Showing posts with label Bradley's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bradley's. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Three Wines. And a few beers!

Three Wines. And a few beers!
Valdivia Dorius Amontillado seco sherry, Jerez (DO), 18%, €17.85 (50cls) Karwig Wines.

This dry amontillado is the perfect match for meat dishes and mature cheese and vanished very quickly here, where it was used as an aperitif - so quickly, I didn't have time to take any notes. 

To get the best from its generous aromas and flavours, serve it at between 12 and 14 degrees. It has lovely amber colour, a rich almond nose, a nutty and tangy flavour and the superb finish goes on and on. And you can get all this from just one little sip. Very Highly Recommended. Enjoy, with all five senses, as they invite on the bottle.

Exquisite Collection Cremant du Jura (AOP) Chardonnay 2014, 12%, €11.29 Aldi

Had to pick up a sparkling wine in a hurry and got this Brut (dry) in at the local Aldi. A few hours later, I was very impressed with it. This sparkling Chardonnay, made using the same methods as they use in making champagne, was perfect for our little celebration. It is not lacking in complexity, has light fruit flavours, a hint of biscuit (that you find in champagnes), and a fine finish. Good price too. Very Highly Recommended.


Barefoot Merlot (California), 13.5%, €10.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence
“Wine tastes better in a tee than in a tux”, Barefoot say. So you’re thinking cheap and cheerful, nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with this Merlot either.  This is smooth and warming, full of raspberry and blackberry flavours, mild tannins, well balanced too and with a decent finish. It is an easy-drinker and good value. 

Beer Bullets

Cloudwater Session IPA Wai-iti 4.5%
Thought this was an American brewery but they are from Manchester. Brexit or not, this is an excellent beer, a superb IPA. You’ll get hoppier but the balance here is spot-on and as a result, the beer is well worth a try. You may not get it in Old Trafford or The Etihad but you’ll certainly find a bottle in Bradley’s.

St Bernardus Wit, 5.5%, 

St Bernardus has quite a smile and his abbey beers deliver every time. As they do with this perfect wheat beer. This traditional Belgian wheat beer is more or less a perfect example of the type, with clove notes, very refreshing, your perfect thirst quencher. Thirsty? Bradley’s have this answer.

St Bernardus Abt 12, 10%
Another big delivery from the Belgians, the big here referring to the alcohol at 10%. Not a big worry though; the beer is perfectly balanced between malty, bitter and sweet. It has fruity aromas, is full bodied with a hoppy touch on the finish.


They say: It is the pride of our stable, the nec plus ultra of our brewery. Abbey ale brewed in the classic 'Quadrupel' style of Belgium's best Abbey Ales.  

Sweet favourite of the Romans. Still Going Strong!

Sweet favourite of the Romans. 
Still Going Strong! 

Masi Angelorum Recioto della Valpolicella Classico (DOC) 2012, 14%, €24.95 (35cl) Bradley’s

This is something special, once a favourite of the ancient Romans. 

According to Hugh Johnson, it “is the most historic of all Italian wines…. sumptuous..cherry chocolate…sweet fruitiness.”

It is produced by Masi, “one of the great entrepreneurs of Italian wine,” according to The Modern History of Italian Wine.

Masi are well known for using techniques that enhance the flavour and concentration of their wines and Recioto is one such. 

Recioto is made by arresting the fermentation.. so that some residual sugar remains, according to Vino Italiano. “With all that sugar, the extract, and the alcohol, a Recioto can be almost overwhelming in its intensity…. a meal in itself… It is still one of the great wines of Verona, an answer to Port.”

You will need patience to see that answer though. The bottle below is from 2012, so the style is sweet and fruity. Towards the end of its recommended 20 years, it becomes similar to Port.

It is a blend of three well-known grapes in the area: Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Moderate barrel ageing helps achieve balance. 

