Showing posts with label Ballymaloe LitFest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ballymaloe LitFest. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Purple Grape, Purple Grace

Purple Grape, Purple Grace
Superb Bergerac Blend

Caro Feely is one of the speakers at the 2017 Ballymaloe LitFest in May. At noon, on the 21st, she will engage in conversation with renowned wine-writer Tomás Clancy, in a presentation entitled “Glass Half Full - The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life”. See LitFest.ie for tickets (€16.00). Should be a very interesting hour! Below we look at one of her interesting wines. 

Terroir Feely, Grâce 2012, Vin de France, 14%, €25.50 Mary Pawle Wines



Saussignac, well known for its dessert wines, is an area near Bergerac, where Sean and Caro Feely operate, maybe not quite within the rules of the appellation, hence the Vin de France classification for this organic red wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%).


Operating on the edge can be a gamble. “We hold our nerve and wait to hand-pick the grapes for this wine with optimal ripeness. Our patience is rewarded with a rich, elegant and mineral wine, the grace of nature. A living wine, rich and fresh, that offers great depth of dark fruit, a hint of orange peel, spice and mint.” No sulphites have been added to this Very Highly Recommended 2012 edition, of which just 2,650 bottles were produced.

Grace has a purple colour with aromas of dark fruit (mainly plum), mint notes too. It is indeed rich and fresh, and dry, tannins fine-grained and persistent, some spice here too. And yes, that terrific depth of fruit but with a superb balance and then a long and satisfying finalé. A pleasure to drink and Very Highly Recommended.

For a earlier review of La Source, another Feely blend of Cabernet and Merlot but in reverse proportions, check here


Ferraton Les Pichères, Crozes-Hermitage (AC) 2009, 12.5%, €25.75 Mary Pawle Wines

This 100% Syrah is made from organically grown grapes on limestone sub-soil with, on the surface, large pebbles from the River Isère. It spends 8-10 months in barrel, depending on the vintage. Watch out too for the Ferraton Le Reverdy.

The Pichères is a deep ruby, a clean purple on bottom of the cork. There is a complex mix of aromas, including black and red fruits. Spice and pepper are prominent on the palate. It is medium to full bodied, fruity and so well balanced with an excellent finish. A well rounded serene Syrah, impressive overall and Very Highly Recommended.

Did you know, that in winemaking, rainfall is a big factor in the difference between the Northern Rhone where its hits 923mm per annum and the Southern where the average is 677mm? See World Atlas of Wine for more details.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting. Mediterranean Island Wines in Spotlight

Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting
Mediterranean Island Wines in LITFEST Spotlight
We got a little more than we expected at John Wilson’s Islands in the Sun, a talk and tasting on the wines of the Mediterranean Islands - one too from the Canaries. As the Irish Times wine-writer took us gently through the wines, a thunder-shower played drums on the roof of the Ballymaloe tractor shed. “Just as well they water-proof their sheds in Ballymaloe,” joked John before getting back to his fascinating tasting.

He told us it was an idea that came to him about eight years ago but it was hard to get the wines together. “I’ve always wanted to do this but Litfest gave me the chance and I left the legwork to Colm.” He was, of course, speaking of Colm McCan,  the man behind all the events in the improvised Drinks Theatre.
“There are a lot of island wines,” said John. “They have their own varieties, characters and styles. All are on trade routes, lots of them volcanic and most have never had phylloxera.”

Not always easy to find white wines with good acidity from hot climates but John had one from the historic island of Santorini. “It is volcanic..the grapes are grown high up in circles around the top of the craters. They are ungrafted. The rootstock must be ancient. The acidity is there, needs food and is great with scallops.” The wine is Assyrtiko by Gaia 2015, a leading producer, and it is a wild ferment.
 Next we landed in Corsica, Ile de Beauté. John hadn’t tasted this Vermentino until now. “It keeps the acidity, lean and fresh, amazing flavours. It is single vineyard, aged in old barrels, no new oak used.” The producer Antoine Arena has quite a story to tell. The vines are tended biodynamically and the wines are made naturally. Vines and Wines says that crisp lemony Vermentino is Sardinia’s original gift to the wine world.


South now to Sicily and the first of the reds, a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato (a soft low tannin grape), a very light coloured red by COS who farm in Vitoria. Sicily produces large quantities of wine.

John is well acquainted with this one: “It’s been a favourite of mine for 15 years. This is a new vintage, with some tannins. The vineyard is biodynamic and was the first place I saw amphora being used.” He advised decanting the wine.


