Showing posts with label Heart of Spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heart of Spain. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

From the heart of Spain. Attention to detail makes this Verdejo different class.

From the heart of Spain. Attention to detail makes this Verdejo different class.

Protos Verdejo 2021 Rueda (DO) 2021, 13% ABV

€15.30 Heart of Spain

The vast majority of the world's Verdejo grape crop is grown in the sandy soils of Rueda, one of Spain’s top DOs for white wines. Exotic aromatics and crisp acidity help make this full-bodied wine a terrific companion at the table, especially if fish or chicken is on the menu. Sometimes it is blended but this Protos is 100% Verdejo.

Straw yellow colour with greenish hues, very clean and bright. Aromas are of tropical (pineapple, lime) and closer-to-home fruits (pear, melon and citrus). Thanks to the melange of fruits and the grape’s typical natural acidity, the palate is absolutely pleasing. The light ageing on fine lees provides roundness, body and good structure. And then you have a refreshing and flavourful finish.

Before they get to the winery,  the grapes for this wine are mechanically harvested at night in order to obtain the fruit in the best possible state of health. There’s a cold maceration of 4/5 hours. The ageing on fine lees goes on for about 3 months, “depending on daily tastings”.

It is recommended to serve between 7 and 10 ºC. Food pairings suggested: White fish, tuna, sushi, seafood rice dishes, paella, pasta, Asian food, chicken, fresh or blue cheeses.

Very Highly Recommended.

For the past four or five years, Heart of Spain have been selling wines, cheese and charcuterie from Castilla Y Leon, Tierra de Sabor (Land of Flavour), in the Fota Retail Park near Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork. The wines come mostly from Toro DO, Biers DO, Ribera DO, and Rueda DO.

Heart of Spain 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

An engaging Tempranillo from Toro, "different from its peers". New Zealand Wine Week Returns Jan 30th.

An engaging Tempranillo from Toro, "different from its peers" 


New Zealand Wine Week Returns Jan 30th. Details below.


Liberalia “Dos” Toro (DO) 2021, 14% ABV, €15.40 Heart of Spain

Heart of Spain is an online and actual shop in Fota Retail Park in East Cork and specialises in wine (and charcuterie and cheese) from the heart of Spain, mostly from the areas known to wine drinkers as Toro and Rueda. 

This bottle of young red wine (known as joven, though you don’t normally see it on the label) is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha (20%, according to the producers’ own website).

Here, in the valley of the famous Duero river, over the last two decades or so, Toro has become famous for the quality of its Tempranillo based wines, the grape known locally as Tinto de Toro. Neighbouring Rueda of course is best known for its white wines made from Verdejo (and the shop have some of these on sale as well). 

It looks well and inviting in the glass with its cherry red colour and some violet hues. Aromas have black and red fruits coming through strongly in a wrap of vanilla (it has spent three months in barrel). And, in the mouth, it is loaded with fresh fruit flavours, some sweetness from the light tannins. The finish, with balsamic notes and a little influence from the oak, is lengthy. 

There is a certain Intensity and complexity to this but don’t let that put you off. This is a young juicy and easy-drinking wine, all on a typical Tempranillo base with a nicely judged oak contribution. Don’t think about it too much, just enjoy! Highly Recommended.

With its “large fruit load and pleasant mid palate” it is quite a wine for the price and the producers recommend pairing it with semi-cured cheese, cured cheese, blue cheese, goat cheese, pork, veal meat, chicken, turkey, game, lamb.

Liberalia is a family winery located in the area of the historic and prestigious Toro Denomination of Origin, province of Zamora (Spain). The vineyards are located where traditionally there has been vine cultivation.

When I first saw the English language list of varieties in the area, I also saw Bull’s Ink. It took a while before the penny dropped and I managed to translate that back to Tinta de Toro, which currently enjoys the seal certification as an autochthonous variety, with its own name, with well-defined agronomic and ampelographic characteristics. That means that the Tempranillo in Toro, while related to that in Rioja, is officially regarded here as indigenous.

Its ampelographic characteristics are very similar to Tempranillo, but which, nestled in the area for several centuries, identifies it with its own name and personality, different from its peers.” .


New Zealand Wine Week returns in 2023


After the success of New Zealand Wine Week events in 2021 and 2022, New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) will be kicking off the third New Zealand Wine Week on 30 January 2023.