Colour is a dense ruby red.  Cooked cherries and fruits preserved in spirits are given as the aromas. Haven't done either, so I'll take their word for it! On the classy palate you notice that lovely balance of fruit, sweetness and acidity. And then the long finish. Nowhere near as heavy as some well-known sweet wines, not a hint of cloying, and Very Highly Recommended.


See also (from my current Italian mini-series):
In the Heart of Chianti

Pighin's "Grave wines are bargains". Good too!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wines of Italy's Marche. Carminucci Family impress with this set

Wines of Italy's Marche
Carminucci Family impress with this set

The Marche (pronounced Mar-kay) is a long narrowish region on the east of Italy, between the Adriatic and the Apennines. The main cities are Pesaro in the north, Ascoli in the south and Ancona in between. It has an ancient wine-making tradition and its warm and cool viticultural zones mean a variety of produce.

Verdicchio is, by far, the main white grape of the area, with highly regarded wines coming from Castelli di Jesi and Matelica. But “there’s a significant production of a crisp Trebbiano-based white in the south”, near Ascoli-Piceno, according to Vino Italiano, and this is where our family, Carminucci, comes from. 

Red wines here are “a softer version of Chianti” according to Vino Italiano, and they can also be “some of the best values around”. 

The World Atlas of Wine is of much the same opinion. "Rosso Piceno... generally with lower yields and judicious oaking, can be good value." Sangiovese and Montepulciano are the main red grapes.

The Carminucci family started making wine here in 1928 and Findlater’s have  introduced their wines to Ireland.  The five wines below come from the sub-regions of Falerio, Offida, Rosso Piceno, 

Carminucci Naumakos Falerio (DOC) 2015, 12.5%, €15.95. Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork).
This is a fresh and fruity blend of Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino. Trebbiano is the backbone while the other two, each native varieties, boost the aromatic complexity. Crisp, tangy and refreshing.

Colour is a light straw, tints of green, micro-bubbles. Aromas are pleasant if modest, of almonds. There are refreshing fruity flavours with an immediate appeal, persistent from start to finish. And I'm not talking tasting portions here. This is not a wine to sip and abandon; it has second, even third, glass appeal! Good acidity too. Could possibly do with a bit more body, a tad more viscosity, but a very pleasant wine as is and Very Highly Recommended.

Carminucci Belato Offida (DOCG) Pecorino 2015, 12.5%, €16.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)
This is 100 per cent Pecorino. I am talking about a grape, not the famous sheep's cheese of Italy. The Pecorino grape is so called because a bunch resembles a sheep’s head. That’s one story. Another is that the bunches are a favourite treat for the sheep. In any case. it does well here in Offida.

Wine-Searcher.com says: Pecorino cheese is, coincidentally, a surprisingly good food match for Pecorino. I did try a previous one with the Pecorino from Toons Bridge and it certainly worked well. Brief details here

Colour of this Carminucci, a producer newly introduced by Findlater’s, is a pale straw, invitingly bright. Aromas are delicate and pleasant, of apple, pear and banana, some floral elements too. On the palate, it is full and rewarding, good depth of flavour and minerality; it is full bodied, dry and well balanced. A very pleasant mouthful indeed and Highly Recommended.

Winery tips: Serving temperature: 10-12 degrees; pair with
aperitifs, fresh cheese, white meat, fish.

Carminucci Naumakos Rosso Piceno Superiore (DOC) 2013, 14%, €16.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)

As with the whites, the DOC for this red is in the south of the Marche region, close to Falerio, Offida and Rosso Conero. The blend is 30% Sangiovese and 70% Montepulciano. It has been matured for 12 months in 400 litre oak barrels.

It is a dark ruby red with a complex bouquet of the darker fruits (plum, cherry), hints of liquorice too. The first rich sip tells much. It is a lovely rounded wine, full of flavour, some moderate spice, with  a terrific balance, quite fine tannins and a persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Carminucci Grotte Sul Marc Falerio (DOC) 2015, 11.5%, €14.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)

Same three grapes but a different vineyard to the Naumakos, lower ABV also. Light straw colour, tints of green. Pleasant aromas of fruit (apple, pear), plus floral notes also.

