Buy local, fresh and fair. The more we pull together, the further we will go. Ní neart go cur le chéile. Always on the look-out for tasty food and drink from quality producers! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter: @corkbilly
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“Why we select the wines we do.” That was the theme of the eye-opening Supervalu Wine tasting, a Munster Wine & Dine event, at L’Atitude on Wednesday night.
The company's senior wine-buyer Kevin O’Callaghan was our host for the evening and he brought along 12 excellent examples from the SuperValu shelves, concentrating mainly on the bottles with the Specially Sourced stamp. “These have been sourced, tasted and approved by our wine-buying team.”
Kevin, who has been with the company for 13 years, says their aim is to make wine more accessible so “people can enjoy good wines at affordable prices”. And that was underlined throughout the evening that started with a glass of Charles Mignon Grand Cru Champagne, this one, with its intense aromas of almond and apricot. It is “a good food match, a blend of Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay and, at €45.00, well priced against sparklers of comparable quality".
Soon we were on to the very affordable, a Flamants Picpoul de Pinet (12.99, 10.00 on offer), becoming ”a very fashionable wine and great with shellfish.”
Next up was the Abellio Albarino 2015 (12.99, 10.00 on offer). Kevin is very proud of this one, not least because he helped design the label (just one of the ways in which SuperValu help their producers sell their wines). The Albarino, with its excellent aromas and flavours, is another terrific seafood wine. And it would be my favourite of the two openers, by a long way.
We were using a points system to score the wines and I gave the Picpoul 84 points, the Albarino 92. Why the points? Kevin said it is an essential tool for the wine-buyer who could well sample over 100 wines at a session and the points system is a major help in differentiating between so many, especially at the end of a long session. So, since we were being put in the wine-buyer’s shoes, it was used on the evening! Nothing too serious though and we had quite a few laughs all through.
Next up was a “personality” wine, the Graham Norton Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Once SuperValu realised this was a serious wine - Norton was quite fussy about it - they went after the rights, especially since the comedian is from Cork. It has worked out well for all sides and Norton donates his share of the profits to charity. It is an excellent wine and, at €12.00, good value as well. And good value is something that Kevin and his team always have in mind. O’Callaghan, by the way, reckons that Sancerre is better with food than Marlborough.
And speaking of food, the L’Atitude kitchen kept us supplied with a series of top notch bites throughout the tasting, ranging from Anchovies and Pepper on toast to Ummera Smoked Duck to a Pork Meat Balls with Olives to a Black Pudding and Apple in pastry.
Chardonnay was next, the Nugan Estate Personality Dreamers 2013 from the Riverina and on offer at €10.00. A bit of a division around the tables here because of the oak, even though they don’t use new oak so the effects are muted. I liked it very much indeed.
And more oak on our mystery white, this even more muted. The lightly oaked blend (including Bourboulenc, Roussane, and Grenache blanc) had us guessing during this blind tasting. It has a fabulous textural richness and a great finish. It comes from Corbieres and well worth seeking out at €10.00 on offer.
“Is Rosé on the way out?” asked a member. “It is static, at about 4% of the market,” answered Kevin. “But we’ve brought in some drier ones, including one from Provence, with way more fruit and character”. The European ones, especially these new ones, are worth buying, he advised.
If the whites were good (and they were very good), the reds were probably better. This time we started with the blind tasting and it turned out to be a Cotes de Roussillon, a blend of Syrah (45%), Carignan (40) and Grenache. Violets prominent in the aromas, nice acidity and “made for drinking now. A summer BBQ wine!”.
He then introduced one of his favourites, the Castellani Arbos 2013 from Tuscany, 100% Sangiovese. Very approachable, easy-drinking, a garden wine, soft and luscious and a “good representation of the area and the grape”.
Kevin described the next one as “a blockbuster”. And the Pagos de Labarca AEX certainly lived up to it. Great aromas and fruit and a lot of character. Lots of oak after 18 months in it, too much for some, yet this Rioja was my overall favourite. Price is €22.99, on offer at 18.00.
