Showing posts with label L'Atitude 51. Show all posts
Showing posts with label L'Atitude 51. Show all posts

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau. Starting with Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl

A Hundred of the Best from Le Caveau
Starting with a Franciacorta and a Clonakilty Girl
Meeting Rhona at St Peter's last week

“We are a small vineyard, ten hectares in total, eight planted with Chardonnay, two with Pinot Noir,” said Rhona Cullinane of the 1701 vineyard in the Franciacorta region of Italy when I met her at the Le Caveau portfolio tasting in Cork’s old St Peter's Church last Thursday. So I hear you asking: Rhona Cullinane, from an Italian vineyard? Well, Rhona is from Clonakilty and went to Sienna to finish off third level education and fell in love with the country and now divides her time between the 1701 vineyard and London with plenty of opportunities to get back to Clon.

1701 is an unusual name for a winery . It comes from the year of the first vinification there by the Conti Bettoni Cazzago family; that was in the “brolo”, a four hectare vineyard framed by X1 century walls. In 2012, brother and sister Federico and Silvia Stefini took over the estate and the winery and named it 1701 in honour of that long-ago first vintage. Rhona works with the Stefinis and they were the first in the Franciacorta region to be awarded the coveted biodynamic Demeter certification in July 2016.

There are about 100 to 120 producers in the area and they are now “slowly focusing” on external markets, Rhona told me last week. “there is a regional ambition to move to organic and biodynamic”. 

Rhona was showing the 1701 Franciacorta Brut DOCG. It is a blend of Chardonnay (85%) and Pinot Noir (15%).  The summer heat of the vineyard is tempered by the breeze from the lake (Iseo) and the mountains to the north. “We choose to keep it on the lees for 30 months, well above the appellation minimum. It is made in the traditional manner, manually harvested, with the indigenous yeasts, and a secondary fermentation in the bottle but with zero dosage.
Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel (left) and Damiem of Clos de Caveau

St Peter's
It is a gorgeous sparkling wine, the palate full and generous, clean, fresh and elegant, apple notes, citrus too and that typical brioche note, beautifully balanced and a dry finish. Expect to pay in the mid 30s, considerably less than what you'd pay for the bigger names of the region; lovely wine, great value.

Jules, who is spending a few month in L’Atitude (Cork) improving his English, was keen to show me some of the wines he was familiar with from his home in the south west of France, beginning with the family’s impressive Chateau de Cedre héritage. “This is 95% Malbec, 5% Merlot,” he said. “Four of the five parcels are organic but the next vintage will be fully organic. It is started in cement tanks, matured in barrels.” 

It is medium to full bodied, gorgeous black fruits on the silky palate with a clean finish. Colour is a light ruby, it is easy-going, no shortage of drinkability. Another quality wine at a very good price (15.40).

The small Mirouze vineyard in Corbieres produces some excellent wines, including that Ciel du Sud that Jules showed. It is a lovely lively blend, 50% Grenache, 50% Carignan. It is raised in cement tanks and no sulphur is added. 
Margaret of Le Caveau and, right, Dave of Café Paradiso

The little vineyard is surrounded by garrigue. That means the vines are well away from the sprays of neighbours. On the other hand, wild boar enjoy the cover of the scrub and so the Mirouze family have to use an electric fence to deter them.
My cuvée!!

Domaine No Control is into wine (of course) and music. One of their Gamay is called Fusion, the other Rockaille Billy. I had spotted the Billy on the list early on and wasn't leaving until I had a taste of it. The domaine consists of just five hectares and Jules agreed that this was that bit different to Beaujolais Gamay. “Lovely, great drinkability”. Must get a few bottles of that for the table when I have guests!

from Oregon
The next chat I had was with Damiem and he was showing the Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras AC Carmin Brilliant. Vacqueyras village, under the shade of its large trees, stays cool when the vineyards all around are warm. 

