Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Porter, IPA and Artisan Coffee in Eight Degrees Christmas Pack

A Quart of Ale± #25A

Moving on over to craft with Eight Degrees at Christmastime

Porter, IPA and Artisan Coffee in Eight Degrees Christmas Pack 

All six of the Munro series

Eight Degrees The Black Road Campfire Porter 6.5%

Not too long ago, I used to frequent a bar where there were three stouts on offer. It really had to be a Cork bar. And it was. The good old boys, and some not so old, had a certain skill. 

The barman was always ahead of the thirsty posse, filling pints and lining them up. Which was the Guinness? Murphy’s? Beamish? Some fellows could tell by the colour. Others by tapping the full pint with a fingernail. I was always impressed. But I think those good old boys would be lost today with the variety of the black stuff, both stout and porter, available, thanks to the rise of craft beer producers.

Just got one of the most recent in my hands, the Black Road Campfire Porter by Mitchelstown’s Eight Degrees. It, along with Fort of the Fianna Belgian IPA, both form part of the Mitchelstown’s brewery’s Irish Munro series and each features in their widely available Christmas special, the pack completed by a bag of superb coffee from Badger & Dodo, the local roaster.

Initial signs from the porter are good, the classic mahogany/black with a coffee coloured head. Aromas are smoky, coffee. The palate is smooth, complex, caramel and that smoke trace again; chocolate and coffee and sweet caramel take me home.

The Eight Degree folks are naturally adventurous. Who wouldn’t be if you live in the vicinity of their beloved Galtymore. Irish Munros are peaks over 3,000 ft. Many of these peaks belong to the MacGillycuddy Reeks in Kerry, one is in Wicklow, and then, towering over the Mitchelstown brewery, is Galtymore. 

The Galtees are not just decorative. “These mountains are also key to us producing world class beers, producing wonderfully soft water via its red sandstone ridges. The Black Road is the hillwalker route up Galtybeg and onto the higher Galtymore for magical views across the countryside. Inspired by the mountains, we’ve brewed a porter using Belgian and German malts that impart beech- and oak-smoked flavours along with coffee notes.”


Malt: Irish pale ale malt, beech smoked malt, oak smoked wheat, café malt, CaraAroma, chocolate malt.
Hops: A light bittering of Nugget.
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 12

I just love Eight Degrees. They tell good yarns, make great beers and are always game for a laugh. And always come up with Food Pairings. In this case: This smooth sipper is eminently suited to campfire foods: bonfire bangers, or sausages, cooked on sticks over a woodfire, potatoes slow roasted in the embers and bubbling pots of homemade baked beans with lots of smoked paprika. 


Eight Degrees “Fort of the Fianna” Belgian IPA 5.4%

Clear and gold in the glass, this September issue in the Eight Degrees Irish Munro series takes you to the summit. Whether mountain high or just atop a bar stool, this Belgian IPA is one to enjoy.

The short-lived head doesn't last as a long as a foggy cap on the head of Kerry’s Caher, which just about qualifies as an Irish Munro. The flavour though, strong and hoppy, is long-lived, a bit like the legendary Fianna who, with leader Fionn MacCumhaill, enjoyed their adventures across the Irish mountains long before the invention of those para-glider things. Sorry, Mr Kiwi!

But big congrats to all at Eight Degrees for yet another superb beer in this series. Excellent citrus and floral notes here, smooth and soft and a dry and bitter finish. A very satisfying taste adventure whether mountain high or just atop a bar stool.

They say: We added our current favourite hop Loral into the whirlpool for this Belgian IPA, followed by dry hopping with the elite new experimental HBC 522, which has strong citrus and floral notes. Singing above all this is our Belgian yeast strain of choice: BE256 is a quick attenuator producing a clean beer with hints of spice, clove and banana. Raise a glass to the Fianna.


Style: Belgian IPA
Malt: Irish pilsner malt, wheat.
Hops: Loral, dry hopped with HBC 522.
Yeast: BE256
ABV: 5.4%
IBUs: 44

Food advice: The delicious bitter flavour of this beer will play happily with a big serving of the best Belgian-style frites and mayo. Add a side of Glenbeigh moules for extra glory, but hold the lemon. You’ve all the bitterness you need in the glass. Try with a Moroccan butternut squash casserole to cut through the sweet veg and play happily with those spices. For the ultimate pairing, get a slice of pumpkin pie; the fruit and floral flavours of the beer will enhance the savoury-sweetness of this quintessential autumn desert.