On now to the Nugan Estate Alfredo Dry Grape Shiraz. Kevin admits to being a fan of apassimento (amarone style). This wine is made in that style, the partially dried grapes giving more flavour, more concentrated aromas. “Plenty of oak, full flavour, acidity, juiciness, long finish, good balance, high in alcohol but no heat.” Bring on the BBQ steak. €19.99, offer 15.00.
I gave that a 92 and the same number to the Aresti Family Collection, a blend of a selection of red varieties from the Chilean family. Kevin is a major fan: “This is as a good a structured a red wine as you can get. Equivalents will cost you €40.00. It is regularly featured in competition and the lowest score it has ever attained is 91 points.” This is priced at a more modest €25,00 and 20.00 on offer. Take note!
So what has Kevin, who started off as a 16 year old delivery boy in Galvins, in store for us in the near future. He is excited about a new Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend: “This GSM is organic and is on the way. Should be on sale in September - can't wait for it!” It is by Fleur de Anon.
“The last few years, we have been beyond the comfort zone. We hope to continue that trend and bring the consumer with us.” He certainly gained a room full of converts on Wednesday evening.
* Most of the wines had two prices, the regular and the offer. SuperValu have a series of well-flagged offer periods regularly over the year. So, if you know your favourite is likely to be among them, then you won't have long to wait to stock up.
* Next Munster Wine & Dine event is the July 7th visit to Gubbeen, a premium event. Make sure you get your reservation in on time!
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.
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.
Beaujolais has a borderline continental climate, tempered by the presence of the Massif Central to the west and the Alps to the east. This provides a relatively warm growing season. See Wine-Searcher’s summary (weather and more) of the region here.
So they have ideal weather? Not bad, but it’s not plain sailing. Every farmer keeps an eye on the sky, watching what is coming over them there hills. This May and June, it wasn't at all pleasant in Beaujolais. In the north of the area, where the crus are situated, the hail came with a vengeance and, according to Decanter, Beaujolais authorities reported some plots in the appellations of Chiroubles and Fleurie were completely destroyed. More on the hail here.
Not easy for the farmers. But they are a resilient lot. I remember, just a few years, visiting a vineyard in Vouvray (Loire) just days after such a devastating hailstorm. The farmer shrugged his shoulders and said that’s nature.
The crus, and we have two below, produce the flagship wines and there are ten of them: Chiroubles, Saint Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.
Domaine de la Plaigne Beaujolais Villages 2013, 12.5%, €16.25 Le Caveau
Ruby is the colour here and there are aromas of red berries (strawberries, raspberries). On the palate those berry flavours are all in silky harmony. It is juicy too, light and delicious, with typical acidity and Highly Recommended.
It is one hundred per cent Gamay, hand-harvested and - the unromantic bit! - aged in concrete vats. The winemakers recommend pairing it with Delicatessen meats, fish terrine, grilled entrecote steak, poultry, Italian dishes, “ideal for all occasions from aperitif to cheese”.
Didier Devignes Clos Les Charmes, Moulin A Vent 2010, 13%, €23.95 Le Caveau
Moulin-à-Vent, with its full bodied and complex wines, is the highest rated of all the Beaujolais Crus. Liam Campbell, at the recent masterclass in Cork, called it “the most regal of all the crus”. A windmill, that was classified as a historical monument in 1930, is the well-known symbol of the Cru.
So a great cru and quite a winemaker in Didier Desvignes: “Everything I do both in vine growing and winemaking aims at allowing nature and terroir to express themselves to the full. I choose traditional methods, including tilling between the vines, to guarantee the flavours of the wine.” Still, “convinced that time in the barrel gives additional and new aromatic complexity”, he does use oak, for 10 months in this particular wine.
The wines are grown in “a remarkable vineyard” where the soil consists mainly of pink granite which has a natural affinity, it seems, with Gamay and this is 100 percent Gamay. The grapes from each plot are vinified separately to obtain the best possible balance between the structure and finesse given by the terroirs.
Colour is a rather deep ruby and the aromas are quite complex, a rich combination of cherries and berries, hints of spice. All combine harmoniously on the palate, amazing flavours and a matching acidity requesting food! Tannins are at play too and then follows a long lasting finish.