Themed ‘Altogether Unique’, activities for the event are planned across the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, and Sweden. New Zealand Wine Week will be a hybrid event this year with both physical and virtual sessions, with a wide-ranging programme spanning tastings, masterclasses and online discussions.


“Being able to run hybrid events, with a combination of virtual and physical in-market platforms, is an impactful way to share the New Zealand wine story in our key export markets, broaden our reach, and shine a light on our premium and diverse wines to our trade and media audiences,” says Charlotte Read, General Manager Marketing, New Zealand Winegrowers.


“The theme of the week, ‘Altogether Unique’, comes hot off the heels of the launch of New Zealand Winegrowers’ new global brand platform New Zealand Wine, Altogether Unique.  This is underpinned by a significant piece of work to define the essence of the New Zealand Wine brand and its three key pillars of purity, innovation, and care - things that make New Zealand wine, so unique and special.”


Throughout the week there will be bite-sized webinars covering research at the forefront of New Zealand wine and New Zealand’s commitment to climate change. In these sessions, local producers and international trade will have conversations about sustainability, site, and Sauvignon Blanc. A longer tasting webinar will see Stephen Wong MW present what puts the ‘new’ in New Zealand.


The New Zealand Wine Week 2023 programme will include:

Virtual Events

  • ‘NEW New Zealand – Through the Lens of Smaller and Rarer Plantings’ – Stephen Wong MW will present what puts the ‘new’ in New Zealand.
  • ‘Beyond Sustainable – Next Steps for a Carbon Neutral Environment’ – Michelle Bouffard of Tasting Climate Change and Belinda Jackson of Lawson's Dry Hills will discuss the strategies wine producers are putting in place to support and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • ‘Terroir and technology – A Guarantee of Origin’ – Christina Pickard is joined in conversation by Alastair Maling MW from Oritain and Steve Smith MW of Pyramid Valley, to explore how technology can guarantee the origin of a wine down to vineyard parcels that may only be a hundred metres apart.
  • ‘Expanding the Scope of Sauvignon Blanc Vine Diversity in New Zealand’ – Dr Jamie Goode, Dr Darrell Lizamore of New Zealand's Bragato Research Institute and Emma Marris of Marisco discuss New Zealand Winegrowers' research into how plants adapt to external stress to produce a collection of diverse Sauvignon Blanc vines.


Physical Events

  • London Annual Trade Tasting – 50 exhibitors showing more than 200 New Zealand wines.
  • Dublin Annual Trade Tasting – 20 exhibitors showing more than 90 New Zealand wines.
  • Swedish Embassy New Zealand Wine Reception
  • Independent Wine Education Guild Masterclass – ‘Sub-Regional Expressions of New Zealand Pinot Noir’ with John Szabo MS


View full programme details and how you can participate in New Zealand Wine Week here.


Thanks to Jean Smullen for above info.


Monday, January 2, 2023

Tastes and Producers of the Season. Christmas & New Year Treats

Tastes and Producers of the Season

Christmas & New Year Treats

Okay, let us start with bread. Make that cake! The arrival of Angela Nöthlings

German micro-bakery in Cork, specialising in organic artisan sourdough breads, especially rye, was a highlight of the year 2022. 

Her Stollen, the traditional German Christmas Cake, was a highlight of our festival days. And we can't forget her sweet "little" stuff: the decadent Berliner Brot, her shortbread fingers and her Salted Rye cookies, and more.


The Germans have no shortage of sweet wines to pair with their Stollen. They also use Schnapps (which often has apples in its ingredients) and that put me thinking of something far closer to home.  

Pom’O is an apple aperitif made from rare apple varieties by Killahora Orchards in Glounthaune. The fruit is grown "in our 200 year old orchards on the south facing slopes of Ireland’s County Cork. We mix the juice from our bittersweet apples with the finest apple brandy, then age it in Irish whiskey barrels for at least a year."

They recommend serving it lightly chilled as an aperitif, with cheese or in a cocktail, with strong, nutty cheddar, fruit desserts. No mention of Stollen but I carried on regardless and the pairing was just perfect.

