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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.
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
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 websitehere
After cricket and a kite surfing demo on the lawn, the action in Ballymaloe moved in to the Grain Store where Australian wine legend (and founder of New Zealand’s Cloudy bay) David Hohnen produced a team of six scintillating wines, three in white and three in red.
David, of McHenry Hohnen, is a brilliant speaker for an occasion like this, delivering solid information with wit and with sharp brevity.
He did repeat himself a bit though. Well, just one phrase. “Take a step back.” He was talking passionately here about letting the wine “work itself out” and was a bit worried that modern technology and courses were giving students both the knowledge and the means to interfere too much in the process.
He did some interfering himself though when he started off in 1966/67, when varieties were not mentioned on the bottles. In the morning, they made claret; at lunch-time, they added dye and so made Burgundy in the afternoon!
David is a firm believer in blends, believing that they can add up to more than the sum of their parts and that belief was illustrated by four of the six wines.
“I won’t buy a bottle sealed by a piece of bark,” he declared, not for the first time, one suspects. He is a firm advocate of the screw cap, going as far as to say that in forty years of making wine, the screw cap was the most significant technical innovation, both for the maker and the consumer. “Both can have great confidence in the screw cap.”
And from one timber to another. Oak has its uses, he said, but as a container. “We don’t seek to add aromas, texture or flavour via the barrel.” They import older used barrels and the oak, at that stage, has little influence on the wine.
He highly praised modern machinery in the vineyard, especially for harvesting. “It doesn’t get pissed on Fridays and gets the work done in the window of opportunity.”
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011
3 Amigos, 2008
Calgardup Brook Chardonnay, 2010
All three were excellent and all three have been marked in the mid 90s by James Halliday, but it was the 3 Amigos that caught my attention. I liked this, so rich and creamy, full bodied. David said it was one of their “new direction wines, a lovely delicious style, beautiful, a pure natural wine.”
3 Amigos, 2007
Tiger Country, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006
Once again a superb set. The Shiraz was “very much Shiraz, lovely, clean and sharp, made from Autumn ripened grapes.” Important if you are looking for good Shiraz to watch out for areas where the grapes ripen in Autumn, was a tip from David.
The 3 Amigos, with a very rich mouthfeel and a long finish, was a brilliant blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro (Mourvedre).
For me, the real class in the glass came with the Tiger Country blend. Tempranillo is the main grape here and it shows. It has power and elegance, is supple and silky with a persistent finish. “Tread carefully,” they say, “this Tiger’s got some savoury bite!” Well worth the risk for 24 euro.
David and yours truly
The wines, priced from €19.00 to €26.00, are available via Tindal Wine Merchants. Rounded off with a delicious Harvest Supper, it was another terrific night in Ballymaloe and well done to David, to our host Colm McCan and his colleagues and to William Tindal.
The Ballymaloe Sherry event has been postponed until the New Year but do watch out for the An Italian Evening - wines of Tuscany & New Season’s Olive Oil – on November 8th.
Cricket, Surf, Wine and Harvest Supper A Margaret River event at Ballymaloe
Ballymaloe's Colm McCan tells me they have a special coming up at the end of the month:
"We are delighted to announce this unique wine, food, & sporting event, to take place on Thursday 27th September, at Ballymaloe House which connects two lovely coastal areas of the world - Margaret River, Western Australia and Shanagarry/Ballycotton Bay, East Cork.
Afternoon - Cricket with the East Cork Cricket Club, in association with Cricket Ireland, who will give a demonstration on the lawn at Ballymaloe, and explain the rules of the game to all. Have a go yourself – ‘learn the basics whilst trying out the game’. There will also be a demonstration on the sport of kite surfing – linking in with the theme of the day – Margaret River comes to East Cork!"
Evening 7.00pm - Wine tasting & Harvest Supper
Enjoy a Margaret River wine tasting & presentation, with iconic Australian winemaker, David Hohnen, in The Grain Store, Ballymaloe featuring the wines of McHenry Hohnen, followed by Wildside’s Ted Berner’s ‘Fire-cooking’ Harvest Supper.
I reckon I could on
and write a few lines of doggerel but in respect to the late John Lagan, I’ll
put a halt to it now. Let’s get to the wine.
Margaret River, Chardonnay 2008, 14% abv, €20.00 Bubble Brothers.
Must say I like this
wine and its story, a story that began with the arrival of Irish medical
doctors, John and Eithne Lagan, in Australia. Some time later, in the late
1970s, they set up the Xanadu vineyard in the Margaret River area of Western
Australia. You may read more, much more, of the Lagans and their children here.
The early years were tough but
decades of success followed for the Lagans. Nowadays, Xanadu is owned by the Rathbone family who are very
strong on environmental protection and sustainability in their wine-making.
They make excellent wines here and this Chardonnay got 91 points from James
They also produce a “second” wine
at Xanadu under the Next of Kin Label. Bubble Brothers also sell this and, in
the recent past, I have been very happy with their Semillon Sauvignon Blanc and
the Cabernet Sauvignon. These are priced at about five or six euro less than
the top label.
The Chardonnay has a great nose, bright
and citrus-sy. In a flavoursome mouthful, the citrus leads the way with other
exotic fruits figuring strongly in the mix. Close to creamy, it is really well balanced
with a persistent fruity finish. All in all an excellent Chardonnay and yet
another winner from a terrific wine area. Highly recommended.