And this is one cool wine, coming from a height of 200m, higher than most of its neighbours, and bearing the distinctive diagonal wraparound label designed by Karl Lagerfeld. It is a superb blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, natural yeast is used and nothing is added. Good structure and bite, lovely ripe tannins, excellent acidity and freshness.
Sustenance via L'Atitude 51

Then it was on to the Alsace table where there was a strong showing from Meyer-Fonné. Always find the Gentil wines from the Alsace very drinkable and the MF 2016 was typical. Later, I would come across a similar effort from Oregon’s Ovum Wines called Big Salt! 

The Meyer-Fonné Gewürztraminer 2015 Réserve was aromatic and rich. Hints of sweetness too in the Pinot Blanc but this was dry with  a minerally finish. Also excellent - it suited my palate well - was the 2015 Riesling while the 2013 Grand Cru didn't quite do it for me, almost always find it hard to tune out that whiff of petrol. 
Mayer-Fonné well represented on Le Caveau list

The 2016 Pinot Gris was much more to my liking and the winery points to this one as “the archetypical Pinot Gris for the table”. Will put that on my list. Indeed, I think I may just make a list of all the Meyer-Fonné wines and see how I get on.

I had been pointed towards the Kumpf et Meyer 2016 Riesling by Ballymaloe sommelier Samuel. And with good reason. From its fresh, fragrant and full nose through its complex palate to the long and savoury finish, this is worth a second longer look and so another that will make my ever lengthening shopping list!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Friday Fuar Fliuch! Here’s the Fix! Bubbles. Burgers. Beers.

Friday Fuar Fliuch! Here’s the Fix! 
Bubbles. Burgers. Beers.

For burger lovers, Coqbull Cork seemed to be the place on Friday evening last. It was jammers, a great buzz, a lively racket really, music in there somewhere (I heard the odd thud, thud). 

They come in the front door. They come in the back door. And somehow they all get seated. 

No doubt, Friday is a busy evening here anyhow but the attendance and the atmosphere was enhanced by the Burger Festival (Jan 22nd to 28th). There was even a guy trying to demolish the six-burger record set earlier that day by Bandon man Colin Minihane who “who demolished 6 burgers, fries & a Coqshake in 10.32 mins yes that’s 10.32”.

One would be enough for me thanks! Coqbull provide the full experience here. You can have starters, desserts, craft beers (including their own lager), cocktails (or coqtails) and choose from a list of top gins.

Our starters were their tasty cool Nachos (with shredded beef added) and the Coqbull Wings with their Blas gold award winning Sticky Asian sauce, a delicious combination. We avoided the Hot Coq sauce though, too hot for chickens they said.

Sipping away at a glass of their lager (CL) and a can of the Metalman Wheat beer, we moved on to the main event. My choice was the most popular burger of the week, and likely to make it on to main menu sometime soon, the Bacon Bomb: double cheese, double beef bacon infused burger, caramelised onion & pickles wrapped in a potato bread bun...served with our FAT BASTARD WEDGES smothered in our new Coqbull secret seasoning. A mega feed for sure, great flavour, especially of the bacon, and that potato bread bun wasn't half-bad either.

CL’s choice was another festival favourite here, the Supreme Bull with blue cheese, bone marrow butter, portobello mushroom, truffle mayonnaise and rocket.

Another interesting one, especially on the Thursday when they had the Cork Whiskey Society in for a Scotch tasting, was The Sloppy Scot, made using the best of Haggis from Mc Carthy's of Kanturk, Beef, Ballymaloe Country Relish, rocket and a whiskey pepper sauce served with neeps and tatties. 

So that was the burger done. Earlier, we had the bubbles, as an aperitivo. Every Friday, L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay have a Friday Fizz between 4.00pm and 7.00pm, featuring a different fizz each time. Last Friday’s was La Jara Rosato Frizzante - a semi-sparkling wine made from red Raboso with a delicate pink colour and wonderfully fresh aromas of red apple and raspberry and juicy peach and pear flavours. It was every bit as delicious as they promised on Facebook, really good and good value too at €5.50 a glass. Watch out for future Fizz Fridays.

