Showing posts with label John Wilson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Wilson. Show all posts

Thursday, October 1, 2020

John Wilson's Selection. Chateau Feely Harvest. White Hag Magic. Wines of the World Double. And more on wine, beer and spirits in Cheers #23

John Wilson's Selection. Chateau Feely Harvest. White Hag Magic. Wines of the World Double.

And more on wine, beer and spirits in Cheers #23 

Wines Direct Talk Wine With John Wilson.

 And Come Up With A Great Selection!

Renowned Irish Times wine critic John Wilson knows a thing or two about great wine, so when he gives any of our wines the nod our customers take note. We recently had a chat with John and decided it would be cool to share with you a selection of wines he has recently featured and that we think you'll also find worthy of attention. Click here to see the selection.


AT Chateau Feely

In this post Caro Feely shares some photos and impressions of harvest 2020.

"We started almost a week earlier than ever and finished a week earlier than ever. Whirlwind is the best way to describe this harvest.
The photo below is the harvest kickoff hurrah! Merlot for Feely Sparkling Brut Rosé.
We started 24 August and finished 11 September." More details here


The 2019 vintage in Austria aroused great expectations right from the start. Now, reviews from experts throughout the world have confirmed it: the wines of this vintage are truly among the best that Austria’s winegrowers have been able to produce in recent decades. More here

Get Your Pumpkin Magic from the White Hag

We've done it - after years of thinking about it, talking about it and looking at it, we've gone and made a Pumpkin Pie inspired beer!
Pumpkin Ale is a huge seasonal favourite in the US, where a bunch of our brew team grew up making and drinking these beers.
While there have been a fervent few in Ireland who have committed to making seasonal celebration beers popular, the pumpkin ale has been neglected until recently.
See More

Wines of the World 

Two offers to consider:

The Top Varietals Mix (Case of 6) is a mixed case of our top varietals and top sellers - a mix of the old world and new world, the best of both. Check details here.

The Celebrity Mixed Case (Case of 6) is a mix of Graham Norton and Kylie Minogue Wines from the New World and Old World. More here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Wilson on Wine 2020. Your friendly easy-to-read guide

Wilson on Wine 2020
Your friendly easy-to-read guide

In six short years, Wilson On Wine has become the goto book for wine-lovers keen to prepare themselves for what can often be the confusion of a visit to the wine shop. Shelves and shelves of attractive, and sometime unattractive labels, so a little time reading the current just released edition will help you make a shopping shortlist.

The well-laid out book, with over 350 pages, starts with an editorial, a few paragraphs on Natural Wine, advice on Food and Wine, and a description of wine styles. And then you’re into the wines, 163 in total, ranging over all the styles and in price from under a tenner to over two hundred euro (for the Krug Grandé Cuvée Brut).

So how do you work your way through all the info. Actually, it is not too difficult, thanks to the use of comprehensive indices. You’d be surprised how many reference books come up short on this kind of aid. The first index is by Style, Country, Price. Move towards the rear then for the Index by Wine (name), followed by the all important Index of Stockists.

Colour coding is another excellent aid for the reader. The wines are colour coded under headings such as Sparkling Wine, Crisp Refreshing White, Fresh and Fruity White, Rich and Rounded White, Light and Elegant Red, Rich and Full Bodied Red, Natural Wine, Fine Wine and Fortified Wine.

John was in great form at the recent O’Brien’s Winter Wine Festival in Cork’s Clayton and we had a chat as he signed my copy (reduced from 12.99 to a tenner on the night) and took us through the four wines he was showing on the night, all available at O’Brien’s. You do probably know that John is one of Ireland’s leading wine writers and wine correspondent for the Irish Times.

Cantina Orsogna’s Vola Volé Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (DOP) 2017 was first up. I very much enjoyed this dry refreshing organic white a few weeks back.Very light straw colour, clean and bright. Aromas are of light intensity, more floral than fruity. Lightly apple flavoured (more citrusy if it warms up a bit in the glass) with a noticeable acidity, it is light and crisp and easy to drink. Light seafood dishes are a suggested match. Perhaps with a Goatsbridge trout salad.

This cooperative specialises in crafting organic and sustainable wines from local grape varieties. The Vola Volé range of wines are dedicated to the protection of bees (featured on the label) by protecting their habitat from pesticides and herbicides and is certified by Biodiversity Friend.