Enjoy it with small game, stews and mature cheeses, they say. I found it went very well indeed with a Irish Piedmontese steak that I bought in a very popular stall at the recent Cork Summer Show. Very Highly Recommended, both the steak and the wine!
Domaine Jean Foillard Cote du Py, Morgon 2013, 12.5%, €34.20 Le Caveau
This, from the second largest of the crus, was perhaps the standout wine of the Beaujolais masterclass held last month in L’Atitude. Introducing it, Liam Campbell told us we were in for a treat, “an outstanding wine”. And this single vineyard wine is certainly a Gamay gem.
Colour is a light ruby. Look closer and you’ll see a little cloudiness - no worries, this is a natural wine. Aromas hint of red cherry, berries too. The palate is out on its own, red fruits and a little spice, that typical balancing acidity again, tannins are fine and then a superb finalé. Very Highly Recommended
The fact that the vines are grown on “one of the best sites of the entire Beaujolais region”, on an extinct volcano, plus the use of minimum intervention (the use of oak is minimal), makes this a rather unique expression of the Gamay. See yesterday's post - three different Beaujolais featured
If it’s a red weekend (and the weather forecast indicates that it is), Karwig Wines have got you covered with this trio: two serious contenders from Portugal (and there are more on the way) and a consistently good performer from the banks (both of them!) of the Rhone. Check them out in the store or online.
It seems that many wine-drinkers now realise that Portuguese wines are by no means short of personality and class. Quite often, in the reds, that class is supplied by the native grape Touriga Nacional. It makes up 70 per cent of this blend while another indigenous grape, Alfrocheiro, accounts for the balance.
They sure seem to work well together in this dark red with its beautiful intense and warm aromas of juicy dark fruit. That intensity is also evident on the palate, some spice too; it is complex and elegant, with soft tannins and an impressive finish. This friendly juicy wine is Very Highly Recommended.
Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho (Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal) 2013, 13.5%, €14.35, Karwig Wines.
Touriga Nacional pops up again in this blend along with Aragonez, Trincadeira, and Syrah and a pretty good blend it is too. Colour is a light ruby with aromas of ripe red fruit. On the palate, it is fresh, fruity, light and elegant, with a fairly serious structure, well balanced and boasting a decent finish as well. Highly Recommended. The estate was founded in 1267, so they should know what they are doing.
Domaine André Brunel Est-Ouest 2011, Cotes du Rhone (AOC), 13.5%, €13.95 Karwig Wines
More often than not, Cotes du Rhone, whether from a tanker at a crossroads in Provence or at a top class northern city restaurant, delivers. This one sure does and is highly recommended.
The family estate is located on both sides of the Rhone. In the east, there is the stony soil of the Vaucluse and, in the west, the sandy slopes of Gard. Garnache (75%) is the lead grape in the blend, supported by Cinsault (15) and Syrah (10).
The red colour is medium, tending to light, and it has aromas of fruit (blackcurrant prominent). It is fruity upfront, spicy too, well balanced for sure, and the fruit element is maintained through the pretty long finish as well.
Must admit I know very little about Encruzado, Cerceal Branco and Malvasia Fina, three Portuguese grapes. What I do know now is when you skillfully blend the three, as has been done here, you’ll have a lovely crispy zesty white wine in your hands, a Very Highly Recommended one. This is so good, I have no hesitation whatsoever in adding it to my (rather skimpy) 2014 recommendations.
Colour may well be a bit on the pale side but the aromas are inviting. And, once you have it on the palate, you'll know you have a good thing. Fruitiness and freshness combine, reaching all parts and then you have a gorgeous lingering finish.
They recommend serving it at 8 degrees centigrade. Advice worth taking. Certainly, don’t serve it at anything under it or you'll risk losing some of those beautiful flavours.
This medium red coloured wine is nice and bright considering it
is 2006. On the nose, it is classic red fruits, cherry and raspberry. In the
mouth, it is juicy and beautifully fruity and very well balanced (the balance, a
prime aim of the makers Leheny and Gibson). The flavours have been enhanced by
15 months in new and old French oak and it finishes long and well. Very highly recommended.
