Starring Mary Dowey and Mike Ryan

Renowned wine writer Mary Dowey was our guide for the evening of high class food and wine at the Cornstore last Thursday. Mary likes Cork and admitted she was trying to entice the husband to move: “It is much more cheerful here.”

The wine selection from the Gilbeys catalogue was all from France. Mary, who started writing about wine in 1995, has a soft spot for French wines: “If you are serious about wine, you never stray too far from France and never turn your back on France for too long.”

The fantastic evening kicked off with a Barton Guestier Sparkling wine. This Loire Valley wine is made with 100 per cent Chardonnay and provided the perfect start. And Mary remarked that, because of the acidity, champagne goes much better with some nibbles and the Cornstore came up with some really inviting ones, including a strawberry and cheese on a stick!

1st course  – Terrine of foie gras, Margret duck breast, toasted pistachios and tokai with pomegranate coulis.  For this, Mary choose the Riesling Trimbach 2008, and this was a splendid example of her favourite grape. She also pointed out that it is one of the very few wines that goes well with spicy food.

2nd course – Pan Seared wild sea bass with saffron potato, samphire, Jerusalem artichoke puree and caramelised walnuts. Here, Mary led us into Burgundy and to Louis Latour and their Montagny Premier Cru La Grande Roche 2007. Not a terribly well known AOC but that means the price is less. “The house though was founded in 1725. It is a reliable name, a beacon of re-assurance.”  A lovely  wine, floral and crisp, mid-weight and quite subtle.

3rd course - Roast haunch of venison with beetroot confit, wild boar black pudding rissole and forest mushroom jus. The 2007 Chateau Magnol Haut Medoc was picked to accompany this terrific plateful and again it as a perfect match.
This is another wine in the stable of Barton and Gustier, the oldest established wine merchant in Bordeaux. Mary told us that the Barton, a Fermanagh man whose first name was Thomas, left Ireland in the early 1700s and set up his company in 1725. In 1802 , his grandson Hugh (who built Straffon House, now the K-Club) teamed up with Gustier to form B & G.
The wine is 50% Cabernet and 50% Merlot and spends 12 month or more in oak. On the nose, you get backcurrant, spice and a “mineraly” aroma. The palate is rich blackcurrant and there is a good “grip” of tannin. “It is a wine for meat: venison, beef or duck.”

4th course - Farmhouse cheese board, with biscuits and fruit. Cheeses: St Gall (Cork) and Crozier (Tipperary).  For the wine, Mary took us over to the steep river banks of the Rhone and the vineyards of the Crozes Hermitage appellation. The example before us (which would have also matched well with the venison) was the 2006 Paul Jaboulet Aèné Les Jalets.
This well known 1834 vineyard had been going downhill somewhat around the turn of the century but a relatively recent Swiss investment has seen its fortunes turn for the better and this 100% Syrah (after a year in oak) was superb. Bright and peppery, soft and silky, its quality evident in the wine's concentration and deep black berry flavours. When I say peppery, I mean the more refined European (essentially Rhone) pepper and not the brash Shiraz blast that comes from another hemisphere.

5th course - A selection of desserts: mini lemon posset with rhubarb compote, mini apple strudel and apricot tartlet. The wine just had to be Sauternes, “the most famous sweet wine in the world”.
This Thomas Barton 2005 example is made of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. As you'd expect it is very rich and lingers in the mouth. Considering that the Chateau Y’Quem Sauternes from the same year costs around €200 for the half-bottle, the Barton is another outstanding example “of their affordable range”. It costs about €20.00. If you don't finish the bottle in the one night, “it will keep in the fridge for weeks!”

While Mary was out front for the enjoyable evening, Cornstore head Chef Mike Ryan was busy behind the scenes. But his work spoke for him. It was superb; he didn't put a foot wrong from inviting start to satisfying finale. Hats off then to both Mike and Mary.

For further information on the Cornstore, check out their website at Mary has a holiday home in France, in Provence. Her own website is while she also runs one on Provence at