Showing posts with label Liberty Wines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liberty Wines. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2017

Irish Focus at Australian Day Tasting. Classics and New Wave Impress

Irish Focus at Australian Day Tasting
Classics and New Wave Impress
I was determined to concentrate on the Focus Table, this year featuring a selection of 31 wines by Irish wine personalities who have a keen interest in Australia, including Liam Campbell, Martin Moran, Harriet Tindal, Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) and Gavin Ryan (Black Pig, Kinsale). The figure was supposed to be 24 wines but it did get extended!


Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia Head of Market EMEA, said:  We hope this new section adds an extra dimension to this year’s event. Having looked at the nominations, these wines really do highlight the diversity of Australian wine and reinforce the country’s reputation as a premium wine producer.” 

The promise, and it was kept, was that “great classic wines from the likes of Cullen, Clonakilla and Bindi will be on show, plus new-wave artisans like Jauma, Ochota Barrels and Gentle Folk”.  

So the signs were good as I arrived at the Royal Hibernian Academy and sought out the Focus Table. And I made a sparkling start with the House of Arras ‘EJ Carr Late Disgorged’ Tasmania Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2003. Fresh and vibrant, an amazing sparkling wine.

Then followed a string of young Rieslings, including the Josef Chromy ‘SGR’ Tasmania Riesling 2016 with an ABV of just 7.5% and a delicious Skillogalee Clare Valley 2015 by Dave Palmer, “mineral, dry and crisp” as noted by Gavin Ryan from Kinsale’s Black Pig who selected it.

The Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011  was superb, “intense and complex, but elegant and refreshing” noted Martin Moran. It was all good around here and the standard was maintained by the Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Grüner Veltliner, the grapes picked in the cold of the night to retain flavour and freshness.

Maximum drinkability and enjoyment is the aim of the producers of the Gentle Folk Forest Range Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015, the first of the reds and the first of Ballymaloe's Colm McCan’s selections for the table. I reckon the producers got it right as did Colm.

There were quite a few Syrah and Shiraz at this point, all very good including the Payton and Jones ‘Major Kong - Planet of the Grapes’, Yarra Valley 2015. My favourite though was the blend: De Bortoli ‘La Boheme Act Four’ Yarra Valley Syrah Gamay, imported by Febvre and a Liam Campbell pick. 

The Colm McCann selection, Jauma ‘Audrey’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015, is produced biologically and intrigued with its “cider-y” notes.

Some excellent Grenache on the table too including Ochota Barrels ‘The Fugazi Vineyard’ McLaren Vale 2015, the Willunga 100 McLaren Vale 2015, and the Cirillo ‘1850 Ancestor Wine’ Barossa Valley 2011. The Cirillo was chosen by Ian Brosnan of Ely and he admitted that, until recently, he had never tasted Grenache of this quality.

And quality too, at a very good price, in Kevin O’Brien’s Kangarilla Road Terzetto, a McLaren Vale blend of Sangiovese, Primitivo and Nebbiolo. It is a favourite of mine, was chosen by Liam Campbell and is available at O’Brien Wines.

Perhaps the best blend of the lot came towards the end: the Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ Margaret River Cabernet Blend 2014, imported by Liberty Wines and nominated by Gavin Ryan who has fond memories of enjoying it at a full moon harvest party in Margaret River.

Time then for a chat at the Liberty Wines stand with Garry Gunnigan and new recruit Marcus Gates and a tasting of their sweet wines before heading into the general wine area.

Here we soon met up with Jonny Callan of Cabroso Wines who import the Kelly’s Patch range to Ireland and we hope to link up in Cork soon and find out more about the company.

Having concentrated on the Focus Table we missed out on many stalls, including McGuigan where they were tasting the impressive Founder’s Series that I enjoyed in Kinsale a few months ago.

Hard to go wrong with the Deakin Estate and Katnook Wines that are imported by Findlater (and available in Cork in Bradley's and other outlets). 