Indeed, if you like your bubbles, why not check out the Imperial Hotel too. In their Seventy Six Bar, they are offering a champagne flight, three Taittinger champagnes including a rosé, at a special price of fifteen euro.

After stuffing ourselves at Coqbull, we walked out into heavy rain, heavy enough to halt our planned walk to the beer festival at Franciscan Well. Instead we headed closer to home and, with the brolly up, made it to the new Bridge Bar in Bridge Street where the counter was full and there was live music from the O.C.D. trio. Food (charcuterie and cheese) also available here.

Great to see a long line-up of craft beers here, available on draft. We ended up comparing two ales, one from Yellow Belly, the other from Beavertown. Two excellent ales. The Wexford drink had attractive aromas and flavours and the expected hoppy finish. Beavertown is a London Brewery and their ale was possibly more focussed, a brewer’s beer maybe. Not much between them in any case. May have to go back for a replay.
Lager (left), Red Ale (right). But what's in the middle? The Bridge Bar.

May have to go back for a gin and tonic adventure too. That could take a while though. This is their long long list.

MONKEY 47 10.10
CORK DRY 4.80 
BLOOM 6.20
OPIHR 6.00

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dr Brendan O’Regan Cuvée. A Special Wine for a Special Man

Dr Brendan O’Regan Cuvée

A Special Wine for a Special Man

Born in Sixmilebridge in 1917, Brendan O’Regan went on to achieve much in his life, most notably perhaps the establishment of the world’s first duty free area in Shannon Airport, not too far from his Clare birthplace. He would go on to leave a permanent mark on the Shannon Region, on Ireland and indeed on the world.

After a few years at the Foynes Flying Boat base (where he is handsomely commemorated in the museum there), he was appointed Catering Comptroller General at Shannon in 1945. By 1957, he became chairman of Bord Failte, a post he held until 1973. From 1959-1978, he was chairman of Shannon Free Airport Development Company and, from 1974-1979, he was joint President of State Agencies Development Co-operation Organisation. Just a few of his major achievements.

His wine-maker grand-nephew Dermot Sugrue, from Kilfinane, was always fascinated by his grand-uncle’s achievements and was a proud attendee at the 1917 centenary commemorations. He was inspired to remember the great man and did so with a special wine, an English sparkling wine of outstanding quality, the Dr Brendan O’Regan Cuvée, produced by Sugrue Pierre, Dermot’s company in the South Downs.

The climate of the south east of England makes it particularly suitable for sparkling wines and the industry there is a multi-million pound one. Indeed, the climate and the chalky soil is fairly similar to the Champagne area and well-known champagne maker Taittinger have purchased a vineyard here. 

Dermot has played a key role in putting English sparkling wine on the map. After time honing his craft in France, he’s been making top quality fizz in England for many years ,with Nyetimber, Wiston Estate, Digby Fine English and Jenkyn Place just a few of the award winning names under his belt.

I have spoken to Dermot a few times over the past two years about Dr Brendan O'Regan and so I was delighted to get a bottle of the cuvée to try out. And where better place to do just that than at L’Atitude 51, Cork’s leading wine-bar. Proprietor Beverly Mathews and Chilean wine journalist Fran Jara made up the trio as we opened the precious bottle in the upstairs bar.

Beverly poured and soon we saw those tiny little bubbles, fountains of micro-bubbles, in a non-stop rise to the top. It could, and would, pass for a top class champagne, very “brioche-y”, very zesty too, round and balanced with great acidity and incredible reverberating length, bone dry too. It is labelled Brut. That “dry” quality makes the saliva work and whets the appetite so it makes a terrific aperitif and should also be a superb match with oysters and mussels. These were some of the comments as we sipped.

Later, I collected the considered opinions of my colleagues. Fran: “Sugrue Pierre has fine and energetic bubbles, is bright and dry with flavours of citrus fruits, green apples and a creamy-like texture. In two words, I would say that is extremely enjoyable.”

Beverly was also enthusiastic: “A delicious wine, mouthfilling, very complex and a great long finish. A delicious complex English sparkling wine celebrating a remarkable Irishman. Would make a fab gift. I'd like to get one in a few years time as I think it will age very well indeed.”

