Buy local, fresh and fair. The more we pull together, the further we will go. Ní neart go cur le chéile. Always on the look-out for tasty food and drink from quality producers! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter: @corkbilly
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The Malt and Music Festival at Ballymaloe had its inaugural outing at the weekend. A few great nights were enjoyed. I’m told. Not a night owl these times so I turned up on Sunday afternoon to enjoy some beer, some food and eine kleine Tagmusik!*
Amazing how that Big Shed has been transformed, again. The things they use! Hanging (and flashing) high up in front of the stage was, believe it or not, a Honda 50. If you had one of those in its heyday, you'd get a lady, an ex-worker and now guide at the Arigna Mines once told me!
It was about lunch time when we arrived and we were spoiled for choice. One stall, Buena Vida Taco, made out of surfboards, caught my eye. They were also trumpeting their Crazy Bastard sauce. The Baja Fish Taco was our pick here: crispy battered haddock, pickled red onion, Mexican slaw, fresh coriander and chipotle aioli. Plus the saucy sauce, of course!
Quite a bite. Yet there was better to come, from Gubbeen. Their Reuben contained Pastrami, Emmental cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, and mustard. No rush job either. A superb sandwich, sandwich of the year maybe! No shortage of beers around the place but we didn't travel very far for ours, enjoying a glass of the Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer and one of the Cascade.
Eoin Lynch of the Cotton Ball Brewing Company was one of the four speakers in the Drinks Theatre in mid afternoon; the others were Claire Dalton of Dungarvan, Phil Cullen of Mountain Man and Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow). Colm McCan asked the questions and kept the flow going.
Claire told us about the family effort that led to Dungarvan getting off the ground. So what are they doing now? Well, their latest is “a sunny day beer” called Turning Tide. Light of body, Turning Tide, a lemon wheat beer, is the perfect accompaniment to a summery day, whether beach or BBQ! Moules Frites anyone?
Eoin Lynch gave up his job and had some sleepless night after setting up the Cotton Ball Brewing in the family pub in 2013. But it developed quickly, started with 800 litres, now at 2,500 litres. Less sleepless nights now. He had the Indian Summer on show, a seasonal that was so good they couldn't let it go. It is a light hybrid beer (elements of both ale and lager), notes of citrus and pineapple and it was well received in Ballymaloe.
Michael Cowan of Mont said they are a dedicated lager brewery. “With the very soft Wicklow water we have, our super-premium lager is better than the main stream piss and we are trying to improve lager’s image with a big concentration on packaging.”
He surprised us with a very dark lager called Black is the New Orange. It includes chocolate malt and orange and is clean and dry; good finish too. And he introduced Bigger than Ben Hur, a 9.2% Imperial IPA, with “a hopping regime of biblical proportions”! Pretty well balanced though, despite that big ABV. Shows that Mont do make more than lager.
May not look much. But this Reuben is the greatest!
Like the Cotton Ball, Phil and his wife started Mountain Man in 2013. He also told us that one of their core beers, that Hairy Goat, could well have reached the shelves as the Itchy Cow!
We got to taste his latest, the Vincent Van Coff (the name the result of a competition). What was the secret ingredient? Not too many detected the aroma but quite a few got the flavour of… coconut! It is a red ale with vanilla, chocolate and coffee. The point Phil was making was that the ability to recognise aromas and flavours can vary from person to person. “I didn't get the coconut…people starting telling me about it.. So, if you don't get it, you’re not on your own!”
As you gather, this was a rather informal session. And all the better and more enjoyable for it.
No less than eight grape varieties featured as Liam Campbell, in association with Wines of California, presented a very interesting and high quality tasting at the Grainstore in Ballymaloe last Wednesday.
The big “spread” was no accident as Liam deliberately chose to show that the Sunshine State can grow any variety under the sun. “No matter what variety, you can be sure that someone in California is experimenting with it.”
When you think of California, you bring up some lovely images: “Tee-shorts, shorts, flip-flops, beach, laid-back, easy-going. And the producers embrace that friendly attitude and praise one another’s wine.”
He started the whites with Paul Dolan’s 2012 organic Chardonnay from Mendocino. Classic Drinks are the importers and rrp is €26.99. The Dolan family has a Waterford connection. This “is totally dry but fruity with medium acidity”. It is full-bodied, with a persistent finish. Dolan is a leading proponent of biodynamic and organic grape farming, according to Wines of California (2014). This was my favourite of the three whites.
The Benziger 2012 Sauvignon blanc, imported by Febvre (rrp €24.99), “has quite a European accent”, according to Liam. “Great acidity with lemon, lime and apple characteristics, a very versatile food wine”. It certainly went well with the St Tola Ash Goat Cheese.