Next time I'm up in North Main Street, I'll be looking at some of the Penfolds that Laura introduced me to at the Findlater’s stand. Both the Bin 2 South Australian Shiraz Mataro (that is what the Australians call Mourvedre) 2012 and the Bin 28 South Australian Shiraz 2011 impressed.

With Marcus (Liberty Wines)
Been writing this and wondering how the Australians get to name their wines. Heard a good story from Michael at the Lanchester Wines stand as we sampled the excellent ‘Don’t Tell Gary’, a McPherson Shiraz 2015 from the Strathbogie Ranges. 

This wine is a labour of love - one the accountants didn't know about.  In 2014, winemaker Jo Nash discovered an exceptional parcel of Shiraz from the Grampians which she gently crushed, then tucked away in some ridiculously expensive French oak barrels to age for 12 months.  

All the while, she was urging her fellow employees: “Don’t tell Gary”. No one did tell Gary, her boss. Now the wine speaks for itself - minimal intervention, purity of fruit, Shiraz at its best and Jo has been given free rein to investigate other possibilities in the vineyard!
John (left) and Michael at Lanchester Wines
See also earlier article on great selection of fortified sweet wines at the tasting here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tawny. Muscat. Topaque. Top Sweet Wines from Australia.

Tawny. Muscat. Topaque.
Top Sweet Wines from Australia.

Australia’s wine industry began with sweet fortified wines and the stickies were in great form at the Australia Day Tasting last Monday in Dublin’s Royal Hibernians Academy.

I was determined to concentrate on the Focus Table, this year featuring a selection of 31 wines by Irish wine personalities who have a keen interest in Australia, including Liam Campbell, Martin Moran, Harriet Tindal, Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) and Gavin Ryan (Black Pig, Kinsale). The figure was supposed to be 24 wines but it did get extended.
Chris Pfeiffer

It included three sweet wines so I had to be patient, working my way through the white and the red before getting my hands on them. The d’Arenberg ‘Nostalgia Rare’, a McLaren Vale Tawny, more tawny port style than ruby, according to Liam Campbell’s note, was delicious. McCan’s choice, the Skillogalee ‘Liqueur’ Clare Valley Muscat NV, from Dave and Diane Palmer, poured slowly from the stubby bottle, a sweet stream, sweet but with balance.



And it was the Pfeiffer Wines Rutherglen Muscat NV, a Martin Moran pick, with its heady complexity and orange notes that was my favourite of the trio.

And there were more from the Rutherglen area at the Liberty Wine table, sipped as we chatted with Gerry Gunnigan and new recruit Marcus Gates. First up was the Chambers Rosewood Muscat à Petits Grains Rouge NV (€18.99) and the direct comparison was with the ‘Old Vine’ Rutherglen Muscat à Petits (34.99).

The first is unctuous and rich, yet balanced. The ‘Old Vine’ , with orange, raisin and floral aromas, and a concentration of riches on the amazing palate, and again that balance. Both delicious but, if feeling flush, go for the Old Vine which has had the benefit of going through their specific Solera System.


Back then to visit Chris and Robyn Pfeiffer at their stand and, first to try their Topaque Rutherglen Muscadelle NV (previously called Tokay). “This is 100% Moscatel. It is well ripened. There is plenty of accumulated sugar but we don't lose the fruit.” And this luscious flavour-full wine is another stickie gem.

On a previous visit to Cork, Chris revealed that the table wines “pay” for the fortified wines which are regarded as “an accountant’s nightmare, because they tie up so much capital”. Fortunately, thanks to people like Chris, the accountants don't always have their way. “Fortified wines are undervalued...they deliver great punch for your pound!”

Colm picked a good one.
And, on that occasion, at The Hayfield Manor, I had the pleasure of sampling the even rarer Pfeiffer Grand Muscat. It is twenty years old and has spent most of that time in barrel. “It is a very special occasion wine (like old Cognac). It is very complex and you don't need much.”