Next we moved to the Loire to sample the Les Secrets de Sophie, a 2018 Sauvignon blanc from the Touraine. This comes under the Crisp Refreshing White style and is light with a snappy dry finish. John  suggests trying it with a goat’s cheese salad, tomato salad, or Greek salad. “Sauvignon loves salads.”

John was smiling as he poured our samples of the Domaine Coudoulis Dédicace Lirac 2017. Lirac is one of nine villages in the Southern Rhone that has its own name as the AOC name. The others are Rasteau, Vinsobres, Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise, Vacqueyras, Tavel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cairanne (most recent 2018) and all nine  are regarded as crus.
September's harvest from Coudoulis Facebook page 

Why was he smiling as sipped this one? Well it is something of an iron fist in a velvet glove, packing an abv punch of 15%. But it is an excellent smooth mouth-filling Rhone from an appellation just across the river from Chateauneuf du Pape.

We stayed in the same style for the final tasting: Lunaria Ruminat Primitivo 2018, a big jammy organic red from Sicily. John describes it as a full-on Primitivo, “powerful yet soft, it delivers a mouthful of fruit”. Just like Zinfandel, its New World counterpart.

So there you are. If you’d like a bit of friendly easy-to-read guidance before you hit the wine store this Christmas, or indeed at any time, do pick up a copy of Wilson On Wine.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

My Shortcut Through 228 Wines at O'Brien's Festival Cork

My Shortcut Through 228 Wines at O'Brien's Festival Cork

Jose Maria and Yours Truly

The amazing O’Brien’s Winter Wine Festival posed a problem or two, even for experienced tasters, at the Clayton Hotel  in Cork on Thursday evening. No problem at all with the wines, just the sheer scale of it: no less than 228 wines on show. My solution was generally to take the organic route and that worked out well enough. 

And that gave me time enough to catch up with friends, such as John Wilson who was launching his Wilson On Wine 2020 and Jose Maria Frail owner of the small family-owned Tandem Winery in Spain’s Navarra.

Indeed I had planned to attend the Tandem masterclass in an adjoining room but it was booked out in no time. Still, there was the considerable consolation of attending the masterclass on the wines of Germany’s Lingenfelder Estate, given by Georg, a member of the 14th generation of the family that has been making wine here for some 500 years! We’ll return to that and to John Wilson’s book later this week.

A few years ago, we enjoyed a lovely lunch and wines at the Lynch-Bages owned restaurant, Café Lavinal, in the village of Bages, at the gates of the Chateau. JM Cazes are the owners of Lynch-Bages and also own high-quality sites in key wine regions. Our “starter” on Thursday was the Michel Lynch Organic Bordeaux Blanc, an attractive aromatic blend of Sauvignon Blanc (85%) and Semillon, dry and refreshing with a crisp palate, well priced at €15.95. It is organic and the label is made from recycled paper.
Café in Bages

Gérard Bertrand has quite a reputation for his wines in the Languedoc region and it was his Prima Nature Chardonnay 2018 that the we tried next. This is organic, vegan, with no added sulphur and no oak either. It soft, elegant, refreshing with apple and pear flavours and also well-priced at €16.95. 

Also well priced and also dry and refreshing is the Cortese Nostru Catarratto Lucido with its eye-catching label. It’s an organic white from Sicily made from the local Catarratto grape. It is a fresh and light wine with a ruby robe. Red berries and a hint of spice in the complex aromas. It is fresh and lively, again that spice and fruit, elegant with silky smooth tannins, harmony throughout right to a very satisfying finish.

The reserve Chin Blanc 2018, from Ken Forrester in the Stellenbosch (South Africa)  has spent some 9 months on lees. It is harmonious all the way through to a very satisfying finalé. M.A.N. Vinters, also from South Africa but from the Agter-Paarl, had the seriously impressive Bellow’s Rock Chenin Blanc, also 2018, aromatic and fruit. Hard to separate these two, especially since both are priced at 15.95 for November and December.
South Africa, well represented.

Looking for an organic vegan Merlot, juicy and lively, at a good price? Then go no further than the Prima Nature Merlot from Gérard Bertrand. Good fruit flavours, fresh acidity and a juicy finish. And no added sulphites by the way.

Back then to Sicily for a couple of Cortese Nostru reds. The Nerello Mascalese 2018 is smooth and silky, organic too, and “a great match with tuna”. It’s down from €14.95 to 12.95 in O’Brien’s Nov/Dec sale.