Back north again now and a visit to Sardinia, to a natural winemaker who doesn't follow the market. “I make wines that please me,” he told John in an interview. “They are what they are.” Kinda take it or leave it. If you take it, remember these are not filtered, nor fined, so decant.



Tenute Dettori’s Romangia Rosso is another favourite of John’s: “I adore this wine. It has evolved so much from last year! I think natural wines are fascinating. This is an earthy, warm delicious red fruit with a lovely acidity.”

So we waved goodbye to Sardinia and headed through the straits on a long trip to the Canaries which produces quite a lot of wine. “There are 11 areas of production..a couple available in Ireland but not enough”. Then that massive shower interrupted, letting us know that we didn't quite fit the island in the sun label, though in fairness, the weekend of the Litfest was generally very good, lots of sun, as usual!

After the din on the roof, we returned to the wine. “The vines are grown in hollows to protect them from the winds. The Canaries were a stopover for ships heading to the New World and this grape, the Listan Negro, eventually made its way to Argentina (as Criolla), Chile (Pais) and California (Mission).
Ben Ryé means Son of the Wind
Our 100% Listan Negro is from Teneriffe: Vino de Parcela La Solana. It is produced from vines over 100 years old, has been foot-trodden in open concrete tanks and local natural yeasts are used. “There is a savoury liquorice touch to it and they tend to get the purity of the fruit across.”


“This is special,” said John as he guided us back to the Med and the island of Pantelleria, between Sicily and Tunisia (to which it is closer). The island is famous for its capers! Just one hotel and that is called the Dream Resort. Soil is again volcanic and again the vines are dug into the ground to avoid the worst of the winds.


Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria is the full title, I think! John said the grape is the Moscato di Alexandria but under a different name (Zibibbo) and during a prolonged fermentation some bunches of dried grapes are “thrown in” from time to time. “It is incredibly sweet, marmalade-y, yet with great acidity”.

The Ballymaloe tulips stood up well to the massive shower.
Muscato is grown on virtually all the islands of the Med and found, in one variation or another, all over the wine-growing world. Passito refers to dried and shrivelled grapes.


A sweet ending indeed to an interesting multi-island tour and he hinted that he might well come up with another voyage next year in LITFEST.
And, yes, the sun was shining on this island as we joined the throngs milling around in Ballymaloe.

See also, from LITFEST16:



Irish Craft Cider. A Litfest16 Event


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hops and Glory at LITFEST16. Seven IPAs after breakfast.

Seven IPAs on a Sunday Morning
Hops and Glory at LITFEST 2016
Pete Brown
“Canning has moved on enormously,” declared beer expert Pete Brown as the Litfest 2016 beer tasting got underway in Ballymaloe last Sunday morning. “It's the freshest way to keep beer”. The session was named Hops and Glory, after one of Pete's books, and he was accompanied on the panel by Caroline Hennessy, co-author of Slainte.


Our first beer was a can of the Yankee White IPA by Rascal’s Brewing. Caroline was happy with this Belgian style IPA: “It’s a lovely food friendly beer, ..feels lighter than five per cent!” Pete says it is now a very popular style. “Every new brewery starts with an IPA”.

Worthington’s White Shield certainly got Pete going: “One of my five desert island beers...not a modern IPA but the only true survivor of the old style that was shipped on 6-month voyages to India and drank like mother’s milk…. This is very hoppy, also very malty, a wonderful balance...gets better with time”.
Caroline is part of the 8 Degrees Brewing Company and their Full Irish was next. She stressed the importance of local. They used local barley, malted in Togher (In Cork City). “It is a single malt beer and made to showcase the malt. First made in 2014, it was Beer of the Year in 2015”. Pete noted the hops on the nose, the good balance and equally good body.

Another can followed: the marvellous Ironmonger from Metalman, first launched in 2011. As readers of Slainte will know, Caroline regularly looks for the food angle and praised this as food friendly. “There is a huge change in restaurants,” she said, noting that local food is now being matched with local drink (including beers and spirits).

Pete again admired the body and said he hadn't come across Metalman before but had been enjoying it at the bar in the Big Shed next door. In general, he remarked that one of the best beer tastings you could have is a cheese matching: “Great fun with a small group! Just get a few beers and a few cheeses.” Caroline surprised him when she said she found Crozier Blue and the full Irish a very successful pairing.

