Friday, February 5, 2016

Amuse Bouche

‘I wish to announce that the strike is over,’ Kilroy said simply. I waited on in Kilroy’s cell to write an announcement of the end of the strike for our Press outside, and I was still there when a nurse came in with the first egg-flips and brandy. You have missed one of life’s great moments if you haven’t tasted a brandy egg-flip after a forty one day’s fast.


from The Gates Flew Open by Peadar O’Donnell

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Munster Wine & Dine Launch. Up and Running!

Munster Wine & Dine Launch.
Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 18.57.59 copy.pngUp and Running!
Anthony (right) and Daniel (3rd right) at the launch.
The Munster Wine & Dine Circle is up and rolling. A full house at Jacques saw the 2016 launch in midweek. Lots of chat and information for the year ahead while Ummera Smoked and Stonewell Cider were the opening night stars. And of course, the kitchen at Jacques also played a blinder.

Munster Wine & Dine is a bunch of like-minded people, eager to taste the best the region has to offer and also to see how food and drink is produced. Last year, breweries, cider-makers, cheese-makers, gin producers, a smokery, and various restaurants (including Farmgate, The Tannery and Longueville House) were visited. And the coming twelve months should see something similar in the programme.

Last Wednesday though was the first step and here, Anthony Cresswell of Ummera and his brother-in-law Daniel Emerson of Stonewell told us about their enterprises. And they had some surprises in store.
Smoked duck, with its cider jelly!
We were each handed a glass of bubbles as we arrived and who doesn't love Prosecco! And some of us were fooled. This wasn't Prosecco at all but a sparkling cider called Esterre. Made exclusively from the beautiful Elstar Apple (grown in Tipperary and Waterford), Esterre is a sparkling cider "with reflections of a sparkling wine".  This is dry, really dry, is clean and crisp in the mouth with tart elements of the orchard and citrus notes and a smooth finish.

The first of our five courses soon appeared: Ummera Smoked Salmon with horseradish cream and beetroot relish. Delicious. Ummera is the only Irish smokery licenced to do both fish and meat. Smoked Chicken is always a favourite in this house and it was outstanding in Jacques with baby gem, pickled fennel and orange and was accompanied by Stonewell Dry Cider (the one that bites back, according to Daniel).

Then it was the turn of the Medium Dry Cider in a dual role. It accompanied the marvellous smoked duck served with a Kale crisp, a hazelnut salsa and a jelly made from the cider! Great match.
Stonewell's Tawny

The same cider also accompanied the next dish: Smoked bacon potato cake, crispy bacon, mustard cream and glazed apple. These Ummera rashers are amazing, perhaps the best around. And appreciated not just in Ireland. Anthony told us that a restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome is a regular customer. So if you get a great smell of rashers next time you visit the fountain there, then you know where it originally came from.

And the brothers-in-law had another surprise for us at the end. At least Daniel had. The cheese plate, with Knocklara and Durrus, was accompanied by a classy Tawny made by Stonewell from the fermented juice of Michelin and Dabinett apples and “elaborated with El Dorado dry hops”.  It keeps well and has an abv of 15%. It is described as “an opulent complex cider with chewy tannins and hints of fruit. Delightful as a slightly chilled aperitif but equally as a cheese or dessert accompaniment”. No arguing with that in Jacques last night.

Many of those present joined Munster Wine & Dine on the night and we are all looking forward to the events ahead. If you’d like to join, please contact the secretary at iwfsmunster@gmail.com. Below you’ll find a leaflet that was handed out at the launch and it gives a good idea of what you’ll be getting into!




We usually have something in the Spring. Last year we had a Beer versus Wine fight in L’Atitude. Don’t worry, no bottles or blows thrown. This year the plan is to get one or more of the new distilleries in to give a tasting. That will probably be in March or April.

Once the extra daylight comes in, we usually do a short evening trip to a local producer. Last year, we had a great time at Frank Hederman. This year, we’re talking to a local coffee roaster Golden Bean and hoping to get a local bean to bar chocolatier visit the roastery at the same time.
Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 18.57.59 copy.png
In the summer, we usually have a field trip. Away for the day and much of the night too. Last year was outstanding with a call to the Fermoy Natural Cheese farm, a visit to Dungarvan Brewing, a gin tasting and a fantastic meal at The Tannery. The likely one this time is being set up to include a visit to Cashel Blue cheese, the Apple Farm in Cahir, hopefully with the fruit trees in blossom and cider available, and a wine-tasting and dinner at Ballinwillin House.

