Friday, September 30, 2022

Fota Gardens and Arboretum. A walk in the sun as Autumn begins

 Fota Gardens and Arboretum

As Autumn Begins.

(pics: 26.09.2022)


Fern Garden



Autumn border, Black-eyed Susies in foreground

Fota House (rear)

Italian Garden


Pampas Grass



Fota House & Arboretum & Gardens,

Fota Island, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork

Telephone: + 353 (0) 21 481 5543







Irish Distillers, maker of some of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys, is proud to introduce its latest expression in innovation with the launch of METHOD AND MADNESS Oats and Malt. Only the second-ever release from the company’s Micro Distillery, Oats and Malt is a limited-edition release that continues to push the boundaries for Irish whiskey.

Oats and Malt has been triple distilled at the Midleton Micro Distillery by Katherine Condon in copper pot stills using the finest Irish oats and malt. Masterfully handcrafted, the second METHOD AND MADNESS release produced in the Micro Distillery, pays tribute to the traditional malt flavours of sweet cereal, green apple and notes of lemon zest, while the inclusion of oats brings new tastes and aromas with notes of marshmallow and fudge along with a sumptuously creamy finish.

Amid the innovative playground that is the Micro Distillery, curiosity took hold as Distiller Katherine Condon began experimenting with a variety of grains and decided on the unique inclusion of oats alongside the traditional malted barley. Through experimentation, trial and error and an unquenchable thirst for an exceptional liquid, the team handcrafted different ratios until they found the perfect mash bill of 60% oats and 40% malt. When Eva joined the Micro Distillery in 2019 she oversaw the maturation of the distillate in ex-bourbon casks, finally settling on a 46% ABV liquid that has a soft texture yet crisp taste.

With the utmost respect for tradition combined with a curiosity for the extraordinary, Katherine Condon comments: “Nearly a year on from the release of METHOD AND MADNESS Rye and Malt, we are extremely proud to introduce the world to the second release from our Micro Distillery in Midleton. The innovations within Irish whiskey continue to play a key role in growing the industry and it is a joy to be a part of that with the work we do at the Micro Distillery.

The Oats and Malt release represents something exciting. By working with traditional malted barley in copper pot stills and combining this with Irish sourced oats, we are honouring our past while pushing forward with innovation. This is an extraordinary Irish whiskey offering that is a first for METHOD AND MADNESS.”

Eva O’Doherty continues: “Being able to challenge normality and push the boundaries of modern Irish whiskey is extremely exciting, but not without its challenges. We had lots of trial and error to ensure we could brew the oats without ending up with too viscous a texture.  It has been a privilege to work on something utterly innovative and to craft a final liquid that is truly exceptional.”

With this release, METHOD AND MADNESS is continuing its mission to further support the resurgence of Irish whiskey, drawing on new techniques, historic yet innovative mash bills and the restless curiosity of its craftspeople. Bottled at 46% ABV, the limited-edition METHOD AND MADNESS Oats and Malt Irish Whiskey will be available from September 30th in Ireland, the UK, Dublin Airport and online at the RRP of €95.

Tasting Notes:
Nose: Toasted Marshmallow, Pink Peppercorns, Orange Zest
Taste: Fudge, Citrus Oils, Green Chilli
Finish: Creamy Texture, Mild Tannins, Soft Oats

Launched in February 2017 to push the boundaries of Irish whiskey, METHOD AND MADNESS is crafted in Midleton Distillery, harnessing the creativity of Midleton’s whiskey masters through the fresh talent of its apprentices. Taking inspiration from the famous Shakespearean quote, ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t’, METHOD AND MADNESS is designed to reflect a next generation Irish spirit brand with a measure of curiosity and intrigue (MADNESS), while honouring the tradition grounded in the generations of expertise at Midleton Distillery (METHOD).

