Showing posts with label John Wilson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Wilson. Show all posts

Thursday, June 29, 2017

John Wilson’s Beaujolais Master Class. “A Wine That Made Me Sit Up And Take Notice!”

John Wilson’s Beaujolais Master Class

“A Wine That Made Me Sit Up And Take Notice!”
Contre Jour

“Beaujolais was one of the first wines that made me sit up and take notice,” said John Wilson as he introduced last Wednesday’s Beaujolais masterclass in Cork’s Clayton Hotel. 

He also admitted to being a rather cocky student at the time, maybe a bit like Beaujolais Nouveau but, like a good wine, has matured and his smooth style was very much in evidence during a very informative and well-paced session.

He didn't think that the annual wave of Nouveau did the wine much good in the long run. “Beaujolais has been through a rough time..because of the big concentrated wines that were prevalent for a long time. Its style went out of fashion. Now it's back. Its time has come again!”
“Nowhere is terroir more important. That interesting soil, the purity of the grape and quite simple wine-making leads to an easy drinking fruity wine. That doesn't mean that Beaujolais can’t be serious. I've been tasting some 2008 and 2009 Moulin À Vent recently and it is drinking like a dream. Beaujolais offers great value and a quite unique style.”

He took us through the three areas of the region. The east, with its granite, has all ten crus. “There are a huge number of small estates, including Jadot; it is the home of natural winemaking.” Gamay is “never short of acidity. You’ll love it if you like a refreshing style.”
#gogamaygo
Recent vintages were also touched on. Under-rated and excellent summed up 2014. Outstanding and exceptional, one of the best ever, were the words for 2015, “but do watch out for the high alcohol!”. The 2016 crop was badly hit by hail in May but there is a lot of promise in the reduced output as the wines are “fresh and forward with good supple fruit”.

John himself is a bit sceptical about the importance attached to “great vintages”. “There is no such thing as a great vintage but there are great winemakers. Always go to the winemaker!”

The granite's different colours

The Wines
1: Beaujolais blanc, Mommessin, Les Grandes Mises. This 2014 has “developed a bit and is a pretty nice food wine”.
2: Beaujolais rosé, Chateau de Corcelles, Rosé d’une Nuit 2016: Bone dry, “another one for food”.
3: Beaujolais, Domaine du Vissoux, ‘Les Griottes’ 2016: “A classic entry level.. acidity freshness, moreish.” This one certainly made me sit up and take notice!
4: Beaujolais Villages Domaine des Nugues 2014: “A wonderful wine, almost better than Fleurie.” I loved the finish, the purity of the fruit.
Red dominates in Beaujolais.
5: Régnié Les Vins Henry Fessy, Chateau des Reyssiers 2015: the first of the crus, “one of the most 'granitic'. A wine to drink young. Note the concentration, texture and tannin.”
6: Chiroubles Chateau de Javernand Vieilles Vignes 2015: From a small cru, almost 100% pink granite. Light, elegant, floral and fresh “one of the most interesting and enjoyable that I have come across.” And they are looking for an Irish importer!
7: Saint-Amour Maison Trénel 2015: “Always does well in February,” joked John. “The estate is now owned by M. Chapoutier.” This was perhaps my favourite of the first round.
8: Brouilly Jacques Charlet 2015. We started round two with this lovely light perfect easy drinking wine grown on soils that include blue granite. Again, John stressed that easy drinking does not necessarily mean a simple wine.
9: Fleurie Domaine de la Madone, Tradition 2015. “Very aromatic, floral, silky, but with great concentration… very fond of it. Will keep. Tasted the ten year old and it is great.” For me, this was simply superb.
10: Côte de Brouilly Jean-Paul Brun, Domaine des Terres Dorées 2015: “One of the best winemakers there. Distinctive nose..light but with length. He also makes excellent Crême de Cassis and Crémant”. I was amazed at the aromas, the concentration and the finish of this Wines Direct import.

11: Juliénas Domaine de la Conseillère 2014: “not too much granite here and a distinctive wine.” Super fruit and smooth with great finish, another star for me. John puts its excellence down to a combination of the Burgundian wine-making style employed and the Juliénas effect.
12: Chénas Pascal Aufranc, Vignes de 1939, 2016: “from a single vineyard, going the organic route, this has silky aromas and velvety texture.” I found it another excellent drop with a lip smacking finish and the second glass effect.
13: Morgon Dominique Piron, Côte du Py 2014: “Completely different..powerful concentrated wine. Needs another few years , or a steak!”. Indeed it probably needs more time, one to put away. John reckons both this and Moulin À Vent will both age well.