From the same table, the same stable, comes the Nero d’Avola 2018. Unoaked, aged on lees, pure and silky. It is organic, no added sulphurs and “drink it young” was the advice from the table.

Always have a soft spot for the Kangarilla Road in the McLaren Vale since the days of Wine Alliance. Now the Australian winery has a new generation on the road, Charlie O’Brien. He brought two reds with him. Our first was the Street Cred Shiraz, fruity and soft. Very quaffable indeed. The second, Terzetto 2013, had the edge though. It’s a blend of three Italian grapes, rich and robust, well balanced too. Something different and well worth a try.

By then, it was time to catch up with Jose Maria, just back having enjoyed meeting the punters at his masterclass. We were on his Ars in Vitro, a blend of Tempranillo and Merlot, that is as smooth as they come and, unoaked, it comes full of juicy fruit. Worth a try, especially as it’s down to 10.95 in the Nov/Dec sale.

Another smooth red, Ars Nova, features the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and the local Tempranillo. It has been aged for 24 months, the last 9 in oak. If the previous one is art in glass, this is class in a glass and we gave it five out of five. Good price too at €17.45.

The French varieties, Cab Sauv and Merlot, also feature in the Mácula, a serious wine with intensity of aroma and flavour yet rounded with a long and satisfying finish.

Ars Memoria 2012 was our final wine from Tandem, a rich and robust red that has spent “14 months in new French oak”. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon, dark of colour and rich of flavour, a superb wine to be drunk with friends, even in their memory (it was made in honour of friends and members of the Tandem family who have passed on).

See also:
Lingenfelder Masterclass 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Good food. Good Wine. And Two Amigos. Equals A Fun Experience in the Maryborough

Good food. Good Wine. And Two Amigos.

Add Up To A Fun Experience in the Maryborough

The Maryborough Hotel held their first ever wine dinner this week and it was a resounding sold-out success. Stanley A. Moss, representing the Riojan winery Luis Cañas, set the tone early on, promising to “be fun, not geeky” and fellow presenter John Wilson, the Irish Times wine writer, had no problem in making it a double act. The duo went to successfully impart plenty of information on the various wines without tying us up in technical knots.

Towards the end, John described the experience as “one of the bargains of the century!”, referring to the brilliant wines and the excellent food, and that was the cue for a round of applause for the Maryborough’s outstanding chef Gemma Murphy, with thanks too of course to Luis Cañas from Rioja Alavesa.

We were warmly welcomed at a lovely reception. Cava was on offer, a drink that John Wilson says is getting better and better, “different, distinctive”. The same words could well be attached to the Kalak vodka, produced by Tipperary man Patrick Shelley, “a rare single malt Irish vodka, distilled four times in Skibbereen” and available at the reception in a lovely cocktail.
Verdejo is one of my favourites white wine grapes and so I was delighted to see the Val de Vid 2016 paired with Scallops, Mandarin salsa and Yuzu Foam. Stanley said this aromatic and flavourful wine comes from Rueda and the production, from old vineyards, is small. It is difficult to obtain in Ireland and only available in restaurants.

John remarked that he thinks of it as the “Spanish Sauvignon blanc, with citrus, green fruits and dry like a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc.” He remarked that there are some cheap Verdejos out there and advised paying “a bit more to get the quality”. Tasty, aromatic and satiny and it got us off to a great start at the table.

We were now on to Cod, compressed cucumber, radish, shimeji, wakame, dashi, matcha green tea. More Verdejo? No, the reds were introduced, a lightly oaked elegant Crianza 2014, fruity on the nose and palate with a lively acidity playing a key role. John Wilson said that Rioja wines come ready to drink because of the ageing and classification system.  The pairing, by the way, was quite a success.
Beef Cheek Ravioli

Third course was Foie Gras, Crispy Chicken skin, Hazelnut and miso caramel and this was matched with the Luis Cañas Reserva 2011. John pointed out the main grape in Rioja is Tempranillo, “the Spanish variety”. Stanley said they do their best to produce good fruit. Sometimes that means cutting back on the yield and less grapes means more expensive wine. “But usually you get what you pay for.”

There was a double step up in class with the Gran Reserva being by-passed as we were treated to the Cañas Reserva La Familia 2011, a good year here in Rioja. With its pleasant and complex nose, round palate with great structure and juicy tannins, it was a super match with the Assiette of Ballinwillin Venison, perhaps the highlight of the meal.

