Sunday, April 22, 2018

Inchydoney Island & Maison Louis Jadot. Location and Terroir Combine

Inchydoney Island & Maison Louis Jadot
Stunning Combination of Location and Terroir

Isn’t the Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa one of the best situated hotels in the country? One of the most welcoming too! Can’t recall any other greeting me (and every guest) at reception with a glass of the excellent (and local) Stonewell Tawny. And when you leave, well there is a pot (a very tasty one too) of their own Winter-Berry Jam. 


So now add in a wine dinner with the renowned Maison Louis Jadot and you can understand I was in a foodie heaven. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate (it was about 12 hours behind schedule!) so the event didn't quite live up to the Burgundy on the Beach title but it was top class in every aspect.

The beach-side hotel, miles of sand to each side, supports quite a few local producers and a few were featured in the five course menu. But I spotted many also in the ancillary menus: Kids, Sandwiches, Room Service, and Afternoon Tea. Some of those included were: Clonakilty Pork, Bushby Strawberries, cheesemakers (Coolea, Cashel Blue, and Bandon Vale), Timoleague Ham, Ummera Smokehouse, and Shannonvale Chicken. Breakfast is also quite an occasion, some great choices on the menu (hot and cold) and lovely service in a smashing room.

And that Gulfstream Restaurant, with its windows looking down on the Atlantic,  was also the venue for the Wine Tasting Dinner at which I was an invitee. The guests met in the superb lounge and we were welcomed with some tasty canapés and a cool glass of Chablis, by Louis Jadot bien sur. This bright and fresh wine was just the ticket to get the evening off to an excellent start, the canapés vanishing and the chats starting.
Starter

Marie-Pierre Dardouillet (left), Export Director with Maison Louis Jadot, supported by distributors Findlater's, was introduced in the restaurant before dinner. And, not wanting to interfere with the flow of the dinner, spoke about the three white wines, produced by Jadot from their 250 hectares of vineyard.

The Chablis comes from the northern part of Burgundy, somewhat cooler than the second wine, the fresh and fruity Saint-Véran. This comes from a small village in the Maconnais region, “nice to compare the two, side by side”. Both are produced from Chardonnay. Generally, white wines from here are Chardonnay, reds are Pinot Noir.

Soon we would “meet” the third white, the Meursault, another 100 per cent Chardonnay. This is fermented in wooden barrels and aged 15 months before bottling. “well balanced oakiness, much more complex and deep,” said Marie-Pierre. A beautiful wine, full-fruited bouquet, generous palate and a long finish and a terrific match with the Gulfstream Seafood Assiette.
Seafood Assiette

Now too sure which I was most looking forward to try: the fillet of Macroom beef or the Nuits-Saint-George. The wine is one of the region’s most famous wines, aged in oak barrels for 12 months, deep of colour and flavour. Marie-Pierre: “Lots of structure, tannin. Elegant.” Mais oui!

For our final wine, we moved south from Burgundy to Beaujolais next door and that meant a change of grape from the Pinot Noir of the Nuits-Saint-George to the Gamay.
Fillet

As you might expect, it wasn't any old Gamay (Beaujolais nouveau for instance is a Gamay) but a cru. There are ten crus in Beaujolais and Moulin-a-Vent (Windmill) was where our wine was produced. “The Gamay thrives on the granite soil and this spends 12 months in barrel. It is much more fruit driven and will be interesting with dessert!”, said Maire-Pierre. Probably not the best match but a lovely wine that I more or less held back until my plate was cleared. Then I enjoyed it and its reviving acidity all the more!

And those plates. Thanks to Head Chef Adam Medcalf and his crew, they looked splendid from start to finish.

The starter was Macroom Buffalo Cheese Plate: crisp Feta and polenta, Ricotta pannacotta, Mozzarella and Tomato Tian with beetroot, sun-dried tomato and rocket. 

The fish course was entitled Gulfstream Seafood Assiette and consisted of Ummera Smoked Salmon and crab roulade, sugar cubed salmon, crisp fried squid with a celeriac remoulade, pickled cucumber, quail egg and a bisque reduction.

