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The Rhone came to the Lee last Wednesday night, its two ambassadors, Bruno Boisson of Domaine Boisson and Simon Tyrrell of Les Deux Cols, introduced to the diners at Greene’s by none other than the Menu himself Joe McNamee. Top chef Bryan McCarthy ensured the food matched the excellent wines for the Rhone Wine Week Dinner.
Under gentle prodding from Joe, Bruno told us he is the owner of Domaine Boisson and that it has been in his family for 150 years. The little village of Cairanne is near better known villages such as Gigondas. He produces about 90,000 bottles a year, fifty per cent of which is sold in France. The Irish market is important to him. “It takes a lot, thanks to Tindal’s and their loyalty.”
Bruno, Joe, Simon
At 18 years of age, Bruno started Oenology school and later travelled to the Barossa in Australia. “It is important to see things “more global”, not just in a “tight” local view. While the family had been growing grapes for generations, it was only in the late 80s that Bruno’s father started bottling his own wines.
Cairanne “is becoming cru now. We are very proud of that and we remember the efforts of past generations”.
Simon’s trajectory was quite different to Bruno’s, his immersion in the wine business happening “by chance”. In 1989 he was working in Willie’s Wine Bar in Paris, a bar that specialised in Rhone wines. The interest grew and grew. By 2009, he had a small negociant business but decided to go further. Back to college then in the UK and, after getting much advice, he began to buy grapes and, by 2012 was making his own wine. And, just now, he has bought his first vineyard, near St Nazaire.
Simon explained that in the Northern Rhone, there is just one variety and that is Syrah. In the South, there is “more blending, less new wood.” “The wines are more generous, higher abv but they are balanced. There is something about Grenache based wines, lovely warm mouthfeel.” He reckons that they are very popular in Ireland because of our climate and gastronomy. “They have a roundness and warmth and nothing goes better with lamb.”
And what are the prospects for the current vintage? It has been getting a very good press, not just in France but in many neighbouring countries. Bruno revealed that friends of his are saying that the 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape will be “the best since the legendary 1990…. time will tell.” Both agreed that 2015 was a good year and Simon reckons that 2016 has even “more finesse, more acidity” and “will be better than 2015!”
Not all good news though. Later, after dessert, Simon told us that the well-known Muscat De Beaumes De Venise was struggling with much unsold as demand is shrinking for sweet wines generally. The producers are switching to making dry wines but then find that people are confused, thinking that because it is Beaumes that it must be sweet! A rock and a hard place!
Oaky, let’s start at the beginning of the evening and a lovely welcoming cocktail: Kalak Vodka Martini, rocks, twist. Kalak is an Irish made premium vodka, one worth looking out for!
Our first starter was Goatsbridge Trout and crab, cucumber, seaweed, squid ink, nasturtium, radish and this was accompanied by Vin de France ‘Les Terrasses’ 2015 by Chateau Pesquie, an organic blend of Viognier (70%), Roussane and Clairette. The 70% is significant as it is higher than the AOC rules allow and so the wine can only be sold as Vin de France. Demoted it may be but it’s a good one.
Next up was the Pork belly, Black pudding, apple, celeriac, and cider and the wine here was Simon’s Cotes du Rhone ‘Cuvée D’Alize’ 2015 by Les Deux Cols. “My staple wine”, he said, “named after a local wind and a blend of Grenache 60%, Syrah 30 and Cinsault (“the Pinot Noir of the South”). No oak here, just stainless steel. His idea was to make “a moreish wine”. Reckon he pulled it off!
After a refreshing Espuma, we were onto Wild Irish venison, artichoke, potato, onion, elderberry and Domaine Boisson’s Cairanne 2014. “It is important to understand the real place of wine is on the table with food,” said Bruno. “This was a little late but it has higher acidity so good for food. I don't want to get too technical, not too much cerebral. Just enjoy it.” We certainly did.
And Bruno had quite a family story for his next wine, the Massif D’Uchaux ‘Clos de la Brussiere’ 2011 from a disused vineyard that his grandfather bought in the local Cafe du Commerce (where you could buy virtually anything in the good old days). There was much rock picking to be done before the ground was cleared. “He picked rocks. We pick grapes.” The grapes are Grenache (60%) and Mourvedre (40). A gorgeous serious wine with bright fruit and spicy notes and quite a perfect match for Mike Thompson’s Young Buck cheese.
In the Southern Rhone
We finished with Chocolate Pecan Cremaux Tart, preserved cherry and pistachio and the Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2014 by Chateau Pesquie, a very good example, sweet yes but with the acidity retained.
Simon summed it all up: “A very diverse valley with a very diverse range of wines.” And he made a plea to please drink the odd glass of Beaumes de Venise at the end of your meals!