We usually have two events in the Autumn. The highlight last time was a visit to Longueville House. A tour of the orchards (harvesting was in progress), then we saw the cidrerie and the distillery and there was lots of tasting, back then to the house to be greeted with mugs of mulled cider before settling into a great lunch, with wine and more apple brandy. And then a long snoozy session in front of the open fire before the bus came to bring us back. We’ll have to work hard to replicate that one! But we are working on a few ideas.

We also had an Italian night in the Farmgate. We may do something like that again as there are quite a few international chefs now working in the Cork area. It also depends a bit on how many new members we can attract. And we’re hoping to attract more as word of the massive reduction in the annual fee gets around.

You can see there is something in the provisional list for everyone. And we are open to suggestions. You can also see that there is plenty of variety each year. If you like good food, good drink, good company and a good time, you've come to the right place.

California Wines – Less is More; The Golden State at Ballymaloe

California Wines – Less is More
The Golden State at Ballymaloe
Grainstore at Ballymaloe


California Wines will be visiting East Cork on Wednesday, 9th March for a
tasting of California Wines. Liam Campbell, wine editor of The Irish
Independent, will conduct the seminar. Ballymaloe House will host the
tasting in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe.


The theme of the evening will be: California Wines - Less is More -
reflecting the new evolving style of more subtle flavours and balancing
alcohol. Less is More will focus in particular on Sonoma and Carneros,
because, as the coolest subzones, they are excellent examples of elegant
style, with their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs - among the most foodfriendly
and versatile of grape varietals.


The California Wines Tasting takes place in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe
House from 7 – 8.30pm on the evening of Wednesday 9th March. Liam
will guide his guests through eight elegant wines and explain why they
work well with suggest food pairings.


Tickets for the event are €10 and available directly from Ballymaloe
House. Please book early to avoid disappointment. Please contact
Ballymaloe Tel 021 4652531 colm@ballymaloe.ie www.ballymaloe.ie

Press release

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kelly’s Patch Wines Victoria to Magherafelt

Kelly’s Patch Wines
Victoria to Magherafelt
Jonny Callan (left) and Matt Herde in Dublin
From way down in South-Eastern Australia comes the collection of very drinkable Kelly’s Patch wines. I came across them a year or so ago in Karwig’s and came across the team behind them at the recent Australia Day Tasting in the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin where Wine Australia showed over 200 wines to illustrate the diversity of wine in the vast country.

Cabroso Wines were showing the Kelly’s range and here we were delighted to meet up with Jonny Callan and Brian Shaw from the Irish end (they are based in Magherafelt, County Derry) and Matt Herde (see his short tasting videos via the links below) from the Australian end in Victoria. Brian himself was just back after no less than four years spent working and studying in the wine industry in Australia and New Zealand.

All their wines are single varietal. The whites are Kelly's Patch Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay while the reds are Merlot and Shiraz. They also have a pair specially developed for the on licence trade, namely Kelly's Gang Shiraz and Kelly's Gang Sauvignon Blanc which you can watch out for in restaurants.
Took the opportunity to taste most of these in Dublin and they are very pleasant wines indeed, all easy drinking and all well priced at €11.99 for the off licence bottles. The Pinot Grigio is beautiful and fresh. The Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and vibrant with good tropical fruits.


The Merlot surprised me with its plummy spicy fruit, very concentrated with a lovely soft mouthfeel, a very nice drop indeed. The Kelly’s Patch Shiraz is also very good, warm and hearty, fruit-forward and enjoyable as Matt says here in this short video.

We later had the chance to taste two of the wines, including their star, the Kelly’s Last Wish Shiraz, at our leisure and the notes follow.

Kelly’s Patch Chardonnay 2014 (South East Australia), 13.5%, €11.99, available at Karwig Wines and other stockists http://kellyspatch.com/wheretobuy/


The fruit for this comes from Goulburn Valley where Chardonnay is the leading white grape. The aromas are an inviting mix, mainly fruity but with some floral elements. Colour is a bright medium gold with green tints. Importantly, oak use has been careful and applied to only a portion of the wine. Extended lees contact has enhanced the structure. There is indeed a refreshing balance of fruit and lively acidity and a very good finish to boot. Well made, good value and Highly Recommended.


Matt’s video here.


Kelly’s Last Wish Shiraz 2014, Central Victoria, 14.5%, €19.99 Stockists

Central Victoria is Shiraz country and the Last Wish, with its abundant succulent flavour and character is an excellent example. The fragrance of plums and the lift of spice are found in the attractive aromas and a palate full of concentrated fruit follows, oak too but really well integrated. With its tremendous fruit and spice, this is a complete wine, one that the winery say will keep for seven years. Not full on but nicely judged, as Hugh Johnson might say. Highly Recommended.
Ned Kelly's "mark" on left hand pic.
Just in case you haven't guessed it, Kelly's Patch is named after Ned Kelly,  an Australian bushranger of Irish descent. He was born in the British colony of Victoria as the third of eight children to an Irish convict from County Tipperary and an Australian mother with Irish parentage.


