Stayin' Alive - An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70's
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Stayin’ Alive – An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70’s

Isn’t it funny how powerfully evocative both scent and taste can trigger nostalgic memories? Like most first experiences, they have a rapid recall.

For those of us of a certain vintage, the seventies was a decade of bold new discoveries, endless possibilities and colour, lots of colour. Even the televisions left the black and white of the sixties behind and broadcast in technicolour and on multi-channels. We teenies and tweenies danced to a new beat, a pulsating and hypnotic beat – disco.

We donned page-boy hair styles, bell-bottom flared trousers and shiny synthetic fabrics that created enough static electricity to keep a small village street illuminated for a week. This was a time when Old Spice meant old-fashioned and Brut was what hormonal bucks splashed on after shaving and not a style of sparkling wine.

Ireland became a member of the European Economic Community (now the European Union) and one of the perks of membership was easier access to wine from our new European family. With all the zeal of a convert, we followed those with the loudest voices. Big brands befriended us with sophisticated advertising on our new colour TVs and on both channels.

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Rich toned accents seduced with easy to pronounce names and slogans: “Blue Nun, the wine of connoisseurs”. Others wooed us with distinctive bottle shapes: Black Tower, Mateus Rosé and some even semi-clad in straw – Chianti’s “fiasco”, recycled in our bedsits and flats as a classy candlestick holder shining a light on our new international good taste.

We sought sophistication by association and wine was the link and the drink. While the wines were perfectly well made, some sweetened naturally with the grape’s juice, their over-selling the connoisseurship found them out as we evolved in our relationship and then we finished the infatuation.

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Later, embarrassed by our naivety we ignored our first wine date. Still keen to find new converts, the Blue Nun and her disciples reinvented themselves to match today’s style for drier tastes. Their traditional lower levels of alcohol are finding favour with current fashion.

For years tutoring the WSET Level 3 awards, half way through the 13 week course, I’d test the students’ tasting skills by pouring an unidentified white wine in preparation for the practical blind wine tasting element of their exam.

Each student would taste and give their assessment that usually covered: “A dryish wine, pleasantly fruity, crisp acidity and fresh orchard fruit flavours, light in alcohol, no oak influence and no particular varietal character but with a long appley finish. Probably from a cool climate region in Europe. A good quality wine and ready for drinking now.”

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After the reveal when they saw the Blue Nun bottle, most were positively surprised and said they hadn’t tried it for years. Weeks later, a new fan confessed he served it at dinner parties from a chilled cut crystal decanter to appreciative guests.

However, if it wasn’t for these gentle fruity wines to introduce us to the world of wine for the first time, many of us would not have embarked on the never-ending journey of discovery that is wine. Bless them all!

Stayin' Alive - An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70's Blue Nun Original 2016, H. Sichel Söhne

10% ABV

€11.95 – Available at O’Brien’s nationwide

Very slight petillance initially when poured emphasise crisp flavours. Spring fresh aromas of freshly peeled green apples.

An off-dry palate with delicate apple and pear fruit. Moderate acidity and alcohol with a long pear fruity finish. Think Prosecco without the fizz.

Food friend: a delight with cheese platter for the grapes’ natural fruitiness to contrast with the cheese’s saltiness.

Stayin' Alive - An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70's Black Tower 2014, “Fruity White”, Reh Kendermann

9.5% ABV

€8 – €9 at Dunnes stores, Tesco and SuperValu nationwide

Delicate neutral aromas. A medium sweetness on the taste-buds but with restraint. Moderate acidity and an easy drinking style.

Food friend: chili hot vegetarian samosas will love the hint of sweetness and low level of alcohol.

Stayin' Alive - An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70's Mateus Rosé Vinho de Mesa, Sogrape, Portugal

11% ABV

€11.00 (on offer at €9.00) – Available nationwide at SuperValu, Tesco, Dunnes supermarkets and widely available at independent off-licences.

Deep rose coral colour with a little sparkle of tiny CO2 bubbles. Neutral aromas. Dry with orange zest flavours and crisp, refreshing acidity. Light-bodied and simple.

Food friend: Serve chilled with pizza.

Stayin' Alive - An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70's Chianti 2014 Castellani Toscana, Italy

12% ABV

€13.75 at O’Brien’s nationwide; Number 21 Off Licences Group; Nolan’s Supermarket, Dublin; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street and Martin’s Fairview.

Pale bright ruby appearance. Fruity aromas of cherry flesh and stone. Decent depth of flavour with typical Chianti restraint. Light-bodied in alcohol and the firm tannins balance with fresh mouth-watering acidity. A casual Chianti.

Food friend: pasta with slivers of sautéed liver and onions in a cream sauce.

Stayin' Alive - An Ode to the Technicolour Wines of the 70's Black Tower “Smooth Red” Reh Kendermann

12% ABV

€8-€9 at Dunnes stores, Tesco and SuperValu nationwide

Pale ruby in colour. Subtle fruity aromas. Although a dry palate, an impression of confection and caramel suggesting fermenting at cool temperatures to highlight a particularly fruity character. Moderate acidity and low tannins so can be served cold. A gentle introduction to red wine.

Food friend: Pasta carbonara or Caesar salad.


Liam Campbell

Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.

Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.



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