Thursday, April 30, 2020

Bradley’s Box of Vinous Treats. Niepoort Rotulo DAO (DOC).

Bradley’s Box of Vinous Treats
Niepoort Rotulo DAO (DOC) 2016, 13% abv.  

This light (Beaujolais light) and delicious Portuguese red is a blend of mainly Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro; the local grapes give this wine, and quite a few more, a terrific and satisfying character.

The Niepoort has a beautiful mid to dark ruby colour. Intense aromas too mostly of black fruit but with slight floral hints, even a touch of menthol. Fresh fruit and spice combine elegantly on the palate and with excellent acidity also in the picture, it is harmonious through to the long refreshing finish. Second glass appeal for sure. Maybe second bottle. Very Highly Recommended.

Speaking of recommendations, Niepoort (perhaps better known for their many port wines) suggest serving at a temperature of 16°C to 18ºC and pairing with grilled red meat, and cheese. Also good with tapas, according to the notes that came with the box from Bradley’s. And I’d throw in charcuterie also (not all at the same time though!).

In a collaboration with Wine Mason, there is a series of selections on offer at Bradley's. My Mixed Box #2 consists of the Niepoort along with two other reds, a Horizon de Bichot Pinot Noir and a Walter Massa Barbera and three whites:  Rijckaert Arbois Chardonnay (Jura), a Casas Novas Vinho Verde, and a Venture Riesling. Total cost is €115.00. Sorry, I don’t have individual prices.

North Main Street

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Amazing variety of Portuguese vines detailed in masterclass by ace winemaker Antonio Braga.

Antonio (pic via Sogrape)

Superb masterclass on amazing variety of Portuguese vines by enthusiastic ace winemaker Antonio Braga.

“There’s a vast array of grape varieties in Portugal, a vast array of indigenous grapes that few of us know anything about” said Liberty Wines MD David Gleave as he introduced  Sogrape Vinhos winemaker Antonio Braga, one of the brightest talents on the Portuguese scene, making wine from Vinho Verde to Bairrada and Lisboa, to this week’s online masterclass. “Antonio is a great guy, a great winemaker and great that we’ve got him here today.”

Antonio has worked in most areas in Portugal, having started with the Douro reds. “Now he is mainly looking at white”. Also with the same aims though: balance, character and terroir, to present the best expression of the terroir in red, rosé and white. With the whites in Portugal there is a strong Atlantic influence, cool in Vinho Verde and around Lisbon. The Douro and Alentejo are warmer and so you get more reds here.

Arinto was the first grape he spoke about, known as Pedernã in Vinho Verde. As Antonio said there may be over 300 indigenous grapes in his country but many more names! He reckons, because here you find it in its greatest DNA variability, that this one was “born in Bucelas”, next to Lisbon. It is a “good variety, travels well, even inside Portugal.. it presents a few challenges though and canopy management is important.”

Next up was another white grape, the Alvarinho (better known as Albarino in  neighbouring Rias Baixas). David Gleave told us and Antonio that he loves the Alvarinho at Azevedo, “a different style” to that across the border. Antonio though hinted that there is more to come from Azevedo. “Still work ongoing to improve it… studies going on… We’ll be able to deliver better in the future.”  And he also said that the Alvarinho blend with Loureiro (another local white) is “more than happy”.

Later, during the Q & A session, Antonio spoke on the different styles of the Alvarinho. “We are always experimenting both in the vineyard and winery. So many different tools to work with.” One of the main ones would seem to be the endless enthusiasm and curiosity of Antonio himself.

He also loves the texture of wines made from the relatively recent Sercialinho grape with its classical aromas, vibrant and crisp acidity. Other Portuguese white grapes that you may have come across: Loureiro, Encruzado, Trajadura, Bical, Rabo de Ovelha, Gouveio, Viosinho and Sercial.

Alfrocheiro was the first red he spoke on, “a new passion for me”. He acknowledged it was hard to pronounce but “worth the effort to get a glass!”. “Now is the time for Alfrocheiro,” he declared.

Though he is now concentrating on white wines, “still in my heart is Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional”. The Franca,  he says, “is very consistent” while the Touriga is “the queen.. amazing… lots of floral aromatics.. great balance… love to use it in blends with the Franca…”

Other red grapes that you may have come across:  Vinhão/Sousão, Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Amarela, Rufete, Bastardo, Tinta Cão, Jaen, Tinta Roriz, Castelão

There’s much work going on at official and other levels in an attempt to classify and preserve the native Portuguese varietals and David Gleave asked Antonio, during the Q & A, if there are any surprises out there. He answered: “So many varieties… a world of secrets to be discovered… an adventure.. As winemakers, we will discover these wine treasures and present them to the market."