The came the Roasted Fillet of Macroom Beef with a lobster and prawn crust, fondant potato, celeriac purée, shiitake mushroom and a horseradish cream sauce.

Time then for dessert: Roasted Rhubarb and orange pannacotta with ginger biscuit Ice-cream.

The lovely evening was drawing to a conclusion but Ruth McCarthy, Director of Sales & Marketing at Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, cheered the guests up with a promise of “many more evenings like this”. Marie-Pierre complimented the hotel kitchen saying the food was "very good". “Hope you enjoyed the wines and see you in Burgundy.” Inchydoney on tour. Now who’s organising that trip.

The Gulfstream Restaurant




Friday, April 20, 2018

Amuse Bouche


The strange turns of language, of fairy-tale grandeur and precision-tooled sizes - this is the side of Rimbaud that appealed to the Surrealists. Whereas later critics felt they had sucked all the juice out of Verlaine and perfectly digested him, Rimbaud remained somehow…inedible. He was impossible to assimilate and therefore remained endlessly fascinating…

from Rimbaud, The Double Life of a Rebel by Edmund White (2008). Recommended.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

36 hours in Killarney: Local Brews - Torc - Reidy’s Pub - Noelle’s Retro Cafe. Much more.


36 hours in Killarney 

Killarney Brewery - Torc Mountain - Reidy’s Pub - Noelle’s Retro Cafe. And more to see and do.

The Killarney Brewing Company has certainly made headway since it started a few years back, its products available in many of the local pubs and hotels. You’ll find it on the Muckross Road, less than a ten minute walk from the Main Street. 

There is a spacious bar here and there was a quite a good crowd in, many of them overseas visitors, when we called during a recent wet Thursday afternoon. Tours are available but you are also welcome to sit down and have a drink. Pizzas are also on offer and sixteen euro will bag you a pizza and a pint.

Torc Waterfall
We shared a paddle. A glass, somewhat less than a half pint, of their Red Ale, their IPA and the Extra Stout, costs a reasonable seven euro. 


In the nod to the local wildlife, the red ale goes under the moniker Rutting Red. Their take on an American style IPA is called the Scarlett Pimpernel in honour of local hero Fr Hugh O’Flaherty  - you’ll see his statue and read all about him at his memorial alongside the Plaza Hotel by the entrance to the park.

But it was the Casey Brothers Extra Stout (6% abv) that got our vote and we promptly ordered more of that. With some of the famous Flahavan’s Oats included, it is a smooth customer with an Espresso finish. Highly Recommended. 

Reidy's
It is named after the Casey brothers from County Kerry who had huge success as rowers away back in the 1930s. The most famous, Steve (“Crusher”),  was undefeated World Wrestling champion from 1938 through 1947. Extra indeed! But don't worry. Treat this smooth stout with the respect it deserves and you’ll go the distance too.

In Killarney on a wet day? Well, you may visit the big houses, Muckross and Killarney, and the brewery and more. Another good place to go to, certainly early in the year, is Torc Waterfall, as the flow will be at its very best. Despite the odd heavy drop finding its way down the back of my neck, I very much enjoyed the visit up the steps, past the lichen covered trees and into the soft mist of the falls. 


On a good day, you could follow the Old Killarney Kenmare Road and then follow the walk up Torc Mountain  . The views of Killarney and its lakes are stupendous. Well worth the effort.

Big Houses. Small Houses.

Fr O'Flaherty - the Scarlett Pimpernel
On the tours of the big houses, Muckross and Killarney, you’ll always here about the owners, the landlords, their families always named. But the tenants, labourers and servants are not. The big names may be gone from Killarney, but the families from the small houses, the cottages and gate-lodges, are still going strong, many of them involved in the care of the National Park, its flora and fauna. 

Indeed, they have quite a sense of belonging and duty. As Walter Ryan Purcell, a Regional Tourist guide, told me during the visit, they “get the park” and are always alert for anything, a zip-line for instance, that might harm the nature of the park. Why not remember them the next time a building is renovated.