Dermot has created this prestige multi-vintage wine from a blend of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) aged in oak barrels. All the fruit was sourced from two exceptional vineyards, some 26 miles apart on the South Downs. “It possesses outstanding ageing potential, combining both power and structure with subtlety and finesse. Beautiful to enjoy now, it will grow in elegance and complexity if cellared for up to a decade.”

The accolades for this cuvée have been pouring in. Recently described as “Best Gift” in Olly Smith’s Mail on Sunday Christmas drinks round-up, who also said “This is the finest English fizz I’ve yet tasted.” So there you are. It is on sale for £79.00 on the Sugrue Pierre website but do watch out for it on your travels. You’re sure to see it in an airport shop soon. Don’t leave it behind you. Bring it safely home and when drinking, toast the Clare man who helped Ireland emerge from the doldrums and the Limerick man who provided the sparkling wine to celebrate!

Read more about Dr Brendan O’Regan here


Monday, June 19, 2017

Night of the Long Table. Four Hundred Dine Out on Cork’s South Mall

Night of the Long Table

Four Hundred Dine Out on Cork’s South Mall
Phil (standing) wishes Happy Birthday to fiancée Veronica; they get married today.
A night out to remember for the over four hundred diners who gathered on Cork’s South Mall for an outdoor dinner, the second running of Cork’s Long Table. And the sun came too, making it a glorious occasion for the organisers and their partners including Bord Bia, Failte Ireland, Cork City Council and Cork Midsummer Festival.

There was a choice of drink on the way in, anything from Prosecco to cider to beer to a cordial. The first suppliers we met were Colm McCan (what a hat) and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, helping out on the night.
All calm before the service

Soon we were seated at our table, strangers to the right of us, strangers to the left. A few minutes later though and strangers no more! 

A tasty oyster signalled the start of the serving and then came the Producers Boards with Smoked mussels and mackerel, crab with lemon mayo (perhaps my favourite), black and white pudding, spiced beef, crubeens and ham hock terrine, chutney, breads, mozzarella. That got us talking and sharing and there was something for everyone!
Welcome to the Long Table from Colm(left) and Pascal of Le Caveau

The mains meanwhile were being prepared in the kitchens of the nearby Imperial Hotel and distributed to the various staging posts on the pavement. It was worth waiting for, not that we were waiting at all. The rack of lamb with pea purée, salsa verde, mixed leaf salad and loads of superb British Queens, not forgetting Glenilen butter, was totally satisfying though a few of us volunteered for seconds when the opportunity arose.

And the dessert, a very generous one indeed, was Strawberries with crushed meringue, cream and rose petal, another delight. And to finish we had cheese: Milleens to remember the late Veronica Steele and Hegarty’s Cheddar.
Starter board

All the while, the wine, the beer, the cider, whatever you fancied was being served and the brass band played. There was even a birthday surprise for Veronica, served up by fiancé Phil; all go for this couple who get married today. We wish them well!

Once announced, the Long Table Dinner sold out within hours, such was the feeling that this was going to be a good one. And once you saw the list of quality suppliers, you knew the basis was there for a terrific meal. 

Suppliers included Frank Hederman, K. O’Connell Fish, Tim McCarthy’s, Rosscarberry Recipes, McCarthy Meats, Haven Fish, Glenilen Farm, Waterfall Farms, Bumblebee Flower Farm, Dave Barry’s Farm, Bushy Berries, On the Pig’s Back, Murphy’s,  Longueville House, 9 White Deer, Le Caveau and Counterpoint.

I've often heard chefs say they are nothing without the producers but the restaurants and chefs have a major role to play in getting the best from the produce and that certainly happened last night with Ali’s Kitchen, Electric Fishbar, The Farmgate, Fenn’s Quay, The Imperial Hotel, Isaac’s Restaurant, Jacob’s on the Mall, Jacque’s Restaurant, L’Atitude 51, Nash 19 and the Rocketman all playing important roles. Cheers to the hard-working owners and staff.