More about Bilancia, which translates as balance, here
quite a light red, again with the classic nose. On the palate, the feel is light
and the wine is fruity for sure with a smooth dry finish. It is made for "early enjoyment".
A comparative juvenile that lacks the adult heft and sophistication of the
Bilancia. Nonetheless a lovely wine and a very pleasant companion, they suggest, “for
hearty pastas, duck and lamb”. Highly recommended.
The winemakers of Portugal and Spain certainly seem to be coming up with
the goods nowadays. From Portugal, I’ve tasted some really good wines from the
DAO recently along with a popular port while Spain has more than pleased with a
Tempranillo from La Rioja Alta region and, not for the first time, with the
Arana Rioja Reserva from the winery in Haro that bears the same name as the
Lagrimas de Maria, La Rioja Alta Crianza 2010,
14.5%, €13.99, stockists
This is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and made in the heart of La
Rioja Alta. It spent 12 months in oak and the winemaker is Maria Martinez Maria
whose hand writing appears on the labels.
Colour is a dark cherry red with aromas of forest fruits. This is Tempranillo
at quite a high level, fruit for sure and hints of the oak but really well balanced
and an excellent dry finish. No need for the tears, Maria. Highly Recommended.
Flor de Viseu Selection (red), DAO 2009, 13%, €12.99,
Colour is ruby red and the aromas, of moderate intensity, are those of
red fruit. Red fruit also on the palate and slight spice, freshness and sufficient
acidity present, and it finishes dry.
Grapes used are Tourigo National and
Alfrocheiro. Should go well with red meat and cheese.
The flower on the label symbolises the thistle flower found locally. But
nothing spiky about this rather smooth red wine. Highly recommended.
Viña Arana Rioja Reserva, 2004 La Rioja Alta
This wine, by the winery that bears the same name as the region, is a favourite
of mine. But I am not alone. The Los Angeles
Times Food section recently made it their Wine of the Week and you may read
their take on it here.
Ferreira Late Bottled Vintage Port 2007
Bought this bottle in the Basque Country last summer and it took me until
now to get around to it. Don’t think I’ve seen it on sale in Ireland but
Ferreira is a huge port exporter. Indeed, according to Hugh Johnson’s 2012 pocket wine book, they are the leading
Portuguese owned Port shipper and “the best selling brand in Portugal”.
This is quite a gem, with beautiful flavours, great balance and a
tremendous finish. Picked it up out of curiosity and it didn’t kill me. Read
more about Ferreira, which is over 250 years old, here.
Riesling. Steel and Sweet. And a Stocco for the stocking.
Carl Ehrhard Rheingau 2009 Rudesheimer Riesling Kabinett Trocken 12.5%, €12.47 at Karwig Wines
It has the colour of pale straw, with hints of green, micro-bubbles clinging to the glass. The nose finds white fruits, apples and lime for me. On the palate it is fruity and dry with a little minerally tingle (especially on the lips), yet overall it is a harmonious blend with a gorgeous steely finish fulfilling the initial promise. Very pleasant and easy drinking, more so with food, this 100% Riesling has that second glass appeal for sure. Highly recommended.
Light straw is the colour here and it also has that white fruit nose though low key. Delightfully fruity and concentrated and slightly sweetish, almost like a French Moelluex. Well-balanced and a good alternative to my preferred dry Riesling style. Diufferent strokes for different folks! Amazingly the estate has been “in family property” for over 500 years. The steep slopes are perfect for Riesling. Recommended.
Stocco Delle Venezia (IGT) Malvasia 2011, 13.5%, €12.99 at Deveney's (Dundrum) and Williams and Allen (Dundrum).
This Malvasía (rare to see it out on its own) is being distributed here by Distinctive Drinks, whose local rep is Paul Kiernan (@Grapes_Of_Sloth on Twitter). Malvasia originated in Greece and now is notable in the Med (often blended with Trebiano or Viura) and in California. The variety here is Malvasia Istriano, also well known in Croatia and Slovenia.