I had linked up with Walter for a coffee at the amazing John M Reidy's  on Main Street, Killarney. The entrance(s) are confusing. Is it a bakery, a general merchant, a sweet shop? Basically, at least since its “second coming” late last year, it is a pub cum cafe. Loads of nooks and crannies, lots of memorabilia, outdoor areas too (a great place to be when the music plays in the evening), outdoor areas that can be screened off from the cool and the rain by substantial awnings.

Already it is drawing in some big names - musician Niall Horan chilled here recently. Killarney has always drawn big names, especially those of the film world who were regular visitors to the big houses such as Killarney House. Even that very evening, ex Taoiseach Bertie Aherne had the table next to us in The Brehon’s Danú Restaurant.

After Reidy’s, Walter took us down a narrow lane (almost directly opposite) to see Noelle’s Retro Café. She has an old bike parked outside. It is not as sprawling as Reidy's but again, there are quite a few rooms here, more than you'd expect and one at least is given over to the vinyl era. 

Boxes and shelves of long-playing records in abundance and indeed you may play them here on a turntable. Someone did point out that ear-phones are also available. Pretty good coffee here and pastry is also available.  This quirky Retro Cafe serves Breakfast, Brunch, Coffee, Teas, Homemade Pastries, Smoothies and is open seven days a week (9.00 to 6.00).

Walter, by the way, told me that the lovely Deenagh Lodge (where we met him and his lovely team last November) is due to have its seasonal reopening at the Easter Weekend.
Deenagh Lodge Tea Rooms
Dine and smile: Deenagh Lodge
Visit: 

Crag Cave: http://swissroll07.blogspot.ie/2016/11/crag-cave-underground-in-kerry.html 
Visiting Killarney's Big Houses


Killavullen Farmers Market. Next Market Saturday 21st (10.30 am to 1.00pm)

Killavullen Farmers Market
Next Market Saturday 21st (10.30 am to 1.00pm)
Mary Sleeman gets a little help from Cathy Fitzgibbon (right)
during basketmaking demo at Killavullen Market
Called to the Killavullen Farmers Market, the one in the polytunnel, on April 7th. Brought the bags, as usual - no point in going to a market unless you bring bags - and filled them up, no bother.
 The Killavullen market is held about twice each month, dates on their Facebook page, in the Nano Nagle Centre  on the Mallow-Fermoy Road and it is appropriate that organic produce features highly. The centre’s mission now “is to promote a vision of eco spirituality” and it runs a 32 acre organic farm here. Indeed, the Nano Nagle Centre has its own stall in the market. All of the stalls are indoor, sheltered under a large polytunnel so the market is weather-proofed. Great idea.


You can also have a cup of tea or coffee and some home baking, maybe before or after the market or perhaps after taking one of several walks through the centre. Why not try the Cosmic Walk that takes you past a very large and impressive sundial.

Then stroll down to the peaceful banks of the lovely Blackwater. When finished, we could have headed back towards Mallow and retraced the journey up but instead we took a quiet cross country drive through the drizzly hills as we returned to the city via Glenville.

In the tunnel

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dip into Spain and France with Mary Pawle Wines

Dip into Spain and France with Mary Pawle Wines

Azul y Garanza Garciano Navarro (D0) 2015, 14.5%, €16.00 Mary Pawle Wines

This nicely assembled blend of fruity and spicy Garnacha with the “subtle acidity” of the Graciano is produced organically and matured in cement tanks. But Azul y Garanza go further, planting fruit trees and native aromatic plants around the vineyards. “Working this way, we break the monoculture and we create a wider eco-system.”

They create some pretty good wines too if this one is anything to go by. It is mid-ruby in colour with red berries prominent in the nose. Fresh red fruit, raspberries mainly, on the palate, spice too, tannins just about in the mix. This medium bodied blend is quite intense, smooth and acceptably balanced with the Graciano acidity doing its bit. There is a hint of sweetness on the long finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Punctum Viento Aliseo La Mancha (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €13.30 Mary Pawle Wines


This joven (young) wine is a blend of Tempranillo (70%) and Petit Verdot. Organically and biodynamically farmed (Demeter approved) and made from “our estate-grown grapes”.