Get social: #FiannaBelgianIPA

And more news from Eight Degrees: We've also released the final beer in our IRISH MUNRO Series; Devil's Ladder Belgian Tripel aged in sherry casks. This is the pinnacle of our 2020 series, a beautiful beast of a beer which can straddle both sides of the Christmas meal. Chill and serve in small sherry glasses to start, with a selection of tapas-style nibbles: good olives, smoky roasted almonds, salty anchovies. For a sweet ending, serve it at room temperature in a brandy snifter to offer a delicious counterpoint to Christmas pudding, chocolate Bûche de Noël, or even a creamy stilton.  

Think I'll keep that one until the big day itself!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Supervalu's Wine Santa has been busy, blending quality and value in the run-up to Christmas

Supervalu's Wine Santa has been busy, blending quality and value in the run-up to Christmas.

Kevin O’Callaghan, Supervalu’s wine expert, has wines galore “from across the globe” reduced in their Christmas offering. “A harmonious blend of classic and modern wines with some household names and unmissable prices”. Offers are available from November 26th to December 30th or until stocks last.

It was wines from the classic areas that caught my eye, Sancerre and Chablis in the whites, Bordeaux and Beaujolais in the reds. Let us start with the whites (reds next week!). The Sancerre got the biggest thumbs up around here!

Guy Saget Sancerre (AOC) 2018, 13.5%, €15.00 (19.66)

From the Ambassadeur de Loire, this Sancerre has a very light straw colour, clean and bright. Aromas are the regular suspects of grass and herbs, and nettles which seem to led the charge here. This is of course 100% Sauvignon Blanc and this Loire version is precise and refreshing, less pungent than its New Zealand counterpart (none the worse for that), a very satisfactory drink right to the dry finish.

Food pairings suggested are: grilled fish, Crottins de Chavignol (goats cheese), tandoori chicken skewers, sushi and sashimi. More than likely you won’t get the Chavignol around here but Ardsallagh or St Tola will do just as well.

Supervalu say: The mission of the Guy Saget brand is to demonstrate to the highest level Saget Le Perrière’s intention to unravel the extreme complexity associated with the Loire Valley vineyards. A complete collection of the finest Loire will seduce you, thanks to their authenticity and accessibility.

It’s a mission that they take seriously.  The Guy Saget portfolio embraces around thirty appellations, all of them showing hallmark Loire features. These include Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, Chinon, Vouvray and Muscadet : 

- Dry whites : Muscadet, Muscadet-sur-lie,... 

- Medium sweet whites : Vouvray… 

- Sweet whites : Coteaux du Layon, Quarts-de-Chaume... 

- Dry rosés : Rosé de Loire, Touraine Rosé... 

- Medium sweet rosés : Cabernet d'Anjou, Rosé d'Anjou... 

- Reds : Chinon, Anjou, Saumur Champigny... 

- Sparkling wines : Crémant de Loire, Touraine sparkling wines...

No wonder he claims the title of Ambassadeur de Loire on the label of this excellent Sauvignon.

I made a superb Kir with this and the Wexford Cassis from the Blackwater Distillery in West Waterford, the ratio about six to one.

Andre Goichot Chablis (AOC) 2018, 12.5%, €15.00 (19.66)

Always a frisson of excitement when a glass of Chablis is offered.

This 2018 doesn’t let the side down. Far from it. A light gold colour, pristine. Apple and pear feature in the pleasant aromas. It is, of course, made from nothing but Chardonnay grapes and it is strikingly crisp from first taste, carrying some lovely white fruit flavours, maybe a touch of lime as well, as it spreads across the palate, clean, precise and harmonious, like a Bach partita, right through to the finalé.

No wonder Supervalu declare that it is “the classic partner to seafood and white meat dishes”. It is indeed but this characterful wine, rich and elegant, can effortlessly stand on its own.

Founded in 1947, Andre Goichot, headquartered near Beaune, are both negociant and producer, meaning that they buy wines from different areas and producers and also make wine from their own vineyards.

Abellio Albariño Rias Baixas (DO) 2019, 12.5%, €10.00 (13.76).

