Showing posts with label O'Donovan's Off Licence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label O'Donovan's Off Licence. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Poderi Del Nespoli Sangiovese - a wine for every occasion

Poderi Del Nespoli Sangiovese Romagna (DOC) 2020, 

13.5% ABV, €12.00 O’Donovan’s.

This is a wine for every occasion

This easy-to-drink organic Sangiovese is a wine for every occasion, proclaim the producers.

.It has a bright red ruby with violet highlights. Aromas are rich, with cherry and plum prominent. Full-bodied, it is smooth and intense, and fresh as

Monday, July 31, 2023

Dangerously likeable! That's the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (as well as the cuddly doggy, of course).

Dangerously likeable! That's the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (as well as the cuddly doggy, of course).

Il Bucco Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (DOC) 2021, 12.5% ABV,

About €15.00. Widely available, including O’Donovan’s Off Licence and Bradleys.

Montepulciano is a popular Italian red grape found mostly labelled as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Not to be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano! That’s a completely different wine made of Sangiovese grapes from the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany (on the west coast).

Now that you know the grape, perhaps you already did 😄, you may be asking where is Abruzzo. Easy enough to answer that one. If you are in Rome, head east over the Apennines and you’ll land in Abruzzo; if you overshoot, you’ll get a soaking in the Adriatic.

This one by Il Bucco delivers cherry and berry on the nose and then typical black fruit flavours including plum and blackcurrant with a touch of sweetness on the finish. The length is good without being overly long. No doubt you’ll get better versions but not at this price.


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The best examples deliver complex black fruit flavours and a smoky-sweet finish. The Vivino site recommends Beef, Pasta, Veal, and Pork as pairings. Bradleys of Cork, a local stockist, say it’s a great all-rounder to drink with pizza, pasta dishes, chicken and pork while Donegal’s Counter Deli suggests Tapas. Versatile, isn't it?

If you do fly over the mountains and end up at a restaurant in the region you could well be offered the local version of mortadella sausage, spicier and with more garlic than the Bologne version. For a few euro more, break out and go for the Abbacchio al Diavolo (spicy roasted lamb).  Vino Italiano says its soft tannins won't clash with the spice, “making the wine a fruity pillow for the fiery dish”!

This well-priced bottle, with the loveable doggy on the label, is very gluggable indeed and I've seen it described as delicious and dangerously drinkable. I would not argue with that. Great everyday drinking for small money.

Highly Recommended. 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

The versatility of Portugal wine, featuring Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano

The versatility of Portugal wine, featuring Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano*.

Part IV (Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano).

Part III (Alentejo) 

Part 11 (Douro, DĂŁo, Alentejo and Setubal.)  

Part 1 (Minho) 

Evaristo Vinho Regional Lisboa Tinto 2021, 13.5% ABV

RRP €15.95. Stockists: Red Nose Wine, Searsons Wine Merchants, Pinto Wines, Barnhill Stores, Neighbourhood Wines, Bradleys, Hen and Hog, O'Driscolls Off Licence, Myles Creek, Ely Wine Store, Morton’s Ranelagh, Donnybrook Fair, Simply Delicious, Foxrock Ave, Flemings Butchers Kilmacud, The Vintry Rathgar.

Diversity could well be Portugal's watchword, a least in terms of grapes, says Foot Trodden. “Its vineyards teem with native varieties that are rarely seen outside the country. The fashion for ripping them out in favour of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay never took hold in Portugal..:”  And with all those varieties available, blending was more or less inevitable and is well illustrated with this Evaristo.

This comes from Lisboa, formerly Extramadura, a prolific wine region located at the centre of Portugal's Atlantic coast, across the mouth of the neck of the estuary of the Tejo (Tagus, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula) from the more southerly Setubal. “Despite being one of the country's most productive winemaking areas, its name remains relatively obscure in wine terms,” says

It has a dark ruby robe. Vibrant aromas of ripe cherries float up from the glass. Cherries and dark berries burst open on the palate where a crisp acidity provides balance. Very ripe and refined tannins make for a plush and lasting finish. Portuguese winemakers often use oak but the talented Diogo SepĂșlveda refrained from so doing in order to retain the vibrant fruit flavours,

This easy-drinking wine is bursting with flavour and is Very Highly Recommended. And, by the way, great value.

Like the majority of the country’s reds, this is a blend and the grapes used in this instance are Touriga Nacional (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet.

