Friday, December 29, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Chaplin (right!)
Raymond Griffith can’t get a job in talking pictures because Raymond Griffith has no voice. Raymond Griffith is incapable of speaking above a whisper, and is therefore the perfect silent comedian. Eventually, Raymond Griffith chokes to death over dinner at the Masquers Club because he fails to chew his food properly.
But these ones do not concern him, or not as much as Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.
Not as much as Chaplin.

from he by John Connolly (2017). Very Highly Recommended.

Amuse Bouche extra. Recommended Reading!

Recommended Reading!
An Amuse Bouche Extra.

Regulars know that I serve up an Amuse Bouche every Saturday, a paragraph or two (with a mention of food or drink) from a book that I've been reading. Some of the books are very good and I've compiled a shortlist of the best of those that I've read in 2017. It doesn't mean they've all been published in 2017! It is quite a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Hope you enjoy one or two. Happy Reading.

By the way, I get most of my books from the local library, many of them now ordered online via the fantastic Encore system. If the book is not available locally, I can still order it and soon it will be on its way to Cork from Dublin or Donegal or from wherever it is in the stock.

The list below is compiled from the books that were Very Highly Recommended on Amuse Bouche and is not in any particular order.

he by John Connolly

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The Trout by Peter Cunningham

Signatories by Emma Donoghue and others

And The Sun Shines Now by Adrian Tempany

Grandpa The Sniper by Frank Shouldice

A Doctor's Sword by Bob Jackson

Soul Serenade by Rashal Ollison

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

Smile by Roddy Doyle

If I Die Tonight by A.L. Gaylin

Walking Tall by Rob Heffernan

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Game On at Blairs Inn

Game On at Blairs Inn
Venison casserole

The crew in Blairs Inn in Cloghroe are always game for a laugh, summer or winter. But this time of year, four-legged and feathered game is in season and is served up in many delicious ways by the kitchen of this renowned country pub, a few miles from Cork City and Blarney.

A laugh and a smile are guaranteed here, directions too if you’re a tourist seeking the next beauty spot or watering hole; they’ve even been known to change a wheel for a customer. 

Not that you’ll ever be in a hurry to leave the pub. In winter, the fires are burning and the company's good. You’ll get the same company in the summer in the garden by the little Sheep River. And it’s also a terrific place for craft beer, one of the first places in Ireland where I was given a multi-page craft beer menu to choose from.

The craft beer is still going strong here and, indeed, the beer I had for lunch was something special. It is a Gluten Free stout, Stag Saor*, and is on draught, Ireland's first. 

GF and on draught
Richard Blair, one of two brothers now running the pub, told me of a satisfied customer of a few days earlier. A coeliac, the man hadn’t drunk stout, his favourite tipple, for twenty years but, having sampled the Star Saor, left Blair's Inn with tears of gratitude.

I had noticed they were using the Ballyvourney stout in my Venison Casserole so, of course, I ordered a pint. And it proved a great match for the rich casserole of Wicklow venison (16.95) which was served with a side dish of root vegetables, some broccoli too and a big baked potato! Great stuff.

CL was eagerly tucking into her Wild Irish Pheasant (half!), with aromatic gin and juniper stuffing, mushrooms and a red wine sauce (16.50). Another superb dish. Thought she might have had a G & T with this but no she settled, quite happily as it turned out, for the Scarlet Pimpernel by Killarney Brewing.

Lots of choice here, including the corned beef dish for which the Blairs are well known. Meat features strongly but, in fairness, they have no less then three fish dishes in the mains as well. Beside, they have one-plates meals (including a massive Wagyu beef burger), and there are salads, baps and open sandwiches.
Bluebell goats

Good choice of starters too though both of us went for cheese based dishes. Having tried, unsuccessfully, to milk one of their goats earlier in 2017, CL has a soft spot for Bluebell Falls so no surprise that she picked a warm tartlet of the cheese, with creamed leeks and smoked salmon, a terrific flavoursome dish for €8.65.

