Showing posts with label Colm McCan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colm McCan. Show all posts

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What to drink with Sushi? Answers At L’Atitude Event

What to drink with Sushi?
Answers At L’Atitude Event
Miyazaki magic


Cider? Wine? Sherry? Champagne? Which would win? These were the questions as this fun event, involving matching Sushi with various drinks, kicked off in the marvellous L’Atitude Wine Cafe in Cork last Wednesday. In the end an atypical Loire Sauvignon Blanc got the nod from the audience.


There was already one champion on the table as we entered and that was a plateful of delightful Sushi, skillfully prepared by Takashi Miyazaki, Cork and Ireland’s favourite Japanese chef. And what does the maestro himself drink with it? Well, saké, of course, after a beer or two! Saké, a natural match, wasn't in the line-up the other night. The omission was deliberate and that gave the others a chance.

Takashi (in front) with (l to r) Beverly, Leslie, Pascal, Paddy and Susan
Takashi had Seared Salmon (sesame oil added before the searing), Cured Salmon (tasted somewhat like the very best Prosciutto), Sea Bass (with salmon roe on top) and “Plain” Salmon (with green chilli, pepper, and salted to give it “a kick”) in his sushi selection.

Beverley of L’Atitude kicked off proceedings with a bottle of Cockagee Cider in her hands. “This is the champagne of ciders”, she declared. “I just love it. It's incredible, not overly tannic. A fine cider for some very fine sushi.”

And then came Leslie Williams, words flowing like bubbles at a West Ham game as he lauded the Devaux Rosé Champagne, made mainly with Pinot Noir grapes. “Its richness, that hint of sweetness, would work well with the sushi.” If in doubt, not that Leslie had any doubts,  “it has to be champagne”.
L'Atitude, No. 1 Union Quay.
And then, with hands in motion, Pascal introduced his natural wine, a Loire Sauvignon blanc by Alexandre Bain. “He makes wine like his grandfather did, not like his father did, and is the only grower in the area to allow malolactic fermentation. It is rounder, richer, creamier than the standard Pouilly Fumé. It is listed in a three star Michelin in Paris and paired with raw fish and pickled ginger!” The words plus, we believe, no little “practice” with Takashi, paid off in votes.

And then Paddy Murphy took up the cause of sherry. What else? His Manzanilla (La Guita) - “really a wine in its own right”- was bone dry and light with a saline character and paired with the sushi “should enhance the umami”. The Don Zoilo Amontillado was, said Paddy, “the king of sherry..with a slight richness, yet bone dry..savoury..tangy… should pair well”.  Indeed, both styles went down very well indeed among the voters but the two-wine strategy split the vote; both did well but neither got enough to win.
The noteworthy Champion
Susan Boyle sang the praises of her St Brigid’s Pale Ale and pointed to the hop bitterness “a key ingredient for this matching, not in any of the previous drinks”. She listed other local ingredients: barley and honey from their own hives. “It may be an unusual choice but I think it works particularly well. I’m saving the best til last so tick that little box!”

Ottolenghi tasted the beer at the recent LitFest and said it was “the bee’s knees”. Susan wasn't the only one to name-drop. In the end though, the audience went with Le Caveau Sauvignon blanc.
Two Many?
Really though, there were quite a few winners on a very enjoyable evening, including the punters. Well done to L’Atitude for their irrepressible enthusiasm and bubbling invention, to the five presenters, to our MC Colm McCan (he said he was using the south facing clock on Shandon Tower as a time-keeping aid - visitors had to be told that Shandon is known as the four-faced liar), and of  course to Takashi Miyazaki (whose famous must-visit takeaway is at the corner of Barrack Street and Evergreen Street).


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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jancis Robinson and New World’s New Wave

Jancis Robinson and New World’s New Wave
Wine on the Move, Fresher and Lighter


The Drinks Theatre at Ballymaloe’s annual LitFest was packed for Saturday’s talk and tasting by Jancis Robinson. The Master of Wine’s talk was entitled Wine’s New Wave - Lighter and Fresher. Jancis, quite deliberately, had chosen mainly New World wines and those from areas that were previously best known for “monster wines”, those big in fruit and alcohol! It was acknowledged that parts of the Old World had been producing this lighter style for quite a while.