* I’m glad too that Rebel Chilli were also involved as it was in their competition that I, having been caught out by the early booking rush, won the tickets that got me to the Mall. Thanks, folks!

It's a wrap for 2017

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chanson du Vin at Jacques. Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song

Chanson du Vin at Jacques
Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song
Francoise and Luc
 Minervois wine-maker Luc Lapeyre may have needed a little help with his spoken English but none at all when it came to singing. Francoise Taillefer, another Languedoc wine-maker, and Luc put on one of the liveliest wine-tastings ever at Jacques last Thursday. 

It was Luc’s singing that ended a very entertaining evening, his Fields of Athenry rising over the packed tables and giving stiff competition to the music from the pub across the way. Chanson du Vin.

Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct had accompanied the two organic winemakers on their week's trip around Ireland and Thursday was the final day. Their visit to Cork began with an afternoon masterclass in L’Atitude 51. 

Francoise, of Domaine Ollier Taillefer, started with her Les Collines. The vineyard, that she runs with her brother (also named Luc), is set in the hills around the picturesque village of Fos. The Taillefer vines are planted in the sloping schist soils of the Faugeres appellation, the smallest appellation in the Languedoc.

The soil is mainly schist, a very poor soil but “easier “for organic”. It gives this wine, a blend of Grenache (50%), Carignan and Syrah “freshness and finesse”. “It is very easy drinking, very fruity… not for long keeping..serve at 16 degrees. All the work is manual and we are the 5th generation.”

Just twenty per cent of the wine is exported and Fionnuala said: “This is kinda special for us. It is not widely available outside of France.” She pointed out too that the same three grapes, planted in a another area of the Languedoc would have a different result. “That’s how we get individual styles from our small producers”.

The Lapeyre family's wine-growing goes back even further; Luc is 8th generation. His first big job there, in 1980, was to “change the cepage”. His first wine in “L’Atitude was his San Bres 2015, “a simple wine”, expressive of the fruit (Syrah 60%, Grenache 40%). “Drink it young”, he advised. “But it will keep a few years”.

 “I never learned agronomy or science but think I have a feeling for it. The summers are more and more hot and I prefer sometimes to pick a little early. Wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. If you have the best grapes, it is simple to make good wine.”

His pride and joy is the L’Amourier. The name comes from the Occitan and means a lover, not a fighter. “Make love, not war,” he said.

Both he and Fionnuala made the point that these wines are not made to win prizes. The big wines may well stand out at a tasting and are often then abandoned. Luc makes wines to “stay with for the night”.

 “L’Amourier,” Francoise told us as she helped Luc out, “takes in all the soil types and grapes that he has, including the oldest vines and the poorest soils. They then spend one year in big barrels to develop complexity, originality, personality, the aim being to keep the aromas and youthfulness of the wine.”

He admitted that his “recipe is flexible", never quite the same from vintage to vintage. This is to allow for the weather, the harvest itself, and other variables. This is where the”feeling” comes in!

By the way, Mourvedre, a small part of this blend (Grenache and Syrah are also included), is raised that bit differently, in smaller barrels “to soften the tannins”.

Every now and then, maybe once in three years, Luc finds the grapes in just one particular parcel “too powerful for L’Amourier”, so he makes “a wine to keep”. “How old is that parcel?” someone queried. “Older than me,” was the jovial reply. 

This wine, L’Amourier Les Clots (2010), spends two years in barrel. With its deep dark fruits, this smooth full-bodied beauty is “very versatile… try it with viande rouge”. 

We would meet the wines and the winemakers again later in Jacques, as part of their well-loved series of Tapas and Wines. And Eithne Barry and her team kept the Cork end up with some lovely matching dishes.

Francoise: Irish lamb is the best

Their gorgeous chicken paté was paired, and paired well, with Les Collines. “Bon appetite” all round as we enjoyed the matching of Coq au Vin with the San Bres. And then came another magic match: Lamb cassoulet and the L’Amourier before we finished on an exquisite Brie de Meaux. 

Except that we weren't exactly finished. The chansons were only beginning.