That left me wishing for a tasting of their Rare Muscat, four years older than the Grand. “Like to get a  sip or two of that sometime”, I said to myself that night. And it finally happened in the RHA when Robyn produced a bottle and we drank the amazing wine, clinking our glasses in honour of the departed Joe Karwig, the wine-person’s wine-person who left us too soon (in late 2015). A fitting end to my stickie excursion at the Australia Day Tasting.
Rich and rare
Robyn Pfeiffer and Johnny McDonald

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From Sharecroppers to Entrepreneurs. The Modern History of Italian Wine

From Sharecroppers to Entrepreneurs
The Modern History of Italian Wine

At a lunch last April in West Cork, Italian winemaker Elena Pantaleoni (La Stoppa) told me that farmers were , not so long ago, looked down on in Italy, that her farmer brother had to leave Italy for France to gain some respect in his chosen profession. I was just a few pages into The Modern History of Italian Wine (edited by Walter Filiputti) when I was reminded of that conversation in the Good Things in Skibbereen.

“The modern history of Italian wine, which began to take shape in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, is the finest page ever written by our agriculture.
It gave birth to the most important agrarian revolution, in a few years turning poor farmers into entrepreneurs whose bottles are now found worldwide. ‘Contadino’ (peasant/farmer) was a derogatory term, sometimes used offensively. Until the 1970s, it was very difficult for a farm/peasant boy in the Friuli countryside, for example, to marry outside of his social class.”

In those few transformative years, a new awareness of public health emerged and production processes, previously heedlessly helped by chemicals, was enhanced by the arrival of “cold technology, laying the groundwork for mechanical oenology or knowledge”

And then the US market took off for Italy, helped hugely by the Italians in the states, in their restaurants in general and by Robert Mondavi in particular. The fascinating book takes us through the decades that followed and “is a history of labour and creativity that is all Italian, something to be proud of”.
Other famous names emerged in Italy. And famous wines too, such as the “Super Tuscan” Tignanello, Sassicaia (100 points from Parker for 1985 vintage and another Super Tuscan), Castello Banfi’s Brunello (which established itself as “a symbol of Italian quality in the wider world”.

The US market was becoming increasingly important and “indeed began to drive the industry”. In the 1990s, Angelo Gaia, another leading figure in the renaissance, noted the change in America: “they were understanding our fine clean wines”.

There were many breakthroughs including the Masi’s innovative Ripasso method and Campofiorin, a Super Venetian and “the inspiration for a while series of wines". 

And then came the setback of the methanol scandal in 1986 when over twenty people died. But Italy acted quickly to tighten quality controls. And the renaissance continued, moving the industry ever further from chemistry towards sustainability.

And that progress is being marked on the landscape (on it and under it) by some amazing wineries, quite a few of them illustrated in the 400 page book. Most of us know the very spectacular wineries of Spain but they are matched in Italy. 

Just take a look at some of my favourites, the L’Ammiraglia in Tuscany, the Cantina Khamma and the Feudo di Mezzo (both in Sicily), the Petra in Tuscany, La Brunella in Piedmont, and Cantina Jermann di Ruttars in Friuli.

There are separate chapters on the 60s, 70, and each decade right up to the present. Here the winemakers who were prominent in each decade are mentioned. Just two hundred or so in all, so many will be disappointed but the editor says the book is dedicated “to all Italian vintners” and also to those not mentioned (who are asked to “please be understanding”).

Factors leading to the breakthrough in the 60s were the controversial introduction of the DOCs in 1962 and the abolition of sharecropping in 1964. Many sharecroppers left the countryside and the old vines (and many native varieties) were at risk. But many former sharecroppers became modern farmers and many entrepreneurs joined them in the vineyards.

Fontanafredda, many of whose wines are available here (Karwig Wines, for example), go back a bit further than the 60s and the estate was, in 1858, part of the heritage of King Vittorio Emanuele 11.  They were making excellent Barolo at least as far back as 1924. In recent times, “the property passed to another visionary, Oscar Farinetti, who revitalized its sale and the commercial image of this brand which today, with its 90 hectares and concessions, produces about 7.5 million bottles”.

