Friday, April 26, 2013

Tomas Clancy: Wine Geese were "on the make"!

Tomas Clancy at The Crawford
We are not impressed.
John Hogan's statue of
William Crawford looms over the wines.
In the Crawford Art Gallery last night, wine lover Tomas Clancy dispelled any romantic notions we might have had held about the early Wine Geese, saying that these Irish were “people on the make”. They had tried it in Ireland and indeed there is some evidence that some left their Irish loves behind for richer pickings abroad, particularly in France: “They married well, mainly to the daughters of the aristocrats, some even to the rich widows.”

In some leisurely moments before the talk, part of the series of Wine Geese events in the Cork area, Tomas had time to wander upstairs in the Gallery and was struck by the juxtaposition of two portraits, one of the merchant and the Lord Mayor of Cork (1776) Hugh Lawton and the other of a stern Roy Keane. Only in Cork. Lawton by the way will feature in another Wine Geese event later in the year.

Colm McCan pours for Ted Murphy
Tomas has visited many of the Wine Geese and says that they love to see the Irish coming all the way to see them; he has found this a common expression around the world whether the winemakers have been in situ for hundreds of years or for just a few decades.

Wine historian Ted Murphy, the inspiration and perspiration behind the international wine museum in Kinsale (well worth a visit), was in the audience. He and Tomas are great friends and Tomas took the opportunity to point out that while many nations have as many and in some cases more wine geese than we have, it was Ted who “brought it all together” mainly through his book The Kingdom of Wine.

Tomas made some terrific points too about how Ireland, for much of the 20th century, shut out many of its famous and very successful exiles as it nurtured its infant sense of nationhood. He reckons now, that the shutters are gone, that it is entirely appropriate to look again at the achievements and the achievers aboard.

“Aer Lingus should use wine geese wines” he stated. And why not, particularly on flights to and from the wine producing countries where we have engaged (most of them!).

Maybe we should even look at characters like the Duke of Wellington, an Irish MP for over 25 years. He too had a wine connection for it was he who secured a large area where Port is made for the British!

On to the wines then and we started with L’Abeille de Fieuzal, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux 2009, but the big story in the whites came with the next bottle, the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2010.

Jim Barrett from Waterford, who started his working life shovelling coal off the back of a lorry and, having been a US marine and lawyer, bought the winery and then had the satisfaction of seeing his 1973 Chardonnay win the famous Judgement of Paris against the best the French could offer.

Something of an interruption then as the time at the Crawford came to an end and, with huge thanks to Victor Murphy of the prize-winning House Cafe in the Opera House next door, we were all accommodated for part two.

Chateau de la Ligne (Bordeaux 2008) was next up. Tomas has been there and said that owner Terry Cross has, among other interesting items in his collection, an enormous Celtic Cross on the estate driveway. The wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, “has another few years to go” and Tomas advised us, while waiting, to get our hands on their Cuvee Prestige (05 or ’06).

The Barton family story is pretty well known so it was no surprise to see of their wines, the Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien, Bordeaux 2004, included. “Here”, said Tomas, “The Irish roots will never go away”.

But what was the Irish connection with Château Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2004, the mystery wine? Well, it was Ronald Barton who joined the army in WW2 and ended up in the Lebanon where he got to know the family and helped the chateau in the ways of making fine wines.

And to round it all off there was yet another Irish connection. On arrival, we had been served the El Comandante Chardonnay from Argentina. Founder of this winery was the late Michael Lynch. As a UN officer in Lebanon, he too helped Musar by using some Irish blarney to get their harvested grapes through an Israeli roadblock to the winery, thus saving the vintage.

The wine geese are here, there and everywhere!

Next event: Thursday May 16th at L’Atitude 51 where Fleur McCree of Little Beauty in Marlborough, New Zealand, will retrace her family roots back to Cork.

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