For the same money, I enjoyed a lovely salad of Gubbeen and seasonal leaves. Very pleased with that one. Indeed, very pleased with the meal overall as is consistently the case here.

* Saor is Irish for free and producers, 9 White Deer from Ballyvourney, already have a full set of Gluten Free beers in bottle.
Another venison dish, this from the evening menu.
Co. Cork
Tel: (021) 438 1470

Friday, December 22, 2017

Amuse Bouche

A Christmas Amuse Bouche

"one can get tired of too much rabbit for dinner"
His (Fr Travers) acquisition of six hens in May 1941 had not been a success, with five of the six dying without having laid a single egg. More promising was his cook-cum-concierge’s rabbit breeding initiative. The concierge managed to breed thirty or forty rabbits at a time, thus ensuring a constant supply of meat, “although one can get tired of too much rabbit for dinner’. Fortunately for Fr Travers, Mary Maher, an Irishwoman in Laval…. sent two geese for Christmas in 1942 and continued to send parcels of eggs, meat, cheese, and butter right up to the end of the war.

from No Way Out, The Irish in Wartime France 1939-45, by Isadore Ryan (2017). Recommended.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Taste of the Week. Dark Chocolate Apple Crisp Thins

Taste of the Week
Christmas Special
Dark Chocolate Apple Crisp Thins

Lismore Food Company, who make these beauties, say that “Seven days without Chocolate makes one Weak“. I say seven days with chocolate makes my week.

These divine crisp apple thins, air dried and wrapped in the finest dark Belgian chocolate, are an epicurean delight. They have a delicious contrast between the richness of the chocolate and the tartness of the apple and are our Taste of the Week.

All week, that is. With the morning coffee, with the afternoon cuppa. And other occasions I won't mention in case someone is counting. Taste of the Week and very handy to have in the coming weeks. You might even consider dishing them out as presents. I didn’t! 
Stockists here.

The Summerhouse
Main Street
Co. Waterford.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Trio of Very Highly Recommended Wine Treats!

Chateau Pape Clement Grand Cru Classé de Graves Pessac-Léognan 1998, 13%. 

Amazing how the colour is so dark,  a deep purple with virtually no diminution at the edge. Quite a subtle scent, rounded, hints of spice. It is smooth, elegant, rich and rounded, not a note out of place, a symphony for the senses, perfect on the palate and a perfect long dry finish. 

Concentrated, fine and harmonious from start to finish, an admirable wine and Very Highly Recommended.

It is a blend of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with some Cabernet Franc also in the mix and spent 18 months in oak.

The first harvest here was in 1252! It was first planted by Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, who later (1305) became Pope Clement V (of Avignon fame). The Graves vineyard was run by the Bordeaux Archbishops until the French Revolution.

When the grapes for this particular bottle were produced, the chateau was under Bernard Magrez, “a passionate wine entrepreneur”. His efforts were rewarded in 2009 when critic Robert Parker gave “the mythical score of 100” to the Chateau’s white and the same score for the red in the following year.

This was a birthday gift that I took a while to open, so I'm not sure of availability or price.

Taylor’s Port Late Bottled Vintage 2011, 20%, €25.95 Bradley's (Cork), Le Caveau
Taylor’s, pioneers of the category, launched their first LBV in 1970 to satisfy a demand for a high quality ready-to-drink alternative to Vintage Port. Unlike vintage port, which is bottled after only two years in wood and ages in bottle, LBV is bottled after four to six years and is ready to drink immediately. Its longer wood ageing means it needs no decanting and will remain in good condition for several weeks after the initial opening.

This 2011 has a solid purple colour. It is aromatic for sure, cherry and plum, berries too. Rich and fruity on the palate, some spice also, hints of liquorice, tannins just about in evidence. Superb balance overall. The blending process ensures it is “balanced and complete and that there is a continuity of style in relation to previous Taylor LBV”. A true Taylor-style port indeed.