Press release

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Wine Ways: A marvellous Morgon from “rotten rock” and an ingenious Garnacha from concrete eggs. Wine+Jazz with Kate Barry

Wine Ways:

A marvellous Morgon from “rotten rock” 

and an ingenious Garnacha from concrete eggs


Kate Barry's World of Wine Tasting (and Jazz) at Le Caberet, Cork 28th October 5.30 pm. For info and tickets click here


Domaine de la Bonne Tonne Morgon (AOC) “Cote du Py” 2020, 14.5% ABV

€33 at The Vintry in Rathgar, Dublin; Manning's Emporium in Ballylickey &

Connemara Hamper in Clifden; Mary Pawle Wines

A ruby coloured gem from “rotten rock”!

This Morgan from the famed lieu-dit of Côte du Py has a darker shade of ruby than you’d expect for the Gamay grape. Intense, rich and inviting dark berry aromas, fresh and complex with a floral lift. The palate is also complex and rich, full of flavours (sour cherry, strawberry and raspberry), with a spicy vanilla character, all in balance through to a long and intense minerally finish. An amazing wine, consistent year after year, and once again Very Highly Recommended.

The producers were, and are, very happy, not to mention confident, with this one. “Let it age, if you can, to take advantage of the complexity. We would go blind on a very beautiful well-born Pinot…” Looks like a challenge to the neighbours in Burgundy!

The Morgon "Côte du Py", is the most famous climat of the vineyard. There are ten crus in the Beaujolais region and Morgon, as you probably know, is one of them. With the typical acidity, these wines can match a range of foods. One suggestion that I fancy is Moroccan Lamb Tagine with apricot. Open the wine into a carafe about 30 minutes before serving at 16°C. 

World famous for its exceptional soil resulting from ancient volcanic activity, the soil of the Py hill is composed of decomposing volcanic elements, with the presence of iron oxide and manganese. The blue rock is friable, and so the locals have been known to claim that the best Morgon are made on this land of  terre pourrie (rotten rock)!

Organic Agriculture. The work on the entire estate is manual with the use of animal traction (Vigano, a magnificent Comtois, is calling for help!) for ploughing. The vines (mainly old), on a south-west facing hillside are grassy or slightly scratched. The estate puts into practice certain elements from biodynamics (preparations, calendar). Yields are very limited (30hl/ha on average) and manual harvesting. Traditional Beaujolais vinification: semi-carbonic maceration in concrete vats for 18 days. No inputs: indigenous yeasts and no SO2 or chaptalisation. Aging in demi-muids (large casks of indefinite size). Very low doses of SO2 (<20mg/L) at bottling.


Vinedos Ruiz Jimenez Ingenium Garnacha, DO Rioja 2020, 13.5% ABV

€23.25 RRP. Mostly available in restaurants. Also at Mary Pawle Wines 

This limited production Ingenium comes in a pale red colour. Aromas are  moderately intense with stewed fruit and dried herbs in the mix. High intensity red fruit flavours highlight the palate, spicy too, but this is an elegant, smooth and well balanced wine. Just a little grip from the tannins as the Ingenium finishes dry and long. Very Highly Recommended.

Producers Ruiz Jimenez say it is the perfect option to accompany different dishes, meals, and snacks. "Either alone or with good company.”

Mary Pawle tells me this is a recent addition “to our range of wines from Vinedos Ruiz Jimenez…matured in concrete eggs  to provide greater complexity”. On the rather sparse front label (there is none on the back) you read Vino Tinto Elológico and no added sulphites.

While Garnacha is grown around the world, the vast majority of it is grown in France (here it is called Grenache) and Spain. Italy leads the distant chasing pack and here the grape is called Cannonau.

And why is the title Ingenium? The winemakers explain: “Ingenio, is in Spanish, ingenious, this is, the innate quality to invent, to create, to be original. Under this name, we present our most inventive wines. Natural, creative and of limited production. Our most inventive, creative and natural wines, with limited production.” Just three wines in this series. In addition to the Garnacha, they make a Tempranillo and also Maturana Blanca.