After the introductory tingle, the fruity freshness (grapefruit now added to the mix) continues; it is dry, fresh yes, and well balanced. Good acidity too (they recommended trying it with fish) and a pleasant and persistent finalé. Highly Recommended.

Carminucci Grotte Sul Marc Rosso Piceno (DOC) 2015, 13%, €16.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)

This Grotte Sul Marc line underscores “our link with this territory… the Grottammore hill zone”. It is a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano and no oak has been used in this one. You are advised to “use all through the meal, with delicatessen products, cheese, and roast meats”.


Ruby red is the colour. There are cherry aromas. On the palate it feels smooth, with rounded red fruit flavours, slight spice and altogether a rather lovely wine, dry and soft and with a good finish. Enough acidity to keep it welcome at the table. Highly Recommended.

See also from current Italian series: 
Fontanafredda. Important Player in Italian Wine
Two Amazing Whites from Italy.
In the Heart of Chianti
From the Islands

Pighin's "Grave wines are bargains". Good too!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Barry’s Tea. Favourites for more than a century.


Barry’s Tea. Favourites for more than a century.
Wall of Tea

As the 19th century turned into the 20th, a blacksmith’s son from Ballyhooly came to Cork city to work in a shop. Soon, in 1901, he became a “counter-jumper” and set up his own shop dealing in Tea, Wine and Spirits. That entrepreneurial country boy, James J. Barry, was the great grandfather of Tony Barry, our host on a tour of the Barry's Tea factory in Cork earlier in the week.

The first Barry's Tea Shop was in Bridge Street and, by the 60’s, Tony told us that they were well known for tea. His father was then running the business - the shop now in Princes Street -  and had a lucky break. Marketing was barely known as a science in those days but a young man asked to do a study on the firm and discovered a gap, a gap that Barry's turned into an opening. The young man found that Barry's Tea was very well liked but that many customers had trouble getting to the shop to buy. The solution was to distribute to other shops around the city and Madden’s, Bradley's and Smith’s were among the first.

Marketing, by the way, wasn't exactly new to the Barry’s. Back in 1939, they recruited three elephants from a  visiting circus and marched them down the traffic-free city streets "with tea chests strapped on!”  Read more of the Barry's Story here.
We were there, at their current Kinsale Road facility, as part of a group of Munster Wine and Dine members. MWD member Stuart Musgrave knows Barry’s well and was indeed once one of their rivals. But he reckons, always did, they make the best blended tea in the world.

And Barry's, who nowadays employ 65 people, certainly know their stuff. Tony explained a bit. “Rwandan teas give a good colour but are very light. So you need something for strength and India provides that. Still, you don't want something too strong either so add a contribution from Kenya and you’ll have a good all round bend.”


The tea plant, a bush, grows in equatorial areas. The bushes grow like a hedge, making it easy to pluck the leaves. Hand-plucking is still very common. It is a natural product. After plucking, nothing is added. Green tea and black tea comes from the same type of plant. “The green is steamed and rolled and is fresher while the black is withered and fermented.”
Tony Barry, standing left, invites us to taste
He told us that there are similarities between wine and tea, that terroir matters in both. “So how do you know where to get the best?” someone asked. “Well, “ he smiled. “We’ve been around for over 100 years. We know where to get the best teas, where the best tea gardens are. We have lots of contacts now and they know what we want.”

“Tea is not a complicated business, “he said. “But you do need to get each part right, from sourcing to blending to distribution and sales. It is not traded as a commodity so we don’t have to buy futures.” Still, when there is a high quality crop, they aren't slow in building up their stocks.