Ballymaloe’s Colm McCan welcomed Jancis and she replied saying she was very comfortable, really at home, in the converted tractor shed as she was brought up in a small village herself.

Over recent years, while doing research for her various books, she received reports from all over the world, “from people with their fingers on the pulse”, of a trend towards lighter fresher wines.

The move is to make wines “that express the vineyard”, in a trend towards “single vineyard, even small plot, wines”. The first wine was a Californian Chardonnay 2012, from Sandhi in the new appellation of Santa Rita Hills. This comes from a high-ish site, 200-500 feet. ‘It is almost Chablis like in its acidity,” she said. “But the aim here is for balance.” It was a good start.

Next stop was Stellenbosch, South Africa and a Mourvedre Rosé, Cape Coral 2014. “Not for keeping,” she warned! This lovely pale salmon pink is soft and gentle, bone dry and low in acidity. “Good for food, especially aioli.”

The winemaker here, she told us, has had Southern Rhone experience and uses biodynamic viticulture. "Sounds potty but it seems to produce the goods. The vines look healthier and the soil is also healthy. People all over the world are much more interested in local vines, recuperating older ones”. In response to a question by beer ace Garrett Oliver, Jancis said that all the interesting wine in the world is craft wine.

On then to a couple of Pinot Noirs, the first a Chilean 2012, the Clos Fous by Pucalan, weighing in at 14.5%. Not quite light maybe but beautifully balanced, lovely texture and “satin smoothness, right amount of acidity. A complete steal at ten pounds!”. The vineyard is north of Santiago and “very influenced by the cool ocean”.

The Sonoma County Littorai 2012 will cost you about seven times as much. “This is biodynamic and has the hallmarks of freshness and acidity and this was a very good vintage after the disaster of 2011. More complex, more Burgundian and its lovely texture caresses the palate - think I'll swallow that!” I think we all followed suit.

Now let us hop over to Australia and the BK Wines Syrah 2014 from the Adelaide Hills, “a wine of recreation, rather than contemplation” and chosen more “as an interesting example rather than a fine wine. This is the type served up by the bucket in wine bars.”

Okay then. There would be a good Australian to finish on but first the one nod to the old world: a 2013 Garnacha from a high altitude (550-650 metres)  in Mentrida. “This is a new style in Spain, made from up to fifty year old vines. You can smell the sweetness of the Garnacha plus you have masses of natural acidity and a fresh stoniness”.

Many of us here in Ireland appreciate the excellent wines made by Cullen in Margaret River in Western Australia and Jancis produced a winner to finish on: the Diana Madeline 2009, a Bordeaux blend (including 88% Cabernet Sauvignon). “The Cullens were early adopters of bio-dynamic in Australia and this is an Australian classic, the best balanced Bordeaux out of Australia. It is very fragrant, you have that savoury note at the end, a wine of real quality.”

So now you know. If that new wave washes you up on the beautiful beaches of the Margaret River, just head to over to the Cullens. Then again, it might be easier just to check where Liberty Wines distribute them here.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Garrett Oliver Talks Beer. Also Tomatoes, Bread and Pre-Sadness.

Garrett Oliver Talks Beer.

Also Tomatoes, Bread and Pre-Sadness
Garrett Oliver
You need real tomatoes to make tomato sauce.

Garrett Oliver, dapper brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, started his Ballymaloe talk and tasting, with this line on tomatoes. Soon, he would delve into bread and cheese, fake bread and fake cheese, and later he would go all philosophical or maybe philological as he explained his theory of pre-sadness!

But there was no sadness in the Drinks Theatre during Garrett’s hour on Sunday afternoon. Just lots of laughs and no shortage of good beer either, beer that tastes like beer!  You hear people say, when they taste a craft beer: This is nice, doesn't taste like beer. He had an explanation: “The beer they grew up with didn't taste like real beer!”