The cartoon crow on the colourful label is a nod to Saint Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon. Legend has it that a flock of crows escorted the ship that returned his remains to the city and still keeps watch over the cathedral where he is buried to this day.

The Lisbon area is a bit like Chile in that it has a wide range of climate variations. Coastal vineyards situated to the west of the region experience a cooler microclimate and produce grapes with great freshness and aromatics. Vineyards found further inland are more sheltered from these cooling influences and bring a riper aroma profile and body to the blend. Blending the different characteristics and getting the correct results is something in which Diogo is so talented as he demonstrates once again with this dark and rich Lisboa gem.


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Azevedo Alvarinho Vinho Verde (DOC) Reserva 2021, 12.5% 

RRP €18.95. Stockists:  Blackrock Cellar, Baggot Street Wines, McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Road, Michael's Mount Merrion, The Wine Centre, Clontarf Wines, World Wide Wines, Thomas Woodberrys, Hen and Hog, O'Driscolls Off Licence

The vineyards of Azevedo, in north-west Portugal and very close to the Atlantic, date back to the 11th century when they were granted to the Azevedo family by royal decree. A thousand or so years later, this 2021 showcases the best of the Alvarinho which many consider the best Portuguese white grape variety.

Amazing how Albarino (the name of the grape in neighbouring Spain) has taken off in Ireland over the past decade or more but you don’t see that much Alvarinho here. Many wines from Portugal are blends, sometimes with many grapes, and the less experienced customers find it difficult enough. But this one is 100% Alvarinho, surely not more difficult to pronounce than the successful Spanish equivalent.

When Fernando Guedes acquired this historic estate in 1982, he revolutionised the viticulture by planting 35 hectares of cordon-trained vineyards, rather than the traditional high-trained pergolas, and built a modern winery with state-of-the-art facilities for the production of fresh and elegant wines. Today, under winemaker Diogo SepĂșlveda, they make an impressive range of wines, all marked by a signature freshness and pure and precise flavour. 

This 100% Alvarinho is one of them, even though the 2021 vintage was a tricky one, Diogo was very pleased with the quality. It wasn’t rushed in any way in the winery. After fermentation, it remained in stainless steel tanks for three months, during which time the lees were stirred to add textural complexity to the palate.

Colour is a straw yellow. Aromas are quite intense, zesty. And the refreshing flavours hint of lime, melon and nectarine. Quite a lively acidity brings the flavours, with a touch of salinity, all the way to a balanced and refreshing finalĂ©. Pair with fish tacos (like those served in Cork’s Good Day Deli) and ceviche.

Highly Recommended

Foot Trodden refers to Minho (the country’s second biggest wine region after the Douro) as “Portugal’s sister region to Galicia”. Here in the Spanish homeland of the ancient Celts, Rias Baixas, also wet and green, is home to the crisp light and refreshing Albarino. Minho is best known to us, and around the world, as the area of Vinho Verde and this bottle is designated with that DOC.

EsporĂŁo 2019 Alentejano* (IG), 14% ABV 

€14.40 (reduced from 18) O’Donovan’s Off Licence Cork

Esporao is fast becoming something of a favourite around here.

Alentejo is an area in the southeast of Portugal and it is where this organic red wine comes from. Like most Portuguese wines, it is a blend and the grapes used are Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Touriga Franca. 

The country has scores of native grape varieties in regular use, the two Tourigas above for instance. The Alicante Bouschet is an important variety in Alentejo. It is one of those grapes where both the skin and the flesh are red, that is to say a teinturier grape. It first saw the light of the vineyard in France in the late 1800s where it was bred as a cross. It does very well in Alentejo where, as reported by Grapes and Wines, one of its best producers is our EsporĂŁo.

Anyhow, though Portugal is never boring,  enough of the background stuff.   Deep ruby is the colour. Ripe fruits, mostly red, waft out in the aromas, with a little spice too along with a herbaceous note. It is quite fresh with a silky texture, that ripe fruit prominent with a touch of spice but superbly balanced right through the persistent finish. 

Highly Recommended.

The producers: The Wine is produced solely from grapes grown at Herdade do EsporĂŁo, applying organic farming methods. It expresses the typical features of the vintage year, the diversity of the soil where the vines are planted, as well as the character and identity of the selected varieties.