Benziger, not to be confused with the Beringers, are another vineyard that use natural farming methods and to quote from Wines of California: “The rolling hills of their Glen Ellen estate are home...to..sheep, cattle, and a host of bugs and birds that keep the vineyard in balance."
In between the whites and the reds, Liam spoke about the Morgan Bay 2014 Zinfandel Rose that we had started with as we took our seats in the grainstore. At 10% abv it is a light drink, also a little bit sweet. “But like Blue Nun, it gets people into wine; it is fresh and fruity and a great cheese partner.” Now it was time “to move on to the dark side”.
The reds started with a Pinot Noir, the La Crema (Monterey) 2012, imported by Celtic Whiskey & Wines with an rrp of €31.99. Liam praised it for its high acidity, a great summer wine, versatile and very good with food, not just red meats but may be served cool with poultry, fish and so on. Again, the vineyard is sustainably farmed.
Wines are produced in four quality levels. We had an excellent example in Ballymaloe but apparently the Point Noir to watch out for is the third tier Russian River Valley 2011 from the Appellation series.
Liam continued his exploration of the many varieties when he next introduced the Barbera 2010 from Montevino (Spanish for mountain wine). “It has a gentle ruby colour, looks very young for a 2010, plummy aromas now..mouth-watering, gentle tannins, high acidity that cuts the fat in your chorizo!” Sure did. It is imported by Findlaters and rrp is €14.50.
Wouldn't be a Californian tasting without a good red Zinfandel and our example was a Bonterra 2013, with a big abv of 15%, imported by Richmond Market, rrp €18.00. This has a pale-ish ruby colour with black fruits and gentle tannins and was a perfect match with that delicious Mossfield cheese. Bonterra, well known for their Merlot, are the leading producer of organic wines in California.
The Delicato Vineyards are one of the leading family vineyards in the US and produce under a variety of labels including Gnarly Head that you will see in Ireland. We enjoyed their First Press 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, imported by Cassidy Wines and with an rrp of €26.99 .This is ageing well, “a perfect ruby to the edge” and went down well. Liam’s tip here was to decant!
We finished on a high note with a Syrah, the Tepusquet 2013 from Cambria. You'll find it in O'Brien’s at €24.99. The Tepusquet vineyard has been replanted over the past 20 years. Liam: “The nose is subdued but there is a deep mine of flavour, black fruit characteristics and great acidity. Great with steak… but try it with fried calamari! The temptation is to use it now but it will age well.”
Maximilian Riedel, representing the 11th generation of the Austrian glass-making firm, says Riedelare always up for a challenge. He was speaking during last Thursday’s comparative wine tasting event in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House.
And Maximilian found a new challenge during his brief visit to East Cork. He enjoyed a tour of the local Irish Distillers facility. He was very impressed with the whiskey and told us in Ballymaloe that his new goal is to develop “the perfect glass for Irish whiskey”.
And taking up challenges is not new to the famous glass-makers (founded 1756) who lost almost everything during the war. But not their glass-making skills and not their love of it. They also loved their wine, still do, and eventually they became known as the makers of the varietal wine glass. So far, they have covered the main varietals but only ten per cent of the total!
But did you know they also make a glass for Coca Cola? Max told us how his father took up the challenge when a man from Atlanta came calling. “Why Coca Cola? We like to be challenged!” Working with a company who employ over “one million people worldwide” was just such a challenge. And they came up with a glass that satisfied both them and Coca Cola and it was included in the Grainstore tasting.
Calm before the Riedel
He also indicated that the glass is very suitable indeed for your Cuba Libre cocktail! Actually, while the wine glasses are varietal specific, they are versatile enough to suit related varieties. For instance, glass #1 in the tasting was New World Pinot Noir (6449/67). But Max said it was “..the best champagne glass, full stop! Try it, you’ll be surprised”. Maybe not so surprising when you think that Pinot Noir is one of the champagne grapes. It is also suitable for Nebbiolo.
And it was with #1 that we started. Like #3, it holds a full bottle. But we weren't that greedy! The Pinot Noir glass has a “flare” at the top and this has helped reduce the acidity and so improve the whole experience. Beautiful aromas from the dedicated glass, reduced in #2 (for Old World Syrah) and further reduced in #3 (Cabernet).
“It is below room temperature, because I like it that way! Very well balanced, fresh, fruit, long, sweet and smooth… in #2 we are losing the fruit…. if we drink it from #3, people won't like Pinot Noir, it is heavier, drier, bitter…. the wrong glass could turn people off..” A further demo, using Lindt white chocolate, again showed a big contrast between #1 (good) and #3 (bad).
