News, Expert Opinions and general chit chat from the world of wine

JN Wine Blog

A Flavour of the Roussillon at OX Cave

Visiting wine producing regions, drinking the local wines, sampling the local cuisine and generally soaking up the culture (and probably enjoying considerably better weather) is one of the joys of travel and of having an interest in wine.  Capturing a little of that joy without the hassle and expense of travelling must surely turn an ordinary evening in Belfast into a much more memorable experience? 

OX Cave is hosting an evening with Quentin Modat from Domaine Modat on Wednesday 11 Feb.   For those of you who are unfamiliar with the wines, may we encourage you take this opportunity to sample the wines in a very convivial setting.  The OX team will be serving charcuterie and cheese to accompany the wines and Quentin Modat will be on hand to bring a flavour of his family’s life and work to Belfast.

Domaine Modat is situated in the Roussillon in the south of France, near to the Spanish border.  The vineyards are moving to organic farming and they plant traditional grape varieties but the winemaking is modern and clean and very accomplished.  These are quality wines from a quality vineyard. 

We have been working with the Modat family for a couple of years and they are building a loyal following.  The white in particular was a big hit with JN customers over Christmas.  This should be a great evening – contact OX directly to book.

Date: Wed 11th February 2015

Time: 7pm

Place: Ox Cave, 3 Oxford Street Belfast

Tickets: £35.00 

To Book: call 028 90 323567 or email:  

Places limited

Pinot Noir - the choice of red grape enthusiasts.

Ask a casual wine drinker to name their favourite red grape and chances are they’ll plump for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah - but ask a wine enthusiast and they’re odds-on to choose Pinot Noir, unless they’re showing off and pick an obscure variety like Baga or Zweigelt.

Pinot Noir’s charms lie in its succulence, its obvious fruitiness and its exquisite perfume. However, it’s a finicky grape which isn’t easily managed. It’s a sensitive soul and reacts badly to overcropping, which leads to a lacklustre wine with zero personality. Cheap Pinot Noir should be avoided at all costs. It’s also thin-skinned and isn’t at all happy in extreme heat, its best emanations coming from cooler climes, with Burgundy undoubtedly responsible for its greatest and most celebrated examples.

JN Wine is fortunate to have many high quality Pinots for customers to enjoy. These come from cool climate regions around the world. Burgundy of course predominates, with Germany, New Zealand, California, South Africa and Chile chipping in with fine examples. Our most recent Pinot Noir acquisition is also one of our best. J Christopher is a small winery located in Oregon's Willamette Valley that has been attracting the admiring attention of wine commentators.


The wines are handcrafted and are sourced in small lots from some of the best vineyards in Oregon. In 2010, the winery formed a partnership with famed German winemaker and great friend of JN Wine, Ernst Loosen. The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is the flagship J. Christopher wine. It is blended from excellent vineyards in four of the valley's top vineyard areas: Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity Hills. Made with native yeasts and aged in barrel for up to 18 months, this is classic Oregon Pinot Noir.  Silky and nuanced, it tastes of an exotic amalgam of plums, blueberries and forest, a really elegant expression of Pinot Noir.

Jay Somers and Rhonda Newell-Somers of J.Christopher Winery

Stop the press - Another exciting edition to the JN portfolio: JN has acquired all-Ireland distribution rights for New Zealand winery Felton Road, another purveyor of top-rated Pinot Noir. Please check the blog for more details soon.

Low Alcohol Wines - We've got you covered!

We are seeing a growing trend of people seeking wines lower in alcohol. If you are trying to ease off on the alcohol consumption in the New Year, looking for something light to bring to the lunch-time table, or just want to lower the chances of a sore head the next day, it’s a good place to start. Wines are increasing in alcohol content for many reasons. Firstly the demand is there – wine high in alcohol will taste bolder, fuller-bodied, and more complex due to the affect the alcohol has on our palates, so it is understandable why there is a market for these big, bold, styles. And the science based reason -  new strains of yeasts have been developed that can withstand a higher ABV, and so rather than dying off, they can continue to work away converting the sugar into alcohol to levels up to 14-15% ABV, and beyond.

There are two ways to achieve wines low in alcohol. The most common to achieve non-alcoholic wines (0.5% ABV) or very low alcohol wines (up to 5%) is to ‘dealcoholise’ them – a process that is as nasty and harsh as it sounds. It involves boiling the wine until the alcohol is removed, then adding the flavours and aromas that also escaped, back in. It’s hard to imagine that this isn’t harmful to the wine and doesn’t affect the end result.

Here at JN we believe in the natural. We strive to work with growers and producers who take a minimalist-intervention approach – let the wine do its own thing, and it will speak for itself. Naturally lower alcohol wines can be achieved in a few ways. Firstly starting with the grape varieties – some are simply suited to producing lower-alcohol wines. For example Moscato di Asti, which produces the famous sparkling wine of the same name is generally only 5.5% ABV. Riesling also produces lower alcohol wines, as well as Chenin Blanc which is an extremely versatile variety producing a range of styles. Portuguese varieties grown in the Vinho Verde region are another option.

Next, what happens in the vineyard certainly has a role to play. Vines grown in cooler climates tend to produce lower alcohol wines – as the grapes do not get to full ripeness, they have lower sugar to start with, and lower alcohol will be achieved once the fermentation is complete. Picking the grapes early has the same affect.

