Showing posts with label Port. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Port. Show all posts

Monday, March 11, 2019

Le Caveau Tasting in the 'Hood. Port Shines in Old Apple Market


Le Caveau Tasting in the 'Hood.
Port Shines in Old Apple Market.

Chef Takashi Miyazaki (left) with Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau in the Old Apple Market
Chris Forbes is a man on the move. Chris, export manager at The Fladgate Partnership, representing Port wines from Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft, spent close to six months on the road, on the train, and in the air, traversing the globe last year and expects this year to be much the same. Port keeps him on the move and he was in Cork last Thursday for the Le Caveau Portfolio Tasting in the Old Apple Market in Barrack Street.

The demand for the Portuguese wine - Port is a wine, a good one and a good value one too - may be surprising to some of us here. The fortified drink may be hundreds of years old but you’ll still find it in the best of places. Chris hosted a Boston dinner in January ($135 Per Person, not including tax and gratuity) and, at the recent Oscars, Taylor’s Ruby Port was used in a classic Paloma cocktail!


Nearer to home, I’ve come across the Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port (introduced in 1934, so a relative youngster) in cocktails at Cask and also in what is cheekily called an Irish G&T in a Wexford restaurant (Aldridge Lodge) where the port takes the place of the gin as they don’t have a spirits licence.

And it was with a sip of that Chip Dry that I started my amble around the many wines, most of them organic, many of them natural, at the very interesting portfolio tasting. It is delightful as an aperitif, may also be used, one to two, with tonic water, and of course in those cocktails.




Le Caveau are well-known for their excellent house wine range and quite a few were on display including the Cantina Tollo pair of Madregale and Ciello (check out their reds too) and also the Menade Verdejo. The Burgundy whites impressed, of course, the Ambroise, two by Larue (St Aubin 1er cru and Chassagne-Montrachet) and also the Bachey-Legros Puligny Montrachet.

On the Loire side, I very much liked the “Mademoiselle M” by Alexandre Bain and Sauvignon Blanc from Frantz Saumon, cheekily titled Vin de Frantz! Meyer-Fonné seldom disappoints and his Alsace Pinot Blanc Vieilles Vignes is a gem. Another beauty was the Rhone white by Dard et Ribo from Croze-Hermitage.



Stepped on the gas then and headed for Italy and the excellent Semplicemente, a 100% Cortese from the late Stefano Bellotti’s winery. I’ve been working my way through the Judith Beck wines from Austria and added another to my to-do list when I tasted her Koreaa. Further afield I recruited another three for my shortlist: the Iago Chinuri from Georgia, the Pebble Dew Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and the Radford Dale Chardonnay from South Africa.

Lots of lovely wines in the less expensive reds section including old friends like the Tour de Gendres “Le Classique” and Chateau de Cedre “Heritage de Cedre” from Bergerac. Also fancied the Antica Enotria Rosso from this bunch.

Then crossed the room and really struck it rich on the Burgundy shelf. Started well with the Ambroise Pinot Noir “Lettre d’Eloise” and moved up a notch with Bachey-Legros Santenay 1er cru. Thought it couldn’t get any better than the Regnaudot Maranges 1er cru “Fussieres. It didn’t but the Parize Givry 1er cru “Champ Nalot” matched it!



The three Beaujolais, including Foillard’s Morgan Classique, matched my high expectations and I found the Bornard Ploussard Point Barre very interesting and will have to explore it further and the same note was made about the Nicolas Reau Anjou Cabernet Franc “Pompois”.

Despite a recent tip from Jean-Frédéric Hugel during the recent Findlater Tasting in the Montenotte Hotel, I was still very much surprised by the Binner Pinot Noir “Beatrice” from Alsace. M. Hugel told me of a huge improvement in Alsace Pinot Noir over the past twenty years and this is another outstanding example. If I must ever chose just one wine for the desert island, this will certainly be on the shortlist. As Rex Pickett wrote in Sideways I "was vertiginously winched up to a more rarefied plateau".

Always worth keeping an eye on is Beauregard-Mirouze from Corbieres in the South of France for well made wines at attractive prices and their “Ciel de Sud” is certainly one. And, in the same category, check out Maule’s “Masieri Rosso” from Italy. Other Italians to note are the Foradori IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti and the Ampeleia Coste Toscana IGT.


Spain didn’t disappoint either. The Peza do Rei Tinto Ribera Sacra is worth checking out and so too is the Alfred Maestro El Marciano Garnacha (just note the 15% abv!). The New Zealand Pebble Dew Pinot Noir hit the spot too, just like its Sauvignon Blanc earlier. I’m something of a Gamay fan but have never seen one as light-coloured as the Radford Dale “Thirst”. Interesting also was their Syrah “Nudity”. Just might be buying a bottle of each.

My finalé to a very pleasant couple of hours - we had some lovely local producer bites provided by Jack Crotty who has made this old building the base for Neighbourfood - was another drop of port and another chat with Chris. The finalé, sweet and conversation stopping delicious, was provided by the 2013 Late Bottled Vintage. I hadn’t had a drop of Port since Christmas and this reminded me in the nicest possible way of what I had been missing. If you’ve not been sipping Port lately, why not give it a try. It is just too good to leave out of your personal portfolio!