No bother in finding highlights. Another mega one was the Heritage Ham by James Whelan Butcher. And since we weren't entertaining on the big day, we had most of this beautiful piece of cooked meat all to ourselves (not all on the one day!). This award-winning Heritage Ham has already been lovingly cooked low and slow for over five hours. All we had to do was slice, serve and savour.  Our favourite accompaniment came via the Bord Bia recipe pages and was/is a Redcurrant sauce or glaze. You'll find a few variations here.

The perennial favourite Cashel Blue Cheese was again enjoyed, Wicklow Blue also and some Knockanore Cheddar. These were enhanced by our own Autumn Tomato Chutney made with some excess tomatoes from the back-garden, the recipe from BBC Good Food. 


We've still got a few jars of that but will have no shortage of opportunities to use it. Another great match is the cold cured sliced Pork Fillet (lomo) from the Heart of Spain at Fota Retail Park where I had gone to get some of their Spanish wines and also to get Serrano (which was sold out). Here too I bought their Smoked Sliced Duck "Ham", another meaty gem. You could also have a mixed platter of cheese and charcuterie and the chutney will also do the business here! 

Also in the Fota Retail Park, I got myself a jar of the award winning Wild About Sloe Jelly from The Pantry at Bakestone. Very versatile indeed and it too goes very well with the cured pork, if used sparingly, and they also say it is great with duck or pate, so I'll be trying it with the duck. If you warm it, just drizzle it over desserts and ice cream and you have another winning combination thanks to this Wexford producer.

While I think of it, The Pantry was also my source for the Killahora Pom'O. That too was put through its paces with various bits and pieces and proved quite a match with the Stollen and also with our the cake and even more so with the pudding (from Barnabrow). 

Barrel aged beers tend to go well with Christmas pudding and we tried a few. Perhaps the best were the Brehon Oak & Mirrors BA Imperial Porter (7.5%) and the 9 White Deer Stag BA Export Stout (7.4%). Whiskey is almost always a winner with pudding - there was already some whiskey in the Barnabrow one - and the new 7-year old Single Malt from West Cork Distillers was a treat with it.

Barnabrow House Christmas Cake

We regularly get our hands on the Christmas double by Barnabrow House and got the cake and pudding in early this year when we bought them from the hard-working owner Geraldine Kidd who was selling them at the Ballymaloe Craft Fair. They are as good as ever!

Of course we had some other sweet bits and pieces around for the Christmas including regulars Mella's Fudge, Miena's Nougat and Turkish Delight, all bought on that visit to The Pantry at Bakehouse.

I'm thinking that this blog post may well be my shopping list for Christmas 2023. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you one and all.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Curated Christmas Hampers From Heart of Spain

media release

Curated Christmas Hampers From Heart of Spain

Calling all Iberophiles or those who simply enjoy good food and drink - Cork-based Heart of Spain is now offering hampers filled with authentic gourmet food and drink from artisan producers in the Castilla and León regions in Spain directly to Irish customers at

Curated by Heart of Spain owner Alejandro Garrote, a native of Salamanca now based in Cork, the hampers offer a unique pairing of the best produce the region has to offer from artisan food producers, along with wines from the region. For Alejandro, creating the hampers for Heart of Spain is a true labour of love. “Ever since I arrived in Ireland in 2000, I have wanted to share my country’s culture and food and drink with the Irish people. Showcasing the very best of the Castilla and León regions and the local artisan producers from the heart of Spain is a dream come through for me.”

Alejandro has created new hampers for the festive season including the popular  Castilla Y Leon Hamper (Christmas Edition), €150, featuring two bottles of Spanish red wine - a Crianza and a Tempranillo,  and a bottle of Verdejo white wine along with a tin of Suckling Pig Ham Leg that serves two and comes ready to cook. It also includes a delicious sheep’s cheese matured for over 12 months, along with duck liver paté with Cognac, an artisan chorizo, two Iberian Cebo de Campo ham slices and a tin of rillettes. Sweet treats include two slabs of Turron, one of the most popular and well-known sweets in Spain, and is made with toasted almonds, honey, sugar and egg. There’s also a box of Polvorones, traditional Spanish holiday cookies made from almonds, a jar of cherries in grappa syrup, and a jar of pears in wine. You’ll also get some great quality virgin olive oil and roasted red peppers along with a Heart of Spain apron and a Guide to Castilla Y Leon.