The Jimenez Winery is one of the better ones and Mary Pawle has quite a few of their wines on her list including the Graciano , that we Very Highly Recommended recently here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

MacCurtain Wine Cellar and Tuscany’s Capezzana, with a quartet of stunning reds, combine to spread a warming cheer on a miserable wet night in the city.


MacCurtain Wine Cellar and Tuscany’s Capezzana (with a quartet of stunning reds) combine to spread a warming cheer on a miserably wet night in the city. 

It wasn’t just the wine on Tuesday. There was a warm welcome from Sean Gargano and his crew at the Cellar. They also came up with some excellent small plates. Even tried to keep the summer going with a delicious Pet Nat (from the Veneto).

Sean, co-owner with Trudy Ahern,  did emphasise that wine always comes first here, that the food is secondary. In fairness, though, the food we were served was top notch and quite appropriate to the wines.

Soon, we got down to the serious (not really!) business of tasting those wines with gentle guidance from Pierpaolo Guerra of Capezzana who was accompanied by Marcus Gates of importers Liberty Wines.

Sweet potato

First up was their “baby wine, the everyday drinking wine”, the Barco Real di Carmignano 2019, a youthful, light and easy drinking blend of Sangiovese (75%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Canaiolo and Cabernet Franc. Pierpaulo explained that French grapes have a very long history here as we sipped this aromatic and fruity wine with a spicy finish. 

Barco Real is called the “Baby” because the fruit is sourced from slightly younger fruit and also spends less time in oak than the Villa di Capezzana 2018 that we would meet next. This was certainly a little more serious, full bodied with a concentrated finish and a slight touch of peppery spice. Again it is a traditional blend, this of Sangiovese (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon.

By the way, all their wines (even their superb olive oils) are organic. Sean made a point of this as organic is “very important to us” at MacCurtain Street Wine Cellar.

Speck and Macroom Mozzarella

Sean makes a point
Next on the list was the Ugo Contini Bonacossi 2016 from a vineyard where conditions are ideal for growing Sangiovese, the only varietal in this excellent wine. It has aromas of cherries and a touch of spice, red fruit abound on the palate and the full bodied beauty has a lengthy finish.

We finished with the Ghiaie della Furba. This 2018 had a tough growing season but all ended well. The yield was lower than normal (down 40%) but the quality was excellent. And so was the fruit and spice from the oak in the aromas; it was full bodied and balanced in the mouth and again a long and fruity finish. 

It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Syrah (35%) and Merlot (25%). Not quite a Bordeaux blend but a good one!

Mortadela (left in sandwich) and Spicy Sausage

The Capezzana estate, 24 km north west of Florence, is owned by the Conti Contini Bonacossi family. The family is mentioned in a contract dating back to 804 AD, written at the time of Charlemange. So they have been there a long long time and now a new generation is firmly in charge and,  going by these wines, making an excellent job of it.

In contrast to the ancient vineyard, the MacCurtain Wine Cellar is just a baby, a few months only. But already you can see that Sean and Trudy have give the intimate venue quite a personality. Look out for similar events in the months ahead!

Rainy night out. Red wine in

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

An impressive Austrian sparkling wine and an interesting semi-sparkling red from Piedmont.

An impressive Austrian sparkling wine and an interesting semi-sparkling red from Piedmont.

Loimer Brut Rosé Niederösterreich - Reserve Sekt NV, 12%

RRP €43.99

Sekt is the term for sparkling wine in Germany and Austria. This Brut Rosé Reserve blends Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and St. Laurent and spends at least 24 months on the lees. It is made with 20% reserve wines and 80% from the 2018 vintage. Bottled June 2019. Disgorged 2021. Dosage 2g/l. Traditional bottle fermentation, shaken by hand.

Good strong pink colour here with an amazing display of bubbles rising. Foam doesn’t last very long. Yeasty notes in the aromatics. The palate is mouth-filling, strawberry among the gentle fruit flavours, a pleasing mouthfeel with a lively acidity at play before a dry finish. 

The winemakers say this “comes very close to a champagne”. For me, it is better than many champagnes. Well worth a try. Very Highly Recommended.