It has modest floral aromas and a straw colour. On the palate it is quite flavoursome, citrus, apricot and peach mainly; it has a fresh and pleasant mouthfeel and a decent dry finish. Quite pleasant overall and it also makes a very nice Kir! Recommended.
Thursday turned out to be quite a night at The Cornstore with Bordeaux’s Chateau Bauduc providing the wines for an excellent five course meal. Gavin Quinney (and family) took over this chateau in 1999 and led it from strength to strength. It is quite a story and may be read here.
From Gavin’s earliest vintages, the critics have been
Dominique Geary of From Vineyards Direct has been in touch to say that FVYD are the proud sponsors of: “Charity events at Burren House with the London Garden Opera
The events are on two days, on 3rdand 4thSeptember with all proceeds going to Marymount Hospice, Cork Simon and
On 3rd theFrom Vineyards Directteam will be there to help you enjoy
the Pig Roast Barbeque with suitably picked wines from their successful range!
This will take place during an extended interval between the two operas. Also
on 4th during the shorter interval!
For a full programme please visit : the Burren House website (Saturday
day, garden Opera and Picnic = tickets €69 Sunday 4thSeptember 7-9pm = € 35).
I will be back shortly with the list of wines that will be
available to taste and buy (all proceeds to charities mentioned above).
Had heard only good things about Kilkenny’s Highbank Orchards Syrupwhich was launched in 2010. Spotted the bottle in Iago in the English Market recently and snapped it up. The price is close to 10 euro and looks high for 200ml but the organic product has a long shelf life and is very versatile.
"Ireland's answer to maple syrup", this sweet and delicious, pouring, organic syrup, is the first of its kind. Grown and produced by Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny, Ireland. With years of research, Highbank launched the Orchard Syrup in 2010 at Savour Kilkenny.
There was a little leaflet hanging from the neck with quite a few suggestions. Drizzle it on your porridge was one. I tried that but didn't find it very successful. More joy though when I added some to cheese.
Uses suggested on the site are: Drizzle on porridge and muesli, pour on ice cream, pancakes and desserts, glaze your ham, sausages or vegetables, flavour your stews, oat cakes and breads. As a hot healthy drink or in whiskey. Drizzle on cheese (particularly blue cheese), on paté and game terrines. Delicious on bananas as well as poured on Waldorf Salads!
Tipperary’s Cooleeneywas the cheese in question. Met them at their stand at the recent Cork TasteFest and, for three of those controversial Corkers, I got a small round of their Dunbarra Farmhouse Brie (this with garlic).
Cooleeney make quite a range as you can see on their site. They often suggest a matching wine and Pinot Noir was their choice here. Just happened to have one and yes that New Zealand Marlborough Little Beauty and Cooleeney got on well together. But perhaps the best match was between the Tipp cheese and the Apple Syrup from neighbouring Kilkenny.
Anne-Claude Leflaive, DomaineLeflaive, Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, in association with Paddy Moore, Moores’ Wines
Wine presentation and tasting with Anne-Claude Leflaive,at The Grain Store at Ballymaloe, 3.30pm, Saturday 11th June 2011. €35 per person.
Advance booking essential.
DomaineLeflaive has been described as Burgundy’s greatest white wine domaine, a flagship domaine in the Côte de Beaune, and biodynamic since 1997. It is a family estate that was initially created by Anne-Claude’s grandfather Joseph, and is now managed by Anne-Claude Leflaive. Decanter Wine Magazine, in their Top 10 White Winemakers of the World, rated Anne-Claude Leflaive,DomaineLeflaive as the Number1. All her wines, from Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, have all been critically acclaimed by the world’s leading wine writers. A great opportunity to meet one of the great white winemakers of the wine world, and to taste the wonderful wines of DomaineLeflaive. It is over eight years since her last visit to Ireland, so an opportunity not to be missed for wine-lovers.
Wines for the afternoon presentation and tasting, 3.30pm, Saturday 11th June:
DomaineLeflaive Bourgogne blanc 2008
DomaineLeflaivePuligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Le Clavoillon 2008
DomaineLeflaivePuligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles 2008
DomaineLeflaiveBienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2008