Caroline
On to the next one: Black Lighting from 9 White Deer in West Cork, a style that they agreed involves some “messing with your head”. After all, IPAs are not meant to be black but both agreed it is a wonderful style, Caroline adding that it was a “very American style IPA”.

A little discussion on hops followed. Pete said the character changes from place to place, the influence of the terroir. Caroline advised trying some of the single hop beers available, a good way “to build your knowledge”.

Beer Number Six, the citrusy/grapefruity bottle-conditioned Boundary Pale Ale, came from a Northern Ireland cooperative brewery. Caroline has noted a rapid advance of craft beer in the area, and more: “I would recommend a visit to Belfast...good food and drink.”
Pete was on a cloud nine as we finished with Cloudwater DIPA v3, a special edition: “This is the most hyped beer, the most hyped brewery..the best brewery in Britain right now….so much juiciness, so much fruit character..all from the hops”.

This weighed in at 9% and Caroline explained how high ABVs can come about. “If you have lots of hops, you need lots of malt to balance. Malt means more sugar and that means higher ABV”.

So applause all round as our expert duo brought the curtain down on an entertaining and informative beer session.

See also, from LITFEST16:

Irish Craft Cider. A Litfest16 Event


Taste of the Week. Ummera Hot Smoked Rump Steak

Taste of the Week. 
Ummera Hot Smoked Rump Steak


Always something new out of the west. In Ballymaloe for the Litfest, I met up with Anthony Cresswell of the Ummera Smokehouse at his stall in the famous Big Shed. And he had something new for me, indeed I got the very first bite of his Hot Smoked Rump Steak.


He tried cold smoke too but eventually settled on the hot; it is then marinated and allowed rest for a couple of weeks. The smoke and the rump seem made for each other, great flavour and texture, gorgeous stuff and our Taste of the Week.

Ummera, operating on the banks of the little river Adrigeen in Timoleague for close on forty years, is licensed to smoke both fish and meat and the products are exported worldwide. Anthony smokes salmon, chicken, duck (I got an early taste of that beauty too a few years ago!) and bacon and you may buy them all and more online. Very Highly Recommended.

Ummera Smokehouse
Timoleague
Co Cork
Email: info@ummera.com
Twitter: @ummera 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Irish Craft Cider. A Litfest16 Event

Irish Craft Cider
A Litfest16 Event
Pete Brown, author of the World’s Best Cider, said the Irish craft cider scene is one of the most exciting right now. The ciders have “high juice content” and the makers “love their apples”. One of the most exciting yes, despite rankling under a very unfair tax regime that would seem to be designed to stifle innovation rather than encourage it.

Take Longueville House Cider Mór as an example. Because producer William O’Callaghan has added a wee spoon of brandy to his basic cider, the tax on Mór is five times the normal. Leslie Williams has raised the general issue many times, saying the current rebate system, which is very good for craft beer makes, is unfair on cider makers. The producers of an excellent wholly Irish product are being punished.

Leslie
So that's the sour notes out of the way. The rest of this panel discussion, the opening one in the Drinks Theatre at this year’s Ballymaloe Litfest, was focussed on five delicious ciders, five quite different examples, none of which would have been available just a few short years ago.

Pete Brown was joined on the panel by Leslie and by Caroline Hennessy, author of Slainte. 

They and the audience were welcomed to the “tractor shed” by Ballymaloe’s Colm McCan as we gathered to hail cider, the drink of the common people for perhaps 2,000 years, according to Pete.

Pete
Producer Simon Tyrrell introduced his Craigies 2013 Dalliance. Simon, well known for his wine background, says with Dalliance “we try to express the vinous side of cider”. He mentioned the terroir (Cappoquin Estate, sandstone). The apple blend is fifty fifty between Ekstar and Falstaff, both eating apples, and it spends 15 months on its lees.

Bright fresh fruit with extra creaminess here and you’ll note some cloudiness from the yeasts. Pete Brown said Dalliance proves you can make cider out of eating apples. And this is a good one.

“We use no chemicals at any point” said Rod Calder-Potts as he introduced his organic Highbank Proper Cider 2014. “We encourage microbial activity to counter any malign organisms...Cider makes itself..no sulphites...we put it in a barrell..local yeasts do the rest.”

This was bottled just last week by Con Traas, is 100 per cent apple and naturally dry. Pete loved the contrast between the first two ciders and confessed to being obsessed by yeast, at least with how the yeast converts sugar to alcohol! Leslie reminded us that, compared to beer makers, cider makers get just one chance per year.