The Loimer winery is based in the Kamptal region of Austria and it is biodynamic and Fred is a fan of cows: “Cow manure is the best you can find for composting.”  He mentioned this on a Zoom masterclass last year, following similar endorsements by Aurelio Montez (Chile) and Giovanni Manetti (Chianti Classico).

“… Use resources you find in your place, not to buy everything, but to find on the farm what you need to produce. For instance, we make our own compost and we buy very little. Second, you cannot separate plants and animals, nature works in a holistic way, together they have composted over the years to create the soil we have today.”

“Herbicide is a disaster. There is life in our soil. Always something going on, even in a small square, something like 60,000 lives in there, all doing something. We cover our soils, green cover, blooming cover. Our own compost is getting better and we spread it in the autumn and we also make compost tea out of it for spraying. Stinging nettles (they’re everywhere) and other herbs are also used for spraying teas.”

“Cow horns, many people don’t believe. You can’t really measure the impact of these preparations but you can see the difference. There is for sure an impact and cow manure is the best you can find for composting.”

Biodiversity is another essential plank. “Monoculture is a big problem today. It is necessary to create as much biodiversity as possible. Not one hundred per cent vineyard but always bushes, trees and grassland over the whole area.”

Latest from Austria. 2022 vintage seen as promising

The president of the Austrian Winegrowers’ Association Johannes Schmuckenschlager sees the 2022 vintage as promising, albeit with a somewhat lower harvest volume, in a season that has been challenging in terms of both climate and costs. “Austria’s winegrowers are already busily preparing for this year’s wine harvest. In places where grapes typically ripen earlier, such as the Seewinkel in Burgenland, harvesting has already begun. Due to the weather conditions, the harvest has begun slightly earlier than last year. In the best-case scenario, we can expect wine volumes to match the average of previous years at around 2.4 million hectolitres,” said Schmuckenschlager at a press conference in Vienna Friday (02.09.22)


Contero Brachetto D’Acqui (DOCG) 2021, 5% ABV

RRP €22.99: The Malt House, Blackrock Cellar,

Brachetto is a red wine Italian grape grown predominantly in the country’s Piedmont region.

This really delightful frizzante pours a deep pink from the screw-capped bottle and there’s a brief life for the bubbly pink head. Aromas are both floral (roses) and fruity (pomegranate, strawberry). There is a slight sweetness on the light and lively palate before a drier finish. A very pleasant low ABV wine and Highly Recommended.

Distributors Liberty tell us Contero is now owned by the Marenco family, who are Moscato and Brachetto specialists.  “The 11 hectare Contero estate remains one of the best producers of invigoratingly delicious Moscato d’Asti and Brachetto d’Acqui. The vineyards are situated on steep hills, on tufaceous-marl soils, in a perfect amphitheatre in the commune of Strevi (the heart of one of the best zones for Moscato in Piemonte).

The vines are superbly tended and produce fruit of stunning quality. The Moscato is lifted, fresh and frothing, while the Brachetto has a lovely rose petal character that emerges from the aromatic, grape-scented fruit.” 

The grapes were hand picked into wooden boxes and carefully selected. After gentle pressing, the must fermented on the skins for two to three days at low temperatures, in stainless steel tanks. The must was then separated from the skins, with fermentation halted at 5.5% volume alcohol by filtration to leave around 100g of sugar per litre. Bottling took place under pressure for a light sparkle. 

Brachetto d’Acqui is best enjoyed when served at a temperature of between 8 and 12°C. Excessive cooling should be avoided, because at cold temperatures, the wine’s aromas are not released, and their scent does not reach the palate.

Thanks to its moderate alcohol content, Brachetto d’Acqui is an excellent accompaniment for desserts and fruit, regaling even less sophisticated palates with delicious sensations. Sublime with fresh strawberries or ripe peaches in season: the aroma and scent of the fruit mingle with those of the wine, producing a heady and intensely pleasant floral bouquet.(From )

Brachetto d’Acqui has made a name for itself as an ingredient in mixed drinks, cocktails and aperitifs, proving an excellent accompaniment not only to sweets, but savouries, too. Try it with cold cuts and cheese.

