is the wine we bring out.