And now Leslie introduced yet another type of Irish cider, Cockagee from County Meath. He did mention that there was “devilment” in the name but didn't go into the details. It is keeved, a process common in Brittany and Normandy and explained here on the Cockagee website.
Caroline
Pete said you can only shake your head with wonder that a process from the 14th or 15th century can still produce a “beautiful natural cider. In a blind tasting, I would class this as Breton and it would be a perfect match with crepes”. Caroline agreed but their hints for crepes went unheeded!

William O’Callaghan, as he introduced his Longueville Mór, disclosed that the first apples in their orchard, planted 25 years ago, were intended for apple brandy rather than cider and that their micro-distillery was the first such in ireland. William, a chef who trained in Normandy, started the move to cider there about two years ago.

The Mór is their regular cider with a drop of apple brandy that “gives it a nice little kick”. It fermented naturally with local yeasts and produced with no sulphite. It went down very well indeed and William is proud of it, quite rightly, “but that tax is a pain!”.  Caroline asked him what food would pair with it. On its own or maybe with cheese was the answer. I had it a week or two ago at a cider evening in Electric with fish and chips. Caroline herself was thinking Lemon tart!
The Ballymaloe five. Dead men.
We finished with the limited edition (6,000 bottles) Stonewell Tawny 2014. Daniel Emerson told us all about it: “it is a chapitalised dry hop cider..the natural sugar is supplemented with additional sugar and this raises the ABV… minimum aging is 12 months and there is an extraordinary range of flavours over the 12 months”. Lots of tasting, no doubt!

At the end of the process, the cider is “very sweet, like an apple ice-cider”. They decided to counteract this by passing it through Eldorado dry hops. The result was very good and the Tawny has “proved remarkably successful.” And we could all see why. Pete was delighted with it saying it reminded him of a Canadian Ice Cider, “beautiful’.

Overall, it was a great reminder of how far Irish Cider has come in a few years. Perhaps next a tasting of these five might be arranged for the Dail bar and a few home truths delivered at the same time, in the nicest possible way of course!

See also: Hops and Glory. Seven IPAs before breakfast. Only at LITFEST16
Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting. Mediterranean Island Wines in Spotlight. LITFEST16

Saturday, May 21, 2016

LitFest: A sampling from this sunny morning in Ballymaloe

Ballymaloe's LITFEST Up and Running
In the sun, of course!

Just a quick sample of what's on offer in the 2016 LITFEST at Ballymaloe. Early start at the Irish Craft Cider event in the Drinks Theatre and then a ramble around, especially in the Big Shed. See the full programme here. Better still, call down or call up and enjoy. 
Amazing cheeses from Toons Bridge.

Colm McCan (left) introduces the Irish Craft Cider panel at 9.30am!
Rocketman!
Even the bamboo is from the Highbank estate. Julie (left) and Rod

Gubbeen

New Irish tonic!

Lolo's cool kitchen!

Amuse Bouche

Champagne has about the same alcohol content as other French white wines, but its alcohol becomes effective more quickly because the dissolved carbon dioxide in the wine goes straight to your bloodstream. Your circulation reacts by speeding up, just as it does when you are running, to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. So a faster bloodstream carries the alcohol around your system. You giggle sooner, but the effects pass off more rapidly.

From How To Enjoy Your Wine by Hugh Johnson (1985)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Time to Check the Wine & Drinks Events at #Litfest16

Wine & Drinks Events in the Drinks Theatre at #Litfest16
at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine   
Saturday 21st May and Sunday 22nd May 2016
Jancis is sold out!


Saturday 21st May 2016 wine & drinks events, Drinks Theatre at Litfest16

Irish Craft Cider
Saturday 21st May, 9.30am – 10.30am, Drinks Theatre, talk and tasting €16
Panel talk & Irish Craft Cider tasting with the producers and drinks writers including Pete Brown, co-author of ‘The World’s Best Ciders’ http://litfest.ie/events/irish-craft-cider-0

Hugh Johnson in conversation with John Wilson
Saturday 21st May, 11.30am – 12.30pm, Drinks Theatre €25
Hugh Johnson OBE, the world’s most successful wine author, and a recipient of the French National Order of Merit, has written a series of landmark books on wine during the past five decades. His annual Pocket Wine Book has sold more than 12 million copies in a dozen languages since its first edition in 1977. http://litfest.ie/events/hugh-johnson-conversation-john-wilson