Made entirely from hand-harvested Albarino grapes, this Spanish wine, from the Rias Baixas area, has a mid-gold colour. Quite rich aromas of white fruit, apple and pear, and also peach. There is a striking refreshing minerality on the palate where the same fruit flavours shine through fresh and crisp.

The Albarino grape is a distinctive Northern Spanish variety. Its refreshing characteristics make it very versatile with fish and particularly with seafood. Often recommended for Asian also.

Albarino, more modern than classic in terms of its history in Ireland, is most readily associated with the Rias Baixas region which is named after the long-ish Atlantic coastal inlets (or rías) that characterise the landscape here in Galicia in north-western Spain. The grape is also prominent in nearby northern Portugal where it is known as Alvarinho. This Abellio is a favourite of mine. And also a favourite of Supervalu’s wine-buyer Kevin O’Callaghan who was involved in the attractive label design.

Don’t forget your case offers!

We will feature the reds in the next post on this sale but do note that they have two case deals (both red) on offer. The first (on now until December 30th) features Barão de Vilar Reserva (2018), velvety and fruity with an elegant finish and will cost you €50 euro, down from the RRP of €89.00. Believe it or not, you can save another tenner by buying between November 26th and December 9th and taking advantage of the “buy any six bottles and save an additional €10.00 offer”.

Later in the month, watch out for the second case offer. Here the temptation is the Italian Vivaldi Ripasso (2018), aromatic, full bodied, soft and warm, the temptation enhanced by the asking price of €40.00 instead of €94. You just gotta love Signore O’Callaghan. You’ll have to be on your toes for this one - it is short lived: from December 17th to 20th. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Christmas Cheer Reviewed. Including Drinks Gluten Free & Alcohol Free

Summer Beer Downed In December
Including Drinks Gluten Free & Alcohol Free

Very much into seasonal when it comes to my food. Not so much when it’s beer. Especially when there’s a can handy, a can from Eight Degrees called Orange Ball 5. It’s part of their 8th year anniversary celebration series called Rack ‘Em Up and intended to be a summertime sup.

But I come across it late-ish, on a December night on the run-in to Christmas, spot the 3.9 abv and I say to myself that this Fruity Pale Ale fits the bill. Athgarret Malt, Ireland’s newest maltsters, as suppliers of the wheat and oats, get much of the credit. Credit too though to the brewers at the Mitchelstown brewery who came up with this fruity sessional pale ale, silky sunshine on a cloudy day. Just the job to fit this Bill, late on a windy Friday night. A juicy wet sunshine-ey kiss, declares the label. A kiss for all seasons, methinks.

Staying a bit out of sequence here, all the better to draw your attention to the Blue Ball, number 2 in the series. This one’s a coffee infused Vienna Lager (4.50%). You usually come across coffee in stouts but the Eight Degrees boffins went outside the box - they usually do - when they got together with local coffee roaster Badger & Dodo.

I admit to be being a little sceptical when I pulled this one. So it was quite a pleasant surprise when I found the combination worked a treat both on the nose and on the palate. The balance is just spot-on, another winner racked up in North Cork. By the way, who is Dodo? I have met the badger, better known as Brock.

The Christmas dinner was excellent, both food and company, and gave me a chance to pot the black. The  #8 Black Ball Metric Stout that is! Aged in Jameson whiskey barrels, the big bold (11.5%) stout proved quite a match for the Christmas pudding.

For all the excellent beers in the Rack ‘Em Up eight, my favourite remains the Howling Gale Irish Pale Ale. It is the first beer Eight Degrees ever brewed, back in 2011. Perfect then. Perfect now.

Just going back to Christmas Day. We had quite a few visitors. Some were driving so I made sure to have a few non alcoholic beers in the house. The newish Dungarvan Brewery Main Sail was one and that went down well. One guy enjoyed the Erdinger but no one tried the Russian Baltica.

The big alcoholic attraction though was the Chateau Turcaud "Cuvée Majeure" Bordeaux blanc, a beautiful wine in an impressive magnum, a present for our 50th earlier in the year!

As usual there were bubbles - of various types. And here a local Elderflower cordial, made by Maura’s Kitchen and bought at Killavullen Market, came into its own, drawing lots of compliments. Sometimes, it was mixed with sparkling wine and, where the request was for no alcohol, with sparkling water. Really made quite a favourable impression all round.