We had a few samples of traditional teas and not so traditional (including apple/pear flavoured and Berry Berry) before we began our walkabout. First stop was the the real Tasting Room with veteran tastier Denis Daly doing the honours. The window is north facing window here - they want natural colours, not a tea turned a flattering gold by the morning sun!
Berry Berry

The samples enabled us tell the difference, at least for that moment, between the various teas from Asia and Africa and then we were off on our factory walk. First we saw the high stores of palleted tea, some in vacuum packs, stamped with exotic names such as those from the gardens of Gatunguru in Kenya. “Some of these gardens are in the most beautiful areas of the world.” That vacuum packed tea could last for a few years but Barry's like to rotate within the year.

Then we saw the blending area followed by the packing and the boxing. Amazing to see the tea-bag machine in action, making no less than 2,000 bags per minute! Next came the boxes being packed, by robots, into large packs for transport via container.

Indeed, there was a container load lined up for export to the USA - they export about 11% of the total. The working day was drawing to a close and so was our eye-opening informative tour. Reckon I'll never look at the humble cup of tea in the same complacent way again!
Selection
Check out the Barry's website, including online shop, here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Taste of the Week. Bertha’s Revenge Gin

Taste of the Week
Bertha’s Revenge Gin

“Most important of all for us was the desire to produce a gin that other people would enjoy as much as we do.” So says Justin Green who, with Anthony Jackson, founded Bertha’s Revenge Milk Gin in 2015. The marvellous gin, which walked off the shelves of one leading Cork drinks store over Christmas, is our rich and smooth Taste of the Week. Any week!

The gin is named after Bertha, the oldest cow in the world, who died a few weeks short of her 49th birthday. The Whey spirit they use is made by Carbery in West Cork.

The producers - the tiny distillery is in Ballyvolane House - are so happy with the complexity and smoothness of this milk based gin that they really enjoy sipping it with a “splash of water”.

But they add “she works very well with a good quality tonic”. And she performs well also in a martini. Bertha, shaken with ice and a suggestion of vermouth, poured into a chilled glass with a simple zest garnish delivers “a gloriously smooth and precise cocktail experience”. Try it for yourself - stockists here - about 50 euro per bottle. You’ll also find it in various mixes in leading bars and restaurants.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Three Delightful Whites. Chapeau Chaps!

Three Delightful Whites
Chapeaux Chaps!

We have been traveling all over to assemble this top notch trio of white wines for you. Maybe just a trio but they amount to quite an orchestra, maybe even capable of a symphony. The traveling has not been done by me personally but by the folks from Wine Mason, Mary Pawle and Le Caveau. They have bought well. So, let us doff the hats and say Chapeaux to the chaps and chapesses!


Turner Pageot Le Blanc 2015, Languedoc (AOP), 14%, €19.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork.

Colour is a shiny pale gold. The nose, slightly honeyed, is of ripe apricot and exotic fruit. Ripe fruit abounds on the medium-dry palate. This is fruity, rich and round and quite a powerful wine with a long and mineral  finish. Very Highly Recommended.

It is an organic blend of Roussane (80%) and Marsanne (20). Turner Pageot, imported by the Wine Mason, produce a range of “gastronomic wines” and say the striking colourful collage on the label suggests exciting food and wine matches.

And the food and wine pairings they suggest are Fish and crustaceans in sauce; Saint Jacques with black truffle; Pike dumplings Nantua sauce; Noble poultry; White sausage. Old-fashioned veal blanquette. Mushrooms with cream. 

Noble poultry, how are ye! Well, come to think of it, there was some right royal Irish chicken in the Thai Green Curry from Cinnamon Cottage. I tried the wine with that delicious dish and they got on very well together!

Diwald Goldberg Grüner Veltliner, Wagram (Austria) 2013, 12.5%, €20.75 Mary Pawle Wines

The low-yielding vineyard overlooks the Danube and this organic trocken (dry) white wine has spent 8 months on lees. Importer Mary Pawle recommends matching it with scallops. It is often recommended with Asian also. Indeed, Grüner Veltliner is a very good food wine, very versatile, so much so that sommeliers regularly mention it, especially if a small group is hesitating over which wine to order.