In the early 70s, “we saw the beginning of the long process that would lead knowledgeable oenology to drive the chemistry away from the temple”. As Piero Antinori said: “Modern technology simply allows us to express our full potential”. Leonildo Pieropan figures prominently in this decade. In 1971, he produced the Soave Calvarino and in 1978, Soave La Rocca, aged in wood, “another revolution for his territory”.  Liberty Wines import the wines of Pieropan to Ireland.


The “mastery of oenological science” put the Italians in position to tackle global markets and, despite the methanol setback, they did so in style during the 80s. But Angela Piotti Velenosi first had to conquer her local area of the Marches and Piceno where only cooperative wineries and bulk wine reigned. 

Angela and her husband founded their winery in 1984 starting with just five hectares. Three decades later, the vineyards stretch to 105 hectares and produce 2.5 millions bottles, “of which a large share is exported to five continents”. Quite a lot it makes its way here to Ireland and Karwigs have quite a selection.

In the 1990s, Italian winemakers, who had mastered the technology, began to look at their vineyards “as the source of better quality. Viticulture took its place again at the centre of the wine system.” Italy was flying in world markets, Brunello di Montalcino “a symbol of this extraordinary success”.

The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are major players in the Italian wine industry yet one of the smallest producers is among those chosen to represent the 1990s. “One label, one wine and a success for twenty years”, the Galardi estate is on the slopes of..an extinct volcano. The four owners started to recover the old vineyards in 1991 and now produce, organically since 1997, some 33,000 bottles of IGT Roccamonfina Terra di Lavoro, a blend of Aglianico and a small percentage of Piedirosso, “the essence of the south”.

Sustainability was the model to follow as the new millennium dawned. Wine tourism too began to build and, speaking of building, famous architects designed inspiring wineries. And who do I see listed as one of the “representatives" of this decade? None other then Colutta (Friuli Venezia Giulia) whose owner Giorgio Colutta visited Cork last year.
Giorgio (right) in Cork last year.

Giorgio explained that he is not organic (that's easier to do in the warmer south!) but this former pharmacist has introduced environmentally sustainable cultivation techniques and is self sufficient with regard to energy consumption. His is a small company but has reached out around the world, especially to the Far East. Fortunately he is on the books of Wines Direct where you may purchase his amazing Pinot Grigio and the even more amazing Schioppettino. 

The Schioppettino grape variety is from the local area and has a history there dating back to at least the 13th century. Giorgio told me the name means “little bang”, the sound the grape makes when you pop a ripe one into your mouth!

The chapter on the current decade features Up and Coming winemakers and ideas. The future may be in the past if the exploits of father and son team, Pasquale and Umberto Ceratti, are anything to go by. In Calabria, they make “precious wine with ancient methods”.  Following these antique methods, they make a few thousand bottles of Greco di Bianco from a vine that came with the Greeks in the 8th century BC.
Elena Pantaleoni (front, 1st left), at lunch in Skibbereen

So back to Elena and her vineyard La Stoppa. Her family bought the old place in 1973, and revived the vineyards and the winery. Nowadays, using organic methods, La Stoppa specialises in the production of wines derived from the local varieties: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, as well as from Barbera and Bonarda, in addition to the wines derived from the historically introduced varieties of French origin: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon. Beautiful wines from a beautiful place and available here from Le Caveau. Just thought I'd get that in, even if the editors couldn't!

Divided into three parts (“The Renaissance of Italian Wine,” “Italian Wine. Innovation” and “The Geography of Italian Wine”), the book narrates a never-before-told, all-Italian story of hard work and creativity. It leads readers on a journey through the sun-drenched regions of Italy, a country that has dramatically revamped its wine-growing and vinification procedures since the 1970s. All in all, it is a marvellous book, full of detail and passion, and well illustrated too.