Kelly is one of Australia's greatest folk heroes, according to a government website. “He has been memorialised by painters, writers, musicians and filmmakers alike. More books, songs and websites have been written about Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang than any other group of Australian historical figures.” Read more here.

Briefly, he was born in 1855 and hanged in 1880. His last wish was to be buried in consecrated ground but that didn't take place until 2013 when he was reinterred in Greta Cemetery in Victoria.


South-Eastern Australia is a Geographical Indication (GI) covering the entire southeastern third of Australia. This area's western boundary stretches 1250 miles (2000 km) across the Australian continent, from the Pacific coast of Queensland to the Southern Ocean coast in South Australia. This vast viticultural "super zone" effectively encompasses every significant Australian wine region outside Western Australia.


Australia Day Tasting in Dublin 27.01.16
Part One (whites)
Part Two (reds)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Taste of the Week. Gubbeen Salami

Taste of the Week
Gubbeen Salami
In a 2014 article in the Guardian newspaper, Fingal Ferguson credited his Spanish maternal grandmother with a big role in his love of producing chorizo and salami (and much more) on the family farm in West Cork.

Fingal spent many a summer holidays with his grandmother’s family in Andalucia and obviously learned much, not that he has ever stopped learning the techniques, never discarding the traditions.

We should all give mucho thanks to his Abuelita (his mother too is fulsomely credited) as Gubbeen pork products are now renowned not just in West Cork, not just in Ireland, but further afield, hence the Guardian's interest.

I have been enjoying the Gubbeen chorizo for quite a while now but it is only relatively recently I got into the salami. Lightly smoked and with gentle spices, it is our Taste of the Week. The initial “toughness” quickly vanishes on the palate and soon you are savouring that delicious blend of smoke and spice. Close your eyes and you're in Andalusia. Sherry, please!

The Farmer's Markets, especially Mahon Point every Thursday, Bantry (Friday), Skibbereen (Saturday), and Schull on Sundays in summer, are places you’ll find a Gubbeen stall, and lots of advice on using the wide range and variety of products, including dry-cured bacon, salami, pistachio salami, chorizo, fresh ribs and chops.

For the rest of the country and abroad, check out the Gubbeen outlets and distributors here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dublin's Australian Day Tasting. The Red Wines. Shiraz Stars

Dublin's Australian Day Tasting
Part 2. The Red Wines. Shiraz Stars.
Shiraz. Wine Australia photo from 2016 vintage.
To see Part 1 (on the white wines, mainly), please click here

The diversity of Australian wines wasn't perhaps the most demanding of themes for the recent Australia Day Tasting in Dublin! There are some great choices already in Ireland and more coming our way, at all price levels. Australia has over sixty wine regions, so somewhere there is a terroir suitable for virtually every single grape variety and indeed almost all grape varieties are grown there; resulting wines can be single varietal or a blend.


We are moving on now to our second tour of the room in the Royal Hibernian Academy, the red route. All that after a chat with fellow wine scribe Richard Magnier who was enjoying the concentrated excellence available at the Focus Table for Chardonnay and Shiraz. Check Part 1 (the whites) here.


But before we get on to the well known Shiraz, I’d like to draw your attention to some less well known ones from Australia.  Wine Australia: “Winemakers and principals have been visiting the market throughout the year to promote the diversity of flavours and styles, regions and terroirs together with the food friendly, vibrant, evolving styles and emerging varieties.”


Food friendly and vibrant can easily be applied to the Merlot from Kelly’s Patch and shown by Jonny Callan of Cabroso Wines. McGuigan’s too have a Merlot in their Black Label series as have Yellow Tail while Wolf Blass has a Malbec. Penfolds have a Mataro (Mourvedre to you and me).


And if you like your Chianti it's entirely possible you'll like the De Bortoli Bella Riva Sangiovese 2013, from the King Valley in Victoria. Not too many Pinot Noirs on show but I did enjoy the De Bortoli Windy Peak 2013 from the Yarra Valley, superb flavour and balance here, even it's their third label. 

Missed out on tasting one from Tasmania, an ideal area for the grape, but there was Tasmanian fruit (along with fruit from Victoria) in the excellent Hardy’s PRB Pinot Noir 2014.