This beautiful elegant wine, with a wonderfully long finish, is Very Highly Recommended.

Clos Puy Arnaud Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux (AOC) 2014, 14%, €39.95 Bradley’s Cork.

Not too much to say about this one other than it is just brilliant. Colour is mid to deep purple. Aromas are complex, plum mainly, vanilla too, herby notes. Fruit is opulent, plus a marked freshness (a good proportion of Cabernet Franc may have something to do with that) and acidity, a fair bit of spice also, tannins close to smooth, and a quality finish. Very Highly Recommended. Duck and steak may be the best matches, hard cheeses too.

This vin biodynamique is produced by vigernon-proprietaire Thierry Valette and Puy Arnaud is a standard bearer for organic wine in Bordeaux. This is a blend of Merlot (70%), Cabernet Franc (25%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). It is a recent addition to the Findlater list.

Castillon-la-Bataille is a town on the Dordogne, about 50 minutes east of Bordeaux city and the vineyard is a few miles north of the town. Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon is the appellation title for Cotes de Bordeaux wines made specifically in the district. Until 2009, these wines were sold as Cotes de Castillon.

Taste of the Week. Mezze Lavosh Flatbreads

Taste of the Week
Mezze Lavosh Flatbreads

These Mezze lavosh flatbreads are a wonderful treat for the festive season, versatile too. The spelt and seed lavosh flatbreads are great with hummus, brie or pate. Perfect for cheese boards, mezze platters or a treat with a glass of wine.

My favourite though, being rather lazy, was just to spoon on and spread some local Irish honey. Bingo!

Inspired by the Middle East, and made in Ireland by husband and wife Dvir Nusery and Nicola Crowley, they are our Taste of the Week. 

They are made in Waterford with extra virgin rapeseed oil from Wicklow, sea salt, wholemeal flours and no additives or preservatives. You are encouraged to: dip, dollop, spread the love!

Try also Ottolenghi's muhamara (red pepper and walnut dip) recipe:

You can find them at food festivals, Dungarvan farmers market, Ardkeen Stores & Supervalus. I bought mine, the seaweed version, in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork. The other flavours available are za'atar and spelt & seed.

More recipes here 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Taste of the Week. Christmas Special. The Nibbles Christmas Pudding

Taste of the Week. Christmas Special

The Nibbles Christmas Pudding

Once upon a time, Irish housewives made the Christmas pudding, some made three or four or more, in mid-summer. All windows and doors were thrown open and the steam drifted out, some aromas too, to the open air.

But then came the age of inconvenience and nobody was left at home to cook up the necessary battalions of puddings and now we rely more and more on providers. Some of those providers though are so much better than others and I found one last week who has served up my Taste of the Christmas Week.

Eleanor Leahy is the lady and Nibbles is the name of her Millstreet company; her puddings (and cakes, by the way) are available at farmers markets, at Nibbles Bakery and Café in Millstreet, and also in Roughty Foodie in the English Market where I got mine from Margo Ann.

The Nibbles pudding is not as dark as the traditional one but, packed with fruit, stout and whiskey too, it has the all the flavour you need and comes in a variety of sizes. Just add a slather of the Brandy Butter from Crossogue Preserves, also available from Margo Ann, and you have a festive treat that’s hard to beat.
The Nibbles Christmas Cake is pretty good too!

Into the Loire Valley with Karwig Wines

Into the Loire Valley with Karwig Wines
Focus on the classic white grapes: Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc
Hardworking winemakers in Vouvray

The Loire Valley has claims, quite strong, to being the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc. Eventually it got together with Cabernet Franc, another grape widely-grown in the valley, and produced Cabernet Sauvignon. " lovers would have to thank it for that," say Grapes and Wines. The name of the grape was rarely on labels until its debut in the 70s in New Zealand and then everyone got to know it through the pungent wines from Marlborough. Well-made Loire examples, while usually somewhat more restrained, are still worth checking out. And the bottle below from Menetou-Salon is excellent and at a good price too.