This Diwald bottle boasts an attractive light gold colour. You’ll first meet its light fruit (apples, citrus) and white pepper on the nose. A tingly feel introduces it to the palate, that clean fruit fresh is there too, balanced by a lively and lovely acidity. Very Highly Recommended.

Framingham Classic Riesling, Marlborough 2009, 12%, €22.65 Le Caveau
Colour is an inviting rich yellow. Floral and citrus elements in the aromas and a hint of diesel too followed by a mouthful of delicious complex flavours. It is just off-dry with a little sweetness in the mix - think Mosel rather than Rhine.

Texture has been reinforced by some six months spent on lees. Balance comes from the juicy acidity and the finish is long and drying. Overall quite a rich Riesling and a Highly Recommended one.


The diesel is almost always an unwanted distraction for me in New Zealand (and Australian) Rieslings but here it is just about noticeable and hardly at all with food, especially with that delicious Skeaghanore Smoked Duck Breast.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Engaging Native Italian Trio

Engaging Italian Trio
All Natives!

Baglio Rosso Nero d’Avola, Terre Siciliane (IGP) 2014, 14%, €19.50 Le Caveau

This organic wine has undergone natural fermentation - without additional yeast - and is Highly Recommended. Colour is a very dark red, heading into black. Dark fruits and spice on the nose follow through to the palate, some savoury notes here too, plus excellent acidity. Fresh too, this fruity low intervention medium bodied wine is a delicious easy drinker.

Filippi “Castelcerino” Colli Scaligeri, Soave (DOC) 2014, 12.5%, €18.65 Le Caveau

This is quite an attractive wine, beginning with its medium gold colour. Aromas of fresh white fruit, hints of anise. White fruit flavours too, no shortage of minerality, elegant and fresh, quite smooth with a lingering finish, this light bodied biodynamic wine is Highly Recommended.

The main grape for Soave is Garganego, sometimes others are added. But not here. This is 100% Garganego, the fruit of 70 year old vines. It is also held on its lees for an extended period and they recommend pairing it with fish, salads, and light pasta dishes. An entry level wine but far from basic. Well worth a try.

Masi Campofiorin 2005 Rosso del Veronese (IGT), 13%, €17.50 (now at 14.95) for the 2008 version, Bradley’s Off Licence

An ageing potential of 10 to 15 years is flagged on the bottle, so I'm in pretty good time, I said to myself as I opened this gift from a friend. Colour is a ruby red and the aromas speak of warm ripe cherries. There follows a good concentration of cherries and berries, good acidity, very fine tannins and a decent finish. Highly Recommended.


This rich, smooth wine has spent 18 months in large oak barrels, is very approachable and versatile with food. It is made by re-passing (ripasso, sometimes also called double fermentation, is a method used to add more structure, body and flavour). The grapes used are Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, all native grapes.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Let's Glow Downtown. Street Fun. Street Food.

Let's Glow Downtown. 
Street Fun. Street Food.
The Sultan  is beaming. A big welcome for customers and passerbys alike. He and his team are enjoying the atmosphere under the Big Wheel, the eye-catching feature of the Cork Glow Festival, on every weekend (Friday to Sunday) until December 18th.

His board catches my eye: Greek Burgers with tzatziki sauce (also a vegetarian version), Breakfast Calzone, Falafel Wrap, Lamb Souvlaki Shawarma, Chicken Souvlaki Shawarma, and more. The stall also displays lots of baklava and Turkish delight. 

We go for the Lamb and the Chicken and take them, along with a glass of his excellent mulled wine, to one of the nearby tables. Hard to find a space even though it is early in the evening. But we sit, eat and have a chat with fellow diners. Nice bit of grub and good value too at €6.50 each.