‘Monastrell, Mourvèdre and Mataro – three grapes in one’
Saturday 21st May, 1.00pm – 2.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
Join the Irish Examiner wine writer, Leslie Williams as he explores this overlooked and intriguing grape variety with a wine tasting by way of illustration with a selection from Spain, France and Australia. http://litfest.ie/events/monastrell-mourv%C3%A8dre-and-mataro-three-grapes-one


The World’s Under-priced Wines with Jancis Robinson MW
Saturday 21st May, 3.00pm – 4.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting (sold out)
Described by Decanter magazine as 'the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world', Jancis Robinson MW is editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, wine columnist with The Financial Times and has written and co-authored many books including The World Atlas of Wine and Wine Grapes, each of these books recognised as a standard reference worldwide.  http://litfest.ie/events/worlds-under-priced-wines-jancis-robinson-mw

Irish Whiskey and The Role of Wood
Saturday 21st May, 5.00pm – 6.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
With Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation, Midleton Distillery, and drinks writer Dave Broom, author of more than a dozen books, including The World Atlas of Whiskey, and recipient of Drinks Writer of the Year, and IWSC Communicator of the Year

Cooperage with Master Cooper Ger Buckley
Saturday 21st May 6.00pm – 7.30pm, talk & cooperage demo €16 (free ticketed event)
Midleton Distillery Master Cooper Ger Buckley learned his trade directly from his father. His family have been making barrels for over 200 years and Ger himself is a 5th generation cooper, an ancient craft and skill, dating back thousands of years

"Tales of Ales"
Saturday 21st May, 8.30pm – 9.30pm, Drinks Theatre, Theatre & tasting €16
This is an enlightening tasting event fusing history, storytelling and craft beer tasting with Beer Sommelier and writer Judith Boyle and her sister, writer, performer & drinks consultant, Susan Boyle, both of Two Sisters Brewing. http://litfest.ie/events/tales-ales

Sunday 22nd May events in the Drinks Theatre at Litfest16


Fermented Drinks
Kefir, Kombucha, and Kraut shots…
Sunday 22nd May, 9.30am – 10.30am, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting (free ticketed event)
Fermented Drinks' panel talk & tasting of fermented non-alcoholic drinks including Kefir and Kombucha with John Wilson, wine & drinks writer, The Irish Times and Virginia O'Gara of My Goodness

“Hops and Glory” – IPA Craft Beer with Pete Brown and Caroline Hennessy
Sunday 22nd May 11.30am – 12.30pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
Pete Brown, member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, and Beer Writer of the Year, will be talking and tasting IPA Craft Beer in Hops & Glory with Caroline Hennessy co-author of Sláinte, the book on Irish craft beer. http://litfest.ie/events/hops-glory

‘Islands in the Sun’ – Unique wines from Europe’s ancient island vineyards
with John Wilson, Irish Times wine & drinks writer
Sunday 22nd May 1.00pm – 2.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
There is a fantastic history of wine making on many of the various islands in the Mediterranean going back to ancient times, from Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Croatia and elsewhere, including the Canaries and Madeira with some amazing stories behind them. This wine talk & tasting will also look at the various ancient traditions of viticulture and vinification on these islands, many of which are now attracting renewed interest. http://litfest.ie/events/islands-sun

Gin with Dave Broom, Peter Mulryan and Nick Strangeway
Sunday 22nd May, 2.30pm – 3.30pm, Drinks Theatre, talk and tasting €16
Dave Broom, prolific spirits writer, is also author of the recently published Gin – the Manual, will be joined by author and Irish craft gin distiller Peter Mulryan of Blackwater Gin and international drinks guru Nick Strangeway http://litfest.ie/events/gin-0

Cocktails, with ingredients foraged from the Big Shed with Nick Strangeway and Oisin Davis
Sunday 22nd May, 4.30pm – 5.50pm, Drinks Theatre, demo & tasting €16
One of Ireland’s best-known names in the world of cocktails, Oisín Davis, together with Nick Strangeway, World Mixologist of the Year will present a cocktail demo and tasting with ingredients ‘foraged’ from the Big Shed. http://litfest.ie/events/cocktails-ingredients-foraged-big-shed


Please see the Litfest brochure for box office details and online at www.litfest.ie

or contact Colm@ballymaloe.ie for any additional information on the Litfest Drinks Theatre wine & drinks events .

Thanks to Colm McCan for the update.