Showing posts with label Barry Fitzwilliam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barry Fitzwilliam. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

O’Donovan’s 14th Cork Wine and Craft Beer Fair. Some Superb Spirits too.

O’Donovan’s 14th Cork Wine and Craft Beer Fair
Some Superb Spirits too
Mary Pawle

I must say I really enjoyed the variety around the room at the 14th Cork Wine Fair, mounted by O'Donovan Off Licences, in the Clarion last weekend. There were more than a few excellent wines, as you might expect. No shortage of good craft beer and some delightful Irish spirits. Not to mention the local food stalls.

Traffic problems delayed some exhibitors and pundits but Mary Pawle, all the way from Kenmare, was one of the first to set up and my first visit. And her first offering was the biodynamic Dominio e Punctum Viognier 2015. Well balanced, great acidity and she suggests trying it with Asian Cuisine. Should have had toddled over to the Green Saffron stall!

Grüner Veltliner is a favourite of mine and Mary has a good one in the Diwald Grossriedenthaler 2015, dry and rich, with great length.

Time then to touch base with Padraig from Carrigaline Cheese, one of the Cork cheesemakers featured in the Oxford University Press Companion to Cheese, due to be published this Thursday. 

Avril of Rosscarberry Recipes had her problems with the traffic but she arrived with lots of samples, including a new one by son Maurice who has been working on an unsmoked Angus Biltong, a delicious product with lovely texture and flavour. Early days yet but this could be another winner from the Rosscarberry farm.
Padraig from Carrigaline Cheese

Then I got side-tracked by some spirits, including Kalak the Celtic queen of winter. If people tell you that Vodka has no character, then give them a drop of Kalak. “We are very proud of this,” said Damien on the Tindal stand. “Enjoy it in a whiskey glass with a lump of ice. It is made from a single ingredient (malted barley) in a single distillery (West Cork) and only one of six vodkas in the world to be so made and recognised.” It is being sold in all the best places - the Germans love it and is going down well in the US.

Tindal’s were also tasting the Blackwater No 5 Gin. But my eyes were on their Juniper Cask Gin. I remember seeing those small juniper casks before they were filled but had never tasted the result. Damien fixed that. As many of you know by now it is a delight, amazing aromas and flavours.
Damien (Tindal) with two top drops

There were some very enthusiastic people behind the stands. Jamie Winters of Irish Distiller was one and he treated me to a Jameson masterclass that included Blender’s Dog, Cooper’s Croze ad Distiller’s Safe. Each is made by a senior person in Midleton and each has the fingerprint on the bottles. Indeed, I’m told there’s quite keen competition between the three.

My first sip came from the Distiller’s Safe by Head Distiller Brian Nation. His aim was to show the character of the distillate. Despite the wood that follows, the pot still has the first say and it certainly does here in a light and zesty, gentle sophisticated whiskey.

Head Cooper Ger Buckley was on the darker side, revealing the flavour of the wood so skilfully crafted. Not just the flavour. There is more colour here too and a great mix of fruit, spice and oak with a long and pleasant finish.
Three of the best!

That left it up to Head Blender Billy Leighton to bring it all together, the spirit, the oak and time. And he surely got the balance spot-on. Superbly balanced, sweetness and spice. Time and patience pays off for Billy. It is rich and round, the gorgeous fruit slow to fade in the final.

Major enthusiasm too at the Vineyard stand where we got stuck into the Malbecs! It was Argentina all the way and first up was the Pascual Toso 2014, a “sincere” and satisfactory example. But that was soon eclipsed by the Reserva 2014, super ripe with lots of complexity, very very good indeed.

Next thing we knew, our man vanished and returned quickly with another Malbec, this the Luigi Bosca Signature Malbec Reserva 2012. Like all the previous Malbecs this had a lighter colour than you’d normally find in Cahors. It was smooth and silky and with a great finish. “Magic!” according to our man. Magic Malbec indeed. This had come from the Barry & Fitzwilliam display where we’d earlier been sipping beers by Bo Bristle and Mountain Man.
Pat (O'Donovan's)
pouring a sample.

He went missing again and was back in a flash with a sample of the amazing Zenato Ripasso (from the Tindal stand). I’m a Ripasso fan and have tasted quite a few but this Zenato Ripassa della Valpolicella Superiore 2012 is silky smooth, with amazing concentration and a long long finish. “Dangerously easy to drink,” said Damien when we returned to the Tindal stand. Damien is a huge fan of the wine and the man behind it.

And he had a suggestion for the Christmas dinner: the Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2014, full of character and flavour and easily able to stand up to most the variations on the Christmas table. And we finished here with a sip of the Cotes du Rhône Les Deux Cols “Cuvée d’Alize” made by Simon Tyrrell. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, it was made for easy drinking and, with its rich fruit aromas and flavours, it certainly hits the mark.

And we just had to try the Beefsteak Meaty Malbec 2015 at the United Wines stand. Well we were under orders! This vibrant Malbec, spicy and juicy, rich from the oak, is ideal - you’ve guessed it - for juicy steaks. And believe it or not you can join the Beefsteak club  online!