There are quite a few others stalls around, including Wok ’n Roll, Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages, Crepe Man, Fish ’n Chips, Bad Boys BBQ, Taste Cork (with local producers) and more. All doing business. Queues are building for the food and especially for that Big Wheel. Families are wandering in and out of the small park where Narnia is the theme this Christmas. 

You like cheese cake?
Something sweet? We had already tasted a small sample from Charly’s Cheesecake . So he was the choice for “dessert”. Chocolate? He had a half dozen different types of chocolate cakes and lots of fruit ones too. We took the Toblerone and the Terry’s Orange. Nice stuff!

Time then for a stroll up the Parade and up North Main Street where Mick O’Connell MW of the WineMason  was holding a tasting. 
Mick O'Connell (left) and yours truly

He had a couple of comparisons for us. One featured Tempranillo. The first was a light and fruity unoaked organic, Merinos 2015, from la Mancha. The other was Finca Emperatriz 2012 Crianza from Rioja. This, with oak, was the more familiar style. Both were good, maybe for different occasions, the organic more for summer perhaps, the Rioja for now!

And then we tasted two Niepoort Ports, one a tawny, the other an LBV 2012. These divided opinions with some preferring the tawny while others (including myself) plumped for the LBV. The tawny was introduced just for comparison; Bradley's don’t stock it but they do sell the other.

But, for me, the best came first. I really enjoyed the two whites. Riesling is a favourite of mine, especially European Riesling, and the Wagner Stempel, dry with ripe fruit and sharp acidity,  certainly fitted the bill. Not too often you come across Roussane and Marsanne, other white grapes that I like, in the one bottle but that is exactly what the Turner Pageot 2015 blend, fruity and medium dry, provided.

It was a lovely “excursion” downtown and highly recommended. Not too sure where there’s a tasting of wines or beer next weekend. But if you do venture to Glow and are looking for something else to do, either before or after, why not check out the many choices detailed in the December edition of Whazon Cork! Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Spirits of the Islands. Top drops from Ireland & Islay

Spirits of the Islands
Top drops from Ireland & Islay

Had a significant birthday recently - they are all significant now! - and treated myself to these significant spirits. Quite expensive when you consider that you can get a bottle of excellent Jameson for about thirty euro. But I must say, I am really enjoying these. And, just to let you know, there is a significant gift-giving occasion on the horizon!

Writer’s Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey, 40%, €45.99 Bradley’s, Cork

This single pot still, plus single malt, is fast becoming a favourite with me for its complex flavours and amazing smoothness. The name, according to Walsh Distillers, is because a whiskey such as this was enjoyed by famous Irish writers in the good old days.

Don't stick your nose in to get the aromas - a "mistake" wine aficionados make with spirits - just hover above the glass and they’ll come to you, apple and honey in this case. The attractive soft whiskey has been matured in charred Bourbon barrels and there are notes of the wood on the gentle palate, also a sweet spice, some toffee too in a gorgeous mix. And the finish is smooth, elegant and long. Quite the foxy lady and worth exploring. Very Highly Recommended.
  • Writer’s Tears won the award of Best Irish Blend Under €50.00 in the 2013 Irish Whiskey Awards.

The Botanist, Islay Dry Gin, 46%, €59.95 Bradley’s, Cork
Lots of hype around this gin but what is undeniable is that it is a very very good one. The usual suspects are among the botanicals but there are no less than 22 local botanicals as well - Islay must be denuded. Undeniable too is the website claim that the foraged 22 are “unbuyable flavors” - amazing how the US English spellchecker takes over, even in Islay.

“You’re getting uncommon things”, they say and no denying Islay is producing an uncommon gin, one of the best.

On the complex nose, you meet the usual indispensable suspects (including juniper, orange and lemon peel) and, from Islay itself, come apple mint, thistle, summer flowers, gorse and other “unbuyable flavors”. On the palate this smooth Scotch gin seduces, its strength cloaked with its rich and mellow taste, its fresh and stimulating flavours, its warm and lingering finish. Very Highly Recommended.