Cherry is the colour. Cherries and blackberries feature in the aromas. And the same fruit too on the full and smooth palate, matched by a lively acidity, the tannins just about in evidence. Quite complex for a joven and Highly Recommended. Good value too by the way.

Feely Résonance Bergerac (AC) 2012, 13.5%, €17.70 Mary Pawle Wines
In Bergerac
Crafted by Sean and Caro Feely in Saussignac (known for its dessert wine appellation but in the Bergerac appellation for red and white), this red is organic, unfined and unfiltered. It is basically a Merlot (98%) with a little Cabernet Sauvignon.
Merlot is the most widely grown red grape in France, most famously in the Pomerol area of Bordeaux where a bottle of Pétrus could set you back several thousand euro.
Colour is a deep ruby. Aromas of dark fruit, plum and black cherry. Full bodied, with power and elegance combined, balanced enough with a long spicy finish. Highly Recommended.
Match with pizza, pasta, and beef, say the winemakers, with Osso Bucco according to an acquaintance of mine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Killarney’s Yew Tree. Emphasis on Seafood. Mungo and one-eyed rabbit Sushi harvest their seaweed.


Killarney’s Yew Tree. Emphasis on Seafood
Mungo and Sushi harvest their seaweed.
Scallop Starter

Mungo Murphy lives in the West of Ireland on bogland by the sea. He lives with his one-eyed rabbit called Sushi and a tailless cat called Parnell. You may read these details on the menu at The Yew Tree, the main restaurant at the five star Muckross Park Hotel on the Muckross Road in Killarney.
Amuse

Mungo is listed as one of the many west coast suppliers that head chef John O’Leary relies on. Mungo is a seaweed forager and his presence on the list indicates a leaning towards the sea on the menu. From the mackerel Amuse Bouche, fish features strongly here. But don’t worry. Duck and beef were also available during our recent visit.

And, after that tasty mackerel, I continued with Suckling Pig Belly, Baby Vegetables, Apple, Alsace Bacon. Looked well on the plate and tasted even better, even the apple was amazing. CL’s Scallop with Chicken Wing, Peas, Wild Garlic, Lardo, Truffle Crumb was another well executed well presented treat. Other starters included a Country Style Terrine, Foie Gras, Wild Mushrooms Veloute and a Herb Ravioli.
Suckling Pig

There is a huge wine list, lots of expensive stuff included, some available by the glass and others by the half-bottle. I continued on my Muscadet revival with a Domaine de la Chauviniere Muscadet Sur Lie, Loire, France, 2016. Great intensity on the palate and a decent finish and a good match with the fish. There are wine pairing recommendations under each dish but no sommelier, at least not on the night we visited.
Halibut

Now, we were on to the main event. CL picked the Wild Halibut Smoked, Razor Clam, Oyster and Vermouth, Lardo. Faultlessly cooked and well presented, and well finished off too! I was equally happy with my Turbot Fillets, Baby Gem, Burnt Lemon Gel, Soy Emulsion. The other fish dish on the night was Cod with Herb Gnocchi, Cauliflower, Pine Nuts, Chervil. 

I often look to the smaller elements in a meal as I think they give a great indication as to the standard of the kitchen. I already mentioned the apple with my starter. Another example came in the vegetable served with the mains. Not your usual winter root vegetable. But cauliflower, cut thinly in cross-section  (think carpaccio),  and roasted with pistachio nuts. Amazing textures and flavour.

The non fish dishes were very tempting. One was Duck Breast, XO Turnip, Polenta, Cabbage, Orange, Jus. And the other was Beef Fillet, Tongue & Cheek, Bone Marrow Brulée, Mustard, Beef Sauce. By the way, a separate vegetarian menu is available “with a choice of delectable options”.
Turbot

John O’Leary's desserts are very tempting indeed though we could only manage one between us but the Rum Spiced Pineapple with Cocoa Nib Tuile, Green Tea Crumble, Mango & Passion Fruit Sorbet was a beauty. 