This is a Portuguese wine region located in the Alentejo region. The entire region is entitled to use the Alentejano IG designation, while some areas are also classified at the higher DOC level under the designation Alentejo DOC. More here from ComissĂŁo VitivinĂ­cola Regional Alentejana.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #20. Craft Lager with Cotton Ball, Whitefield, Tom Crean and Obolon

CorkBillyBeers #20

Craft Lager with Cotton Ball, Whitefield, Tom Crean and Obolon


Cotton Ball Mayfield 5 Lager, 5% ABV, 500 ml bottle O’Donovan’s

This lager, from my local, has a mid-amber colour, fountains of little bubbles, white head slims down rapidly but then hangs around for a good spell. A modest touch of hops in the aromas, more of the malt though. The refreshment factor immediately appears on the smooth palate, spot on balance between the German hops and malts. Has more character going for it than many lagers, good mouthfeel too. A thirst cutting clean bitterness rounds off an excellent lager experience with the gorgeous malt still clinging to the lips. 

A beer for all seasons, they indicate, saying: This Pilsner Lager, like the Noble Northsider’s adventures, spans the Atlantic, brewed using 100% Irish malted barley, clean bittered with three U.S. grown hops followed by a late kettle addition of Noble Hops (Hallertau Perle and Hersbrucker). Pour is clean and refreshing with a subtle aromatic hop flavour arising from a bed of light caramel malt. The Classic brew to compliment party food. This inviting pilsner goes down smoothly with gourmet burgers, pizzas or wings. A perfect hit at BBQs a great choice for alfresco dining.

And the Northsider they refer to on the label is Humphrey Lynch, who left Ballyvourney (now the home of 9 White Deer) at 15 years of age and settled in an American town known as Byefield which he later used in naming his Cork estate house. After working for two years with Joseph Longfellow, cousin to the famous poet, he worked for a year in the ship yard at Newburyport until the American civil war in which he fought in a string of “engagements”. He returned to his native Cork in 1874 and set up in Mayfield, calling his newly-purchased public house The Cotton Ball. And the Lynch family are still here today, the brewery one of the latest additions to the family’s businesses.

Very Highly Recommended.


Whitefield Ivy Hall, Dark Lager, 5.2% ABV, 500 ml bottle No. 21

DUNKEL! A lager style almost single-handedly saved by the descendants of the last king of Bavaria König Ludwig III it belies the senses, but don’t be afraid of the dark!

That’s the message from Whitefield Brewery of Templemore as they offer their dark lager. It is called Ivy Hall but was once Dark Lady. A rebrand in recent years has seen the Tipperary brewery change the names of its various beers and even the brewery name itself from White Gypsy. “As part of the rebrand we wanted to link everything to our locality and Ivy Hall is a townland in Templemore.”

The beer is indeed dark and if you didn’t know you’d be inclined to think you had a stout ahead of you, right down to the tan head and the roasted aromas. The brew is put together with Bohemian and Munich malts, roasted barley, Saaz hops, and Czech yeast.

A dark brown colour conceals the soul of this European dark beer that turns out to be a lager; as the bottle label says “don't be afraid of the dark”. The dark beer also turns out to be well-made, well mannered. Nothing sinister here, just a very interesting beer from Templemore, not for the first time. The notes from the roasted barley are a prominent feature though, in fairness, it has an excellent rounded flavour all the way through to a very satisfying finish.

A (slightly) sweet malty dark lager, as you might expect to get in Munich, a really top notch beer. Another Irish beer that proves you can do without Nitro.

Very Highly Recommended.


Tom Crean St Brigid’s Irish Lager, 4.5% ABV, 440ml can, Carry Out Killarney

A lovely golden colour on this one, bubbles galore and the bubbly head is not retained for very long. Good balance of hops (Slovenia) and malt (German) on the palate with the malt getting an edge on the finale as it has in the aromas. 

More refreshment from this one than I remembered from a previous tasting a few years back. Brewer Bill Sheppard has his own methods - go to Kenmare and take that tour! - and this is a very satisfying lager indeed that reminds me of the traditional Central European style.

This is one of the Crean beers that was awarded in last year’s Blas awards. It got bronze while their 6 Magpies Stout did even better with a gold.

They say: “This is our salute to an accomplished medieval brewer.  Rich golden colour, German malts with hops from Slovenia. We allow six weeks to bring this classic to perfection. St. Bridget known in Ireland for her saintly status, her feast day (1st Feb) and her cross made from reeds, less known for being a fine Irish brewer.”