Garrett, no mean chef himself, says that “brewing is more like cooking than wine-making”. He went on to give us a bit of background on New York’s diverse food and drink scene; in the late 1800s, you could eat your way around the world in one day there. He revealed that Guinness had a brewery on Long Island in the 1940s that lasted for ten years or so but closed because people preferred Guinness from Ireland.

Back then to the theme of real food and real beer. “It was a different world after prohibition. Better transport, the mass market and advertising led to less choice. The number of breweries in the US went from 4000 to 40, all making much the same beer.”

He highlighted bread as another example. You had fake bread, cheese with yellow colouring. A cheese sandwich consisted of two wraps of “plastic” and a filling of yellow plastic. “Same thing happened with beer.”
Brooklyn Beers
As he introduced the first beer, Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace, he revealed that his first pint of real British Ale “changed my life”. The Sorachi comes in what looks like a champagne bottle but Garrett wasn't having any of it saying Champagne comes in a beer bottle. No arguing with that, dude!

The Sorachi is based upon a Belgian Saison and that “dill like aroma is unusual”. “It is a super dry beer, slightly hazy and you may find yeast at the bottom. It is very nice with oysters, crabs and other shellfish.”

And then he brought up the pre-sadness. You might, for instance have pre-sadness as your enter the last few days of your holidays in an exotic place, still enjoying yourself but knowing the end is nigh. 

The Sorachi was one of their 2009 specials and, like holidays, specials are not meant to last beyond their designated span. So as the Sorachi’s allotted time came to end, the pre-sadness entered their minds even though they were happy drinking it at the same time. So they didn't allow it to end, found excuse after excuse to keep it going and now make it all the time.
Sorachi
Next up was the Hammarby Syndrome, introduced to celebrate their opening of a brewery in Stockholm. It’s brewed from 35% of spelt, an ancient wheat-like grain that was once a mainstay of Scandinavian beers and this gives it a nutty flavour. He recommended it as a food beer, especially with roasts and steaks.

Time for the third beer, the Ghost Bottle Galahad based on their Brooklyn Local No. 1 and made “within the Belgian tradition”. This has been enhanced via the lees from a natural cider fermentation.”It is aged for one year on the lees and has lots of flavour that were not in the original, is cloudy and very dry though it seems sweet.”

Brooklyn is well known for its collaborations. “We were the first brewery to do collaborations but now we were doing it only with friends. Great to bounce around ideas.” We were now sipping his Wild Horse, a stout with quite a kick at 9.4%. He then told us the yeast was the famous, infamous if you’re a winemaker, Brettanomyces, Brett for short.

“Brett was the flavour of stout, back in the day.” You might spot the hay, the farmyard, the horse-sweat. Can't say I did even though the dogs were barking outside in the Ballymaloe farmyard and there were hungry sounds from a bird-nest or two high in the rafters. After all, this Drinks Theatre is in a tractor shed! More on the Wild Horse here.

The journey continued with K Is For Kriek. “This is the least beer-like beer. Kriek is the Belgian tradition of adding fruit. This was food back in the day. This though is a weirdo variation, no Belgian would recognise it as Kriek. We put ten kilos of cherries into each barrel.”
“This was brewed in 2013, spent five months in barrel and overall took one and a half years to make. It is 10.3%. Pair it with duck, goose, foie gras. This is an American interpretation of wheat, illustrates that what we do is something like a chef does when he imports an idea from another country.”



And speaking of ideas, he said nobody ever came up with a great idea over a Diet Coke. “The best ideas need a real drink. They say you live longer if you don't drink. Not really. It just seems longer!” Check the brewery’s notes on the big K here.

ABV has been rising all the time and the final beer packs 13.5%. Hand and Seal is a Barley-wine style, “..nice with Stilton, very strong and sweet, well balanced and will age - for up to forty years!” Once the preserve of nobles, the Brooklyn brewmaster decided it should be for the masses. Read the full story here.