By the way, if your Latin is up to scratch, you’ll recognise the local botanical names which are embossed on the bottle: Galium Verum  (Lady’s Bedstraw) and Cirsium Arvense  (Creeping Thistle) are two examples.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Taste of the Week. Torc's Raspberry & Vanilla Sour

Taste of the Week
Torc Brewing Raspberry & Vanilla Sour, 4%, Bradley’s of North Main Street exclusive.

What is a sour beer? Don’t want to overcomplicate this and put you off. Think of a very dry cider or that gripping Basque wine Txakoli and you won't be a million miles away. Just be aware that in sours, as in ales and lagers, you’ll have quite a range. So you’ll have to try for yourself and this is a good one to start with.

I couldn't find an entry for sour in Slainte (The complete guide to Irish craft beer and cider).Perhaps they weren't any Irish sours when the book was published two years ago. Now there are quite a few. Yellow Belly and Eight Degrees had examples at the recent beer fest in the Cork City Hall. Perhaps the most high profile recent example for me was the Rodenbach at the Franciscan Well October Beer fest. By the way, people looking for cider at the festival, were offered this and there was a great reaction to it.

And this limited edition Torc is the newest Irish on the sour scene. While waiting for the revised edition of Slainte, I checked Wikipedia. Sour beer, they say, is beer which has an intentionally acidic, tart, or sour taste. The most common styles are Belgian lambics, gueuze and Flanders Red Ale, gose too.

This sour, by Killarney based Torc, is a collaboration with Bradley’s and is brewed with fresh raspberries and vanilla pods. The fruit, of course, is there to give a balance plus flavour.


The beer is tart, no doubt, yet not that mouth-puckering tart. It is refreshingly fruity, yet not overly so. I must admit I was well into the conversation with this well balanced cloudy beer before coming round to the idea that we could be friends! Well worth a try for yourself.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Drinking Cider and Rosé


Drinking Cider and Rosé
Long Meadow Oak Aged Cider 6.0%, widely available including from Bradley’s North Main Street.

Was introduced to this lovely cider by the producers during the recent A Taste of Donegal Festival. The McKeever family of Portadown have been growing apples at their Long Meadow Farm in the Orchard County of Armagh (anyone remember Bridie Gallagher?) for three generations and produce a range of craft ciders, pure apple juice and cider vinegars, one hundred percent natural.

What makes this particular bottle that bit different is that it has been aged in oak “enabling apple and oak to infuse”. It also adds a little bit of extra colour and is quite smooth and dry with a good finish. Well worth a try.

Some other craft cider producers throw their eyes up if you mention ice and cider in the same sentence. That's not the case with the McKeevers as they say this limited edition, indeed all their ciders, “can be enjoyed best over ice or straight from the fridge.” I enjoyed it straight from the fridge. You take your choice!

Domaine de Ménard Rosé 2015, Côtes de Gascogne (IGP), 11%, €12.25 Le Caveau

The last rose of summer? Maybe, but not the last of the year. I don't believe in confining rosé to the summer. It is generally a very acceptable aperitif at any time of the year and this Ménard is even more acceptable. Highly Recommended.

It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Tannat and the colour has more depth than your normal rosé but with a bright sheen. No shortage of lively red berry flavours. It is fresh (harvest takes place at night) and light yet somehow carries more aromas and flavour than many counterparts and has a good finish to boot.

Serve it very cold, they say, with Basque and Spanish cuisine.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan.

Review: The Whiskeys of Ireland
by Peter Mulryan
Midleton
“Whiskey. Irish for droplets of pure pleasure.” WB Yeats.

You’ll find tour guides in the many new Irish distilleries telling you that whiskey is a corruption of the Gaelic Uisce Beatha (water of life). No need to believe those novices! Yeats got it right and his interpretation is quoted on the back cover of the Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan. 