While Sauvignon Blanc is now grown all over the world, Chenin Blanc has a much less extensive footprint, mainly found in the Loire and in South Africa. Here in Ireland, we get examples that are usually dry but it is a versatile fruit as you can read below. Vouvray is in the middle of the Loire Valley, not too far from the historic city of Tours. St Martin, the patron saint of wine, was a bishop here.

Bourillon Coup de Trique Vouvray (AOC) 2014, 13.5%, €21.15 Karwig Wine

From a troglodyte cellar in the Loire Valley and bearing a very modern fancy orange cork (100% recyclable nomacorc), comes this Highly Recommended Chenin Blanc from Vouvray.

You’ll note the word sec (dry) on the front label, unusual for French still wine labels. But this Chenin Blanc is a very versatile wine. “In the Loire… its wines go from scaringly dry, to dry, to fairly dry, to vaguely off-dry, to off-sweet, sweet, very, very sweet - and there’s good Chenin fizz too.” Grapes and Wine go on to detail an equally long list of styles from South Africa (where Chenin is well-known) and  where it makes “an awful lot of brandy”.

This has quite a bright light straw colour. Aromas feature white fruit, floral and herbal notes. A lively attack with white pepper in among the fruit and the long very satisfying palate is followed by a lengthy and equally satisfying finish. 

Jean-Max Roger Morgues Le Petit Clos Menetou-Salon (AOC) 2015, 13%, €21.55 Karwig

Menetou-Salon is a village at the eastern end of the Loire Valley wine region and considered an up and coming rival to its famous neighbour Sancerre. Inhabitants are known as Monestrosaloniens and you thought Corkonian was a mouthful!

This 100% Sauvignon blanc has a lovely gold colour. In the aromas you’ll find white fruit (citrus to the fore) and floral elements too. Excellent mouthfeel, fresh and fruity, and matching acidity all the way through to the long finish. Highly Recommended.

Fish, shellfish, white meats and goats cheese are the suggested pairings. “It is an ideal way to start a meal or to enjoy with friends during the day.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Double Up with Tinpot Hut this Christmas

Double Up with Tinpot Hut this Christmas

The Tinpot Hut winery is named after the huts, famed in New Zealand sheep country, huts used by musterers as they round up the sheep who have spent Spring to Autumn in the hills. Fiona Turner, a regular visitor to Ireland, is the winemaker.

Tinpot Hut Pinot Noir Marlborough (New Zealand) 2015, 13%, RRP € 24.99 Bradley’s, Cork; Cashel Wine Cellar; JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; Wine Online; World Wide Wines.

Colour is Pale ruby. There are plum and cherry aromas, touch of blackberry too. Same fruit on the smooth palate, spice well in the mix too, soft and silky tannins and well balanced through to a long finish. Hard to top this one. Very Highly Recommended.

Tinpot Hut Marlborough Sauvignon blanc 2016, 13.5%, €19.99 Stockists: Bradley’s, Cork; Cashel Wine Cellar; JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; McKeoghs, Killaloe; Myles Creek; Wine Online; World Wide Wines.

Another beauty from Fiona Turner and Tinpot Hut. Colour is light straw with green tints. Vibrant aromas of melon, pineapple, lemongrass, a drift of herb. On the palate, exotic fruit flavours, citrus also in there, make it quite a flavourful experience, but with a lively acidity, and this elegant wine continues in balance as it heads to a long finalé.

Fiona is proud of her well earned Sustainable Winegrowing logo and proud too of this Sauvignon that has been declared “exceptional” by Decanter who also awarded it 98 points. Very Highly Recommended.