Bīru, appropriately enough since it is the Japanese word for beer, is the name of a premium light lager with an abv of 4.3%, which also proved a favourite. It is a Japanese inspired rice beer;  ingredients also include water, malted barley, maize and hops and is also gluten free.

It certainly tastes pretty well with a very smooth mouthfeel. Easy-drinking, light and refreshing, with very little bittering, it is an ideal session drink. It is contract brewed by Cork’s Cotton Ball Brewery.

As you probably know, the 9 White Deer Brewery, from Baile Bhúirne, have a full range of Gluten Free beers and their Stag Bán ale was very popular with our guests. 

So there you are. More than one way to a Happy Christmas! Now here’s to a happy 2020.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

SuperValu Christmas Wines. A few tips before you shop!

SuperValu Christmas Wines.
 A few tips before you shop!

Reckon I hit the jackpot with the Castellani Vermentino, my first pick from the current SuperValu Christmas Wine range. It’s a beauty as you may read below. Reductions on a large selection of wines, both red and white, and beyond, continue right up to closing time on Christmas Eve. This post, the first of two, takes a look at the whites (plus sparkling) and may help you with your choices.

Castellani Vermentino Toscana (IGT) 2017, 12.5%, 10.00 (16.99)

Vermentino may not be one of the better known white grapes but it is one of those Mediterranean whites that I like and this is one hundred per cent Vermentino. I like this one too and it is especially good value at the moment.

Colour is a very pale straw, very clear and bright liquid. Inviting aromas, with white fruit along with herbal and floral notes. Quite smooth on the palate, stone fruit flavours, long with a lively acidity which should help it with food. Soups, chicken salad, fish courses and appetizers are suggested by the producer.
Abellio Albarino Rias Baixas (DO), 12.5%, €10.00 (was 14.99).
I never say no to an Albarino and this zesty and well balanced Abellio is a favourite of mine. It is ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. The medium intense aromas are of white fruit. It has a smooth character on the palate, refreshing with intense fruit (pear, apple and peach).

For a few Euro more….

Goichot is the “maison” behind the Chablis on offer, at 15 euro. This, of course, is a Chardonnay, dry and fresh. If this is your first Chablis, you’ll probably find it much drier and fresher than the  non-Burgundian Chardonnays you've been drinking. It has the characteristic mineral aromas that hint of the dryness and freshness to come on the palate. It is quite a gorgeous mouthful, fruit and acidity in good balance and a super dry finalé.

Sauvignon Blanc Fans….
No doubt, there are a few Sauvignon Blanc fans out there and SuperValu have you well covered. The very classy Guy Saget Sancerre is out on its own. And you may also choose from a Brancott Estate, a Graham Norton edition, along with those from the reliable Chilean producers Santa Rita and Cono Sur. Over to you! Enjoy responsibly.

By the way, you can benefit again if you buy 6 bottles as that entitles you to another tenner off the total. In that case, a ten euro bottle actually costs you €8.33. Over to you! Enjoy responsibly.


Gran Troya Cava Brut NV 11.5%, €12.00 (down from 26)

Cava is a different distinctive under-rated sparkling wine, made in Spain using the same method as Champagne. If you haven’t tried it before, this is a terrific introduction.

Colour is a pale yellow and there is no shortage of tiny bubbles rising to the top and forming a ring around the perimeter of the glass. It is intense and fruity with a long dry finish. A classic Cava. The grapes used are the traditional Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada “from our own vineyards”. Try with olives, grilled almonds.

Pierre Darcys Champagne Brut NV €20 (29.99)
This pale lemon-yellow with is steady stream of small bubbles, its delicate aromas, certainly has got the usual characteristics; it is crisp and well balanced and runs out quickly! Try it with the smoked salmon!

Also on offer is the Graham Norton Prosecco Frizzante. Again there are lots of bubbles but this time they don’t hang around. This is a Frizzante (gently sparkling) not a Spumante (fully sparkling). You’ll also note a different closure on it - use your normal corkscrew to get started. While it is nowhere near as bubbly as the Cava, this calmer bottle is very very pleasant indeed.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Couples. One White. One Red.

