Sunday, May 31, 2020

Da Mirco’s Italian Meal Matches Weekend Sun!

Mirco’s Italian Meal Matches Weekend Sun!

With the sun high in the blue sky, a call to Osteria Da Mirco’s in Bridge Street (Cork) provided just the food to match the occasion. Mirco, like quite a few restaurants these Covid days, is keeping in touch with customers via his Click & Collect service.

Ever since I enjoyed Cannelloni on a backstreet near Rome's Piazza Navona, I’ve been a fan of that Italian dish and, once I spotted it on Mirco’s menu, there was no doubt about my pick.
Hot in the city. Saturday.

There was lots more to choose from, of course, including Lasagna Bolognese, Parmigiana di Melanzane, Pollo alla Diavola e Nduja, and Polpette al Sugo (Italian meatballs), all available in trays for two or four people. All well-priced also; for example, our Cannelloni was €15.00 for two.

He does a small selection of pizzas as well and there’s no shortage of sides and sauces, including his own Focaccia, his Insalata Caprese and more. Then there’s Patate Al Forno (Oven roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes) and Verdure al Forno (Oven roasted mediterranean Vegetables), each a fiver. We enjoyed the spuds there before, so that was our pick.

Desserts also on offer, including Tiramisu (which, you may like to know, contains alcohol!). And speaking of alcohol, just click the drinks tab and  you’ll see Italian wines and beers, and a couple of Irish drinks as well from 9 White Deer and Stonewell.

And that leaves the Shop tab. There’s quite a selection here of Italian specialities including coffee, cheese, deli meats, balsamic vinegars, olives and vegetables. Here, we found our Mediterranean Marinated Artichokes 200g tub (Small artichoke quarters. They are seasoned with olive oil, garlic and parsley. They can be served as delicious side dishes or used to garnish Da Mirco's homemade focaccia bread and savoury flans !) - another great fiver’s worth!

We used a few of those artichokes as a starter and used the rest of them in a couple of salads over the weekend. Different and delicious.
Chester Cake

The Cannelloni (Cannelloni Pasta filled with Ricotta Cheese, Spinach with Tomato sauce) was easily heated, didn’t take long, and it was absolutely superb. And with the sun still shining, I could have been right there in that Roman back street. Indeed, I think we had more sun here than in that narrow street where the tall buildings blocked out most of the sun.

I didn’t buy a wine from Mirco, simply because I had one  ready and waiting at home, a Barbara by fiercely independent Piedmont winemaker Water Massa, a light, easy-drinking and fruity Rosso (bought as part of a mixed 6-bottle box from Bradley’s). Its lovely acidity makes it a terrific table wine.

Satisfyingly full after that delicious meal, we waited a while for the dessert, also already in the house. Delighted to make the acquaintance again of the award-winning Chester Cake from McSweeney’s Foodstore, Burton Place, Gardinders Hill, Cork, washed down with an excellent Golden Bean Coffee (their Capim Branco,  Brasil). Ciao!

Da Mirco
4 Bridge Street

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Amuse Bouche

When I started to work on the organisation and setup at Paris Saint-Germain, introducing a restaurant was one of my first priorities. I knew from my time in Milan how important it was for the players to have meals together, to help form a tighter unit. I wanted to bring the family environment I knew so well from Milan to Paris, and mealtimes are an important part of family life. This is how I like the culture of the club to be and I consider the family atmosphere fundamental to success.

from Quiet Leadership, winning hearts, minds and matches by Carlo Ancelotti (2016). Recommended.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Canadian Duo Keep Nyetimber Top In English Sparkling Wine.

Canadian Duo Keep Nyetimber Top
 In English Sparkling Wine.

Married couple Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix first joined Nyetimber, the leading English Sparkling Wine producer, as winemakers in 2007, after trying a bottle gifted to them by Cherie’s parents. They instantly recognised the promise of this early wine, and since 2007, Cherie (now the head winemaker) and Brad have been integral to building Nyetimber into a sparkling wine producer that rivals the best in the world.

Liberty Wines MD David Gleave introduced the Canadian couple at the start of the latest in a superb series of online masterclasses and said it was fascinating to watch the couple guide Nyetimber to a step-up in style and quality over the last ten years or so. “The fact that Nyetimber are No.1 for years is down to attention to the small details, and that was acknowledged in 2018 when Cherie was awarded Sparkling Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge – the first time that the accolade was awarded to a winemaker outside Champagne, an achievement which speaks for itself.”

Brad was keen to tell us about the details, enthusiastic that they were given free rein so “we can go deep” and they did. Nyetimber was founded in 1988 “when the holy trinity of sparkling wine grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – found a new home in the lee of the South Downs.” And it did well and even better when new owner Eric Heerema arrived in 2006 and soon he recruited Canadians Cherie and Brad.