And it paired well too with the next course, Beef Cheek Ravioli, kohlrabi, cured egg yolk and spilt red wine jus, 
This Familia is 85% Tempranillo with only the best of the grapes being selected to “magnify the good side”. It is a superb wine, intense and complex on the nose, “milkier, creamier on the palate”, powerful with chocolate notes (which came in handy as the dessert was Chocolate Pave with Cherry).

At that stage, some more “sweets” appeared as well, as did a Black Twist Cocktail. Black Twist, invented by Conor Coughlan, is a blend of coffee and whiskey and you may read more about it here.  

All good things come to an end but I have the strong impression that the Maryborough will soon have another wine dinner. Watch this space!

* For more info on the wines check on

Food & Wine Event February 13th 2018 Tasting Menu 
Scallops, mandarin salsa, yuzu foam. 
Foie Gras, crispy chicken skin, hazelnut, miso caramel. 
Cod, compressed cucumber, radish, shimeji, wakame, dashi & matcha green tea oil. 
Assiette of Ballinwillin Venison Beef cheek ravioli, kohlrabi, cured egg yolk, spilt red wine jus. 
Beef Cheek Ravioli, kohlrabi, cured egg yolk and spilt red wine jus
Chocolate pave with cherry.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

John Wilson’s Beaujolais Master Class. “A Wine That Made Me Sit Up And Take Notice!”

John Wilson’s Beaujolais Master Class

“A Wine That Made Me Sit Up And Take Notice!”
Contre Jour

“Beaujolais was one of the first wines that made me sit up and take notice,” said John Wilson as he introduced last Wednesday’s Beaujolais masterclass in Cork’s Clayton Hotel. 

He also admitted to being a rather cocky student at the time, maybe a bit like Beaujolais Nouveau but, like a good wine, has matured and his smooth style was very much in evidence during a very informative and well-paced session.

He didn't think that the annual wave of Nouveau did the wine much good in the long run. “Beaujolais has been through a rough time..because of the big concentrated wines that were prevalent for a long time. Its style went out of fashion. Now it's back. Its time has come again!”
“Nowhere is terroir more important. That interesting soil, the purity of the grape and quite simple wine-making leads to an easy drinking fruity wine. That doesn't mean that Beaujolais can’t be serious. I've been tasting some 2008 and 2009 Moulin À Vent recently and it is drinking like a dream. Beaujolais offers great value and a quite unique style.”

He took us through the three areas of the region. The east, with its granite, has all ten crus. “There are a huge number of small estates, including Jadot; it is the home of natural winemaking.” Gamay is “never short of acidity. You’ll love it if you like a refreshing style.”
Recent vintages were also touched on. Under-rated and excellent summed up 2014. Outstanding and exceptional, one of the best ever, were the words for 2015, “but do watch out for the high alcohol!”. The 2016 crop was badly hit by hail in May but there is a lot of promise in the reduced output as the wines are “fresh and forward with good supple fruit”.

John himself is a bit sceptical about the importance attached to “great vintages”. “There is no such thing as a great vintage but there are great winemakers. Always go to the winemaker!”

The granite's different colours

The Wines
1: Beaujolais blanc, Mommessin, Les Grandes Mises. This 2014 has “developed a bit and is a pretty nice food wine”.
2: Beaujolais rosé, Chateau de Corcelles, Rosé d’une Nuit 2016: Bone dry, “another one for food”.
3: Beaujolais, Domaine du Vissoux, ‘Les Griottes’ 2016: “A classic entry level.. acidity freshness, moreish.” This one certainly made me sit up and take notice!
4: Beaujolais Villages Domaine des Nugues 2014: “A wonderful wine, almost better than Fleurie.” I loved the finish, the purity of the fruit.
Red dominates in Beaujolais.
5: Régnié Les Vins Henry Fessy, Chateau des Reyssiers 2015: the first of the crus, “one of the most 'granitic'. A wine to drink young. Note the concentration, texture and tannin.”
6: Chiroubles Chateau de Javernand Vieilles Vignes 2015: From a small cru, almost 100% pink granite. Light, elegant, floral and fresh “one of the most interesting and enjoyable that I have come across.” And they are looking for an Irish importer!
7: Saint-Amour Maison Trénel 2015: “Always does well in February,” joked John. “The estate is now owned by M. Chapoutier.” This was perhaps my favourite of the first round.
8: Brouilly Jacques Charlet 2015. We started round two with this lovely light perfect easy drinking wine grown on soils that include blue granite. Again, John stressed that easy drinking does not necessarily mean a simple wine.
9: Fleurie Domaine de la Madone, Tradition 2015. “Very aromatic, floral, silky, but with great concentration… very fond of it. Will keep. Tasted the ten year old and it is great.” For me, this was simply superb.
10: Côte de Brouilly Jean-Paul Brun, Domaine des Terres Dorées 2015: “One of the best winemakers there. Distinctive nose..light but with length. He also makes excellent Crême de Cassis and Crémant”. I was amazed at the aromas, the concentration and the finish of this Wines Direct import.