The Pinot Noir by the way was from Oregon. Wine #2 for glass #2 was a French Syrah (St Joseph 2013). In the proper glass, the Syrah showed a beautiful nose and then fruit, minerality, acidity, pepper, a beautiful structure and great aftertaste”. In #3, the message was diluted “aromas not bad, but not as intense….extreme spice and tannins on the palate..and where did the fruit go?” With Number 1 glass, he remarked: “a perfectly made wine in the wrong glass”.
Max, and Riedel generally, do have a sense of humour and it showed again with his next demo, again with the Syrah but now in a plastic cup. “The nose is gone, lost….but not as bad as the wrong Riedel glass!”
“Bourdeau, toujour Bordeaux,” he remarked as he poured the third wine, a special treat: St Estephe 2009, into #3 glass. “... depth, structure, enough acidity, very elegant, dark berries, all in the right glass. In Number 1, it was no way close, fruit down...bitter and dry..green! Number 2 was worse again, “less fruit, more alcohol and bone dry”. And he showed the engineered pattern of the flow from the various glasses and it is this pattern that causes some of the variations.
Riedel didn't have any at Thursday’s demo but they also have a range of stemless glasses, the range invented by none other than Max himself. “The stem has no influence on the wine.” And then we were into the Coca Cola demo. That glass was developed with the help of the American company's Twenty Noses, their travelling tasters.
And again, the Riedel glass came up trumps: “You can almost see the secret Coca Cola formula here, the various fruits, a little cinnamon.... In the plastic cup, it goes flat faster, gets warmer faster, no aromas, more acidity.” The glass itself is very thin. “The thinner the glass, the longer it stays cool,” said Max.
By the way, he got no arguments all evening, all around me seemed to be agreeing, both during and after. And I have been a Riedel convert for a while now.
Organised by the Alliance Française de Cork, the 26th Cork French Film Festival showcases the best in current French cinema and is taking place in Cork from March 1 to March 8.
A real treat for lovers of food and wine is the screening of the documentary Natural Resistance, directed by Jonathan Nossiter, which follows a group of Italian winemakers dedicated to resisting the prevalent use of chemicals. A former sommelier Nossiter’s Mondovino, a documentary about the globalization of the wine industry, was nominated for the Palme D’Or in Cannes in 2004, one of only three documentaries ever nominated in the history of the festival. Nossiter didn't foresee returning to the topic until last summer when he found himself in Tuscany, seated with Italian winemakers dedicated to resisting the prevalent use of chemicals. Nossiter instinctively turned on his camera and continued to follow these subjects against the sun-kissed backdrop of Italian vineyards.
The screening of Natural Resistance will be followed by a rustic Italian inspired banquet in the Ballymaloe Grainstore paired with 'natural wines' from the growers featured in the film. The wines will be supplied by Pascal Rossignol from Le Caveau while the film and wines will be introduced by Doug Wregg from Les Caves de Pyrenes.
Wines for showing at the film ‘Natural Resistance’, at The Grainstore at Ballymaloe
Friday 6th March 2015
With Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, The Specialist Wine Merchant, Kilkenny, Ireland and Doug Wregg of Les Caves des Pyrene, Artington, UK
Coste Piane Prosecco NV
Casa Coste Piane is a tiny 6-ha, in Santo Stefano, heart of the Valdobbiadene area, owned and run by Loris Follador. For generations their wine had been sold in bulk, but since 1983 they decided to bottle the production themselves. The organically-run vineyards lie on slopes close to the cellar. The vines are on average 60 years old (some are pre-phylloxera!!) and their roots can grow up to 30-40 metres long. This Prosecco is a gem, it is one of the few made in the champenoise method wherein the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Harvest is usually between the last week of September and the first week of October. In April the wine is bottled without the addition of yeast and sugar, subsequently the indigenous yeast contained in the wine starts a second spontaneous fermentation that lasts for approximately four weeks. After this the wine spends a further four weeks ‘sur lie’. The process of “disgorgement” is not practised, therefore the yeasts are still present in the bottle… any haziness is entirely natural.
This is very Champagne-like, with great purity and frankness; the aromas are of apple, acacia flowers with an interesting mineral twist and subtle yeastiness.