Now Nyetimber stretches over three English counties (Hampshire, West Sussex and Kent). In all there are 327 hectares and 11 vineyard sites, including one newly planted.

So why sparkling wine in this area of England? Take a look at the geological chart and you’ll see that the similarity between here and the Champagne area in France.

Cherie took us into the soil, the two types here: Greensand and Chalk. And one big advantage is that both are free-draining, essential to cope with the English rain. Take a look at the climate chart to see the numbers between April and September. Note too that the Nyetimber budburst, flowering, véraison and harvest all fall 3 to 4 weeks behind Champagne. One good thing about the delay is that “sugar, flavour, and phenolics all converge towards the end, a very good factor in England”.

“If you’re serious about sparkling wine, you pick by hand,” Brad emphasised. As they pick, they use trays that are wide and shallow so that grapes at the bottom aren't damaged. 

It is all about care and attention and of course that extends to the winery. They have a state of the art pressing facility, “very simple, ultra gentle”. Here the juice is divided into three “fractions”: “cuvée”, 1st press, 2nd press. The cuvée is more or less guaranteed a place in the final product, the 1st press (itself divided into two, 1A and 1B!) may or may not be chosen while the 2nd and final press goes to the compost. The selections are all done by taste!

For bottling “you need a healthy yeast culture, but yeasts need a lot of air, a lot of aeration. But at Nyetimber, we said to ourselves, they don’t need all that aeration.” So they modified the line to get a little nitrogen in and, after quite a few trials, were rewarded when the wines showed extra freshness by comparison with those that hadn't got the nitrogen treatment. And not just freshness, more elegance and purity as well, “an amazing difference”. And so they “rolled it out in 2011.”

3 sections
Sparkling Wine lovers are always keen for extra information. Nyetimber are not shy and make it easy to find out various dates such as bottling, riddling (a more important date than many think, according to Cherie) and disgorgement. If you have a bottle of Nyetimber you’ll see a code on it. Go to the website, enter your bottle’s code and you’ll get all the info you need!

Brad then held up what looked like a black bottle. It is in fact an amber one. But why amber? Brad joked: “It makes a nice back-drop for the packaging!”. “But, much more importantly, it protects the wine from particularly harmful wavelengths of light.”

And then Cherie talked to us about closures, beginning with traditional cork. Did you know the cork is divided into three layers? And that the thin bottom layer must be of the very highest quality. But the duo weren’t totally happy with their corks early on. “Traditional cork can bring extra flavours, nice ones like vanilla, but it is not consistent.” 

DIAM is an artificial cork, one material from top to bottom, that looks much like the traditional one and Nyetimber decided to do multiple trials. The result was that DIAM proved the more consistent and is now used on their bottles since 2008.

Stainless steel is their vessel of choice for fermentation as it can keep the character of the vineyard “pretty pure”. By the way, their vineyards are subdivided into over 100 + plots, so they have 100+ tanks, all with individual controls.

During the closing Q&A session, they were asked about the “absolutely astonishing 2009 Prestige Cuvée”.
Cherie said they had often thought about the possibility, from the early days. “Then came the quite extraordinary 2009 vintage, everything perfect. While blending, we felt we had the components across the three grape varieties. Afterwards we knew we needed significant time before release and it took us until Autumn 2018 to bring it to market. It was a big decision as the industry is relatively new in the UK and we have to make important decisions without the comfort blanket of history.”

Q: How is the 2020 vintage shaping up?
A: “It’s been an unusual year. Spring was generally good but then came very late frosts in some vineyards. May's been wonderful so if no frost damage, it will be great, if there is frost damage, normal. In years like this, we are grateful for the spread of vineyards and counties.”

Delightful. Insightful. Masterclass by Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi in Chianti Classico

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Three Highly Recommended European Whites

Three Highly Recommended European Whites
Catarratto. Vintage 2019

Baglio Bianco Catarratto Terre Siciliane (IGP) 2018, 11%, €19.55 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

A few days of skin maceration gives this its amber colour. Colour is not the only result from the three or four days of skin contact, as you’ll note. The nose is rich too, apple and cinnamon in the mix. The palate also is rich and textured. It’s full of flavour and a bit spicy too and it’s dry all the way to the long finish. Highly Recommended.

Bianco is certainly a bit of a misnomer here as this is most definitely an orange wine, a cloudy deep amber in colour, unfined and unfiltered. And Le Caveau say it is a “fantastic introduction” to orange, “both from a flavour and price point of view”.

Orange wines also have a higher level of tannins, more like red wines, and indeed can match foods where previously red would have been the only choice. Some orange wines can be tough going if you’re not used to them but this one is quite easy-drinking. 