One questioner worried about the survival of Field Blends.
Antonio: “I like to blend, I like to test. Back in the 80s there were many blind moves but nowadays it is more cautious, more testing. If we like them, we keep them. We try to keep the field blend alive. It is part of our patrimony, very important.”

He was asked about oak and had he a preference as to where it comes from.
Antonio: “Focus is on the final product. I want to show origin, not cooperage, but a good barrel is wonderful for wine! Must be top quality, no matter from where, don’t like to buy at second level.”

Does he compare international varieties? He had earlier touched on Alvarinho and Albarino.
“I love comparisons, great for learning. I’m inventive, like challenges. The blend of the Tourigas is close to Bordeaux.”
The Touriga Franca as a stand alone varietal?
“I love it but, on its own, tends to be unidirectional. But works very well in blends.”

Organic, sustainability, climate change came up in a few questions.
Antonio: Focus is more and more on sustainability. I would
l like to present more organic and biodynamique but we still haven’t made that move but that’s the trend.”  David Gleave did point out that it is easier to go organic in the warm areas (Douro and Alentejo), but would take longer in Vinho Verde and Antonio agreed.

Dennis of Liberty Wines, our usual doorman, coordinated the Q&A session and had one himself towards the end, asking Antonio his opinion of Encruzado.
Antonio admitted to falling love with it. “It grows in complexity as it ages, is great for oak ageing. It has a wonderful gastronomic ability to cut through fatty foods. It is an autumn wine, a fireplace wine. It may not be in fashion but it is a wonderful variety, wonderful to work with.”

And, on that upbeat note, we left the meeting, as they say on Zoom. 

* All pics are screenshots from the masterclass.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Taste of the Week. Breads on NeighbourFood

Taste of the Week
Breads on NeighbourFood
Bread and Roses

Didn’t quite realise the choice available to me when I joined NeighbourFood. Choices across the board and that applies also to top class bread. Quite happy to have any of the loaves mentioned below as Taste of the Week.

I had heard about Bread and Roses and was keen to try. And I wasn’t disappointed. Their Country Sourdough Loaf is superb and would be in the running for the Blue Riband at any sourdough competition.
Natural Bakery's Spelt Loaf

And more sourdough, with a twist, from Natural Foods Bakery. The Sourdough Raisin Bread Loaf quickly became a favourite here. Must yet try their Breademption Sourdough Beer Mash Loaf (with Rising Sun beer); won’t be long now as I have one in the house. Just to mention also that this busy bakery do a top notch 100% Spelt loaf, one of the best of its type.

Can’t be all sourdough - variety is the spice of life. And, for something a little different but very tasty in its own right, it would be hard to beat Ballymaloe’s White Yeast Loaf, also on NeighbourFood. Ballymaloe may have a rival though. At the time of writing, the blog chef has just pulled what looks like a beauty out of the oven and that looks ready for a big thumbs up coming when it cools down a bit!

So there you are, lots of variety when you order from  NeighbourFood who have an ever increasing number of depots in Ireland; they also deliver (thought not in every area).

You’ll find Neighbour Food here

Monday, April 27, 2020

Delightful Wines from the Beaujolais Region

Delightful Wines from the Beaujolais 

Dominique Morel “Vieilles Vignes” Fleurie (AOP) 2107, 12.5%, €22.99
160, Cinnamon Cottage, Wine Centre and

Colour is light to mid ruby. Those fairly typical red cherry aromas, mixed with floral notes, soon announce themselves and stay with you to the finalé. Right through the elegant palate of light and bright flavours, delicate yes, but far from weak and that too applies to the persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

I was, it seems, getting the best of its floral and refined side; that comes between 6 months and 3 years. Later, from 3 to 7 years, you’ll be enjoying the fully mature wine, all according to the producers website.

This Morel is produced by Gry-Sablon and wine has been made at the domaine for over a century. Gry-Sablon make wine in five of the ten crus of Beaujolais and also in Burgundy. 

The Gamay grape thrives in the granite soils of the Fleurie village in the heart of the Beaujolais region. With its delicate cherry scents and flavours of red berry fruits, this very elegant wine is an excellent partner to a wide variety of lighter dishes. Recommended serving temperature is 15%.

Dishes indicate suitable are Poultry terrines, all delicate white meats, Bresse poultry, lamb chops with herbs, lyonnaise-style veal liver, roast rabbit, old-fashioned pork loin, pigeon, fish, fresh goat cheese , strawberry profiteroles.

The year 2017 was another difficult vintage for producers in the Beaujolais. Spring frost, vicious hailstorms during July and the drought of the summer months all combined to make it so. Fortunes were somewhat retrieved with a welcome rain just before harvest, which brought freshness to the resulting wines. Still much damage was done, particularly by the hail which resulted in a 40% loss in volume.