Finally, in the winery the winemaker can chose to stop the fermentation early – doing this at an earlier stage leaves the wine at a lower level of alcohol, and with a certain amount of sweetness, as not all the sugar has been converted.

If you have been partaking in a ‘dry January’ and would like to gently ease yourself back into the imbibing world, then try a few of these light little gems:

Forrest Doctors Sauvignon  Loosen Estate Riesling     Domaine De Rieux

         Blanc 2013                        2013                            2013

Forrest Doctors Sauvignon  Blanc 2013Loosen Estate Riesling 2013

          £11.75/€17               £10.65/€15.55             £7.99/€12.75

           SHOP NOW               SHOP NOW                  SHOP NOW

        Soalheiro Allo              Donnhoff Riesling      La Grille Rose D'Anjou 

Soalheiro Allo 12/13  Pk6Donnhoff Riesling Dry 2013 Pk6La Grille Rose D'Anjou 2013

        £9.95/€14.95                £16.50/€24.50            £8.75/€13.25

         SHOP NOW                   SHOP NOW                SHOP NOW

As you may be able to tell from the list above, low alcohol red wine are more difficult to come across, as red varieties generally need a longer ripening period, producing more sugar and, ultimately, more alcohol. A low alcohol red wine is typically considered to be around the 12-13% mark. If you are on the hunt for red wines that do a little less damage, Pinot Noir is one variety to look out for, as well as Gamay, and Primitivo, an Italian cousin of Zinfandel. But climate again has a lot to do with it. Pinot Noir from Germany is typically lower in alcohol than the New World styles, and Gamay has its home in Beaujolais, famous for a lighter-bodied style of red wines. But these aren’t the only rules in finding lighter-alcohol reds, many are now naturally made in a lighter style to suit consumer demands, regardless of variety or region of origin. Browse the shelves of your local wine merchant and find a few for yourself.

A few examples we stock:

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir          Vina Bujanda Joven 

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2012 Pk6

      £11.25/€16.50                £8.35/€12.75

        SHOP NOW                   SHOP NOW

The Vines Shiraz Cabernet Merlot    Perret Saint Joseph Red


     £7.99/€12.85                               £18.99/€25.99

      SHOP NOW                                   SHOP NOW

A Wine Evening with Doug Shafer, Shafer Vineyards. California.

Ask any JN team member who their dream wine dinner guest would be, and Doug Shafer would be up there near the top of the list. 

From spending teenage summers in the vineyard, through training to be a winemaker and bringing the family-run Shafer vineyard to the top of the wine world, he is a true Napa legend.

Having recently published a book of memoirs (a great read by the way), the evening is sure to be filled with tales and anecdotes. We will be tasting a series of top flight Shafer gems from the JN portfolio, along with a selection of newly allocated vintages due to hit our shores later this year.  

Date: Thursday 26th February 2015

Time: 7-9pm

Place: JN Tasting Room, Crossgar

Tickets: £45.00 (inc canapés) - BOOK HERE

Places limited

When is Prosecco not Prosecco?

The answer (in this instance) is when it comes out of a tap.  With the seemingly unstoppable rise in popularity and consumption of this Italian sparkling wine, bars and restaurants are very sensibly getting in on the action and serving Prosecco by the glass to their customers (a marvellous idea we say).  Some bars are now bringing in Italian sparkling wine by the keg and pouring it from a tap – much like beer or lager.  The problem is you can no longer call it Prosecco.  According to the law, Prosecco must be stored in a bottle.  The sparkling wine from a keg is therefore not Prosecco and this has caused a group of Italian winemakers to initiate legal action against British pubs and restaurants serving the wine from a keg and calling it Prosecco.  

Prosecco is not a synonym for sparkling wine or even Italian sparkling wine.  Prosecco is the name for sparkling wine made by a particular method (not the same as Champagne) using a particular variety of grape (called Glera) grown in a specific region (the Veneto region of NE Italy) with specific rules governing all kinds of things from the maximum permitted yields to the type of bottle it has to be stored in.  Anything else is simply not Prosecco.  Italian sparkling wine made from the same grape grown in the same area and made the same way served from a keg may be very similar but it’s not the same.

The rules and regulations surrounding wine and myriad other products are at times complicated and can seem unnecessary (and irrelevant) to the end user but the philosophy behind it is about protecting provenance, a unique identity and quality.  The name Prosecco carries meaning.  Because of this, any time you buy and drink a bottle of Prosecco there should be some consistency of flavour and style.  The famously well-protected identity of Champagne is the most obvious comparison.  Sparkling wine from anywhere else in the world is simply not Champagne.  

The recipe and techniques can be copied and replicated anywhere else but the fact of the matter is if it doesn’t come from that particular area around Reims in northern France and made in strict adherence to all the quality laws tied up in that name it’s just not Champagne.  The law is there to protect genuine producers and to protect the consumer. The question of how much consumers care is perhaps less clear.  Would this wine be any less popular if sold as Italian sparkling wine? How much would you care if the sparkling wine you were buying came from a keg?

Why not try some of the fabulous Prosecco we have in stock. 

Nino Franco Prosecco San Flori

Nino Franco Prosecco San Flori 12/13 6pk

£18.75 / €30.50


Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico 

Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico 6pk

£15.99 / €27.50


Sartarelli Brut Spumante

Sartarelli Brut Spumante 6pk

£15.95 / €26.99