Cheese lovers are sure to appreciate the Castilla Y Leon Christmas Gift Box (Cheese Edition), €100, featuring cured cheese with rosemary, Reserva cheese and Gran Reserva cheese complemented by piglet paté, sweet fig, tomato confit and honey. It also contains two slabs of Turron and a box of Polvorones as well as extra virgin olive oil, a bottle of Crianza red wine, a bottle of Verdejo white wine plus a Guide to Castilla Y Leon and a Heart of Spain apron. 

Other hampers available include the Romantica Gift Box, €100; the Castilla Y Leon Christmas Hamper Foie Gras Edition, €100; the Cured Meat Gift Box, €100, the Cooked Piglet Pack (Cochinillo Confitado), €110; the Whole Duck Confit Hamper, €80; the Cheese Party Hamper, €65; the Party for Two Hamper, €70; the Tapas Gift Box, €100; and the El Camino Gift Box, €100. Alternatively, you can choose to stock up on a range of Spanish cheeses, charcuterie, condiments and wines sold individually.

Heart of Spain, deliveries in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Last day to order for delivery in time for Christmas is Monday, 19th December.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A South African to Savour and Sweet from Spain.

This is a very young estate, the first vines planted by owners Brian and Marion Smith in 2007; it is now certified biodynamic. Marion is from Ballyjamesduff and they set up in Elgin having sold their IT business in London to pursue their dream of farming organically. The farm had lain idle for some time and that made it easier to go organic. Marion: “We are living the dream and have wonderful workers here.” 
It is not just vines. Marion is the largest breeder of Dexter cattle (the native Irish breed) in the Western Cape. Sheep “mow” the grass between the vines. Their ducks also help. “These are hatched on our farm and trained to eat pests daily.” Lots of eggs too from the ducks and the chickens.

What does she miss about County Cavan? “I miss the long bright evenings sitting out in Ireland”. Darkness falls rapidly here. Be sure and take a look at the website. Elgin Ridge is a gorgeous place, so many animals.

The name comes from the fact that the vines grow at 282 metres, “the ideal height to create cool climate Sauvignon Blanc in the Elgin Valley. Organic farming gives the wine its elegant and unique flavour”. The vines benefit from the cool afternoon breeze and the proximity of the ocean.

Colour is a very pale yellow. Aromas of peach and apricot, gooseberry too. A vibrant wine, with a beautiful freshness, savoury yet full of ripe fruit. That palate also carries a classic mineral counterpunch and there is a satisfying lip-smacking finish. Highly Recommended.

It is a good food wine, a great match with our local Ardsallagh Ash Pyramid Goats Cheese. Fish (including scallop and squid) and pasta are also recommended.

Heredad de Emina Moscatel Castilla y Leon (Vino de la Tierra), 12%, Heart of Spain (Cork).
This is a sweet wine, not all-out sweet by the way. It is produced from the Muscatel grape; fermentation is halted to leave a natural sweetness; no spirit is added so ABV is in the normal range. It is ideal with desserts and snacks.
Colour is a light straw. Aromas hint at blossom and citrus. Excellent body, white and yellow fruit flavours and the natural acidity kicks in to balance. Use as they recommend (lighter desserts, though) and a glass is excellent too as an aperitif. A lovely little number and Recommended.
  • Didn’t keep the receipt and it is not listed on their website but I think it is priced in the low to mid teens.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Heart of Spain. In the heart of East Cork

Heart of Spain
In the heart of East Cork

You’ll find the Heart of Spain at the very back of the Fota Retail Park (by Cobh cross). And by the Heart of Spain, Alejandro and his friends, mean Castilla y Leon, a big region in the North-West of the country. Speaking of Castilla y Leon, Lonely Planet says “as with most of Spain, food here is an agreeable obsession, promising the country's best jamón (cured ham), roast lamb and suckling pig.”

No roast lamb in Cork but they do have expressions of the other two. The Heart of Spain is the quality seal for Castilla y Leon´s finest food , has a special place amongst those products that bear the name, tradition and history of the farmers that have produced the ingredients they are made with. The eye-catching yellow heart seal certifies total traceability from origin, guaranteeing professionals and consumers alike clearly differentiated quality.

Just to be clear, you won’t be getting food or drink here from all over Spain, just from this region and that yellow seal is stamped with Tierra de Sabor, meaning Castilla y Leon is  “a land of flavour”.

Take the cured meats for example. Their supplier, Chacinerías Diaz, manages the entire manufacturing process from breeding and raising their own livestock to producing their own fodder, slaughterhouse and production plant.