If that was the last of the beers, it was not the last of the session, not with Garrett on the mike. “What we do is creative. This is a renaissance, a recovery from a harmful food system that wiped everything out. Go out and try things. Some of these beers cost less than a coffee.” He must have stayed in the Westbury recently; an Americano cost me €5.40 there last week.

“It is great that you in Ireland now have a burgeoning craft beer movement and your first pint should be from a local brewer. But I would like to be second on the list! As far as I know, you go around once - I’m going to have a good time!”

Dowcha Garrett!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Port, Sherry, Madeira. All treasures. Each superb in its own right.

Port, Sherry, Madeira. All treasures. Each superb in its own right.
The Fortified Wines Event at Ballymaloe LitFest.

Mightn't look like it but they are singing from the same hymn sheet!
Raymond Blake (left) and Tom Doorley in the Tractor Shed

Wine writer Raymond Blake, a convert in the cathedrals of Jerez, led the Fortified Wine Choir that  Ballymaloe Colm McCan assembled for Sunday’s event in the Drinks Theatre. Blake urged us all to join the crusade and keep these “legacy wines” in a strong position, warning that if they are lost, they will never again appear, as the unique circumstances that gave rise to their creation will never be repeated. “These are treasures”, Raymond preached. “And each is superb in its own right.”

The treasures for tasting in the converted Tractor Shed included two white wines, an En Rama Fino by Gonzalez Byass and a Dry White Port from Taylor’s. Later came the two reds: the Madeira and a Taylor’s Tawny. The other members of the choir were Leslie Williams, Chris Forbes, Tom Doorley and John Wilson and they all sang from the same hymn sheet urging us, among other things, to serve these fortifieds in a wine glass, underlining that these are real wines.

“En Rama is becoming popular,” said Raymond. “But it is a bit untamed, Fino with knobs on.” Tom Doorley then revealed that his big love is Sherry. “It is great value. I also love the huge range of styles and love the austerity of dry sherry."

John Wilson said these are  the “most man-made” wine of all. “They require so much intervention. They are incredible, precise, with complex flavours - savour slowly. My personal measure of Fino is a bottle - great with tapas, Iberico ham, almonds, Manchego cheese.”
The panel in the tractor shed
Leslie Williams said En Rama is sherry in the raw, unfiltered and he sometimes matches it with Fish and Chips! Chris Forbes, for a Port man, was generous: “Sherry is one of the wonderful wines, amazing value. Great poured into soup, a use also for White Port. Both are made with indigenous grapes. They are really wines.”  


He said Taylors make two of the three styles of White Port, a dry and an extra dry. Five or six varieties of grapes are used and suggested chilling it as an aperitif and serving with tonic and ice.

Raymond loves his Madeira,such a pure wine, "even the sweetest has acidity through it" and it can be measured in centuries, the intensity of it, great flavour, super stuff. Leslie too adores it and says the opened bottle may be kept for quite a while (not not as long as his mother kept the Bristol Cream!). John Wilson is another convert. Of the Barbeito that we were sampling, he purred: “This is so good, it almost hurts, a classic Madeira."
The Fortifieds

Now we were on to the 10 Year Old Tawny by Taylor’s. John Wilson suggested that this was perhaps the future of Port and was bringing people back to the drink. Chris agreed saying Tawny is the current hero. “There has been a 72% growth in the last ten years, absolutely phenomenal. Importantly, at 25 euro, it is affordable.
He suggested serving it slightly chilled and acknowledged a suggestion that it was great with cheese. “But not just with cheese. Try tarte tatins, pour it over vanilla ice-cream. Once opened, it should last for no more than two or three hours, but it will keep for four to six weeks!”

Chris, who was quite busy over the weekend, rounded off this informal and informative event with a great description of the foot treading (bunions and boils and all), a practice that is still current in Taylor’s. They feel it does the job better, is easier on the grapes. Mechanical methods, for instance, can break the pip and release unwanted elements, the human foot does not break the pip.

So now we've come from the cathedrals of the bodegas to the down to earth practices of the lagaar. Fascinating stories behind all of these fortified wines brought to us by a terrific panel and also via the four superb examples in our glasses. Here’s to the winemakers of the past and the pleasures of the present, and hopefully, if enough of you join the crusade, of the future. Sláinte.