  • Just one criticism: While there are indices for winemakers and another for names, there is no overall index. If I want find Valtellina (which is mentioned at least three times), for example, I just have to go through the whole book. Why Valtellina? Well, we had an Italian night in the Farmgate in 2015 and the wines came from there as does Farmgate front-of-house Mirco! The Italians and their wines are everywhere - thankfully. 
  • The Modern History of Italian Wine is edited by Walter Filiputti and is published by Skira. It is available from Eason's (€58.80) and online from the publishers (€46.75).  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

44 Hours in Dublin

44 Hours in Dublin
Well over 2000 years between the Meathman (below) and Jedward. But look at the hairstyles. Gel (probably imported from Spain or France) was used, certainly by the Meathman! The Meathman, one of bodies recovered from Irish bogs, may be seen in the Museum of Archaelogy, Jedward in the Wax Museum (Dublin) 
I spent a pretty “busy” 44 hours in Dublin this week. My base was at Albany House, an elegant Georgian guest house just off St Stephen's Green. The 3 star establishment, about one hundred yards down Harcourt Street, was so well placed for the events I needed to get to and at a total of €108.00 for the two of us (two nights B&B), it was also very economical.

They do not have an elevator in the building, but offer all the other amenities you would expect from a modern 3-star city centre guest house. Well kept clean rooms (much bigger than you'd find in city centre hotels in Paris or Rome) include free Wi-Fi throughout. An extensive continental breakfast is available every morning, and is included in all room rates.


That breakfast, by the way, is taken in a gorgeous room. You’d easily imagine you were in Ballymaloe or Fleming’s but for the green Luas purring by on the street outside. There is 24 hour reception and the staff are very friendly and helpful. Easy to reach too from Heuston Station. If you have some baggage, you'd be better off to get the 145 bus to the green; travelling light, and with time on your hands, you might opt for the red Luas to the city centre and then cross the river and stroll up through Temple Bar and Grafton Street.
No blogger was harmed during taking of this photo.

Our first call (after a 2.00pm check-in) was to the Wax Museum in Temple Bar. Spread over four floors, it is pretty cramped but very interesting. It has a children's section (with a crawl through tunnel), an eye-opening hands-on Science and Discovery Room (a tribute to the many Irish pioneers), a Chambers of Horrors, even a recording studio, all included before you reach the Grand Hall of Fame, the museum’s best display and a tribute to the stars of movies and music. There is an admission charge.

That evening, we headed off to the other side of the green towards Ely Place and dinner at the ely Wine Bar. See separate post here.

Wednesday was to prove a packed day. First up was the Liberty Wine Portfolio Tasting in Fallon and Byrne. After a pleasant couple of hours we left there and made our way past the green to Leeson Street Lower and eventually to lunch at the Forest Avenue Restaurant, see post here

Ardagh Chalice

Our next call was the National Museum of Archaeology in Kildare Street, again quite close to Stephen’s Green. No admission fee here but there really should be. It is a superb building - take  a look at the ornamented interior doors as you go around and do look up at the magnificent domed ceiling in the entrance hall.

There are many enthralling exhibitions here including The Treasury (which includes rare finds such as the Ardagh Chalice and the Derrynaflan Hoard) and Ireland's Gold (an amazing amount of it, and in so many amazing shapes, including huge box earrings!)


Gold Collar (Co. Clare), 800-700BC

Perhaps the outstanding section is the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition that concentrates on a number of recently found bog bodies dating back to the Iron Age. Here you come face to face with your ancient ancestors, some of them cruelly dispatched.

The evening ended on a much lighter note, some very high ones actually. We went to see New Jersey Nights at the Gaiety, the story of Frankie Valli and the four seasons, song and dance from start to finish, including numbers such as Oh What a Night, Bye Bye Baby, Sherry, Rag Doll, Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don't Cry. Lots of big girls in the audience too - they outnumbered the much quieter fellas by about nine to one, out-sang them too. Great night out and then it was a short stroll back to Albany House.






Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Cracking Madeira and So Much More at Liberty Tasting

Liberty Tasting
“Before you go, you have to try the Justino’s Madeira Colheita 1996,” she said.

I saw she was serious so, before she’d make a song and dance about it, I thought I’d better try the wine. Oh, it was fabulous. A real star of the wine world, just like Miss Susan Boyle  who gave me the tip! 

There were many stars on view, thanks to Gerry Gunnigan and Liberty Ireland, over 200 wines I think, from well established areas such as France and Italy to newcomers such as Armenia. And there was quite an impressively large attendance as well at Fallon & Byrne yesterday.



Ian Brosnan (left) of ely Wine Bars
with Yours Truly.
Started off with a couple of Grüner Veltliner from Austria. The 2013 Lois was fresh and fruity as you might expect (you’d certainly expect so if you were getting it in one of heurigers on the outskirts of Vienna). But the more serious Loimer 2012 Kamptal, from one estate, was the better of the two.

New Zealand also had a couple of GV’s on show and Tinpot Hut’s 2012 McKee Vineyard effort wasn't a million miles away from the Lois. The Paddler’s 2012 Marlborough was really engaging, loved its fruit and good length.

Now it was time to compare a couple of Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon in what turned out to be a Bordeaux v Margaret River contest. Great to meet Emma Cullen again as she poured her 2011 Mangan River. Just one word here: superb!

France would have to go some here to match that and the Chateau de Rayne Vigneac took up the challenge with its 2012 Le Sec Bordeaux Blanc, a wine new to the Liberty portfolio. There was a distinct aroma of celery, unusual, but it is quite a fine smooth wine and refreshing, though without having quite the same heft as the Cullen bottle.

Emma was also showing a smashing new red, the Margaret River Mangan Vineyard 2012 Malbec/Petit Verdot/Merlot. Malbec has the lead role here with 54% while the Petit Verdot has 29%. It is an exciting blend and an excellent wine. Look out for it!

Bordeaux would come into its own with the reds and we had a few good ones in a row. Started off with the basic Bordeaux Superieur (2011) from Chateau de Mahon Laville, an excellent effort at that level, full of flavours and with a good finish.

The standard raised another notch with the Château Tour de Capet, St Emilion Grand Cru 2010, a superb wine. That got a close run from Clos St Vincent, also a St Emilion Grand Cru, also 2010. This too was very good but my vote goes to Tour de Capet. Must call to one or two of those when I’m in the area in June!

Tried some very good Italians also, including two gorgeous Amarones, but Bordeaux had stolen a march and we left it that. Well, not quite. We sipped happily on the Valdespino NV Manzanilla Deliciosa before ending on another high with that gorgeous Madeira*.

*Gerry told me that Cork readers will find the Madeira at O’Brien’s in Douglas.

My 44 Hours in Dublin. Accommodation, lunch, dinner, more. Details all here

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cullen Wines at Cafe Paradiso

Cullen Wines at Cafe Paradiso

Ger (Paradiso) and Emma in great form.
Tuesday’s coming together of Cullen’s biodynamic wines from Australia’s Margaret River and the renowned quality cooking of Cafe Paradiso, looked, on paper, like a match made in food heaven. You won’t be surprised to learn that it lived up to that billing.

This multi-course meal, part of the Wine Geese series, was one highlight after another. I really lapped up the Baby Carrots with the buttermilk yoghurt and the roast kombu. And then another highlight: grilled asparagus with miso beurre blanc and nori gomasio, matched with the 2010 “Mangan Vineyard” Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon.
Nettle-lemon sorbet.
The last of the whites was the superb 2010 “Kevin John” Margaret River Chardonnay and that went so well with the sublime Toonsbridge buffalo mozzarella with beetroot, pickled fennel, roast grapes and dukkah.