Pairings suggested by the importers are free range pork with apple sauce; a herby roast chicken; and cheeses such as Durrus. Catarratto, by the way, is Sicily’s, and Italy’s, most popular white wine grape. Baglio also produce a red from the Nero D’Avola grape. Their organic Rosso is fresh and fruity and also a delicious easy drinker.

Millet Sauvignon Blanc Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2019, 11.5%, €12.95, Wines Direct

Colour is a very pale straw.  The fresh vibrancy of the aromas (floral notes, pear) make an immediate impression, a good one, and that follows through onto the lively palate where citrus fruits and an invigorating acidity go all the way through to the decent finish. 

Quite a lovely wine from Armagnac country where much of the grape harvest goes to the distilleries to make the local brandy (don’t ever ever call for a Cognac around here!). Millet themselves say they are devoted to “the production of Armagnac”. A very enjoyable wine and Highly Recommended. Must try and remember this for Sauvignon Blanc Day next year.

Millet recommend serving at 9 ° C, alone as an aperitif, or with a meal. “It harmoniously accompanies starters, goat cheese, Landes asparagus, fish and shellfish.” Importers Wines Direct point in the direction of Rich Fish, Light Fish and Shellfish, Hard Cheese, Fresh Greens
Esteban Martin “Viña Canal” blanco Cariñena (DOP) 2018, 12.5%, €* Wines Direct
This blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo has a light straw colour. Pleasant, if delicate, aromas with both floral and fruity notes. Lively and fruity (tropical hints), good acidity as well and a decent finish. Excellent aperitif and should go well with fish and shellfish. Versatile and Highly Recommended.
Cariñena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) for wines produced in the area of the same name which is in the province of Zaragoza (Aragón, Spain). It was awarded DO status in 1932. 

€* Bought in mixed case.

Cheers. Latest Episode #4 . Keeping You Up To Date With Wine, Beers, and Spirits

Cheers. Latest Edition: #4 Keeping You Up To Date With Wine, Beers, and Spirit

Kylie's Rosé Passion

To coincide with her birthday on May 28th, pop icon Kylie Minogue launches her signature French rosé in collaboration with Benchmark Drinks.

Kylie Minogue Rosé is an elegant, bespoke blend made from Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from the sun-drenched southern French Coast, a region known for its innovative viticulture. With a deliciously juicy and fresh first impression, the elegant blend features a beautifully pale pink shade with delicate, alluring aromas of fresh summer berries and white blossom, refined and refreshing on the palate with a fruity, crisp finish.

The wine is beautifully presented in a long-neck curved bottle with an engraved label featuring Kylie’s signature, finished off with a bespoke pearlescent capsule.

Kylie Minogue’s debut Rosé Vin de France will be launching in Ireland on and Carry Out Off Licences at an RRP of €12.99. 

Bank Holiday Offers from O'Briens

Bangin' Biodynamics - Mixed Case From Wines Direct

It is no secret we are unabashedly boastful about Biodynamic wine and their brilliant winemakers. You can always pick out the Biodynamic vineyard over their neighbours. The Biodynamic vineyard is alive with bees and wildflowers. As you walk the rows, one experiences a real joy of the senses visually and aromatically. Details on case here

Bank Holiday Sunshine From Red Nose Wine
What a week. The sunshine is definitely helping. And it’s a Bank Holiday even if there is nowhere to go. With that in mind, why not treat yourself this weekend. More and more local businesses are doing takeaway so support one of them, give yourself a break and treat yourself to some sun worshipping wines on this strangest of June Bank Holiday weekends.

We have a big delivery due in for the weekend and some of the highlights include. There are loads of Red coming too, but it is too hot to think about them as I type. More here.

Chateau Feely's Aroma Brain Tasting Experience 12 June

Join us live for a one hour tasting experience- introduction to wine tasting and developing your ‘Aroma Brain’. A journey into wine tasting with a side of aromatherapy. This is complementary to the 2nd event but can be taken separately. More info here.

Wine from a can? Could you? Can You?
Craft beer drinkers have had it their own way for too long. That’s the view of drinks industry veteran Karen Hardwick who believes that the moment in time for quality wine in a can has finally arrived. Zeitgeist Ünion – or ZÜ for short – is her company and its debut wine is Grüner Veltliner, a wine that is loved by Anne Krebiehl MW, who caught up with Hardwick to find out more about ZÜ and how the project came about and why we will all be drinking wine from a can in the not too distant future. Read more. Via The Buyer

Time for US Wine to Follow the EU

The one grocery store item that gets away with revealing nothing about its contents is wine. Food products are required by law in most countries to reveal everything in them. But wine has always gotten a pass.
The EU is moving to change that. Read more here via Wine-Searcher

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bottoms Up with Belgian and Irish Beers. #3

Bottoms Up with Belgian and Irish Beers.

