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It ain't heavy! It’s very clear, fresh, with a lovely acidity. For six years in a row, this was voted the best sweet wine in the world
Hugh Murray of Classic Drinks was finishing off a very enjoyable and informative edition of Greene's Supper Club at the McCurtain Street restaurant. The object of the April night was to help people decide on an appropriate wine choice for their meals. Manager Arthur Little could not have a chosen a better speaker to lead us through the evening.
And the sweet ending that Hugh had lined up for us was Seifried Estate Sweet Agnes Riesling. Produced by a couple, of Austrian and Irish origin, this Riesling is an ice wine. Launched ten years ago, it is late harvested and the grapes are frozen, then crushed, leaving the sugar. “Irish people are afraid of sweet wines,” Hugh remarked. But this could change all of that as it is not at all sticky. “Take a sip, allow it three seconds on the palate. Then let it slide!”. Superb.
Dessert, by the way, was superb as well, both of them. We had choice of two and the wine matched each. I enjoyed the Coconut Espuma with Peanut Ice Cream and Ivorian Chocolate Ganache Truffle. The other was also gorgeous: Rhubarb Meringue, Malted Milk Crumble, Vanilla Sorbet and Rhubarb Ginger Sorbet.
Arthur Little introduced the evening and promised more interesting food and drink events in the months ahead. “We are delighted that our chef Bryan McCarthy was named best chef in Cork at the recent Restaurant of Ireland awards in Munster and we wish him all the best in the national finals. Tell your friends that they can find him here.” Bryan, and his team, were in tip top form again and we had a terrific meal.
Ummera Smoked Salmon
Arthur then introduced Hugh who said he hoped “to open some doors during the meal to help people choose their wines. But wine is above all a personal choice. By all means trust your own opinion but, before making up your mind, listen!”
We had enjoyed Classic’s Colle del Principe Prosecco at the reception with the Goats Cheese Canapes and the Lychee, Lime and Green Tea Espuma. Then we were on to a choice of two starters and two wines to go with them.
I, along with quite a few more, picked the Trio of Organic Ummera Smoked Salmon, Cured Salmon Rillettes, with Blood Orange, Fennel, Seaweed, Squid Ink Ailol and Wasabi Mayo. Abadia San Campo Albarino was the match. “Good Albarino doesn't come cheap,” said Hugh. “Buy it young and drink it fresh.”
The other wine was South African, the Leopard's Leap Classic Chenin Blanc. “This is made with passion, is stylish, with a backbone of acidity and excellent value”. And a great match with the Celeriac, Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Artichoke.
The main event, with three different dishes, might have stretched a lesser man but no bother to Hugh and he got the thumbs up for all three pairings. Those who picked the Wild Mushroom Risotto were lucky enough to get the “incredible, outstanding” Opi Sadler Malbec from Argentina. “This combines power and tenderness.”
My wine, the Hunky Dory Sauvignon Blanc, is made by a husband and wife team in Marlborough. “Not typical of New Zealand,” according to Hugh. “There is a touch of the Loire in it and it punches above its weight”. I love the Loire and the wine was superb with the Seared Hake Fillet and Crispy Prawn Wontons.
Some of the group choose the Glazed Pork Belly Pecan and Apricot Crumb and the wine for this was the Parducci Small Lot Blend Pinot Noir. This variety is difficult to grow and here when they say small lot, they can point to the field. “It is produced in an environmentally friendly way and again made with passion.” I got to taste some of this later on and, juicy and rich, it is a beauty, perhaps my favourite of the evening.
Well maybe! Can’t forget the clean taste of that ice wine!
And that reality is reinforced by the amount of new distilleries (including West Cork, Dingle, Blackwater and Tullamore) newly in production or about to go into production - you do have to wait three years and a day for your spirit to qualify as whiskey.
It is a stunning comeback by an industry that was on its knees in the 1960’s. But, starting in 1966, amalgamations and foreign takeovers led to the revival with Jameson leading the rise. You can read all about the history of whiskey in this country on the Single Pot Still website.
Here, you'll see how Irish Whiskey makers’ belief in the quality of their Single Pot Still product inadvertently handed an advantage to their Scottish rivals. Of course, there were other factors as Irish slid to the bottom. But that quality is now a key part of the revival, especially in Midleton.
While other whiskey, and whisky, are made from a mash of malted barley, the Pot Still is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, an uniquely Irish approach to whiskey distillation. I, despite many a drop of Paddy and, more lately Jameson, am not an whiskey expert, but this is my take on four of these representatives of “the quintessential style of Irish whiskey” recently.
Started off with the familiar Redbreast 12 (and, yes, it is named after the robin). Twelve years, by the way, is the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle. It has quite rich aromas, partly because it has been matured in Sherry casks. Indeed, all casks from fortified wines areas - Sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala - can be used by whiskey makers.
Dave Quinn, Master of Whiskey Science
at Jameson Distillery, Midleton
The Redbreast is harmonious on the palate with a good flavoursome finish. While the alcohol is not at all prominent on the 12, the Redbreast 21, as you might expect, is even smoother - got a sample of that during the radio show.
Back to my own line-up now and the Green Spot. This is fresher and spicier, both on the nose and on the palate, a little bit sweeter too, the spicy notes lingering on the finish. Both the first two have an ABV of 40%.
The Power’s John Lane weighs in at 46% and has a darker nose “an abundance of earthy aromas”. There is a spicy introduction to the palate and then hints of sweetness and these continue through to the lingering finish, a finish that I really enjoyed.
The final tasting in the classy quartet was the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, another beauty. The nose picks up aromas of vanilla (prominent for me) and toasted oak and the tasting notes also hint “at a touch of lime, succulent green berries, pears and green sweet pepper”.
On the palate it is sweet and spicy but so well balanced and the finish is also superb. Perhaps my favourite of the four. It too has an ABV of 46%.
I was drinking the Single Pot Stills neat, the better to taste the diversity of the flavour spectrum. But most people prefer some kind of mixer - a current favourite seems to be Jameson (not a Single Pot Still!), Ginger and Lime. You can check that, and many more suggestions, here.
The Single Pot Still Irish whiskey was once the most popular in the world. Full of complex flavours and with a creamy mouthfeel, it is a drink we can be proud of. And great to see it on the up again. Slainte!