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McGuigan Wines – on the ‘shortlist’

Neill McGuigan dropped into Dublin recently to promote his McGuigan range of wines at a lunch in the Herbert Park Hotel together with his distributor here Barry & Fitzwilliam.

When B&F first inherited McGuigan Wines in 2000 it was selling 2,000 to 3,000 cases a year. Today, it’s the fifth-largest wine brand in Ireland, selling some 200,000 cases. What’s more, today the Irish consume more McGuigan per capita than any other country.

The tasting session begins with a couple of sparklers which might not have been everyone’s cup-of-tea as they were of the rosé and red varieties respectively.

Personally, few rosés float my boat – and for sparkling rosés, few can even wet its bows. But McGuigan’s Black Label Sparkling Rose with RSP €14.99 is a pleasant experience and one that might be appropriately floated to consumers this Summer.

McGuigan’s Black Label Sparkling Shiraz at €14.99 should join the ranks of those considered dubious by today’s neophyte consumer to sparkling reds of all kinds, ie me. But one has to ask how a red sparkling could taste so pleasant?  Practice, I suppose.

Nevertheless, the Australian company certainly seems to have something. Its Black Label Shiraz 2010, now in stock, is the biggest seller in the whole McGuigan portfolio in Australia where Neill – who boasts the licence plate ‘wino’ on his car – claims it to be the biggest-selling red wine there.

But Neill has more. “Where do Black Label Shiraz drinkers go when they want something with more grip?”. Step forward Black Label Cabernet Merlot 2008.

The vast portion of the McGuigan’s Black Label range sits comfortably into the €7.99 to €9.99 price bracket but Neill speaks of the “sexy yeasts” that go into making what the company has now named the aromatic Black Label Semillon Blanc 2010.

“This Semillon Blanc is ‘whack’ in your face, not a straight Semillon,” explains Neill, adding that he sees an opportunity to explore further a product like this which he claims has doubled sales in the Semillon category in the UK.

Alongside it are one or two other surprises not on our tasting list. The McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay 2010, at €20, is from the Adelaide Hills. Neill describes it as “complexity in a new package” and it’ll be available here at the end of July.

My own favourite is the Shortlist Shiraz 2009 which, at €20, shows a wine style of lower alcohol ABV “in harmony with the fruits” to provide noticeable longevity. This mellow Barossa Valley brother to the Shortlist Chardonnay sits ahead of the final offering, a super premium Handmade Shiraz 2008 from Langhorn Creek at €32, a $50 step along the way to Neill’s dream of one day selling a $100 bottle of McGuigan wine.

A $70 bottle will be coming soon, Neill promises, as part of this quest to achieve the magical $100 bottle. But why should he want to reach this price apex?  His reasoning is fairly straightforward.

“If you make the wine ‘the hero’, the business will follow,” he explains. By having to put the necessary quality of ingredients and wine-making technique into a $100 bottle of wine, he’ll be raising the bar for the main selections of wines at McGuigan – and it’s beginning to pay off.

The winery’s Riesling won the Best Wine of Show in Adelaide recently while the company itself won the IWC International Winemaker of the Year and Australian Producer of the Year. To this accolade it can add five Golds won in the US – all for Riesling.

“Every Riesling we’ve ever made for the Shortlist range has won awards,” boasts Neill before we sit down to re-sample some of the new additions to the McGuigan range over lunch.

 “If you make the wine ‘the hero’, the business will follow” -- Neill McGuigan of McGuigan Wines.

“If you make the wine ‘the hero’, the business will follow” — Neill McGuigan of McGuigan Wines.

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