Tastings in the Big Shed

Tastings in the Big Shed
Tastings galore in the Big Shed as the Ballymaloe Literary Festival continued on Sunday: Sherry, Whiskey (and cheese), Douro Wines including Ports and a bunch of Rieslings. Haven’t had this much fun in a barn since sneakily draining a few bottles of porter at a threshing about 1960!
Sherry sorting by Ballymaloe's Colm McCann (right).
Ballymaloe’s Colm McCan is a big sherry fan so no surprise that the famous wines of Jerez featured here. The surprise perhaps was that they were introduced by the Irish Examiner wine writer Leslie Williams who did a superb job.

The tasting concentrated on the Dry Sherry, Fino and Manzanilla. And the big surprise and a delightful one was the fact that a couple of En Rama, including a superb one by Tio Pepe, were included. The great thing about en rama is that the wine doesn’t go through the Solera system but is bottled in its natural state. It is therefore more intense and a bit more complex. But it does need to be consumed within a few months of bottling.

The bad news about En Rama is that you are unlikely to find it in Ireland but do look out for it in Spain. If you do come across it, get yourself a few slices of Iberico and enjoy!

Strong stuff! Holding on to the Power!
On then to the Single Pot Irish Whiskey demo by the folks from L Mulligan Grocers, matched with Irish Farmhouse cheeses. “Everything on the table is from Cork except for the goat cheese.”

First pairing was the Green Spot single malt and a mature (April 2012) cheese from Coolea. We were up and running and beginning to believe in the pairings. That belief was enhanced with the next tasty double, the traditional Pot Still Redbreast matched with the soft, creamy, mild yet zesty Fivemiletown Goat Cheese from County Tyrone.

The next whiskey was the Power’s, “a bit more punch here than normal with an ABV of 46%, a superb whiskey finished in sherry cask (which are expensive)”. If the drink had power, so too had the Hegarty’s Mature Cheddar. This was the strongest flavoured pairing and, on a show of hands, the most popular.

Great Douro line-up, Dows 85 nearest camera.
New glasses appeared as Maurice O’Mahony of Wine Alliance started his demo of wines and ports from the Douro Valley, “a challenging environment that produces great wines”. And he prove his point with two of his own wines, a smooth and brilliant white and an excellent limited production red, both by Quinta du Judeu.

“I love Port”, said Maurice, as he enthusiastically moved on to that section with two fine examples from Nieport. But the star here was to be the Dows Single Vintage 1985, “the top of the pyramid” made in the very year that Maurice did his inter-cert (not verified) and also the year that the very first mobile call was made.

The label on this bottle looked the worse for wear but there was nothing at all wrong with the stunning contents. Absolutely gorgeous and a pleasure to be there to taste it.

Light, in more ways than one: just 8%

And yet more good things to come, all in the name of Riesling and under the guidance of one of the variety’s most genial supporters John McDonnell. “Riesling is not homogenous,” declared the man form Ballyvaughan. “It has many different styles, which can be confusing, from very sweet to searingly dry. Makes it all the more interesting.”

Started off with the full dry style of the Wolf Blass from Australia. Next was the 2005 Trimbach. This had the deeper colour of its age, more texture and richer. But it also had this whiff of petrol that older Riesling acquires. 

Then came the sweeter but very well balanced style of Willie Haag’s 2004 from the Mosel. Just 8 per cent alcohol and “delicious on a warm summer’s day”.
John McDonnell makes a point!

Finished off with a dessert gem: Mount Horrocks 2001 Cordon Cut. The Cordon Cut refers to the way the vines are trained (also used with other fruit a and superbly illustrated by John holding out those long arms!). This is a good intro to the type. It is lighter and cleaner than most stickies (the name Oz gives to its sweet wines) and John says the acidity keeps it fresh and bright.

A bit of a marathon then in the tasting corner of the Big Shed, so time to head off and get something to eat and head for home. What a day. What a weekend at Ballymaloe!