Bill Sheppard also had a story about the saint: “…quite a lot of the early brewers were women and the church wasn’t very happy with that situation. The brewers wore a special hat for the trade and kept a cat (to protect the grain from mice) and that eventually led to some of them being called witches with dire consequences.”

Lager of course ties up your brewing kit for longer than ale and maybe that was why there was a shortage of lager from the current wave of craft breweries in the early stages. No shortage now though. Still takes extra time though and Tom Crean allow six weeks to bring their lager “to perfection”.

Very Highly Recommended.

For a recent post on the brewery please click here.  


Obolon Premium Lager, 5.0% ABV, 500ml can Bradleys

Clear gold is the colour, head short-lived. Sweet malty plus boiled rice aromas. Much the same in the mouth too but well balanced, sharply refreshing and easy drinking. Just the job for the brighter days ahead. Very affordable also at two euro for the large can.

Budmo, the Ukrainian toast, means 'let us be' and is the shortest and the most popular Ukrainian toast. Appropriate too in more ways than one these days.

This is what the Ukrainian brewery says about it: Obolon Premium is a lager beer which presents an extremely soft and rich taste. Aromatic hops in combination with a special ingredient-rice, provides this beer with a distinct flavor and a pleasant bitterness. Especially refreshing and effervescent beer with pronounced taste and palatable bitterness. This is one of the most popular beer due to its mild taste.

Monday, January 23, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #8. Craft porter with West Kerry, Bradleys, Clonakilty, O'Donovan's, Whiplash, Einstock, The Cru

CorkBillyBeers #8

Craft porter with West Kerry, Bradleys, Clonakilty, O'Donovan's, Whiplash, Einstock, The Cru


West Kerry Carraig Dubh Porter, 6.00% ABV, 500 ml bottle Bradleys

“The original beer was red which became CĂșl Dorcha, then came Carraig Dhubh a porter because we like the sound of the word as opposed to stout!” Hard for us amateurs to describe the difference between stout and porter if the professionals chose to call this one porter on the basis of how it sounds!

But agree we can (as Yoda might put it) that this is quite a beer. Smooth, seductive, chocolate-ly and there is no letting go as the lingering finish is along the same lines. One to sip and savour, arĂ­s is arĂ­s.

How does it look? Well, black as you’d expect and it comes with a quickly vanishing head. Aromas coming from the malt are coffee and caramel. The roasted flavours are on the bold side, and really wake up those taste buds. Lots of chocolate malt here but there is also a balance and it never gets too sweet, just spot on. The aromas and flavours continue to make this a superb experience right through to the finalĂ©. They also do a barrel aged version - must sometime try that!

West Kerry are somewhat unusual in that all their beers are brewed with the same yeast. “Breweries normally match the style of beers to different yeast types, but we like to do it the other way around, and we design the recipe for each of our beers ourselves. But what we like to think makes our beers even more special is our water, which is full of lime and as luck would have it, ale yeast loves limey water, ensuring our beers are flavoursome, and feel round and soft in the mouth.”

It is bottle conditioned and made from malted barley, hops, yeast and spring water “from our own spring”. Traditional, yes. A bottle (or two) would go down well at the threshings I remember - but not too many threshings on farms anymore. 

Not only was Beoir Chorcha Dhuibhne the first brewery in Kerry when set up in 2008, but it was the first micro-brewery in Ireland to be founded and managed by a woman, and Adrienne continues to run the brewery ever since. 

Remembering those early days, Adrienne recalls “I realised the wonderful potential around developing beers with an intense connection to the ground they were made on … using water from 150 feet below the brewery connects me back to the family members who have gone before us, and in turn they are connected out to the world through the beers we produce here”.

You may enjoy a tour the brewhouse and then a tasting in the pub afterwards or take a technical tour where you get to pick the brains of one of the brewers. More details here.  I’m well overdue a visit to Tig Bhric myself.

Very Highly Recommended


Clonakilty Smuggler Porter, 6.0% ABV, 500 ml bottle O’Donovan’s

What is the difference between Stout and Porter? 

Author Mark Dredge says Porter typically has less roasted barley flavour than a Stout.

Traditionally, Stout became regarded as stronger than Porter (or was that just the marketing!). Then again, you have Baltic porter, stronger than most stouts (except perhaps those barrel-aged).  No easy answer to the question anymore as there are so many sub styles, so many different brewers and so many variations from brewery to brewery.