Dessert
Next time, I think I’ll try the Chocolate Textures, maybe the Blood Orange Cremeux, perhaps the Artisan Cheeses (West Coast Cheese, Crisp Bread, House Preserves). Oh, too hard to make up my mind. Better wait until the night.

The award winning Yew Tree is located in the original Victorian lounge at the hotel. It is a beautiful room, comfortably appointed. Service while friendly and warm lacked a bit on the language skills. Took one server some time to think of the word mackerel and in another instance the French was used for cauliflower. Early in the season yet, so time to improve for the busier nights ahead in this inviting place.









Taste of the Week. Maura’s Kitchen Spicy Beetroot Chutney


Taste of the Week
Maura’s Kitchen Spicy Beetroot Chutney

Found my current Taste of the Week during a pleasant visit to Killavullen Farmers Market last Saturday week. Stopped at Maura’s Kitchen Stand and spotted her Spicy Beetroot Chutney. 

It is great with cheese, particularly cheddar. And Maura herself says it really livens up what could otherwise be a rather mundane meat sandwich.

It is packed with beetroot and other ingredients include onion, eating apples, zest and juice of orange, yellow mustard, red wine vinegar, sugar and ginger. Recommended, well worth a try.

Maura also has some terrific jams here and, as with the beetroot, is quite generous with the fruit. Watch out for her Wild Plum and Raspberry jar in particular. And watch out for this lovely market which will be on again next Saturday.



Maura’s Kitchen, 
Derryvillane,
Glanworth,
Co. Cork


Monday, April 16, 2018

Mise en place saves your ass. Chatting with Oyster Tavern Head Chef Kate Lawlor


Mise en place saves your ass 
Chatting with Oyster Tavern Head Chef Kate Lawlor
Kate in her Fenn's Quay days with John and Sally McKenna (left). See Kate
on RTE 1 on April 18th (8.30pm) in Healthy Appetite

Kate Lawlor, for so long associated with Fenn’s Quay, is now enjoying her Head Chef role at The Oyster Tavern in Cork city centre. And the team there, quite a young one, have a great chance to learn from one of the hardest working chefs around but one who enjoys “teaching others the joy of cooking, taking raw ingredients and making wonderful dishes.  I also enjoy heading to the English Market and meeting suppliers”. 

Her aim now is make the Oyster and its food offering better known among the public. We caught up with Kate after a lovely meal in the Oyster and enjoyed this chat.



I know you were sad to leave Fenn’s Quay. But you’re still on familiar ground and things have worked out well?
 After a little break after closing Fenn’s, it felt right to take on the role in the Oyster with its history and of course its location on Market Lane into the English Market. It’s taken me a few months to settle into new surroundings but, with the support of Bob (general manager) Dee (restaurant manager ) and Chris Curtin (assistant head chef)  and team, menus are coming together nicely. 

What direction is cooking here at The Oyster taking? What can we expect in the near future?
It’s very much a simple approach to good quality produce sourced within the English Market with a few Fenn’s classics popping up such as the flourless chocolate pudding  and the warm chicken salad on the lunch. There is a big emphasis on steaks and fish which will continue to evolve with the seasons. 

How did you start in the business? Was there a good cook at home or other family inspiration?
 Having taken up Home Ec in Secondary School my first summer job was in a cafe kitchen aged 16. I really enjoyed it, the cooking, the creating, so it was suggested I apply to what was then Cert in Cork Institute of Technology and the rest you could say is history. In later years I returned to complete a degree in Culinary Arts. 

Do you shout in the kitchen?
I tend not to. I learnt early on I didn’t like being shouted at and therefore I shouldn’t shout at someone, it only makes the situation worse. 

The importance of prepping. Do you ever have enough time in the kitchen?  
Some days are easier than others. There is  a great saying “mise en place saves your ass “ and it’s true. Still, you do have days when you feel you’re never on top of it but, with a great team behind you, you get there in the end.