Stefano Bellotti Degli Ulivi ‘Cortese’ Vino Bianco 2013
Cascina Degli Ulivi in the words of owner Stefano Bellotti:
‘We are a farm with 20 ha of vineyards, cereals, animals, B&B and a restaurant using exclusively biodynamic and organic products, mainly coming from our farm. We have been practising biodynamic agriculture for 30 years now and we consider the soil as a living organism belonging to the cycle of every living thing; we promote soils health and in turn the plants produce excellent fruit. The soil is nourished by green manure using pulses, cruciferous and graminaceous plants with up to 30 different species. Treatment sprays are limited to the use of sulphur and bordeaux mixture in very limited quantity (about 2 Kg of copper per hectare, per year) and, of course, biodynamic preparations. We strive to make wines that are the true expression of the vintage, the terroir and the personality of the person behind them. The grapes are harvested by hand in baskets; pressing is soft and fermentation takes place naturally, without using any oenological additives (yeasts, enzymes, fining agents). Wines ferment in big wooden barrels. We do not carry out any fining; we just lightly filter when bottling. The total sulphur content is low because we don’t add any. The yield per hectare averages 6 tons’
This little natural wine shows clean acacia flowers, hints of beeswax and mint. Mouth filling aromas of fresh white fruit, honey, with pronounced citrusy character. Very clean, neat flavours ending with crisp grip. Lovely wine
Will go with food like salads, seafood, fish, poultry and pork
Elena Pantaleoni La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso 2012
Barbera 60% Bonarda 40%
Elena Pantaleoni owns this wonderful 50-ha organically-tended estate where wild herbs grow freely between the rows and no chemical fertilizers, weed killers or pesticides are ever applied.
Trebbiolo Rosso is a natural wine matured in stainless steel tanks. The nose is fresh with cherry and red berries mingling with wilder notes. Lively and juicy, the palate bursts with sweet/sour morello cherries and hints of spices. In all, it is a lovely, fresh, lively and fruit-driven wine which is best enjoyed with food.
‘La Stoppa seem to delight in doing the unexpected: whites that aren’t white, that age and reds for drinking young. This is the first vintage of the Trebbiolo (named after a local river) that isn’t frizzante although there is certainly a little bit of residual CO2.
Wild, earthy, yeastiness on the nose, incongruously like fresh vanilla pod with its earthy sweet-leathery notes. Aromas of small berries, blackberries, myrtille. Dryish on palate, which is meaty, earthy, spicy. Youthful and vibrant with a slight fizz on the tongue.
Cries out for a big plate of charcuterie and cheese and some top class air-dried hams.
Orange wines, or amber wines as they are often called are actually white wines produced more like reds – with prolonged contact with the grape skins, resulting in a deeper colour from the pigments found in grape skins. Rather than being orange, they are actually more a deep amber or tawny colour and on the palate possess the texture, body and tannins of red wines with the fruit and minerality of white wines
Giulio Armani Dinavolino 2012
25% each of Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, Marsanne, Ortrugo, and an as-yet unidentified variety from the lower slopes of the vineyard
Giulio Armani is the winemaker at La Stoppa (Emilia Romagna). This wine comes from his own biodynamically tended vineyards. Having reached perfect ripeness, the grapes are hand-harvested and left to macerate with their skins for 7 to 10 weeks, giving the wine wonderful complexity, structure, little tannins and its light orange colour.
Neither filtered nor fined, the slightly cloudy appearance leads to a floral nose with apple, orange flowers, orange skins and pear hints. The palate is richly layered and intense, with gorgeous apple and honeyed flavour wrapped in impeccable acidity and minerality.
Great with most foods salads, fish, white meat & most cheeses
For afterwards, we will have two little organic Sicilians Ciello rosso and bianco -Inexpensive, but beautifully made and full of authenticity!
Made from organic grapes, fragrant and crisp, Ciello Bianco Catarratto is amazingly fresh and vibrant, delicate flavours of white fruit, hints of peach and lemon zest mid palate and soft notes of marzipan on its bright finish.
Made from organic grapes Ciello Rosso Nero d’Avola has freshness and energy, dark red colour, hints of black plum, coffee and chocolate on the nose, pleasant spiciness in the mouth with smooth dark fruit flavours
The dynamic Vesco family took over the winery 10 years ago and have since revolutionised the viticultural practices and invested heavily in cutting edge technology for the winery and bottling line. Their hundred hectares of organic vineyards are located high up in the hills above Alcamo. The wines are all certified organic and planted on south-east facing slopes on sandy soils 150 – 300m above sea level. The climate is clearly suited for producing the best quality grapes. The vineyards in three main sites: Alcamo for Catarratto and Nero d’Avola; Marsala for Grillo and Pantelleria for the Zibbibo which that produces their delightful Passito di Pantelleria. The grapes tend to be picked earlier in the year than many of their neighbours which produces their customary bright, fresh style of wine.
The results are evident in the fragrant, crisp Catarratto and perfumed, fresh Nero d’Avola. These wines are a million miles from the overripe styles made by many of their peers. Night harvesting and modern temperature controlled fermentations result in bright, fresh, modern wines.
Fragrant and crisp, Ciello Bianco Catarratto is amazingly fresh and vibrant, delicate flavours of white fruit, hints of peach and lemon zest mid palate and soft notes of marzipan on its bright finish.