Christmas Couples

A couple of bottles of wine, one red, one white, can go a long way at the Christmas meal. Lots of lovely couples below!

Karwig Double

Cunas Davia Ribeiro (DO) 2016, €21.15 Karwig Wine
It has a light straw colour. And a lovely intense nose where floral and herbal notes mingle with ripe white fruits. Rich, long and balanced on the palate, fruit and fresh acidity in perfect harmony and there is a long citrus led finalé. A pleasure!

Herdade Do Esporão Quatro Castas, Vinho Regional Alentejano 2014, €20.95 Karwig Wine
This deep ruby red wine has concentrated red fruit aromas, also a little spice and a little vanilla. Fresh, fruity and spicy on the palate with a very acceptable balance. Lovely mouthfeel and long finish. Just another beauty from this area of Portugal and Very Highly Recommended.

Two from South Africa

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Red 2016 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2014 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

This James Nicholson red is a very popular wine and you’ll see it on quite a few restaurant lists. It is a dark ruby colour, the legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits (plums, blackberries) feature in the enticing aromas, also a touch of vanilla. That fruit is also there on the vibrant palate, a drift of spice too, smooth with silky tannins, well balanced and with an excellent finish.

It is mainly Syrah (86%) and the other grapes in the blend are Mourvèdre (13) and Viognier (1). It is fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak prior to blending and bottling.

The Wolftrap white was accorded Superquaffer of the Year by the prestigious Platter's Guide to South African Wine.

It is an unusual blend of Viognier 48% (for spice), Chenin Blanc 41% (melon) and Grenache Blanc 11% (white peach), all contributing to the experience. The different grapes are fermented and aged partially in French oak before blending and bottling. 

It has a very clean light yellow colour with green tints. Pleasant white/yellow fruits, plus floral notes, feature in the inviting aromas. Fresh and fruity, unexpected depth in this elegant body, a lively acidity all through and then a lip-smacking finish.

Two from Portugal

Herdade do Peso Trinca Bolotas Alentejo (DOC) 2016, 14%, RRP € 19.99

It’s a vinho tinto (red wine), a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Aragonez (Tempranillo). It has a vibrant mid ruby colour and intense ripe berry aromas. Fruity and dry, full-bodied, very well balanced with a prolonged finish. Thanks to the equilibrium of tannins, acidity and fruit, this is an excellent food wine and Very Highly Recommended.

After malolactic fermentation, the wines are transferred to French and Caucasian oak barrels, where they are matured for around six months. To maintain its high quality, the wines are bottled without cold stabilisation. It may thus throw a slight deposit during bottle-ageing.

Herdade do Peso Sossego Branco Alentejano (IG) 2016, 13%, 
RRP €16.99, Matson Wine Store 

The local tranquility wasn’t too bad either as I opened the Sossego with its light yellow colour and tints of green. Scents of citrus fruit and blossoms, more floral than fruity, enhance the mood. Lively and fresh on the palate, the fruit flavours are balanced by excellent acidity and a good dry finish follows. Refreshing and flavourful. 

The grapes used by winemaker Luis Cabral de Almeida were 75% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto, 5% Roupeiro. This may be enjoyed on its own or as an aperitif. It pairs wonderfully with various fish dishes, some white meats and an array of salads. 

Australian Pair 

Free Run Juice “Samurai” Chardonnay (Australia) 2016, 13%, €14.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Tastes, they say, like rain on a hot day. In any event, this organic wine tastes very well indeed, is Very Highly Recommended and is also excellent value.

Colour is a light straw. Aromas are fairly classic Chardonnay, melon and peach. A hint of a tingle on the palate as the creamy textured liquid, laden with rich fruit flavours, spreads across. A crisp acidity balances it and a persistent finish crowns it.

Free Run Juice “Samurai” Shiraz (Australia) 2016, 13.5%, €14.95  

“Tastes like Australian sunshine, and ninjas”. Not familiar with either! Conditions were “ideal” for the harvest, giving a delicious richness and intensity. Another remarkable wine, remarkable value too, and Very Highly Recommended.

A crimson red pours from the bottle with that cracking label. Aromas speak of spice and vanilla but mostly of intense plum. Medium to full bodied, flavours of juicy dark cherries and berries, velvety tannins and a finish that reverberates. A rich and delicious Shiraz. Go for it.