Whenever I get my hands on a new Irish food or drink book, I usually flick through the opening pages to see where it was printed and am invariably disappointed. This, printed in the Czech Republic, is no exception. If we are expected to support the Irish food and drinks industry, then our food and drink writers should do all they can to support Irish printers. But that's about the only gripe  (one more - there is no index), I have against this excellent book.



The new Connacht Distillery in Ballina
Because, for a long time, there were spirits galore but no definition of whiskey, Mulryan says it is difficult to trace its evolution. But distilling was alive and well, if not up to FSAI standards, in the 15th century and the Crown passed a law in 1556, in vain, to put a stop to it. Eventually, after the collapse of the Gaelic order, a licensing system was imposed.

The first Irish patent was granted in 1608 but cronyism and corruption led to the collapse of the system. Taxation reared its head in 1661 and that reinforced the illegal side of the trade. And the same happened when a stiff tax regime was imposed in 1779. The underground operators sold their poitín and that became “the drink of the people”.


A more benign tax regime led to a booming whiskey industry in the 1820s and onwards. But that led to widespread alcohol problems and in stepped Fr Matthew. Distilleries closed by the dozen. 

On display in Teelings, Newmarket, Dublin
The respectable side of the business examined the newly invented Aeneas Coffey column still and he had some initial success here before turning to a warmer welcome in Scotland. Ireland, pants down in Mulryan’s phrase, missed the revolution and would pay dearly.

Close to the end of the century though, the big players in Irish whiskey, including Allman’s in Bandon, were flying high again. Phylloxera dealt the French distillers a hammer blow and that too helped the Irish in what Mulryan terms “the Golden Years”.


Scotland too was on the rise but the bubble would burst as the century turned, fraudulent trading, recession, wars, and increased taxes all contributing.

With the author (left) in his Blackwater Distillery
Ireland now had its own problems: wars and then partition. We were behind internationally and now the domestic market collapsed. And, in the US, prohibition was looming. Closure followed closure.

There were back doors to the US market. The Scots didn't hesitate, the Irish did. Then we Irish had the “Economic War” with England and next came WW2. After they were over, in the US, the Scots were in and, except for Irish Coffee, the Irish were out.

It was a long tailspin, halted only in 1966 when the three (yes, 3!) remaining distilleries amalgamated. Eventually a new outlook led to a new distillery in Midleton (1975). John Jameson was the brand that led to the current revival, the brand that eventual and current owners Pernod Ricard used as a wedge to once more open the international market to Irish Whiskey.

Cyril (left) and Barry of St Patrick's in Cork
Meanwhile, Mulryan relates that an opportunity was spotted by John Teeling at Cooley and, thanks to the eagle-eyed entrepreneur, the Irish industry acquired a new and vibrant arm, an arm that is still reaching out. Now virtually every county has a distillery, many of them micro. The consumer, home and abroad, has never had it so good. Cheers to John Jameson (5 million cases in 2015) and the French marketeers.

Those marketeers include a salesman selling Jameson in a Vendeé supermarket sometime in the 90s. He was an insistent guy and I bought a bottle (the price was good too!) and I still have the free cassette tapes that came with it!


Mulryan's fascinating book covers the history, the rises and the falls and the stunning re-birth, in a lively manner, great for the experienced and novice alike. It is well worth seeking out for the history alone. But he also casts his keen and experienced eye (he founded and runs the Blackwater Distillery) over the current scene (sending out a warning to mid-sized operators).

Whiskey by Hyde's
The closing chapters take us, in plain and engaging English, through the making and blending and, most importantly, the tasting of our beloved Uisce Beatha, sorry droplets of pure pleasure. Slainte!

The Whiskeys of Ireland is published by the O’Brien Press and is widely available. I spotted it in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork  selling for €19.95.
Hands on research in Dingle recently