Porterhouse Hersbruker Hops Pilsner, 5.0%, 500ml bottle

Gold in colour, nice white head (doesn’t last long), plenty of bubbles. Fruity, floral and spicy aromas. A very pleasant step-up on the normal lager, good clean taste, excellent backbone of hops, a refreshing balanced Pilsner, and very satisfying overall.

They say: a classic Mittel Europa style of Pilsner and a seriously good night.This is a classic, stylish Pilsner. Think Rolling Stones, not Justin Bieber. We brew for taste and in the brewing we look carefully at how we do it. We don’t add any “extras” – no additives, no enhancing chemicals. Just simple, pure ingredients.

By the way, how many think of Justin Bieber while having a pint?

Closed with cap, with pull-off tab. Label tells us it’s an Honest Independent Beer. No guidance on bottle as to serving temperature, but around the 8 degree marks seems fine.
Malts: Lager Malt, Cara Malt, Vienna Male, Munich Malt
Hops: Galena, Nugget, Hallertau Hersbrucker, Hallertau Perle.

Wicklow Wolf “Apex Oatmeal Stout”, 6.5%, 440ml can

Pours black with a short-lived coffee head. Chocolate and coffee mingle on the smooth and slightly sweet palate. Creamy and full flavoured from start to finish. Nothing wrong with cream, as we know very well in Cork, but personally I’d prefer a little more bite, just a little, from the black wolf.

They say: A member of the Alpha Pack, their core range, Apex champions a heavy malt bill, brewed with only the best flaked Irish Oats, specialty chocolate and coffee malts. Expect an intense burst of fresh roast coffee, milk chocolate & a delicious creamy smoothness. A full flavoured stout that will leave you wanting more.

Hops used is Apollo and the advice is to serve this stout at 8 degrees.

Did you know, they have their own hop farm in Roundwood?  They are committed to sustainability - that’s why they’ve moved from bottles to cans - and you can also read about that on the site.

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel, 7%, 33cl bottle

As you pour, note the raised Trappist collar around the neck, a material reminder that this revered beer comes from the Westmalle abbey, about 40 minutes drive east of Antwerp.
Colour is a reddish brown with a big off white head. The mildly intense aromas of ripe banana, caramel and hops are unusual, at least to me.  And you’ll find that mildness also as you savour the complex taste (remember this beer has had a re-fermentation in the bottle), malt and fruit in harmony, right through to the fresh and hoppy dry finalé. An elegant grown up beer to be served at 6-14 degrees. 
The brewer makes three beers. Westmalle Tripel and Dubbel are sold by stores and served in cafés and restaurants in Belgium and the Netherlands. You will also find them in selected outlets around the world.
Westmalle Extra is only brewed twice a year and is produced for the monks’ own use. The monks and their guests consume it with their midday meal.
What to pair with your Dubbel? Check some very interesting suggestions here.
Westmalle Abbey forms part of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. All communities in the Order maintain ties of mutual solidarity. Each community is a training school in the art of loving thy neighbour. This love and solidarity is extended to all people of good will, as can be clearly seen in the way visitors are received at the abbey.  

Straffe Hendrik Brugs Tripel, 9%, 33cl bottle

This comes from Bruges in a golden robe with a big white head. Mildly citrusy in the aromas. Citrus again on the palate, banana too. Early sweetness turns to bitterness, caramel to citrus, as we reach the finish where the hops come into their own. Well made, well balanced. So far though, the best Belgian has been the Duvel Tripel Hop Citra.

They say: The name means strong Henri. Straffe Hendrik Tripel is a golden triple with a sturdy white collar. The aroma is spicy with hints of black pepper, coriander and ginger, and is even insinuating the presence of oranges.

The beer is brewed with a selection of Saaz and Styrian hops of a very high quality. The subtle blend of six special varieties of malt gives the beer a well-balanced and powerful taste. Refermentation in the bottle generates a long natural shelf life. Serving temperature: 6 degrees.

Food pairing advice: The combination with zesty fish plates is a real treat, but Straffe Hendrik can also be paired with cheeses such as Camembert or Bruges Blomme. Straffe Hendrik is known to be a real delicacy when combined with desserts based on pineapple or mango.

The round, by the way, it not like a boxing round. Not really looking for a winner here. If we have four winners, then so much the better, for me!

Also in this series:
An Irish and Belgian Beer Quartet play a pretty tune on a Friday evening.
Best of Beers. Another Belgian v Irish Round #2

All the beers above were bought in Bradley's, North Main Street, Cork.
Their Belgian Selection box (12 bottles) costs €45.00.
Their Irish Selection box (14 bottles/cans) costs €65.00. 

More details here.