Dark stuff this Clonakilty bottle with the startlingly blue-eyed boy on the label. Previously the bubbly frothy tan head sank slowly, but this time it made a rather quick exit (even though I poured slowly, as instructed). I must say, without ever counting them up, that I think the porter heads generally slip away much quicker than their stout equivalent.

Moderate aromas of roast and chocolate as the head sinks another notch, just a thin disc now. And, now on the palate, it is sweet chocolate, coffee too and a medium touch of bitterness all through to keep it all in balance and there is a good dry finish.

They say: We are passionate about making beer with no compromise, brewing small batches with big personality. Using locally sourced grains, the best hops and water from our own well, our beers are handcrafted with care…. 

Pour slowly for a smooth creamy head. Enjoy at 10-12 degrees. It goes well with dark meats, rich desserts and chocolate, and is delicious and satisfying on its own.

The Deasy family brewed beer in Clonakilty (known as the brewery town) for almost 200 years, including the famous Clonakilty Wrastler. The Deasys also had a legendary reputation as successful smugglers along the dramatic and rugged coast of West Cork.

They, the current brewers, say: We are passionate about making beer with no compromise, brewing small batches with big personality. Using locally sourced grains, the best hops and water from our own well, our beers are handcrafted with care in our Brewhouse in Clonakilty by head brewer ‘Thirsty’ Frank Fredriksen and his team.

Clonakilty is at the centre of such a positive mix of beautiful scenery, amazing food, interesting characters, quirky local stories and strong town spirit. …It also pushes us to brew beer that stands with the best and make the town proud of what we do.

Highly Recommended.


Whiplash The Sup Porter 5.0%, 330 ml can Bradleys

Thought I’d throw this in here (we’ve had it previously) to fill a small gap in the session…..lighter than the stout and with an almost cherry like flavour..a little beauty that sure can speak for itself…

The Sup is a glass of the black stuff with a classic tan head. And there’s more! The aromas, chocolate and caramel, are a gentle and pleasant introduction. The firm shakehands comes in the mouth, again chocolate and caramel, but now more assertive, again in the most pleasant of ways, plus that cherry bonus.

As with many porters, it is more about the malts. They say: This porter has been on our “to brew” list for years now and we decided it was finally time. …... The main star in this is CaraBohemian – a kind of rich and decadent Czech Brown Malt but it oozes fruity Bournville dark chocolate with a hint of coffee in there too.

Not too sure about the Bournville bit; that bar was a favourite of mine (back in the day, before the day!) and I can’t say I recognise it here. Nice soft finish though with a hint of sweetness. Been years since I had a bar of Bournville! Must try one soon.

Bournville or not, this is delicious, quite a sophisticated porter. Should be versatile at the table, morning with pancakes and Nutella, lunch with Smoked Scamorza by Toonsbridge, evening with a few squares of a certain chocolate.  Or perhaps any time, with just a few of the Apple Farm cherries when they ripen next summer!

Highly Recommended


Einstock Icelandic Toasted Porter 6.0% ABV, 330 ml can The Cru

The traditional colours of porter are here: black body, tan head (that sinks away). Aromas are very much in the tradition as well, especially the slightly roasted chocolate. Chocolate, coffee and caramel feature also in the flavours. 

This is quite a combo actually, really well executed by the Icelandic brewery. Toasty and rich, with a smooth punch on the palate plus a very satisfying finish indeed, it is quite a porter. Had been a little sceptical about this small can but now it is a big thumbs up.

The headings on the can don’t mention it but this is the brewery’s take on a Baltic Porter, though it is mentioned in the text. So this take is out of a direct comparison with the other porters in this quartet.

They say: Aromatic Icelandic roasted coffee subtly bands together with toasted malt undertones to create our take on Baltic Porter..What is a Baltic Porter? The rise in popularity of the English-style Porter took over shipping ports around the world in the 18th century. It primarily gained recognition when it was introduced to London's working class, the porters, who loaded ships and traded with the Baltic states. As this popular style reached the Baltic region, local brewers tried their hand at this famous recipe, but this time with a local twist. Since the native climate of the Baltics was measurably cooler than England, brewers began using lager yeast to ferment their porters instead of ale yeast (which typically ferments at higher temperatures)……Lager malt, Munich malt, chocolate malt, Bavarian Northern Brewer hops, and authentic Icelandic roasted coffee.

Food pairings suggested are: Rich and roasty notes bring out the best of steak, lamb chops, game and roasts.