Tinpot Hut wines are imported here by Liberty Wines and they also include Pinot Gris, Syrah, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner in their portfolio.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Amuse Bouche

The ovens were turned on each Christmas Day and people brought their turkeys. I loved the smell of the turkeys roasting with their delicious stuffing. We had to call to the houses, about twelve of them, to tell them they were ready. Daddy often got up on St Stephen’s Day to bake if people ran out of bread.

from Our Daily Bread, A History of Barron’s Bakery, by Roz Crowley (2011). Recommended.
Still going strong. One of the ovens - like a small room inside.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Farmgate Café. Traditional. Seasonal. Regional. Food of the land and work of local hands.

Farmgate Café. Traditional. Seasonal. Regional.

Food of the land and work of local hands.
Irish stew. Bacon and Cabbage. Just the mention of these traditional Irish dishes can get some modern “foodies”, some chefs too, on their high horses. They don’t want us posting pictures  of our peasant food on the internet, preferring instead those “decorated” with colourful drops from a squeegee bottle. 

I like my stew, like my bacon and cabbage. Just as the French like their hardly photogenic Coq au vin. And when I saw the lamb stew on the menu during last Saturday's visit to The Farmgate, above the English Market, I had no hesitation in ordering it. It was a cold day and the warming stew was the ideal comfort food. And reasonable photogenic as well.

The Hartes (Kay and daughter Rebecca) are in no doubt about the value of tradition. “Farmgate Café embraces much of what is unique and traditional to Cork along with new influences in this dynamic multicultural food market and port city. Centuries old traditional, seasonal, regional, even ‘forgotten’ foods are at the core of the Farmgate ethos, and also form a visible link between the menu and the wonderful array of produce downstairs.”

“This allows Farmgate Café to provide a uniquely Irish eating experience both reflecting and playing a small role in a vibrant Irish food culture truly embracing how good indigenous ingredients and food products are.”

The popular Farmgate is divided into two sections, as you may know. You may well need to book to get a table in the Dining Room while most of the rest of the mezzanine, the Balcony, is informal so you just queue and order and the order, if not self-service, will be delivered to your table. 

We had booked and were lucky to get a table in an outdoor room adjoining the Dining Room. We were told it would be cold but no problem. There are glass panels up to head height (where you sit), heaters overhead and, just in case, blankets!

No need for the blankets though as we ordered from the regular list. There are always at least three daily specials: meat, fish and tart. The Lamb and Potato stew (€14.00, a euro less on the balcony) has regular company in Chargrilled Chicken, Traditional Pork Sausages with lentils, a Cured Fish plate, a Market Mezze, and a Warm Salad of free range chicken. Traditional yes but not hidebound by the past either.

In any case, that Lamb stew was delicious, the meat flavoursome and tender, the vegetables spot-on, and the potatoes were perfect. And here you’ll have no problem enjoying the last of the tasty liquid as, in addition to knife and fork, they also provide a spoon.

Lunchtime queue for the Farmgate lunch
on the Balcony while the market continues
This was peak lunchtime on Saturday yet the staff, in their smart seasonal clothing, were excellent, very helpful all the way through.

I’d finish up also with a traditional touch. Had been swaying between the Christmas Pudding and the Mince Pie (3.50). The Brandy Cream swung it for the Pie which had a nice layer of crumble on top. 

CL wanted to experiment so she went for the non-traditional Salted Caramel Confit Banana with Rum and Raisin Ice-cream (5.00). A brave woman to take on the ice-cream but it was a seriously delicious finish.

The Farmgate believes in supporting local food. And local drink too. Ciders come from Longueville House and Stonewell, beers from Eight Degrees and Dungarvan Brewing, while the wines are all European.

We had been taking the odd peek down to the floor of the market and, after settling up, we joined the crowd down on the floor. Eventually we had a stroll through Glow and then visited Christmas markets in St Peter’s and The Franciscan Well (this is on again next Saturday).