Sourcing and provenance is important to you?
For me it is. It may cost a bit more but it’s worth it as I like to know the person behind the products and learn about how it’s made 

Have you ever come up with a dish by accident, a fluke?
Specials for me are always a bit of a fluke as always last on the prep list. Recently I cooked some pearl barley with carrots onions and some fennel seeds, added cabbage & prawn & a dash of lemon served with turbot & butternut squash purée. It truly was a dish I was super proud of.  

Meat as back-up, not the main feature in a dish? Will that happen?
Attitudes to food are changing but still our meat sales outweigh the vegetarian at present so I can’t see that happening. 

What non-Irish cuisine do you like most?
At present Japanese. Its clean flavours in the broths and the precision is mesmerising .

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
Hard to pick out one in particular. Really enjoyed Nathan Outlaw and JP McMahon's collaboration in Aniar, Purnell's in Birmingham , 1826 in Adare. But best in the last 12 months was when I collaborated with Derry Clarke’s menu at the Oyster last November. 

Kate is set to star, along with Donegal's Gary O'Hanlon, in the first episode of a new RTE cooking series called Healthy Appetite, which is all about good food.  Episode one kicks off on RTE1 on Wednesday, April 18th at 8.30pm. 


See A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Winemason do Spit in Cork. My focus on Riesling and Portugal


The Winemason do Spit in Cork. 
My focus on Riesling and Portugal

Soizic (Les Gourmandise) with Ben
Last week, one hundred bottles of “wine without make-up” were up for tasting in the River Lee Hotel thanks to the combined efforts of four Dublin wine companies. Spit, as the combination is called, consists of Winemason, Nomad Wine, Vinostito, and Grapecircus and virtually all the wines were organic. And there wasn't a dud among them. In this post, we’ll look at Ben Mason and his Winemason contribution.


Winemason is owned by Barbara Boyle (MW) and Ben and they provide restaurants and independent retailers with original and distinctive wines from Germany, Portugal (a favourite), Austria Spain, France, Italy and South Africa. “We are constantly evolving with the ever-changing wine world and we work to reflect this in the wines we sell.”

Graham was helping Ben in the River Lee and I asked him if there was a wine on the stand that deserved to be better known, one that was maybe under-appreciated at present, and he soon filled me a taster of the Julien Schaal Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay 2016. The winery is in Elgin Ridge, South Africa, the winemaker is “from Alsace” and the wine itself is very pleasantly distinctive. Crisp on the palate with citrusy flavours and minerality, tart on the finish, very engaging indeed.

I had picked a trio of Rieslings and started with one from the Nahe region, the ES Trocken 2016 by Emrich Schonleber. Quite intense on the palate, with a light spiciness and outstanding minerality. My favourite kind of Riesling.
Chardonnay to note
from South Africa

The next Riesling came from the Mosel and was the Zeppelin (Mulheim) 2016 by Max Ferdinand Richter. Apparently this wine was served on the flying Zeppelins. This too is elegant, no shortage of minerality, well balanced, and it is the tropical nature of the fruit flavours that catches your attention.

And, if we were in the skies for the Zeppelin, we now moved up a notch to the Kingdom of Heaven with the JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2016, the Himmelreich being the heaven. Here the aromas are a subtle but tempting floral, it is soft and fruity right through to a sustained finalé. Quite a hat trick of Rieslings there!

Ben had a superb selection of reds also but again I focused on a hat trick, all from Portugal, an area where Winemason is strong though Ben has noted that prices are rising there. First up was the Mouchao Dom Rafael Tinto 2015 from Alentejo, a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Trincadeira. Ripe dark fruits and tannins, a bit of spice too, combine in a rich and complex wine. 
Zeppelin

Next we called to the Lisbon area and tasted the Fossil Tinto 2015 by Vale da Capucha, an organic producer; this a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Syrah. Rich dark fruits, hints of spice, fresh and elegant, and with a long dry finish. Excellent.

Then I enjoyed very much the Niepoort Vertente 2015 from the Douro, enjoyed it as Graham sang its praises: the rich blend (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and others), its long dry finish. “And it’s low in alcohol as well,” he said. It’s a gem, elegant and smooth. One to stock up on before those prices rise or even when they do!