No shortage of red wine blends in the tasting.  And one of the best was the Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (2012) from the Barossa, so well balanced, very quaffable indeed. All we were short was Jane Ferrari! Didn't quite get the same grá, at first sip, for the Peter Lehmann Clancy's Red (Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) - might need a second go!


And then, at the Findlaters table, there was 19 Crimes, named after the 19 listed crimes that made you a criminal in these parts and gave you a one way ticket to Australia. The “wine celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built”. 

And this intense flavoursome wine is quite a blend with Shiraz (57.1%), Cabernet Sauvignon (19.3%), Grenache (10%) and Merlot (6.4%) included. The Australians can blend a wine as good as any and can also tell the tales. Read about one of the “criminals” here, a Irish poet called John O’Reilly.


But tales and marketing can only bring you so far. The quality must be there and it is rarely lacking in Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Let's start with the Cab Sauv and a lovely easy drinking one, again from the Findlater table, the Gentleman’s Collection 2014 from South Australia. For fifteen euro, this one ticks most of the boxes.


At Table 14 (Whelehan Wines), I asked for the Parker Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet 2013 (29.95). CL is a major Cabernet fan and thought she had struck gold. And it is a beauty - great balance structure and fruit.
Coonawarra Terra Rossa soil


But it would soon be eclipsed(!) by the Parker Coonawarra Estate First Growth 2010 (€85.00). This is produced only in seasons of exceptional fruit quality. It's made from predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon from their Abbey vineyard and some vintages, including this one, contain a small portion of Merlot and/or Petit Verdot. It is perfection. Best Cab Sauv I tasted for the afternoon!


Australia can boast much richer stocks of ancient Shiraz/Syrah vines than France. It was one of the country’s original varieties and many vines there are now well over 100 years old. While Shiraz (42,000 hectares) may well be Australia's signature variety (think Penfolds Grange), the style is ever-changing, from “classic full-bodied” to “delicate interpretations”.

“While Barossa may be the jewel in Australia's Shiraz crown”, quite a few other, often cooler, areas are also making their mark. Let's see what I got to taste in Dublin and, remember again, I didn't taste every example.


Kelly’s Patch, the vineyard with the Irish connection (not the only one!), had no less than three, headed by the award winning Kelly’s Last Wish 2014 (€19.99), from Central Victoria, really well-made, with fragrant aromas and a palate full of concentrated fruit and spice. The name comes from a story concerning the outlaw Ned Kelly's final wish, another tale on a bottle.


Peter Lehmann is famous for reds and, from a whole stable of Shiraz, my pick was the Futures 2011 (30.00), from the Barossa. Fruit and spice galore and an ABV of 14.5%. Most Australian Shiraz will be up around that, some even above.


D'Arenberg’s Dead Arm is their best known Shiraz but, with diversity in mind, I sampled the mid-range The Footbolt 2012  (€22.00) from the McLaren Vale. Another superb example with typical fruit and spice.


Hard to go wrong with Shiraz in this room. They just kept getting better. And Findlaters had quite a gem in the Wynns Coonawarra Estate Michael 2012, succulent, well integrated, well made with great length. The Shiraz Star of the Show?
The O'Brien family: Helen, Charlie and Kevin at home in McLaren Vale


That’s what I was thinking until I came to taste the Kangarilla Road The Devil’s Whiskers 2013 from the McLaren Vale. After that, I reckon the Best in Show title will have to be shared with Kevin and Helen O’Brien’s magnificent wine. Kevin was there himself: “It is consistent, ages beautifully. I tasted the 05/06 recently and it is beautiful vibrant, lovely.” This 2013 seems to be heading in the same delicious direction.


We have been missing the brilliant Kangarilla Road wines these past few years in Ireland. Kevin, like quite a few other Australian winemakers, came to the Dublin show searching for a distributor. Kangarilla, with so many superb wines in the range and popular in the UK, would be a fantastic addition to any portfolio here.


To learn a little more on Shiraz, check out this podcast.

To see Part 1 (on the white wines, mainly), please click here
Post also on the wines of Kelly's Patch here


  • Over 200 wines. Phew. To be honest, I didn’t set out to taste every one. And, even if I had managed the feat, that still wouldn't have given the complete picture of the diversity found in Australian wine today. Many more wines were available in the London tasting for example and some Irish favourites, such as Cullen Wines from the Margaret River, Tim Adams from the Clare Valley, the Palmers of Skillogalee, gentleman Chris Pfeiffer of Rutherglen, the Brysons of Morambro Creek in Padthaway, were among those not present in Dublin for one reason or another.
The Royal Hibernian Academy



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Australia’s Wine Diversity On Show in a Dublin Gallery

Australia’s Wine Diversity
On Show in a Dublin Gallery
(Part 1)


Diversity was the theme for last week’s Australia Day Wine Tasting in the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, a theme that was well illustrated indeed with over 200 wines to be tasted.*


Everything from a high quality Tasmanian sparkling wine, Jansz Premium Cuvee NV, to a d’Arenberg Rare Tawny (had that lined up for my very last sip but, stupidly, forgot about it - next time!). And so much good stuff in between, including a special Focus Table for Shiraz and Chardonnay for which the country is justly famous. Diversity is rampant, according to Hugh Johnson. "And we can choose: the full-on or the nicely judged."