English Market
Princes Street
Tel: 021 427 8134. Int: 00 353 21 427 8134
Email (general enquiries only):

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Grapes planted in 16th century. Now we get these two gems from Chile.

A Los Viñateros Bravos Volcánico País 2015 Itata (Chile), 12.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau, Bradley’s (Cork).

If you don’t like your wines big and bold and prefer light and delicate, then this is one to try.

Colour is pale Ruby, shimmering. 
Aromas of wild strawberries and hints too (I'm told) of the local vegetation.

Palate is fresh and light, vibrant, delicate red fruit flavours, touch of spice, distinctive and refreshing, smooth all the way to the finish. The granitic soils have a lot to say and tell here and, perhaps, that is why, or at least one reason, this wine reminds me of a good Beaujolais. A quiet friendly one and Very Highly Recommended. 

Le Caveau say the fruit comes from very old vines (100 years and more) grown on volcanic soil that give it a mineral-y character. It is fermented and aged in concrete vats, the extraction is very subtle. The skins are basket pressed. The wine is then aged in large wood vessels and after 14 months is bottled with a very coarse filtration. 

The first País (also known, particularly in California, as the Mission grape) was brought by the conquistadors in the 1550s and, for centuries, the locals used it to make wines for themselves.

But bit by bit, the big companies began to use the big-name grapes and the ancient imports lost ground. Leonardo Erazo was one who wanted to reverse this trend, travelled the world for ten years to study wine and then came back and founded A Los Viñateros Bravos.

In Itata, Leonardo has worked with the scattered local farmers’ old vines—many well over 100 years, still growing as dry farmed, untrained small bushes—to enhance their traditional natural practices to align with biodynamic guidelines. His mission, throughout this journey, has been to bring a sense of place into the bottle. 

“In order to achieve that, we are working back into the organic viticulture (historically, a tradition here) with natural winemaking. We feel like we don’t need to fix nature but rather enhance its capabilities, thus to enhance its potential. We want wines full of life, vibrancy, tension and freshness.”

The Pais doesn’t have much of a status with the better-known wine commentators. For instance, Grapes and Wines blames the original Spanish Franciscan missionaries for not taking the trouble “to bring something better”. Leonardo Erazo is taking time and trouble and certainly bringing us something better!

Miguel Torres Reserva Ancestral Valle del Itata (Chile) 2014, 14.5%, €18.50 Marks and Spencer.
This blend of Cinsault (60%), País (25) and Carignan (15) has a deep ruby colour. There are fragrant aromas of plum, blackberry, some spice too. It is smooth, rich, juicy and fruity as it spreads across, tannins just about evident, and then a long dry finish. A warm and concentrated welcoming wine, ideal in autumn and winter. Very Highly Recommended.

Torres tell us this is produced from the fruit of 80-year old vines. These grape varieties were first brought to Chile by the early Spanish conquistadors around 500 years ago, so it is aptly named.

According to Wines of South America, Torres are dedicated to rediscovering “heritage” wines, based on traditional País, both in table red and sparkling bottlings.
All Torres vineyards in Chile have been organic since 1995 and this wine, a Platinum winner in Decanter 2017, is the inaugural vintage (fewer than 15,000 bottles) from these ancient vineyards.

Decanter called it a “friendly beast” with particular praise for its “lovely concentration”.This medium bodied wine is not meant for long-term keeping and you are advised to use it within five years. Try it with steak, charcuterie and empanadas.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Aperitifs. And Two for The Meal!

Christmas Aperitifs
And Two for The Meal!

Quite a bit of variety in this quartet of whites, all possible aperitifs, which should stand you  in good stead over the holidays. All will be fine as aperitifs and two have the advantage of being rather low in alcohol. One is a rosé (usually associated with summer but I'm sure the house will be hot!) and another is a slightly sweet bottle of organic bubbles. The Vinho Verde is easy-drinking (indeed, they all are) and has a very slight fizz while the Sauvignon Blanc can also do duty during a meal. And speaking of The Meal, we have two (each well-priced) at the end that will certainly do the business there for you. Enjoy.