14: Moulin À Vent Chateau des Jacques 2012: A challenging vintage from the best known cru. Vineyard owned by Louis Jadot since 1996. “Again a Burgundian style, oak included… the colour  is towards Pinot Noir.” Perhaps my favourite overall. I found it much more approachable at this point in time than the Morgon.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting. Mediterranean Island Wines in Spotlight

Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting
Mediterranean Island Wines in LITFEST Spotlight
We got a little more than we expected at John Wilson’s Islands in the Sun, a talk and tasting on the wines of the Mediterranean Islands - one too from the Canaries. As the Irish Times wine-writer took us gently through the wines, a thunder-shower played drums on the roof of the Ballymaloe tractor shed. “Just as well they water-proof their sheds in Ballymaloe,” joked John before getting back to his fascinating tasting.

He told us it was an idea that came to him about eight years ago but it was hard to get the wines together. “I’ve always wanted to do this but Litfest gave me the chance and I left the legwork to Colm.” He was, of course, speaking of Colm McCan,  the man behind all the events in the improvised Drinks Theatre.
“There are a lot of island wines,” said John. “They have their own varieties, characters and styles. All are on trade routes, lots of them volcanic and most have never had phylloxera.”

Not always easy to find white wines with good acidity from hot climates but John had one from the historic island of Santorini. “It is volcanic..the grapes are grown high up in circles around the top of the craters. They are ungrafted. The rootstock must be ancient. The acidity is there, needs food and is great with scallops.” The wine is Assyrtiko by Gaia 2015, a leading producer, and it is a wild ferment.
 Next we landed in Corsica, Ile de Beauté. John hadn’t tasted this Vermentino until now. “It keeps the acidity, lean and fresh, amazing flavours. It is single vineyard, aged in old barrels, no new oak used.” The producer Antoine Arena has quite a story to tell. The vines are tended biodynamically and the wines are made naturally. Vines and Wines says that crisp lemony Vermentino is Sardinia’s original gift to the wine world.


South now to Sicily and the first of the reds, a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato (a soft low tannin grape), a very light coloured red by COS who farm in Vitoria. Sicily produces large quantities of wine.

John is well acquainted with this one: “It’s been a favourite of mine for 15 years. This is a new vintage, with some tannins. The vineyard is biodynamic and was the first place I saw amphora being used.” He advised decanting the wine.


Back north again now and a visit to Sardinia, to a natural winemaker who doesn't follow the market. “I make wines that please me,” he told John in an interview. “They are what they are.” Kinda take it or leave it. If you take it, remember these are not filtered, nor fined, so decant.



Tenute Dettori’s Romangia Rosso is another favourite of John’s: “I adore this wine. It has evolved so much from last year! I think natural wines are fascinating. This is an earthy, warm delicious red fruit with a lovely acidity.”

So we waved goodbye to Sardinia and headed through the straits on a long trip to the Canaries which produces quite a lot of wine. “There are 11 areas of production..a couple available in Ireland but not enough”. Then that massive shower interrupted, letting us know that we didn't quite fit the island in the sun label, though in fairness, the weekend of the Litfest was generally very good, lots of sun, as usual!

After the din on the roof, we returned to the wine. “The vines are grown in hollows to protect them from the winds. The Canaries were a stopover for ships heading to the New World and this grape, the Listan Negro, eventually made its way to Argentina (as Criolla), Chile (Pais) and California (Mission).
Ben Ryé means Son of the Wind
Our 100% Listan Negro is from Teneriffe: Vino de Parcela La Solana. It is produced from vines over 100 years old, has been foot-trodden in open concrete tanks and local natural yeasts are used. “There is a savoury liquorice touch to it and they tend to get the purity of the fruit across.”


“This is special,” said John as he guided us back to the Med and the island of Pantelleria, between Sicily and Tunisia (to which it is closer). The island is famous for its capers! Just one hotel and that is called the Dream Resort. Soil is again volcanic and again the vines are dug into the ground to avoid the worst of the winds.


Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria is the full title, I think! John said the grape is the Moscato di Alexandria but under a different name (Zibibbo) and during a prolonged fermentation some bunches of dried grapes are “thrown in” from time to time. “It is incredibly sweet, marmalade-y, yet with great acidity”.

The Ballymaloe tulips stood up well to the massive shower.
Muscato is grown on virtually all the islands of the Med and found, in one variation or another, all over the wine-growing world. Passito refers to dried and shrivelled grapes.


A sweet ending indeed to an interesting multi-island tour and he hinted that he might well come up with another voyage next year in LITFEST.
And, yes, the sun was shining on this island as we joined the throngs milling around in Ballymaloe.

See also, from LITFEST16:



Irish Craft Cider. A Litfest16 Event


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.