You’ll find quite a display of sheeps cheese here for which Pago Los Vivales has been nominated twice at the World Cheese Awards between 2017 & 2018. You can get it at 6 months, 12 months (Reserva) and 18 months (Gran Reserva).

Lots of patés here also, including Foie Gras, made by three French brothers who returned to their parents’ Spanish village in the summer of 1989. Not just duck. They also sell pork paté and Ostrich (the one I bought).
This came in handy over the Christmas.

Quite a selection of jams and mermeladas too including Quince Jelly, Tomato Jelly, and a Fig jam that caught my eye. If you call there around lunch-time (from 1.00 to 3.00pm) on Saturdays, you won’t be buying blind. They serve up some lovely tapas, using the cheese and the various spreads. By the way, if you cannot make it to the store, they do have an on-line ordering facility.

And they have a couple of bottles of wine open as well every Saturday, usually one red and one white. The wines are DO Rueda & Ribera del Duero and produced by Emina, based in Valladolid.  Got myself a 50cl bottle of their Moscatel - also handy over the Christmas!

And where there’s wine, there’s usually olive oil. And yes, they have Extra Virgin Olive Oil and also Balsamic Vinegar of various flavours. 

No huge selection of anything - this is not a supermarket. More like a farmers market. If you have a taste for the real food of Spain, then this is worth a call. And while you are there, don’t forget that, a hundred meters away, the fantastic Bakestone Pantry has well over one hundred Irish artisan products for sale. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest#2. Wines, Spirits and Beers. Pinot Noir a little off-colour? You need Rubired.

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers

Recent arrivals at Bubble Brothers
“In the last few weeks we've received wines from the grand cru champagne house of André Clouet, a sublime organic Nero d'Avola, a bold Spanish red from Toro and too many more to fit in here.” More info online. 

Christmas at The Franciscan Well
“We are gearing ourselves up for the Christmas holidays here in the Well! 

Once again we will be turning our award winning beer hall into a winter wonderland. Through out the month of December we will have live music, cocktails & hot drinks from the MONK cocktail bar (as well as a new seasonal menu ) and Christmas markets! 

The market will run on Saturday the 8th and Saturday the 15th of December from 1-6pm. They will be run by local artists who will be selling original handmade gifts such as hats, cards, ceramic pieces, wooden cheese boards and much more! Admission is free.” More info on their Facebook.

Christmas Gin Festival
The Revolution Bar, John Street, Waterford.
November 30th from 8.00pm
Check the bar’s facebook page for tickets.
“as with Harvest Festival we have invited some of the best Gin Companies in the Country to showcase their products for you. Your Ticket will entitle you to a lovely Gin Glass (to take home). 4 Gin & Tonics of you Choice. We will also have some nice Christmas drinks to try. ALL GIN COMPANIES WILL HAVE BOTTLES OF GIN FOR SALE FOR THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS PRESENT.”

Heart of Spain 1st birthday 8th December 

Lebanon’s Massaya 
I met Massaya’s Sami Ghosn in Cork a year years back, not long after he had returned from the US to help revive the family vineyards. You’d think the family would have enough on its plate with the uncertainties of the region without worrying about the future of the planet. But they do and they do something about it:

“For years now we have been treating our waste water, we have made our compost, recycled waste, encouraged our team to reduce their carbon footprints, given preference to local producers, chosen ingredients and material that were as natural as possible, planted our kitchen garden, planted bamboos to recycle water, prioritized organic treatments of vineyards, reduced to minimum the use of sulfur, oxygenated water for use in irrigation, and followed the moon calendar to filtrate and bottle our wines.” For more on the remarkable Massaya vineyard, read here   

The Rain in Spain. 
There was a late Late Harvest in Spain for 2018 following an early on in 2017. Ripening was delayed and picking times have turned out to be the major headache of the vintage. But it wasn’t the same all over the country. Terrific insight here  from Spanish Wine Lover with no less than eight stories from around the country.

Labels Battle as California winemaker used labels that carried the Oregon AVA. Then there’s the Rubired concentrate that gives Pinot Noir more colour!!

The Feds have stepped into the middle of a simmering battle over wine provenance by ordering a California winemaker to change labels that carried the Oregon AVA, even though the wines were made in Lodi. Read more here.