Pat, well known to patrons of O’Donovan’s in Mayfield, is a big red wine man and he showed us two of his favourites. First up was the Famila Castano ‘Hecula’ Monastrell 2014, a Gold Star winner (under €15.00) at the Irish Wine Show. “Deliciously ripe and opulent, a steal” said the judges.

Catalan design
And I was very impressed with the next one: San Alejandro ‘Las Rocas’ Vinas Viejas 2013 from Calatayud. This won the Gold Star for reds priced under €20.00. And speaking of this old vine wine, the judges said: “..blackberry and mocha fruits with a side order of toast!”.

We finished where we started, back with Mary Pawle. We enjoyed the Stellar Running Duck Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa and a young unoaked Rioja Osoti 2015. Osoti by the way means pigeon in Basque so maybe that’s a matching hint. And she also had a young Côtes du Rhone, the Contrefort du Delta 2014, very pleasing aromas and palate, soft and smooth, and described as “a good all rounder”.

All three were very good but my favourite of her reds was the Jean Bousquet Malbec 2015 with its intense aromas and flavours, soft and supple and with excellent length. Malbec again! Looks like it was the number one grape at the Fair, a very enjoyable few hours indeed.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Neil McGuigan in Kinsale. Where Everybody Knows Your Wine

Neil McGuigan in Kinsale
Where Everybody Knows Your Wine

  

Neil McGuigan of Australia’s McGuigan Wines was delighted to be back in Ireland - where people pronounce his name correctly. It had been a busy week for the Chief Winemaker, with engagements in Dubai and Malta and then time out in London to celebrate the company being named International Winemaker of the Year for a record fourth time.

Twenty four hours after collecting the trophy, Neil was speaking at Friday's wine dinner in the Pier One Restaurant in the Trident Hotel, with the bow of an ocean-going freighter about 25 yards behind him (it was tied up!). Carole Norman welcomed him on behalf of the Order of the Wine Geese and also introduced Michael Barry of Barry and Fitzwilliam who import the wines.

Neil lauded the involvement with Barry’s saying it is much more than commercial at this stage. “We got Kate (Barry) out to Australia to do a vintage and we sent son Matthew over to Ireland. I reckon we got the better deal!”, he joked.
Frizzante!
They are well known for their Black Label series and are building on that with the intention to go “iconic”. He acknowledged James Busby as “the father of the Australian wine industry”. And he listed other pioneers including Penfolds in 1844 and, joking again, McGuigan in 1992! The early winemakers concentrated on making fortified wines, helping the government get drinkers off the much stronger rum that was then popular.

“Table wine was a late starter and it was only in the 1970s that it took off. Before that we had no idea that we could make wine.” And he pointed to the fact that they started putting the variety on the label and that proved to be their toe-in-the-door of the international market. “We made it simple for consumers and the move helped Australia go forward to Europe and the world.”
My favourite on the night

Then he paid tribute to his family, recalling how his grandfather “got us involved”. His father worked with Penfolds for decades and “we got him to one hundred and he was a wonderful guidance to us”. Neil's brother Brian established the brand “giving me a vehicle to drive”.

“I run a wine company and it is all about the wine. We want to over-deliver on quality at every price point. Purity of fruit is our aim, to see the grape reflected in every bottle. Awards are all well and good but innovation is very important.”

And that had been illustrated as we came in. Our welcome drink was a McGuigan Frizzante (Neil loved pronouncing that one!) and it comes in a resealable bottle. Produced from Semillon grapes, it is “easy drinking, for everyday”. 
The beef, tender and delicious

Yours truly with Neil McGuigan (left)
The Trident kitchen were in top form and our first plate was a delicious Smoked Duck, caramelised plum and celeriac remoulade and the wine here was Tempus Two Silver Series Pinot Gris. Tempus is a “boutique winery” in McGuigan and the wine was “French style, pears on nose, richness on the palate”.

Next plate was a delightful soup with a crunch: Wild Mushroom, Truffle Oil and Hazelnut Soup. And the wine was a killer, perhaps the best of the night, for me anyhow. Any remaining prejudice against Australian Chardonnay will be blown away by one sip of the McGuigan Founders Series. 

“Chardonnay is the prince of white grape varieties. We may have put people off but we have brought the pendulum back. Grapes are no longer over-ripe; these come from the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills.”

It is lovely, elegant and refreshing, an outstanding example of the grape. Neil told me that it is well oaked but you hardly notice it as the freshness is amazing. “Getting the pH right in the vineyard is key”, he emphasised.

After that, we enjoyed the Brioche crumbed scallops, Rosscarbery black pudding, pear and cauliflower puree. While I was really enjoying the Chardonnay, I found the Pinot Gris a better match with this dish!

There was a choice of mains: Port Wine Braised Jacobs Ladder (beef), Brussels sprouts and chestnut potato or Grilled fillet of sea-bream, pumpkin and cumin mashed potato, chilli and coriander butter.