11: Juliénas Domaine de la Conseillère 2014: “not too much granite here and a distinctive wine.” Super fruit and smooth with great finish, another star for me. John puts its excellence down to a combination of the Burgundian wine-making style employed and the Juliénas effect.
12: Chénas Pascal Aufranc, Vignes de 1939, 2016: “from a single vineyard, going the organic route, this has silky aromas and velvety texture.” I found it another excellent drop with a lip smacking finish and the second glass effect.
13: Morgon Dominique Piron, Côte du Py 2014: “Completely different..powerful concentrated wine. Needs another few years , or a steak!”. Indeed it probably needs more time, one to put away. John reckons both this and Moulin À Vent will both age well.

14: Moulin À Vent Chateau des Jacques 2012: A challenging vintage from the best known cru. Vineyard owned by Louis Jadot since 1996. “Again a Burgundian style, oak included… the colour  is towards Pinot Noir.” Perhaps my favourite overall. I found it much more approachable at this point in time than the Morgon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting. Mediterranean Island Wines in Spotlight

Irish Atmospherics at John Wilson Tasting
Mediterranean Island Wines in LITFEST Spotlight
We got a little more than we expected at John Wilson’s Islands in the Sun, a talk and tasting on the wines of the Mediterranean Islands - one too from the Canaries. As the Irish Times wine-writer took us gently through the wines, a thunder-shower played drums on the roof of the Ballymaloe tractor shed. “Just as well they water-proof their sheds in Ballymaloe,” joked John before getting back to his fascinating tasting.

He told us it was an idea that came to him about eight years ago but it was hard to get the wines together. “I’ve always wanted to do this but Litfest gave me the chance and I left the legwork to Colm.” He was, of course, speaking of Colm McCan,  the man behind all the events in the improvised Drinks Theatre.
“There are a lot of island wines,” said John. “They have their own varieties, characters and styles. All are on trade routes, lots of them volcanic and most have never had phylloxera.”

Not always easy to find white wines with good acidity from hot climates but John had one from the historic island of Santorini. “It is volcanic..the grapes are grown high up in circles around the top of the craters. They are ungrafted. The rootstock must be ancient. The acidity is there, needs food and is great with scallops.” The wine is Assyrtiko by Gaia 2015, a leading producer, and it is a wild ferment.
 Next we landed in Corsica, Ile de Beauté. John hadn’t tasted this Vermentino until now. “It keeps the acidity, lean and fresh, amazing flavours. It is single vineyard, aged in old barrels, no new oak used.” The producer Antoine Arena has quite a story to tell. The vines are tended biodynamically and the wines are made naturally. Vines and Wines says that crisp lemony Vermentino is Sardinia’s original gift to the wine world.

South now to Sicily and the first of the reds, a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato (a soft low tannin grape), a very light coloured red by COS who farm in Vitoria. Sicily produces large quantities of wine.

John is well acquainted with this one: “It’s been a favourite of mine for 15 years. This is a new vintage, with some tannins. The vineyard is biodynamic and was the first place I saw amphora being used.” He advised decanting the wine.

Back north again now and a visit to Sardinia, to a natural winemaker who doesn't follow the market. “I make wines that please me,” he told John in an interview. “They are what they are.” Kinda take it or leave it. If you take it, remember these are not filtered, nor fined, so decant.

Tenute Dettori’s Romangia Rosso is another favourite of John’s: “I adore this wine. It has evolved so much from last year! I think natural wines are fascinating. This is an earthy, warm delicious red fruit with a lovely acidity.”

So we waved goodbye to Sardinia and headed through the straits on a long trip to the Canaries which produces quite a lot of wine. “There are 11 areas of production..a couple available in Ireland but not enough”. Then that massive shower interrupted, letting us know that we didn't quite fit the island in the sun label, though in fairness, the weekend of the Litfest was generally very good, lots of sun, as usual!