In the winery, all went well and the wine was aged in stainless steel tanks on fine lees for 5 to 6 months before bottling in the estate. An excellent result then after so many hurdles. 

Frédéric Berne “Pierre Bleue” Beaujolais-Latignié (AOP) 2018, 14%, €21.99
World Wide Wines  and

Colour of this Gamay is a deeper red than normal, close to purple. There are intense fragrant aromas of berries (blue and black), floral notes. Gets even better as the palate comes into play, terrific fruit backbone along with soft tannins. No shortage of acidity either. Finishes well also with a touch of spice. Highly Recommended.

The Latignié terroir, just a short drive from Beaujolais crus such as Morgan, Fleurie, and Chiroubles, has played its part here. Grown on 'Pierre Bleue' soils, the Gamay “gives wines which have deeper colour, fragrant perfumes and soft tannins”, according to the producers. Unlike the western side of Lantignié where the soils are predominantly granite, the grapes used for this wine come from the eastern side of Lantignié where the soils are mostly clay. Frédéric has six hectares between the Beaujolais Villages, Morgon and Chiroubles, and is currently converting all his vineyards to organic viticulture so uses no pesticides.

The year 2018 turned out to be a very good one, despite a very wet spring. Conditions during harvest were ideal, and the vintage produced a good quantity of healthy, ripe Gamay grapes. As a result 2018, for producers in the Beaujolais, is heralded as one of the best for quality and quantity in recent years.

On the label, you may read their “mission statement”: We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. I chose the path of natural agriculture to help you discover authentic wines that respect their environment. Breaking away from intensive chemical farming, the team takes care of its vines according to the precepts of agroecology.

Another Frédéric Berne wine to watch is his Morgon ‘Corcelette’, also available via Liberty.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Ramble Through Four Lovely Irish Ales. Cork, Donegal, Kerry and Tipperary

A Ramble Through Four Lovely Irish Ales
Cork, Donegal, Kerry and Tipperary.

West Kerry Brewery “Béal Bán” Golden Ale, 5.0%, 500ml bottle

Gold is the colour of this ale from West Kerry. Creamy rather than crisp, yet light and refreshing with malt prominent earlier on, the hops making a show at the finish. A distinctive beer indeed, very impressive.

I drank this in 2012 at Blair’s Inn and also during a visit to Tigh Bhric where the brewery is based. It was then being described as a pale English style bitter. It was then, still is, a light and refreshing golden ale with a slight malty sweetness and a bitter finish, imparted by a generous helping of hops. Indeed, one could see why the English aficionado would feel at home here.

Paul and Adrienne (the brewer) told us that they use water from their own well to brew the beers, both cask and bottled. The malt is predominantly Irish and the beers are brewed naturally, with no additives or preservatives. By the way, they use local botanicals in the brewing, such as rosehips, elderflower, blackberries and black currants “added to our seasonal beers”. 

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne is the Irish name for the brewery in the Dingle peninsula. It was established in 2008 to make traditional yet progressive beer. You’ll find them in their brew pub: Tigh Bhric (which also offers accommodation). .

Béal Bán is one of their core range and like the others, Carraig Dubh (porter) and Cúl Dorcha (red ale), is called after local place names. Adrienne is Ireland’s first female brewer.

White Gypsy “Woodcock” American Pale Ale, 5.8%, 500ml bottle

Colour here is almost gold, lighter than the Kerry ale, darker than Kinnegar. Hops and malt in the aromas. Fruity and refreshing with the hops and malt in excellent balance, each contributing to the pleasant journey through to the finish.

The Gypsy invites you to follow your fortune to this independent Irish craft brewer in Tipperary. This ale is named after a local legend: “The Woodcock Carden”.

There’s a bit of Greek on the label - didn’t have time to google it! But they do tell us that this is brewed with the finest malt and hops with the aim of making “a nicely fruit forward refreshing ale”. Ingredients include: Floor malted Marris Otter barley, Citra and Mosaic hops.

Did you know that White Gypsy make a food pairing range of beers in 75cl bottles. Well worth checking out, more info here.

Must say I was very pleased with Béal Ban and didn’t think I’d be more pleased during this tasting but the superb harmony of the Woodcock is a pleasure to enjoy and the ace Tipp beer would be difficult to top in any company.

Nine White Deer “Stag Bán” Pale Ale, 4.5%, 500ml bottle

Stag Bán was the first beer for Ballyvourney based 9 White Deer and has been gluten free since 2018.

Basically, it’s an easy drinking beer, brewed at lower temperatures to create a cleaner profile; the malt profile is uncomplicated, neither heavy nor cloying. It is a dry and refreshing beer with a light malt body. The hop character is spicy citrus, finishing clean.