Spanish Couple

Dominio de Punctum Finca Fabian Verdejo Castilla (Vino de la Terra) 2016, 12.5%, €12.20, Mary Pawle Wines

This Verdejo is made  from organically grown grapes, night harvested and cold maceration before fermenting. Colour is straw yellow, bright and clear and there are white fruits in the aromas, floral notes too.

It is fresh and a little livelier than many Verdejos, excellent fruit flavours and balancing acidity. A lovely drop indeed with a long and pleasant finish. Highly Recommended. Good value also, by the way. 

Punctum Viento Aliseo La Mancha (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €13.30 Mary Pawle Wines

This joven (young) wine is a blend of Tempranillo (70%) and Petit Verdot. Organically and biodynamically farmed (Demeter approved) and made from “our estate-grown grapes”.

Cherry is the colour. Cherries and blackberries feature in the aromas. And the same fruit too on the full and smooth palate, matched by a lively acidity, the tannins just about in evidence. Quite complex for a joven and Highly Recommended. Good value also.

Gary’s Pair

Haven’t tasted these in quite a while but must say I like the look of this pair from the excellent Luis Canas at Gary O’Donovan’s. The red is the Madurado Tempranillo/Garnacha while the white is Viura/Malvasia. Both are 2017 and the total cost of the presentation two-pack is €25.00. 

The white blend is dense and unctuous on the palate, with a good balance between acidity and alcohol. The aftertaste brings notes of ripe fruit and minerality.

The red blend has spent 12 months in oak, is fruity on the nose, all enveloping on the palate while it finishes well with fruit and acidity.

Duo from O'Brien's

Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment €21.95 (was 24.95).

The grapes are grown high up in circles around the top of the craters on Santorini, one of the Greek islands. Sometimes wines from hot climates lack acidity, but that is not the case here. Try it with shellfish, also smoked fish. The grapes are soaked on the skins after crushing for a long period. This gives the wines their excellent structure and complexity of flavour. Well worth a try!

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz Australia, 19.95 
Colour is a clean and bright purple. No need to nose the glass here as the aromas - attractive dark berries and plums mainly - come up to meet you. Terrific fruit too on the palate with great balance, tannins are fine, lovely and a lingering dry finish. Footbolt is a favourite here and Very Highly Recommended.

The Odd Couple

Elgin Ridge 232 Sauvignon Blanc South Africa (from Le Caveau).
Decanter praise: vibrant, at once savoury and saline, yet ripe and tropical. 

Made by Brian and Marion Smith. Marion’s from Cavan. I’ve sampled this a few times and have a bottle in the house for the festivities. Well worth a try.

Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt “St Severin” trocken (Austria) 13%, €14.45 Karwig Wines

This well-priced quality red wine has gorgeous and intense fruit aromas. Also engaging red fruit flavours (cherries, berries, redcurrants), a touch of spice, full bodied and quite dry to the finalé. This is easy drinking, light and bright, not unlike Pinot Noir.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Taste of the Week. Christmas Special. The Nibbles Christmas Pudding

Taste of the Week. Christmas Special

The Nibbles Christmas Pudding

Once upon a time, Irish housewives made the Christmas pudding, some made three or four or more, in mid-summer. All windows and doors were thrown open and the steam drifted out, some aromas too, to the open air.

But then came the age of inconvenience and nobody was left at home to cook up the necessary battalions of puddings and now we rely more and more on providers. Some of those providers though are so much better than others and I found one last week who has served up my Taste of the Christmas Week.

Eleanor Leahy is the lady and Nibbles is the name of her Millstreet company; her puddings (and cakes, by the way) are available at farmers markets, at Nibbles Bakery and Café in Millstreet, and also in Roughty Foodie in the English Market where I got mine from Margo Ann.

The Nibbles pudding is not as dark as the traditional one but, packed with fruit, stout and whiskey too, it has the all the flavour you need and comes in a variety of sizes. Just add a slather of the Brandy Butter from Crossogue Preserves, also available from Margo Ann, and you have a festive treat that’s hard to beat.
The Nibbles Christmas Cake is pretty good too!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Aperitifs. And Two for The Meal!

Christmas Aperitifs
And Two for The Meal!