After the din on the roof, we returned to the wine. “The vines are grown in hollows to protect them from the winds. The Canaries were a stopover for ships heading to the New World and this grape, the Listan Negro, eventually made its way to Argentina (as Criolla), Chile (Pais) and California (Mission).
Ben Ryé means Son of the Wind
Our 100% Listan Negro is from Teneriffe: Vino de Parcela La Solana. It is produced from vines over 100 years old, has been foot-trodden in open concrete tanks and local natural yeasts are used. “There is a savoury liquorice touch to it and they tend to get the purity of the fruit across.”

“This is special,” said John as he guided us back to the Med and the island of Pantelleria, between Sicily and Tunisia (to which it is closer). The island is famous for its capers! Just one hotel and that is called the Dream Resort. Soil is again volcanic and again the vines are dug into the ground to avoid the worst of the winds.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito de Pantelleria is the full title, I think! John said the grape is the Moscato di Alexandria but under a different name (Zibibbo) and during a prolonged fermentation some bunches of dried grapes are “thrown in” from time to time. “It is incredibly sweet, marmalade-y, yet with great acidity”.

The Ballymaloe tulips stood up well to the massive shower.
Muscato is grown on virtually all the islands of the Med and found, in one variation or another, all over the wine-growing world. Passito refers to dried and shrivelled grapes.

A sweet ending indeed to an interesting multi-island tour and he hinted that he might well come up with another voyage next year in LITFEST.
And, yes, the sun was shining on this island as we joined the throngs milling around in Ballymaloe.

See also, from LITFEST16:

Irish Craft Cider. A Litfest16 Event

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Port, Sherry, Madeira. All treasures. Each superb in its own right.

Port, Sherry, Madeira. All treasures. Each superb in its own right.
The Fortified Wines Event at Ballymaloe LitFest.

Mightn't look like it but they are singing from the same hymn sheet!
Raymond Blake (left) and Tom Doorley in the Tractor Shed

Wine writer Raymond Blake, a convert in the cathedrals of Jerez, led the Fortified Wine Choir that  Ballymaloe Colm McCan assembled for Sunday’s event in the Drinks Theatre. Blake urged us all to join the crusade and keep these “legacy wines” in a strong position, warning that if they are lost, they will never again appear, as the unique circumstances that gave rise to their creation will never be repeated. “These are treasures”, Raymond preached. “And each is superb in its own right.”

The treasures for tasting in the converted Tractor Shed included two white wines, an En Rama Fino by Gonzalez Byass and a Dry White Port from Taylor’s. Later came the two reds: the Madeira and a Taylor’s Tawny. The other members of the choir were Leslie Williams, Chris Forbes, Tom Doorley and John Wilson and they all sang from the same hymn sheet urging us, among other things, to serve these fortifieds in a wine glass, underlining that these are real wines.

“En Rama is becoming popular,” said Raymond. “But it is a bit untamed, Fino with knobs on.” Tom Doorley then revealed that his big love is Sherry. “It is great value. I also love the huge range of styles and love the austerity of dry sherry."

John Wilson said these are  the “most man-made” wine of all. “They require so much intervention. They are incredible, precise, with complex flavours - savour slowly. My personal measure of Fino is a bottle - great with tapas, Iberico ham, almonds, Manchego cheese.”
The panel in the tractor shed
Leslie Williams said En Rama is sherry in the raw, unfiltered and he sometimes matches it with Fish and Chips! Chris Forbes, for a Port man, was generous: “Sherry is one of the wonderful wines, amazing value. Great poured into soup, a use also for White Port. Both are made with indigenous grapes. They are really wines.”  

He said Taylors make two of the three styles of White Port, a dry and an extra dry. Five or six varieties of grapes are used and suggested chilling it as an aperitif and serving with tonic and ice.

Raymond loves his Madeira,such a pure wine, "even the sweetest has acidity through it" and it can be measured in centuries, the intensity of it, great flavour, super stuff. Leslie too adores it and says the opened bottle may be kept for quite a while (not not as long as his mother kept the Bristol Cream!). John Wilson is another convert. Of the Barbeito that we were sampling, he purred: “This is so good, it almost hurts, a classic Madeira."
The Fortifieds

Now we were on to the 10 Year Old Tawny by Taylor’s. John Wilson suggested that this was perhaps the future of Port and was bringing people back to the drink. Chris agreed saying Tawny is the current hero. “There has been a 72% growth in the last ten years, absolutely phenomenal. Importantly, at 25 euro, it is affordable.
He suggested serving it slightly chilled and acknowledged a suggestion that it was great with cheese. “But not just with cheese. Try tarte tatins, pour it over vanilla ice-cream. Once opened, it should last for no more than two or three hours, but it will keep for four to six weeks!”