Wine Australia is happy that Ireland “maintains its love of Australian wines, with bottled imports up 26%. Higher price point segments are pushing the overall value up, helped by the advantages of the exchange rate.”


There was no shortage though of lower priced "nicely judged" wines at the show, some very well known ones like the Casella Yellowtail  (lovely Chardonnay), the less well-known Kelly's Patch selection (most of them easy drinking and easy on the pocket at €11.99, plus a couple especially developed for restaurant lists), Deakin Estate’s list includes an award winning Sauvignon Blanc (Victoria) along with an impressive Artisan’s Blend (Semillon and Sauvignon blanc).


At the top end of the price scale you had memorable marvels such as Parker Coonawarra Estate First Growth and the gorgeous Tyrrell’s Winemaker's Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2010 (from the Tindall stand). Each is the Signature Wine of the respective vineyards, according to James Halliday in his Wine Atlas.
With Richard Magnier (@motleycru) in the RHA


The Hunter Valley is well known for Semillon, a grape that I rather like and one that you rarely see on its own in Europe.  But this 2010 by Tyrrell’s is a gem, no oak, great fruit and terrific acidity.


No shortage of Riesling here and the first to impress was the super Hardy’s HRB 2014 with its great balance of fruit and acidity. Clare Valley produces some terrific Rieslings and we got a whiff of petrol as we sampled Jim Barry’s The Lodge Dry Hill 2014, an excellent wine. And that was matched, maybe even shaded, by Peter Lehmann Wigan Eden Valley 2006, superb flavours and aromas and more of the petrol, again his signature wine according to Halliday.


The Wirra Wirra Lost Watch, at the Tindal’s stand, was one of the driest of the Rieslings and it too had petrol in the aromas; great fruit too with some style, top quality and an all round excellent wine. All the Riesling though would need food methinks.


Table 3 (C&C Gleeson) had an offering from Tasmania and our second sip from the island was the Eddystone Point Gris 2013, a lovely almost creamy wine. On then to Cassidy Wines and our first taste of a Margaret River wine.


Chardonnay “is a headline act for Australia” but having moved away from the “bold full-bodied Chardonnays of the late 20th century, today’s wines are excitingly varied” and Australia now offers “more restrained and balanced examples of this versatile variety.” Don’t think there’s any great news here as this trend has been there with some time but no harm in having it confirmed with some style in Dublin.


The Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2014 (24.99), inviting fruity and matching acidity, really well balanced, is one to note. Vasse Felix, by the way, was founded in 1967 and is the first winery to be built in the Margaret River.


And the Chardonnay just got better at Febvre who had a smashing De Bortoli Estate Growth 2013 from the Yarra Valley. So well made, rounded. Close your eyes and you could be sipping in Burgundy. Their 2013 Windy Peak (also from the Yarra) was lively and very drinkable.


Findlaters too had a terrific Chardonnay and the Katnook Estate Founder’s Block, from South Australia Limestone Coast, is also well priced. Really excellent and aren't I glad I bought a bottle of it in Bradley’s just a few days ahead of the tasting. Looking forward to that even more now!

And the good Chardonnays kept coming. The Wolf Blass Gold Label 2013 (Adelaide Hills) is just superb. And we finished on another high, impressed hugely by the 2011 Wirra Wirra 12th Man (also Adelaide Hills) and imported by Tindal.

Part Two, featuring the red wines, is here. Plus post on the wines of Kelly's Patch.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Amuse Bouche

It is summer in Sydney. Cherries, pawpaws, mangoes and watermelon render apples, bananas and oranges the most banal-tasting objects to set foot in a human mouth; waves foreclose on children’s sandcastles; shopping-centre Christmas decorations hang tackily over swarthy Santas with heat exhaustion; bushfires rage out of control and everywhere is ash, and a burning red moon of a bushfire hangs over the city, over the ocean, over Aldo ripening like garbage on his dreary rock.

from Quicksand by Steve Toltz (2015)