Emma Cullen, from the Western Australian vineyard family, was with us  and she was proud to say that the Kevin John, named after her grandfather, had sold out in the UK. It is a complex elegant wine which has spent nine months in new oak. If you hurry, you might get some (along with more of the Cullen wines in Bradley’s, North Main Street).
On then to the substantial and delicious Aubergine involtini with a pistachio-lemon salsa, potato and broad beans, paired with the 2010 Margaret River Red, “an incredibly popular wine”.

Chocolate and Cherries followed, enjoyed with the 2010 “Mangan Vineyard” Margaret River Merlot-Petit Verdot-Malbec. “This is a very interesting blend,” said Emma. “and has a bit of a cult following. Try it with roast duck, it is incredible! It has not seen oak. It was a terrific vintage and the fruit was so great, it didn’t need the oak!”
And we finished with that superb Crozier blue cheese (with celery and dates) and matched with the big red, the 2010 “Dian Madeline” Margaret Rover. Diana was Emma’s grandmother. This last wine also benefitted from the incredible vintage of that year. “It is very much a Bordelaise style, the cream of the crop.”
Cullen Wines, now in its 42nd year is, since 2004, certified A Grade Biodynamic by the BFA of Australia. “Put simply, biodynamic viticulture is a philosophy combining the maintenance of sustainable soil fertility and the recognition of the link between plant growth and the rhythms of the cosmos. It is a method of farming that treats the vineyard as a living system, which interacts with the environment to build a healthy living soil that helps to nourish the vines and general environment.”
Emma is a big fan. “The results have been incredible. All bug related problems are gone. We have better water retention. The quality of the fruit is absolutely flawless...and there is an extra life and vibrancy in the wine”.
If you’d like to read more of the fascinating details, including the famous cow horns filled with cow manure and planted in the fields, then go direct to the Cullen website here 
Cullen Wines are distributed in Ireland by Liberty Wines

So a big big thanks to Emma, to Gerry Gunnigan of Liberty, to Ger and to all the staff (especially to chef Mark) at Paradiso for a stunning mix of excellent food and top class wine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

GREEN GREEN OLIVE OILS OF TUSCANY


OLIVE OIL MASTER CLASS


Three of Tuscany’s makers featured at an Olive Oil Master class in Ballymaloe Cookery School last Wednesday (9/11/11). Capezzana were represented by Beatrice Contini Bonacossi, Federico Giuntini Masseti was there for Fattoria Selvapiana while Liberty Wines’ David Gleave MW stood in for Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi.

Tuscany is more or less on the northern edge of the kind of climate in which the Olive tree grows and so is very susceptible to changes in the weather, especially the frost which has been known to more or less wipe out the olive rows.

Federico remembered the one in 1985 as a disaster. “The trees had be severely pruned to ground level and it took us all of ten years to get a good crop again.” There were a number of difficulties this year mainly due to the very cold weather in December and this has resulted in an oil that isn’t as green and spicy as normal.

Still, the arrival of the new season’s oils in Tuscany is a big event, according to Beatrice: “It is like a fete and the restaurants mark it by putting on special menus. It is very important for Tuscan cuisine and we always cook with good oil.”

We started our tasting with the multi-varietal Capezzana, harvested a little earlier than usual. Like the others, this was quite a bright green in colour, soft and fruity with a light spice and great delicacy, perfect for drizzling over freshly baked bread and using in dressing for salads.

Just two varietals in the Fontodi, the Frantoio accounting for 80%. Another lovely oil for salads or soups or for drizzling over pastas and salads. David Gleave remarked again that it wasn't quite as spicy as usual, lacking a little of what he termed austerity. I think most of us were maybe relieved that it wasn't as spicy as normal!

The Selvapiana was also neither as green nor as spicy as usual and, according to Federico, was part of a small crop after two bad winters in a row. But it was a lovely viscous liquid with enough of a spicy finish and he particularly recommended having it on toasted bread.

The lunch dishes that followed our “lessons” were a practical and tasty demonstration of the use of Olive Oil in cooking. We started with delicious Pumpkin and Faro Soup with a topping of Parmesan and the Selvapiana oil.

