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Monday, January 22, 2018
Dr Brendan O’Regan Cuvée
A Special Wine for a Special Man
Born in Sixmilebridge in 1917, Brendan O’Regan went on to achieve much in his life, most notably perhaps the establishment of the world’s first duty free area in Shannon Airport, not too far from his Clare birthplace. He would go on to leave a permanent mark on the Shannon Region, on Ireland and indeed on the world.
After a few years at the Foynes Flying Boat base (where he is handsomely commemorated in the museum there), he was appointed Catering Comptroller General at Shannon in 1945. By 1957, he became chairman of Bord Failte, a post he held until 1973. From 1959-1978, he was chairman of Shannon Free Airport Development Company and, from 1974-1979, he was joint President of State Agencies Development Co-operation Organisation. Just a few of his major achievements.
His wine-maker grand-nephew Dermot Sugrue, from Kilfinane, was always fascinated by his grand-uncle’s achievements and was a proud attendee at the 1917 centenary commemorations. He was inspired to remember the great man and did so with a special wine, an English sparkling wine of outstanding quality, the Dr Brendan O’Regan Cuvée, produced by Sugrue Pierre, Dermot’s company in the South Downs.
The climate of the south east of England makes it particularly suitable for sparkling wines and the industry there is a multi-million pound one. Indeed, the climate and the chalky soil is fairly similar to the Champagne area and well-known champagne maker Taittinger have purchased a vineyard here.
Dermot has played a key role in putting English sparkling wine on the map. After time honing his craft in France, he’s been making top quality fizz in England for many years ,with Nyetimber, Wiston Estate, Digby Fine English and Jenkyn Place just a few of the award winning names under his belt.
I have spoken to Dermot a few times over the past two years about Dr Brendan O'Regan and so I was delighted to get a bottle of the cuvée to try out. And where better place to do just that than at L’Atitude 51, Cork’s leading wine-bar. Proprietor Beverly Mathews and Chilean wine journalist Fran Jara made up the trio as we opened the precious bottle in the upstairs bar.
Beverly poured and soon we saw those tiny little bubbles, fountains of micro-bubbles, in a non-stop rise to the top. It could, and would, pass for a top class champagne, very “brioche-y”, very zesty too, round and balanced with great acidity and incredible reverberating length, bone dry too. It is labelled Brut. That “dry” quality makes the saliva work and whets the appetite so it makes a terrific aperitif and should also be a superb match with oysters and mussels. These were some of the comments as we sipped.
Later, I collected the considered opinions of my colleagues. Fran: “Sugrue Pierre has fine and energetic bubbles, is bright and dry with flavours of citrus fruits, green apples and a creamy-like texture. In two words, I would say that is extremely enjoyable.”
Beverly was also enthusiastic: “A delicious wine, mouthfilling, very complex and a great long finish. A delicious complex English sparkling wine celebrating a remarkable Irishman. Would make a fab gift. I'd like to get one in a few years time as I think it will age very well indeed.”
Dermot has created this prestige multi-vintage wine from a blend of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) aged in oak barrels. All the fruit was sourced from two exceptional vineyards, some 26 miles apart on the South Downs. “It possesses outstanding ageing potential, combining both power and structure with subtlety and finesse. Beautiful to enjoy now, it will grow in elegance and complexity if cellared for up to a decade.”
The accolades for this cuvée have been pouring in. Recently described as “Best Gift” in Olly Smith’s Mail on Sunday Christmas drinks round-up, who also said “This is the finest English fizz I’ve yet tasted.” So there you are. It is on sale for £79.00 on the Sugrue Pierre website but do watch out for it on your travels. You’re sure to see it in an airport shop soon. Don’t leave it behind you. Bring it safely home and when drinking, toast the Clare man who helped Ireland emerge from the doldrums and the Limerick man who provided the sparkling wine to celebrate!
Read more about Dr Brendan O’Regan here.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Sparkling Intro to Le Caveau Tasting
Limerickman Dermot Sugrue was in sparkling form in Cork’s L’Atitude 51 yesterday. And why not? Didn't he have his superb Wiston Estate wines all lined up on the first table of the Le Caveau Trade and Press Tasting.
These English sparkling wines are on a par with the top offerings of Champagne. Indeed, the Wiston Estate Blanc de Blanc NV commands a higher price per glass (and per bottle) than a very well known champagne in the Chiltern Firehouse, an exclusive London restaurant. “It is a great restaurant”, said Dermot. “An old fire station, architecturally impressive, and it's great to in there and poured by the glass!”
This NV, all Chardonnay, has a broad appeal, “a social wine”. It is mainly 2011 but contains twenty per cent of 2010 reserve, which plays a key role in this amazing wine. The grapes come from three different vineyards, all West Sussex, all chalk. The Wiston Estate vintage wines are from single vineyards.
Next up was the “accidental rosé” of 2011. It was the warmest summer for 140 years. “The wine made itself”, said Dermot. ”But what pleases me is the way it has sustained itself since. The 33% of Chardonnay is now growing in influence.” It is a magnificent drink and you are very highly recommended to get your hands on a bottle or two.
And it seems there is more good news to come on the rosé front. There was a great vintage in 2014 and the results to date “are extremely encouraging”.
This pleasant sparkling interlude was finished with a tasting of the Sugrue Pierre 2010, a family effort with even Noodle the dog getting his cartoon on the label. It is made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, matured in old barrels (50%) and stainless steel. Two and a half years on lees, disgorged in 2014 and then two years in the bottle. It is superb, fantastic body and finish. And Dermot put much of it down to the time in bottle, reckoning that many underestimate the importance of time spent under cork.
I had been doing some “homework” in preparation for this tasting and one of the most pleasant parts was the bottle of Cockagee cider I treated myself to. Read all about it here.
At the moment, Cockagee producer Mark Jenkinson has just the one product but he’s working on some new ones. “I have some on lees since 2012 and will be disgorging this year on the way to making a full champagne cider. It will be a few months yet but is tasting very well at the moment.” And he is also working on an ice-cider!
Great to meet up then with Stephane Le May of Chateau Turcaud in Bordeaux. I was in his village two years ago but didn't know about his superb wines then. Now I do and now too I have an invitation to call next time I’m Entre-deux-Mers! His Cuvée Majeure (named after the local abbey) is outstanding and one of the finds of my “homework”. “It is wonderful”, agreed Stephane.”A wonderful freshness. It was a good summer and then we had a great September and that helped a lot.” Turcaud exports about 50% of production, most of it to the East Coast of the US.
Menade’s Nosso Verdejo natural 2014 was another of the highlights of my “homework” and I renewed acquaintance with this beautiful wine thanks to Eleonora Infuso who was at L'Atitude. “It is only our second vintage of this wine. It has been a very big success for us and it is what we want to do.”
She had another pleasant surprise for me: their V3 2012. Some of grapes for this come from their 30 ha of pre-phylloxera vines (over 140 years old!). It is fermented in 500 litre French oak for between 8 and 10 months and then aged 1 to 3 years in bottle. Rich and full and with a very crisp acidity, this is another gem from one of the leading estates in Rueda.
Stayed with the whites when I met Chris Forbes of Taylor’s Port. I do like my Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port and Chris had just the recipe for me. “To make a refreshing and original summer drink, mix one part of Chip Dry white Port with two parts of chilled Tonic water in a tall glass, adding a sprig of mint or a twist of lemon.” Obrigado. Cheers.