For me, the attraction here is the hops, though it’s far from being a “hop bomb”. This is about balance. The lads say they designed this beer with summer in mind and the hops used (First Gold, Admiral and Cascade) emphasise that. It is a harmonious drink with citrus, floral and spice notes all combining well in the golden cloudy glass.

Kinnegar “Limeburner” Pale Ale, 4.7%, 500ml bottle

Lovely light gold colour on this one, floral and hoppy on the nose. Crisp and refreshing in the mouth with a good hoppy finalé. Easy to quaff and one to note if you haven’t already. One of their first beers and still going strong as part of their core range.

“Superb Kinnegar Ales” I wrote back in 2013, when this Limeburner was included in a selection at The Cove at Port na Blagh (Donegal). This independent Irish craft beer is named after a local 40m high hidden sea pinnacle.

It is unfiltered, naturally carbonated. When pouring leave any natural sediments (I didn’t see any) at the bottom of the bottle. It is one of their core range. Easy to enjoy this one!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Delicious Dishes. #WhenChefsWorkAgain

Take a look back. And then a look forward.
Delicious Dishes. #WhenChefsWorkAgain

Check this slideshow!

1 - Click on play.
2 - Then click on "broken" square bottom right for Full Screen view!

On pause at the moment? Many of us are. Dined out in Ballycotton on May 11th and then it all stopped. Hopefully, the restrictions won't be around for too long more, even if the unwinding will probably be slower than wished for. In the meantime, why not take a peek at what lies ahead when our chefs get back to work by looking back at what they were doing not so long ago. Delicious dishes from Ireland's excellent kitchens, everything from tempting starters, to satisfying main dishes, to the sweetest endings. Enjoy!

Barnabrow: Ballotine of Caherbeg Free Range Ham Hock and chicken, fig, watercress, Pain D’Epices

Ichigo Ichie: Izakaya Evening with Echigo Saké

Liberty Grill: 35-day aged Rib-Eye special - Char-grilled 10 ounce rib-eye on the bone

Las Tapas de Lola Dublin: The Chicharrones is Marinated pork belly, slow-cooked and flash-fried until crispy. And delicious.

Seasalt: Tart with two salads in Cobh's new-ish café

Cafe Paradiso: Kohlrabi, asparagus and daikon salad, pickled rhubarb and radish, lamb’s lettuce, black garlic, hazelnut, sheep’s milk labneh

Greene's: Lamb two ways - the shoulder was cooked low and slow, the chop was also perfectly cooked, loved the carrot purée and the grilled asparagus and carrot.

Crackpots Kinsale: Baked fillet of Hake with teriyaki glaze on shredded Pak Choi, chilli and garlic and with basmati rice

Henry's Ennis: Fishcake starter with Leek and Smoked Bacon Fondue

Red Cliff Spanish Point: Chicken liver paté, with Hennessy brandy, hazelnut crumb, cherry gel and sea salt toasts

Oar Doolin: Herb Crusted Cod fillet in a tomato and basil fondue is cooked to perfection. With buttered asparagus.

ORSO: Shakshuka with baked eggs, harissa, beans, spicy chorizo and crisp bread 

International Hotel: Cheese course featuring Gubbeen and Cashel Blue. and more!

Cush Ballycotton: Crab Claws came with Garlic Butter and Organic Leaves

Fisk Downings: Sardines with pickled veg

Wild Strands Malin: Haddock with Abernethy Black Garlic Butter on a flatbread

Ali's Kitchen: O’Connell’s smoked mackerel, roast tomato, salsa verde, leaves and caper, all on slices of toasted sourdough

The Bulman Kinsale: Oysters (hot) with Leek & Gruyere. Perhaps the best hot oyster dish I've ever had.

Cornstore: Hot Grilled Buffalo Oysters with ginger beer pickled samphire

River Lee Hotel: Afternoon Tea in the River Club

Nash 19: Superb pork, crowned with crackling

Foxford Mills Café: One of the amazing salad options for lunch in this lovely café

Blairs Inn Cloghroe: A very tasty, very generous, Venison stew.

Finns Table Kinsale: Slow Cooked Pork Belly and Pudding Bonbons, with cider and port and corn Salsa 

Good Day Deli: The GDD Smoked Salmon Benny with Frank Hederman’s superb fish.

Jacques: Turbot, hollandaise, green beans, olives and crispy potatoes

Farmgate Midleton: Smoked Salmon and Mussel Linguine in a lemon cream sauce served with garlic bread

Celtic Ross, Rosscarbery: Poached monkfish in saffron with Beluga lentil caviar, fermented lemon aioli, charred Waterfall Farms broccoli, and radish.

Strand Hotel, Limerick: Caramel Bavarois, plum compote and coconut, was colourful, delicate and heavenly.