Their 2013 Cabernet, part of the Founders Series, had great balance and was very approachable, just the job for the beef. “We find the Cabernet has lots of early flavour and then tannic at the end but has a hole in the middle! We fill that hole with richness from the oak. Coonawarra is great for Cabernet”.

The wine suggested for the Sea Bream was a Rhone style blend, their Tempus Two Silver Series Grenache (75%), Shiraz and Mourvedre. Rich, vibrant and full bodied, it was soft and rounded and absolutely spot-on with the fish.
Frizzante!

And that Founder Series Cabernet was very much in evidence again as we finished off a superb evening of food and wine and no little chat with a delicious Munster Cheese plate. Neil was on his feet for one final time, extending thanks to the Trident kitchen and staff. 

And he re-affirmed that special relationship with the Barry family. “Ireland is special to us and we will continue working with the Barry family. We are excited, tirelessly seeking new things, new varieties, new styles.” 

A few hours later, he was on his way to catch a flight from Dublin to Dubai, hoping to be back in Australia on Sunday evening. Such is the life of a wine-maker. You can make all the wines you want but someone must get out and sell them! Bon voyage and see you next time.


* McGuigan cultivates grapes in the Lower and Upper Hunter, Mudgee, Cowra, Adelaide Plain and Adelaide Hills, Murray Valley, Barossa and the Limestone Coast and processes in three operating wineries. No wonder they claim to be "The Flavour of Australia".

This fisherman, sculpted by Graham Brett and seated in the
forecourt of The Trident, endured a frosty night.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Casa Silva Wines Impress At Jacques

Casa Silva Wines Impress At Jacques
No water? No problem to Casa Silva at Paredones 


Don’t particularly want to be anywhere else during this current spell of warm sunny weather but offer me a stay at the guesthouse in the Chilean winemaker Casa Silva and I wouldn't hesitate.

It is best best known for its Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc but, having sampled five of their wines in Jacques in a very convivial tasting last Tuesday, I'll be adding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to the list!

David Prentice, Casa Silva’s European Commercial Director, was our host at Jacques and we soon had their delicious unoaked Chardonnay in hand. It may be their “entry level Chardonnay” but this comes from one of the country’s top producers and is well worth seeking out. You may get it for €12.50 at www.winesoftheworld.ie.
Two Cool from Paredones

David said: “We prefer to make the wine mainly in the vineyard. No oak here as there’s no need for it. The vineyard is 25km from the coast, cool at night and there is a short hot spike during the day, ideal conditions. Yield here is very close to that of Chablis.”

Five generations - a 6th on the way - show that Casa Silva is a family affair. “The first generation brought their vines from Bordeaux, in 1892! And the aim is to keep the business within the family. Seventy year old Mario Silva has dedicated much of his life to recovering the old vineyards and wine cellar and has acquired a unique understanding of the terroir in the Colchagua Valley.  He still works every day, still checking, still tasting.”

In Chile, you can find a micro-climate for virtually any grape. The long narrow country has the Andes to the east and the ocean to the west, desert to the north, ice to the south and, in between, there is a great diversity of soils and climate.

 Our next wine was the Sauvignon Blanc 2015 reserva and that went down very well indeed. By the way, David emphasised that they use natural local yeast in the majority of their wines.

They are not afraid to be brave. The grapes for the second Sauvignon Blanc, the terrific Cool Coast 2013, came from the Paredones vineyard, in an area where no vines had been grown previously due to lack of water. But Casa Silva pumped the water up from the river (filled by winter rains) and that storage “lake” is the centerpoint of the beautiful vineyard, now earning quite a reputation.

Here there is “granite, older than the Andes” and this Sauvignon is “more chiselled”, “more friendly than New Zealand counterparts, intense aromas, refreshing acidity. Paredones is very interesting,  has a great terroir, ideal temperature range (23 by day, 8 by night).”

And there was further proof of that with the next bottle, the Cool Coast Pinot Noir with its red robe that bit deeper than you’d expect, its inviting aromas of raspberry and strawberry, excellent balancing acidity, refreshing flavours and long finish. Very impressive indeed.

Such has been the success of this new vineyard that one or two other wine producers are now moving into the area. Los Lignes is another famous Casa Silva vineyard and the source of our final wine, a top notch 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. “The Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon planted here reach extremely high quality with unique character.” We could see that in our glass! Superb. The Carmenere is now on the wish list.
David Prentice (left) with Yours Truly

And with all that acidity and freshness calling out for food, the kitchen in Jacques stepped up to the plate, as they always do. Our first dish was Goats Cheese with Rhubarb and Orange on Toast, the second Fresh Crab and apple in lettuce, the finalé a terrific slice of rare beef, complete with potato, horseradish cream and a surprising smoked tomato!

So thanks to Casa Silva, to David, to Kate Barry and her crew from Barry Fitzwilliam and to the 38 year old Cork restaurant for a very informative and relaxing evening of good wine and food. Don't forget to check out the Casa Silva wines at www.winesoftheworld.ie, in your local restaurant and in selected off licences