Monday, September 26, 2022

A Quart of Ale± #125. On the craft journey with Dot Brew, Bradleys, Lough Gill, Blacks, Stone Barrel, Yards & Crafts

A Quart of Ale± #125

On the craft journey with Dot Brew, Bradleys, Lough Gill, Blacks, Stone Barrel, Yards & Crafts


Bradleys with Dot Nice One IPA, 6.00% ABV, 440ml Can 

Colour is a nice light gold, topped by a white bubbly top, one with a bit of stamina. Aromas of grapefruit and granadilla sweetness plus a hint of pine resin. Much the same on the palate, the fruit and pine still there plus a touch of peach and apricot right the way to the satisfying finish. 

Quite a combination, nothing out of synch here, good mouthfeel too. Excellent on all counts. Just might restore my faith in collaborations!

Geek Bits: Barley, Oats (flaked and malted), and Wheat are all included in the ingredients. And you have a healthy helping of US hops Simcoe and Amarillo.

Michael at Bradleys tells me they are now working with a new Irish delivery courier who use zero emission vehicles: “So whether it's the latest craft beer, fine wine or luxury whiskey, you can shop our online store and have it delivered anywhere in Ireland for just €5.” 

Lough Gill Sligo Bay American Pale Ale, 4.6%, 440ml can Bradleys

Colour is a light gold, hazy, with a soft white head. Aromas are moderate, led by citrus. Well balanced, as the makers indicate, between hops and malt, refreshing with a dry finish.

Lough Gill are happy with this one: “This American Pale Ale has a stunning bright golden colour. We've brewed it with a mix of cereals & American hops for a hop-forward yet malt-supported flavour. A bit special!”

The independent family run brewery is nestled close to the shores of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo and was established in 2016 by James Ward. Since opening their doors, the team have continued to produce high quality, exciting beers, ranging from bold stouts to brave sours.

The water, along with the name, come from nearby Lough Gill and that was also the name of the old brewery. It is not the first brewery for James and wife Valerie. Their initial venture, the White Hag, was the first brewery in Sligo for the best part of a century. After a couple of years, he sold it to its investor group and launched Lough Gill, with Anderson’s Ale, in November 2016.

Stone Barrel Boom Session IPA 4.5%, 440ml can Yards & Crafts

Colour is a mid-gold with a big soft white head.  Aromas are citrusy, with more exotic notes as well, such as Mango. The exotic flavours from the American hops are immediately apparent in the mouth all the way to a satisfactory smooth dry finish. Haven’t seen the hops detailed anywhere though they do mention on the web shop that they’ve used a “blend of American hops balanced by the delicate yet complex malt bill”. 

Stone Barrel beers are brewed by Third Barrel in Dublin. So, who are Stone Barrel?

“Well, what can we say, we’re two home-brewers who brew bigger.

Niall Fitzgerald and Kevin McKinney are the founders, brewers and driving force behind Stone Barrel Brewing. We both have a huge passion and appetite for all things in craft beer, from making to drinking and everything in between.

We launched Stone Barrel in November 2013 with one simple aim, to brew the kind of craft beers we love drinking. The good thing is that we love them all!

Like most home-brewers, we dreamed of one day opening a brewery. So, after a lot of planning, stress, blood, sweat, tears and hugs, we’re here. We’re living the dream and dreaming of beer!

It’s all good!”

Blacks Mango & Mosaic IPA, 5.0% ABV, 440ml can Bradleys

Summer drink with a summer colour, shiny gold, and a white crown. Fruit aromas, with mango (which is included as an ingredient) heading the exotic posse. And so it goes onto the palate, those mango flavours surfing across with the Mosaic catching up towards the finish to give you something of a refreshing crisp and bitter finalé. Not a bad outcome at all! If you like Mango a lot.