Would have loved to have stayed longer and tried more of the Winemason wines, including those from Austria and South Africa, but time to move on up the line! Here’s to the next Spit.


Read about Nomad Wines at Spit here
Read about Vinostito at Spit here 
About  Grapecircus here


Grapecircus at Spit Cork. Fantasia. Insania. Campania. Italia.


Grapecircus at Spit Cork.
Fantasia. Insania. Campania. Italia.
Enrico, with square halo, and Aileen

Enrico Fantasia is enthusiastic about wine #77 on his stand at the Spit Cork event in the River Lee Hotel. It is Falanghina ‘Insania’ 2016 by Bambinuto. That Falanghina is the grape variety and the best known variety from this area in Campania is Greco di Tufo which is also produced by Bambinuto.

The vineyard is about an hour east of Naples, yet in 2006 Marilena Aufiero was told she was mad to start her operation here, hence the name Insania. “She took a chance,” said an admiring Enrico, the man behind Grapecircus who are best known for Italian wines. The wine, which has spent six month on lees, is delicious, fresh with minerality. This, and others from the Grapecircus portfolio, are available via Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. Others available online via SIYPS.

Enrico has been described as “the charismatic ringmaster of Italian wines in Ireland”. He also owns a wine bar, Piglet in Temple Bar. It is not his first restaurant venture. “I couldn't stay away.”. While Grapecircus have a strong Italian list, they now include wines from all over Europe, “made by passionate people with respect for nature.. that express terroir and tradition.”

Traditionally, the Castelli dei Jesi wine-producing zone in eastern Italy is noted for its Verdicchio and Enrico’s example was the Saltatempo 2016 produced by La Marca de San Michele. Verdicchio apparently means the little green one and there are tints of green in the colour and apple notes on the palate. This one is soft and round with a crisp acidity and a pleasant slightly bitter finish.

My next white came from the Mengoba vineyard in Bierzo, Spain, the Brezo Blanco 2016. It is a Godello with some Dõna Blanca, produced more or less organically but with no certification. This relatively full-bodied wine has responded well to five months on lees, pretty intense and with a strikingly long finish.

I had intended to try his Muscadet but Enrico wasn't happy with the bottles supplied - just goes to show his professionalism - so I switched my attention to the Albarino. A taster alongside me remarked there is no such thing as a bad Albarino and this Saras 2015 by Entre Os Rios was another good one. Good colour and aroma (tropical fruits), a richer style perhaps than usual, fruity, juicy and a long dry finish. 

Aileen took me through some of the Grapecircus reds, a brilliant mini-tour, mainly through Italy. Starting with When We Dance 2015, the Chianti by the Sting co-owned winery Tenuta Il Palagio. “It is the entry level wine,” Aileen said. “they are just outside the Classico area so it is good value and 2015 was a very good year.” And indeed, this is a very good wine, cherry prominent, and fresh, organic of course.
When we dance

A quick step over to France and to Bourgueil by the Loire and a tasting of Yannick Amirault’s La Coudraye 2016. Yannick is “one of the top producers and is certified organic.” Cabernet Franc is the red grape all around this area. It is noted for its freshness and that shone through this lovely rich wine, Aileen describing it as dense.

Back to Tuscany now and the Rosso de Montalcino Banditella 2014, produced from Sangiovese grapes by Col D’Orcia. This is a super wine from “the area's third largest producer”. “But the focus is on quality. It was a tough year in 2014 but good producers produce good wine even in bad years.” The winery was certified organic in 1999 and this red is a beauty, balanced, great finish.

The Marche in Italy wasn't too far away and my final stop was Fattoria San Lorenzo for their Rosso Piceno Burello 2014, a blend of 50/50 Sangiovese and Montepulciano, their top wine,  rich but not heavy, superb and with a long long finish.

Last week, one hundred bottles of “wine without make-up” were up for tasting in the River Lee Hotel thanks to the combined efforts of four Dublin wine companies. Spit, as the combination is called, consists of Winemason, Nomad Wine, Vinostito, and Grapecircus and virtually all the wines were organic. And there wasn't a dud among them.