Cracking Wines at O'Donovan's Wine and Craft Beer Festival


Cracking Wines at O'Donovan's
 Wine and Craft Beer Festival
Paddy from Clonakilty Distillery

I very much enjoyed visiting the 17th annual O'Donovan's Wine and Craft Beer Festival in the Clayton Hotel, Cork City, last Friday night; great to meet old friends and taste some new wines. And it wasn’t just wine. There was mead, from Kinsale of course, craft beers from home and abroad, whiskeys and gins galore including some from new and new-ish producers such as Clonakilty and Beara and more.

The O’Donovan’s staff were busying helping people make the most of it and one of their tasks was to man the tables featuring Gold Star winners from this year’s Irish Wine Show. Some 45 wines were awarded in all and are exclusive to NOffLA (National Off-Licence Association) member outlets nationwide.

Yours Truly with
Gerry Gunnigan
of Liberty Wines
Liberty Wines, with Gerry Gunnigan doing the honours, had two of the winners at their table and, after a conversation, mainly about Mayo, with Gerry, we started with those two. First up was the Italian Alpha Zeta “C” Chardonnay 2018 from the Veneto. Superb tropical fruits and as fresh as could be and it won Gold in the Under €15.00 Old World White Category.

And Gerry’s other Gold winner was the Kim Crawford Pinot Gris 2017 from New Zealand’s Marlborough, which came first in the Under €20.00 New World White Category. Very elegant, tropical fruits again, well balanced and well worth looking out for as the festival season nears. Two fine whites then but perhaps the top white on the Liberty table was the Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner, an excellent example of the Austrian grape. All their own fruit and organic to boot.

Conor O'Brien (NorEast Beers) with CL

Speaking of Christmas, one to look out for is the Delicato Gnarly Head Viognier from California. “Not over the top in aromatics” but lots of character and a great aperitif. The normal retail price is €18.00 but there’ll be reductions soon! Dave Buckley of Cassidy's also had a couple of well-priced South African whites. The Millstream Chenin Blanc struck a nice balance of fruit and acidity while the Franschhoek Cellars Unoaked Chardonnay had all the typical Chardonnay flavour and a good acidity. Doesn't miss the oak at all.

We then came across an outstanding Verdejo, by Spain’s Protos, at Comans Wines. A fresh and balanced wine from the Rueda with a dry lingering finish. Priced at €15.00, though, like most of the wines, it was reduced for orders during the festival.
Denis and Kate
Kinsale Mead

The Vineyard were showing a pretty impressive white from the Loire, the dry and refreshing Chateau de la Roulerie Petit Chenin 2018.  Nearby, Damien from Tindal had a couple of excellent Pinot Grigio from the Veneto and he was very enthusiastic about both. You could see though that special care had been taken in producing the Zenato 2018, refreshing, soft yet with good character, a really good wine indeed. The San Giorgio 2018 was well balanced, clean and crisp.

In between, we had a chance to chat with Denis and Kate from Kinsale Mead and to taste their Atlantic Dry (white) mead and their Wild Red Mead and to hear of some plans in train and for the future including barrel-ageing and using Irish Honey. Looking forward to seeing the results but it could be a while yet for us punters as the enterprising couple keep their fingers crossed!

No problem finding Malbec when we started on the reds. Mackenway’s Callia “Alta” from San Juan in Argentina, was very juicy, very drinkable, and made an immediate impression with its “fruit bomb” of flavours. The Kaiken Terroir Series Vistaflores 2017, from Mendoza, on show at the Liberty Table, was a somewhat more serious drink, full bodied and silky, the Malbec enhanced by some Petit Verdot and Bonarda.

A couple of superb Crianzas followed. Some of you may be familiar with the El Coto Rioja Crianza, a harmonious mix of red berry flavours, juicy tannins and a well judged touch of oak that help make this the biggest selling Crianza in Spain. This was on the Mackenway table with an RRP of €17.00, with a reduction off that available on the night, as was the case for most if not all of the wines in the show.

Back to Damien then at the Tindal table and he was singing the praises, quite rightly too, of the Luis Cañas Rioja Crianza 2016, saying the extra calcium in the vineyard’s soil makes a difference to the thickness of the skins, so more colour, more concentration and you could taste that in this dark fruit flavoured wine, hints of the oak too and a long and very satisfying finish. Normal price is €23.50 and again the offer on the night brought it down to 19.97 per bottle.

Gold Medal

We finished the wines at the Cassidy Table with Dave taking us through two from California. First up was the Delicato Gnarly Head Zinfandel from old vines between 35-80 years and weighing in at 14.5% abv. Intense and bold the notes declared and yes indeed it is a big wine, loads of fruit. And lots of fans too for this style.

For me though, the next one, the Delicato Gnarly Head Authentic Black, was more to my liking. It is bold enough, full bodied enough “to rock your palate” but the Zinfandel has been toned down through the addition of Petite Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot. Should be superb with food as Dave indicated.

And there was some food around, including Carrigaline Cheese with the dedicated Padraig in attendance having overseen the Irish Cheese Awards the previous evening. Didn’t get much of a chance to try the food and we were heading to Dockland in any case. 

But we did have a beer with Conor O’Brien of NorEast Drinks. The Whitstable Bay Organic Ale, a delightful light coloured ale that is brewed using the brewery’s own chalk-filtered mineral water, is a soft blend of hops and malt. Liked that and must watch out for it next time I visit O’Donovan’s.

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