Chris Forbes (Taylor's Port) and, right,
Leslie Williams (Irish Examiner)


Monday, May 19, 2014

Sipping Beer and Cider in a Tractor Shed. At the Ballymaloe LitFest

Sipping Beer and Cider in a Tractor Shed
At the Ballymaloe LitFest
Dungarvan's Claire takes the mike at the Beer and Cider event.
“Three years on and it feels like a lifetime,” said Scott of Eight Degrees Brewing at last Sunday’s Irish Craft Beer and Artisan Irish Cider event at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest. The rapid pace of the craft brewing industry in Ireland has astonished many of us, not least those pioneers (excuse the dry pun) directly involved. “Consciousness has been raised now,” said Claire of Dungarvan Brewing Company. “It is an easier sell.”

Moderator John Wilson (of the Irish Times), who prefers his on draught, is delighted with the progress and is as surprised as anyone else. “Beer and cider are now appearing in restaurants. No excuse though for pubs and off licences not having them, even if it is just the local brews.” And so say all of us.

“The industry is one of experimentation,” continued Scott. “We take a risk in producing, the customers in trying a product. We tend to help one another in the industry as one new tasting leads to the tasting of other craft beers, one of the encouraging aspects of the business. We are trying to create a community of consumers who are highly experimental, making one off batches, full of flavour, being innovative. The consumer's interest has to be held.”

Simon Tyrrell, who produces Craigie's Cider with his partner Angus Craigie, says the cider world has a different approach. “The reason is that we have just one crop, one shot a year. Ours is very seasonal. The demands are different to beer, indeed more like wine. Cider looks to express the best qualities of the fruit, show where the nuances lie.”

Eloquent as Simon was, and always is, the best speech from Craigies came in our first tasting of their fabulous Dalliance, made from 100 per cent dessert apples (three different types). “It has been left on its fine lees for 15 months and then a little re-fermentation to give it sparkle.” This just has to be tried. It is so different with great apple flavours and a long dry finish. Superb!
Four to Taste
Then we were on to the beers and a taste of Dungarvan Copper Coast Red Ale. The red comes from the Crystal malt and the beer has “more of a malt profile”. It is sold in restaurants. I regularly come across it there and it certainly goes well with food.

Ballymaloe's Colm McCan
worked tirelessly over
two long days in
the Drinks Theatre
(a converted tractor shed).
The experimental nature of the craft beer industry was certainly underlined by our next beer, call Gosé, made by the Brown Paper Bag Project, Irish brewers without a brewery but who travel home and abroad and hire out or collaborate with existing brewers.

This beer was made in partnership with the local brewery on the Danish island of Fanoe in an ancient German style called Gosé. It uses 53% wheat and 47% barley along with the addition of sea salts and coriander. It has cider like characteristics and the acidity and salinity are prominent. Very good with oysters!

We finished off with one of the first of the second wave of Irish beers, Howling Gale Ale by Eight Degrees. It was important that the Mitchelstown brewery, then operating out of a cottage, got this right. They sure did set the standard and yesterday’s tasting shows it has stood the test of time and is still up there with many new ale rivals, both local and national.

Great to have the choice but Scott could do with a great choice of hops. The hops he uses are imported. “Hops are not grown commercially in Ireland,” he said. Now, with the industry mushrooming, hop growing must surely come next. Indeed, I think there are green shoots in Tipperary, White Gypsy the folks responsible.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy Gaggle of Wine Geese at BT. Last of 2013 Events

Happy Gaggle of Wine Geese at BT

Last of 2013 Events

The last of the 2013 Winegeese events, celebrating Irish connections to the wine industry worldwide, was one of the best. Last night, at the Ballymaloe Pop-up Wine Shop in Brown Thomas, Limerick’s Dermot Sugrue of Wiston Wines in the South Downs and Wicklow winemaker Simon Tyrrell in the South Rhone were the stars of the evening, delightfully hosted by John Wilson of the Irish Times.