Quite a bit of variety in this quartet of whites, all possible aperitifs, which should stand you  in good stead over the holidays. All will be fine as aperitifs and two have the advantage of being rather low in alcohol. One is a rosé (usually associated with summer but I'm sure the house will be hot!) and another is a slightly sweet bottle of organic bubbles. The Vinho Verde is easy-drinking (indeed, they all are) and has a very slight fizz while the Sauvignon Blanc can also do duty during a meal. And speaking of The Meal, we have two (each well-priced) at the end that will certainly do the business there for you. Enjoy.

Messias Vinho Verde (DOC) 8.5%, €12.35 Karwig’s

This Vinho Verde is light and crisp, with a subtle and sparse fizz. It is made, in the Atlantic north of Portugal, from traditional regional varieties (Loureiro and Pedernâ in this case).

It has a light lemon colour, a touch of green and plenty of fizzy bubbles. Aromas are of light fresh fruits. The light white fruits continue to the palate, also a touch of sweetness (residual sugar is 13 gram/litre), a gentle fizz is part of the lively acidity. Recommended, especially as an aperitif.

La Stoppa Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, Emilia (IGT) 2016, 7%, €18.95 Bradley’s, Le Caveau.

The Malvasia di Candia is a rather unusual moderately sweet bubbly wine. Single fermentation is via the Charmat method (also used in Prosecco). Note that the ABV is just 7%.

Note too the beautiful golden colour. Not that many bubbles. It is frizzante, not spumante! Easy drinking (not a hint of cloying), moderately sweet, honey and fruity and a good finish. This lightly sparkling beauty is Recommended.

Le Bijou de Sophie Valrose Cabrieres Languedoc (AOP), 13%, €14.95 Bradley’s Cork.

This rosé is one of the new wines added to the Findlater range. It is produced from Cinsault (50%), Grenache (40) and Syrah (10). “Summer in a glass” they claim, full of red fruit and a refreshing zestiness. Sophie Valrose wines are regular award winners (the rosé indeed picked up another gong at the recent National Off Licence Awards). 

Colour is a light to mid salmon, more flush than the blush on the label. Strawberries and blossoms in the aromas, round and elegant on the palate, excellent acidity and a decent finish to boot. Summer has been successfully bottled here. Recommended, even in winter!

Passage du Sud Sauvignon Blanc, Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2016, 11.5%, €12.95 Bradley’s (Cork)

Usually in Gascony, the white wines I've come across are the kind that go well during the holiday. Often they are produced from Ugni Blanc  and Columbard (used in Armagnac) fruit, great with the local oysters and other seafood but rarely worth bringing home. This Sauvignon Blanc has a bit more going for it and is Recommended. 

The Gascony area, in the south west of France, often hosts migrating birds, hence the name on this bottle. The designation Côtes de Gascogne is in the Gers department. Here too you will find Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne (the local aperitif). This is the area where you are strongly advised not to ask for Cognac or Pineau des Charentes (also a good aperitif, as is the Floc, if you can get your hands on them).

This wine, also new to the Findlater list, has a light straw colour. White fruit aromas are matched on the crisp and fruity palate, citrus elements prominent, and a lively acidity. Quite a pleasant surprise this from a generally unconsidered area. Recommended. Good value too.

And Two for The Meal!
Le Petite Source Le Clos Rouge Pays d’Oc (IGP), 12.5%, €11.95 Bradley's, Le Caveau
This is one of the selection of excellent “simple” wines that Le Caveau have on their house wine listings. Under a convenient screw cap, the organic blend is of Grenache, Cinsault and Merlot. It is deliciously light and fruity and a good example of price/quality ration from the Languedoc.

It has a lovely medium ruby colour. It is fresh and fruity (blackberry, raspberry and strawberry), juicy and simple, silky tannins with just a little bite. Well balanced but with a good deal of heft about it and Highly Recommended.

Le Petite Source Le Clos Blanc Pays d’Oc (IGP) 2014, 12.5%, €11.95 Bradley's, Le Caveau

This 2014 edition (2015 is now available) has a light straw colour. There are rather exotic fruits on the nose. And they follow through to the palate. It is deliciously fresh and fruity, no shortage of acidity. Very refreshing with a longish finish. This well made blend of Vermentino and Chardonnay is Highly Recommended.