Then onto a light and lovely plateful of Roaringwater Bay scallops with lemon, chilli, coriander and the Capezzana oil. Needless to say, plenty of bread was used with these two dishes.

The main course was Slow Cooked (15 hours) shin of beef with Allegrini, thyme, garlic and black pepper served with braised winter greens and Golden Wonder Fontodi Mash.

Pretty full at that stage but still room for a delightful Raisin, Orange and Walnut biscotti served with a knockout Capezzana Vin Santo, a sweet wine that requires much patience and investment to bring to the table. But well worth the wait!

Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t the only wine on the table as we got to taste samples of Fontodi’s Meriggio 2010 (100% Sauvignon Blanc), Selvapiana’s Chianti Rufina 2009 and their flagship Vigneto Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva 2007, then the 80% Sangiovese Capezzana Carmignano Villa de Capezzana 2007 (91 points on the Wine Advocate) and next the terrific Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pive 2008 (92 points in the Wine Advocate).

Quite a line-up of wines but the focus during the morning was very much on the oils. And it was hard to believe that just a week ago, the olives were still on the plant in beautiful Tuscany.

The wines and the oils are distributed in Ireland by Liberty Wines who have a new website which you may see here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TINPOT HUT AN ELECTRIC HIT


TINPOT HUT AN ELECTRIC HIT
Aoife McCan, Gerry Gunnigan (Liberty Wines), Fiona Turner and Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) at Electric


New Zealand winemaker Fiona Turner brought her Marlborough wines to South Mall’s Electric last night and they went down a treat with the diners. The upstairs room, with a view, was full and over 70 per cent of the punters took up the offer of five half glasses for a tenner.

Fiona and yours truly
Naturally enough, both Denis O’Mullane of Electric and Fiona herself were delighted with the success. It was a first time wine and dine venture for Electric while Fiona is in the middle of a busy ten day period in Ireland and the UK.

She brought five wines, three white and two red. The aim at Tinpot Hut  is to make wines that they themselves enjoy drinking. Going by last night, quite a few other people enjoy drinking them too.

First up was the 2010 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (13.5%); pleasingly rich and powerful, it is well balanced with a long pleasant finish. And it is on sale at Bradley’s, North Main Street.

Their Pinot Gris 2010 was another of the whites. A very refreshing drink, medium bodied and flavoursome with an ABV of 13%.

Didn’t expect to see a Gruner Veltliner in the line-up . The Austrian grape though has travelled well and ended up in good hands and the 2010 result is a complex medium-bodied wine, a classic style and a multi-award winner to boot, including gold at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2011.

Another award winner is the Tinpot Hut’s Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2007 (13%). They called it Syrah rather than Shiraz for a reason. The pepper and spice here doesn’t invade your senses but instead contributes proportionately to the overall experience. Ruby red with an aromatic nose, I thought it a brilliant mouthful, a terrific example that brings out the true flavours, mainly plum and pepper on the palate.

The Marlborough Pinot Noir  (12.5%) was the other red. No gold or silver medals here but still a smashing wine. “Classic cherry flavours dominate the palate and are supported by hints of plum and redcurrant.” This 2008 offering benefitted from the “prolonged warm dry summer...all grapes on the vine...were able to open fully, yielding...well developed, intensely flavoured fruit.”

So there we had it, five good easy drinking wines and not a dud among them. And, listening to Fiona explaining her criteria, I don’t think Tinpot will be releasing any inferior wine while she’s around.

And the food? I started with the Crispy fried tripe with chorizo, kale & chilli, then a tender steak and finished with a sweet sweet Strawberry meringue roulade. All top notch. And you can see the full menu here

Electric has come a long way since it opened during the Jazz weekend last autumn. Already, it is a fixture in the city. But they are not sitting back. There is better to come as the Electric ensemble is being trained to be the best around. Interesting times ahead in Cork’s “Theatre of Life”
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Tinpot Hut wines are distributed in Ireland by Liberty Wines