Chris, who was quite busy over the weekend, rounded off this informal and informative event with a great description of the foot treading (bunions and boils and all), a practice that is still current in Taylor’s. They feel it does the job better, is easier on the grapes. Mechanical methods, for instance, can break the pip and release unwanted elements, the human foot does not break the pip.

So now we've come from the cathedrals of the bodegas to the down to earth practices of the lagaar. Fascinating stories behind all of these fortified wines brought to us by a terrific panel and also via the four superb examples in our glasses. Here’s to the winemakers of the past and the pleasures of the present, and hopefully, if enough of you join the crusade, of the future. Sláinte.

Chris Forbes (Taylor's Port) and, right,
Leslie Williams (Irish Examiner)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sipping Beer and Cider in a Tractor Shed. At the Ballymaloe LitFest

Sipping Beer and Cider in a Tractor Shed
At the Ballymaloe LitFest
Dungarvan's Claire takes the mike at the Beer and Cider event.
“Three years on and it feels like a lifetime,” said Scott of Eight Degrees Brewing at last Sunday’s Irish Craft Beer and Artisan Irish Cider event at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest. The rapid pace of the craft brewing industry in Ireland has astonished many of us, not least those pioneers (excuse the dry pun) directly involved. “Consciousness has been raised now,” said Claire of Dungarvan Brewing Company. “It is an easier sell.”

Moderator John Wilson (of the Irish Times), who prefers his on draught, is delighted with the progress and is as surprised as anyone else. “Beer and cider are now appearing in restaurants. No excuse though for pubs and off licences not having them, even if it is just the local brews.” And so say all of us.

“The industry is one of experimentation,” continued Scott. “We take a risk in producing, the customers in trying a product. We tend to help one another in the industry as one new tasting leads to the tasting of other craft beers, one of the encouraging aspects of the business. We are trying to create a community of consumers who are highly experimental, making one off batches, full of flavour, being innovative. The consumer's interest has to be held.”

Simon Tyrrell, who produces Craigie's Cider with his partner Angus Craigie, says the cider world has a different approach. “The reason is that we have just one crop, one shot a year. Ours is very seasonal. The demands are different to beer, indeed more like wine. Cider looks to express the best qualities of the fruit, show where the nuances lie.”

Eloquent as Simon was, and always is, the best speech from Craigies came in our first tasting of their fabulous Dalliance, made from 100 per cent dessert apples (three different types). “It has been left on its fine lees for 15 months and then a little re-fermentation to give it sparkle.” This just has to be tried. It is so different with great apple flavours and a long dry finish. Superb!
Four to Taste
Then we were on to the beers and a taste of Dungarvan Copper Coast Red Ale. The red comes from the Crystal malt and the beer has “more of a malt profile”. It is sold in restaurants. I regularly come across it there and it certainly goes well with food.

Ballymaloe's Colm McCan
worked tirelessly over
two long days in
the Drinks Theatre
(a converted tractor shed).
The experimental nature of the craft beer industry was certainly underlined by our next beer, call Gosé, made by the Brown Paper Bag Project, Irish brewers without a brewery but who travel home and abroad and hire out or collaborate with existing brewers.

This beer was made in partnership with the local brewery on the Danish island of Fanoe in an ancient German style called Gosé. It uses 53% wheat and 47% barley along with the addition of sea salts and coriander. It has cider like characteristics and the acidity and salinity are prominent. Very good with oysters!

We finished off with one of the first of the second wave of Irish beers, Howling Gale Ale by Eight Degrees. It was important that the Mitchelstown brewery, then operating out of a cottage, got this right. They sure did set the standard and yesterday’s tasting shows it has stood the test of time and is still up there with many new ale rivals, both local and national.

Great to have the choice but Scott could do with a great choice of hops. The hops he uses are imported. “Hops are not grown commercially in Ireland,” he said. Now, with the industry mushrooming, hop growing must surely come next. Indeed, I think there are green shoots in Tipperary, White Gypsy the folks responsible.