Messias Vinho Verde (DOC) 8.5%, €12.35 Karwig’s

This Vinho Verde is light and crisp, with a subtle and sparse fizz. It is made, in the Atlantic north of Portugal, from traditional regional varieties (Loureiro and Pedernâ in this case).

It has a light lemon colour, a touch of green and plenty of fizzy bubbles. Aromas are of light fresh fruits. The light white fruits continue to the palate, also a touch of sweetness (residual sugar is 13 gram/litre), a gentle fizz is part of the lively acidity. Recommended, especially as an aperitif.

La Stoppa Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, Emilia (IGT) 2016, 7%, €18.95 Bradley’s, Le Caveau.

The Malvasia di Candia is a rather unusual moderately sweet bubbly wine. Single fermentation is via the Charmat method (also used in Prosecco). Note that the ABV is just 7%.

Note too the beautiful golden colour. Not that many bubbles. It is frizzante, not spumante! Easy drinking (not a hint of cloying), moderately sweet, honey and fruity and a good finish. This lightly sparkling beauty is Recommended.

Le Bijou de Sophie Valrose Cabrieres Languedoc (AOP), 13%, €14.95 Bradley’s Cork.

This rosé is one of the new wines added to the Findlater range. It is produced from Cinsault (50%), Grenache (40) and Syrah (10). “Summer in a glass” they claim, full of red fruit and a refreshing zestiness. Sophie Valrose wines are regular award winners (the rosé indeed picked up another gong at the recent National Off Licence Awards). 

Colour is a light to mid salmon, more flush than the blush on the label. Strawberries and blossoms in the aromas, round and elegant on the palate, excellent acidity and a decent finish to boot. Summer has been successfully bottled here. Recommended, even in winter!

Passage du Sud Sauvignon Blanc, Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2016, 11.5%, €12.95 Bradley’s (Cork)

Usually in Gascony, the white wines I've come across are the kind that go well during the holiday. Often they are produced from Ugni Blanc  and Columbard (used in Armagnac) fruit, great with the local oysters and other seafood but rarely worth bringing home. This Sauvignon Blanc has a bit more going for it and is Recommended. 

The Gascony area, in the south west of France, often hosts migrating birds, hence the name on this bottle. The designation Côtes de Gascogne is in the Gers department. Here too you will find Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne (the local aperitif). This is the area where you are strongly advised not to ask for Cognac or Pineau des Charentes (also a good aperitif, as is the Floc, if you can get your hands on them).

This wine, also new to the Findlater list, has a light straw colour. White fruit aromas are matched on the crisp and fruity palate, citrus elements prominent, and a lively acidity. Quite a pleasant surprise this from a generally unconsidered area. Recommended. Good value too.

And Two for The Meal!
Le Petite Source Le Clos Rouge Pays d’Oc (IGP), 12.5%, €11.95 Bradley's, Le Caveau
This is one of the selection of excellent “simple” wines that Le Caveau have on their house wine listings. Under a convenient screw cap, the organic blend is of Grenache, Cinsault and Merlot. It is deliciously light and fruity and a good example of price/quality ration from the Languedoc.

It has a lovely medium ruby colour. It is fresh and fruity (blackberry, raspberry and strawberry), juicy and simple, silky tannins with just a little bite. Well balanced but with a good deal of heft about it and Highly Recommended.

Le Petite Source Le Clos Blanc Pays d’Oc (IGP) 2014, 12.5%, €11.95 Bradley's, Le Caveau

This 2014 edition (2015 is now available) has a light straw colour. There are rather exotic fruits on the nose. And they follow through to the palate. It is deliciously fresh and fruity, no shortage of acidity. Very refreshing with a longish finish. This well made blend of Vermentino and Chardonnay is Highly Recommended.