John’s well judged interventions were sprinkled with some wine wit by Cork’s own Maurice Healy, an ex Christian Brothers pupil, then a barrister and author. Healy, born here in 1887, moved to London after WW1 and it was there that his interest in wine flourished. Besides writing (often rather wickedly) on the subject, he also contributed to radio programmes and indeed Winston Churchill was one of his fans.

Dermot Sugrue started the evening, and a lovely one it was, with his own wine: Sugrue Pierre. He dabbled in beer and wine at home in Limerick as an adolescent before going to learn the ropes at Plumpton College in the UK. He started his wine making career at the famous Nyetimer, also in the UK.
Dermot with Ted Murphy
In 2006, he decided to leave in order to fulfil his ambition of establishing a new winery in West Sussex, in collaboration with the Wiston Estate's Harry & Pip Goring. This wine though is his own, a blend of the classic champagne grapes, and awarded an unprecedented 96 points, the highest ever for an English Sparkling wine. It is a gem for sure.

He was at pains to point out that while the English wine is similar to champagne the local winemakers are all keen to stress that it is essentially an English sparkling wine, with its own character, and not a mere copy. They are to some degree helped by the natural conditions which results in low yields and very high concentration.

This was all underlined with his next wine, the 2011 Wiston Sparkling Rosé. This, newly released and in a miniscule quantity (compared to the big houses), had “great flavour, great intensity, all from a great year”.
Simon making a point!
Simon Tyrrell didn’t admit to any adolescent attempts at beer or wine making but he too ended up at Plumpton College before he and wife Emma set up their own wine importing business in Ireland in 2003, Tyrrell and Company.

Simon has a particular focus on the Rhone valley and it was there that he eventually achieved his ambition to do more than buy and sell wine and began to make his own. And the wine he showed last evening was the one he wanted to make, a good simple Cote du Rhone: Les Deux Cols “Cuvée d’Alizé” 2012.

Made with a blend of 55% Grenache 35 Syrah and 10 Cinsault, it is simply very good with a “great savoury balance”. Might well be one for the Christmas dinner. John Wilson wrote of the 2011 bottle: “An exceptional wine for the price, with wonderful fresh but rounded dark berry fruits, herbs and black olives. It has the substance to stand up to the full range of flavours but won’t dominate proceedings.”
John Wilson enjoying the craic.
John Wilson himself didn’t come empty handed. His first wine was the 2009 L’Abbeille de Fieuzal (Pessac Leognan), the second wine of the estate. Second wine but not second class. Made with 60% Merlot, 33 Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 Cabernet France, it “is a very good example of the vintage”.

Then we moved on to the Barton family and John told the story of a tasting he attended there where the big dog invariably tried to catch the spit of wine bound for the free standing spittoon on the floor of the tasting room. Wonder if that dog stayed sober.

Any dog that strayed into BT last evening would have left thirsty as we tasted the first Barton, the L’Impression de Mauvesin Barton, a lovely Medoc mix of mainly Merlot,with the two Cabernet grapes. And that was followed by a gem from St Julien, La Reserve de Leoville Barton 2008, a smooth elegant blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 Merlot and 4 Cabernet Franc.
Colm, Beverly and Mauirce

And we finished off with a wee drop of Cognac. No, not Hennessy as you might expect, but Delamain. The original company was founded by Dubliner James Delamain but had its ups and downs after his death in 1800. Nowadays, it is one of the few family owned Cognac producers and is based in Jarnac. Despite the Irish connection, you won’t be able to buy it here but do watch out for it in duty free shops where the Pale and Dry XO turns up.

What will turn up in the Winegeese series next year? The three person committee – Colm McCann, Beverly Mathews and Maurice O’Mahony – are determined to keep it going. I’m told a major Californian vineyard will be in Cork in February. Watch this space! For now, well done to the three and their helpers and distinguished guests (local wine historian Ted Murphy was present again at BT). Joyeux Noël et bonne année.
Three wine fans at Brown Thomas last evening.