|On a stony hill in Sancerre|
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Monday, March 4, 2019
In Kinsale's Finns' Table
Quelle surprise! In Finns’ Table Kinsale recently, we were delighted to have the opportunity, totally unexpected, to talk with Olivier of Joseph Mellot wines from Sancerre.
It was late in the evening when Olivier arrived but he was as enthusiastic as if it were a sunny morning by the banks of famous Loire.
“It’s a very long story,” he said, referring to the family’s history in the area. It began in 1513! In the 17th century, the family obviously knew their wine well enough for César Mellot to be appointed sommelier to Louis XIV, this paving the rue for a long dynasty of passionate winemakers. Sancerre by the way, is as close to Paris as it is to Tours and then too the kings regularly visited the chateaux on the Loire.
In the 20th century, Alphonse Mellot, is the first winemaker of Sancerre to exhibit his wines at the Foire de Paris and to win several medals in wine and culinary events. He then opened a warehouse in the Halle aux vins of Bercy to develop his sales in the capital.
Nowadays, Joseph Mellot wines are sold in over 40 countries, and distributed here in Ireland by Longueville Wines. And Longueville was represented in Finns Table by none other than Eoghan O’Hea who I hadn’t set eyes on since his Tennents days.
The soil of course goes back even further, tens of millions of years. “The ocean has been here twice,” said Olivier. Flint dominates the soil now and it and Sauvignon Blanc get on very well together. “It is a well draining soil, gives lots of aromatics and minerality. Last but not least, the sun warms the stones and if you walk in the vines at 11.00pm, you’ll find it 2-4 degrees warmer then elsewhere as the warm stones return the heat to the vines. The night-time warmth encourages the grapes to ripen, an earlier harvest. Amazing.”
The Mellot vineyard is on hills in Sancerre, at 450 metres altitude, above the River Loire which still has some 500 kms to travel before it reaches the Atlantic. Wine-Searcher says Sancerre is typically less "obvious" than the most famous New World styles of Sauvignon Blanc; less grassy than those from Marlborough and less overtly citrussy than those from Chile. Once upon a time, Sancerre made mostly red wines but now their Pinot Noir accounts for just about 20% of wine. But that may change again with global warming!
Julie Finn had been gently and generously introducing us to the wines before Olivier’s arrival. The red was Le Connétable, Cuvée Prestige, a red Sancerre of character! The fruit is raised on those hillsides rich in flint. It is matured in oak barrel for one year, local French oak that is, and then one year in bottle before release.
It boasts an aromatic persistence with notes of blackberry and cherry. Matched perfectly my starter of beef brisket and CL’s main course of lamb.
We also enjoyed the Domaine de Bellecours 2016, a delicious Sauvignon Blanc with a pale gold colour and aromas of tropical fruit. Palate shows elegant balance of freshness and fruit. Superb with the restaurant’s Oysterhaven mussels starter and later with the Seafood Bourride (Provencal fish stew).
Cuvée Pierre Etienne 2015 is another Sauvignon Blanc, smooth and elegant and quite a treat. Beautiful yellow/golden colour, sign of the ageing in barrel which has also tamed the strong mineral character of the younger wines. Generous and intense, with a nice aromatic persistence.
This cuvée was created in tribute to the founder of the Mellot dynasty, Pierre Etienne, and his descendants. It is vinified only in the best vintages and just 3,000 bottles are produced. The front and neck labels are reproductions from the 1930s. We were really privileged to sample this on the night! A mega merci to Julie and John!
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Finns’ Table Highlights Kinsale Can-do Attitude
Especially when it comes to food!
|Beef Brisket Croquette|
Kinsale’s renowned Good Food Circle seem to have backed a winner with their Restaurant Week. The place is abuzz as was Finns’ Table when we walked in there around 7.00pm last Monday. We hadn’t met Julie and chef John with quite a while so it was great to take the opportunity to eat, drink and chat in such a lovely and lively spot.
Julie had reserved the “Love Table” for us, knowing that we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. So we sipped our Veuve Clicquot and soon we were tucking into two delightful mini-loaves from John’s kitchen, a treacle bread and also a potato bread, each different, both delicious.
So, what do they give you for your twenty euro? A choice of four starters and four mains, all really top class. One starter was Mushrooms on toast, crispy hen’s egg and Hollandaise sauce, another was Jerusalem Artichoke soup with honey, almond and rosemary granola.
Not easy to turn down either of those but I picked the Braised Irish Beef Brisket Croquet with celeriac remoulade and horseradish cream. The packed croquet was full of flavour, the remoulade and cream the perfect partners. CL spotted that the local mussels (from nearby Oysterhaven) were enhanced with coconut, coriander, ginger and lemongrass. Oh, the steamed bivalves have rarely been so well accompanied in a bowl.
Joseph Mellot wines from Sancerre - we would meet Olivier from the winery later on in the evening - were produced and much appreciated as the lovely occasion unfolded.
So what would we have for mains? The quartet on offer were all very tempting indeed. There was a Confit Duck Leg, slow cooked, with Rosscarbery black pudding, and cider braised lentils and also a Vegetarian Wellington (Uncle Tom’s Turnip, Sweet Potato and Bandon Vale Cheddar).
The Irish Lamb Tasting plate was CL’s choice: Roast Rump, Slow Cooked Neck and Braised Shoulder, with Fondant Potato and Jus. We swapped wines at this point with CL taking the Pinot Noir and I taking the Sauvignon Blanc. The SB proved a perfect match with the exquisite Seafood Bourride, a Provencal style fish stew containing lightly poached local fish and shellfish in saffron broth with garlic aioli and herbs, a delightful mix of flavours and aromas.
I’ve often thought that it is the small things on your plate that can indicate a chef’s skill. And what caught our attention here, in the most delightful way, was the side of Mixed Garden vegetables. No exotic veg included but excellent stuff, superbly cooked and a pure delight on the palate. Still wondering what little extra magic he added here.
Fair play to the Finns. Since moving to Kinsale from nearby Timoleague about six years ago they have played a full role in the Good Food Circle, as indeed do all the members. Bookings have been brisk for this week’s combined venture and you may find it too late to reserve a place in some venues.
But two excellent courses for just twenty euro is well worth checking out. The full list involved is: Actons Hotel, The Blue Haven, The Bulman, Jim Edwards, Finns’ Table, Fishy Fishy, Man Friday, The Supper Club, The Trident Hotel, The White House, and The White Lady. The week opened on the 18th and closes on the 24th - no time to lose!
The big event for the Good Food Circle comes every October when the annual Gourmet Festival takes place. Dates this year, for the 43rd running of this famous and fun event, are 11th to 13th of October. And, believe it or not, bookings can now be made. Check "Kinsale Good Food Circle - 43rd Kinsale Gourmet Festival” for further info.
Before that though, the Good Food Circle will host the national Chowder Championships in April with a street food festival on the same weekend (6/7 April 2019).
Cast Your Vote in the 9th All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off on Sunday 7th April. Kinsale Good Food Circle want your help to find the best chowder chef in Ireland. A representative from each of the 32 counties will compete for the title of “All-Ireland Chowder Champion” at the annual All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off. Everyone attending the event will have a chance to vote for their favourite chowder-chef. The food festival in the streets will be held on the Saturday (6th).
FINNS' TABLE, 6 MAIN STREET, KINSALE.
Phone: 021 4709636
Also on this Kinsale trip:
Warm Welcome at Trident Hotel
Surprise Mellot Sancerre Tasting at Finns' Table