Port galore. Chris (right) with Colm (Le Caveau, Dublin)

You can get quite a lot of very interesting information on port here.
And you can see Chris on video here at the Californian Wine of the Month Club.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Trio of Very Highly Recommended Wine Treats!

Chateau Pape Clement Grand Cru Classé de Graves Pessac-Léognan 1998, 13%. 

Amazing how the colour is so dark,  a deep purple with virtually no diminution at the edge. Quite a subtle scent, rounded, hints of spice. It is smooth, elegant, rich and rounded, not a note out of place, a symphony for the senses, perfect on the palate and a perfect long dry finish. 

Concentrated, fine and harmonious from start to finish, an admirable wine and Very Highly Recommended.


It is a blend of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with some Cabernet Franc also in the mix and spent 18 months in oak.

The first harvest here was in 1252! It was first planted by Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, who later (1305) became Pope Clement V (of Avignon fame). The Graves vineyard was run by the Bordeaux Archbishops until the French Revolution.

When the grapes for this particular bottle were produced, the chateau was under Bernard Magrez, “a passionate wine entrepreneur”. His efforts were rewarded in 2009 when critic Robert Parker gave “the mythical score of 100” to the Chateau’s white and the same score for the red in the following year.

This was a birthday gift that I took a while to open, so I'm not sure of availability or price.

Taylor’s Port Late Bottled Vintage 2011, 20%, €25.95 Bradley's (Cork), Le Caveau
Taylor’s, pioneers of the category, launched their first LBV in 1970 to satisfy a demand for a high quality ready-to-drink alternative to Vintage Port. Unlike vintage port, which is bottled after only two years in wood and ages in bottle, LBV is bottled after four to six years and is ready to drink immediately. Its longer wood ageing means it needs no decanting and will remain in good condition for several weeks after the initial opening.

This 2011 has a solid purple colour. It is aromatic for sure, cherry and plum, berries too. Rich and fruity on the palate, some spice also, hints of liquorice, tannins just about in evidence. Superb balance overall. The blending process ensures it is “balanced and complete and that there is a continuity of style in relation to previous Taylor LBV”. A true Taylor-style port indeed.


This beautiful elegant wine, with a wonderfully long finish, is Very Highly Recommended.


Clos Puy Arnaud Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux (AOC) 2014, 14%, €39.95 Bradley’s Cork.


Not too much to say about this one other than it is just brilliant. Colour is mid to deep purple. Aromas are complex, plum mainly, vanilla too, herby notes. Fruit is opulent, plus a marked freshness (a good proportion of Cabernet Franc may have something to do with that) and acidity, a fair bit of spice also, tannins close to smooth, and a quality finish. Very Highly Recommended. Duck and steak may be the best matches, hard cheeses too.

This vin biodynamique is produced by vigernon-proprietaire Thierry Valette and Puy Arnaud is a standard bearer for organic wine in Bordeaux. This is a blend of Merlot (70%), Cabernet Franc (25%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). It is a recent addition to the Findlater list.


Castillon-la-Bataille is a town on the Dordogne, about 50 minutes east of Bordeaux city and the vineyard is a few miles north of the town. Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon is the appellation title for Cotes de Bordeaux wines made specifically in the district. Until 2009, these wines were sold as Cotes de Castillon.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Two Ports And A Tinto. A Taste of the Douro

Two Ports And A Tinto
A Taste of the Douro

Porto, on the Douro and the second biggest city in Portugal, is the home of Port. It is also known as Oporto. The long established wine-growing area is a World Heritage site and a gorgeous place to visit.

The modern style of Port can be traced back to 1678, when the Abbot of Lamego was adding brandy to the wine before it had finished fermenting. By arresting fermentation, he could retain the natural sweetness of the ultra-ripe Port-grape varieties and create a fortified wine capable of improving with age.
Read much more on the subject by wine-searchers.com here.

Taylor’s Fine White Port (Portugal), 20%, €19.99 Bradley’s

First you notice that lovely gold colour - sunset on the Douro, I wish!; and then the tears that are extra slow to clear. Then the rich aromas, mellow fruit. And it is full bodied, velvety on the palate and a great finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Taylor’s Fine White Port is a blend of wines produced from white grapes grown mainly on the upper slopes of the Douro Valley.  The grapes used include the Arinto, Boal (Semillon), Codega, Esgana Cão, Folgasão, Gouveio, Viosinho and Rabigato varieties.

The individual wines are aged in oak vats for about three years, where they acquire mellowness and character.  They are blended to produce a rich white port in the traditional smooth, full-bodied style.

Taylor’s pioneered dry white aperitif port more than 60 years ago under the Chip Dry label, first blended in 1934. That was the one I had intended to buy in Bradley’s but decided to try this, a much sweeter version.

You can drink it in the traditional way, chilled on its own, or with a twist of lemon, accompanied by roasted almonds, olives or dry biscuits. My favourite pairing though is with Barrie Tyner’s Cognac infused chicken liver paté (try catching him at the Mahon and Midleton markets). You’ll have a great laugh and a great paté. And now a great match!

Casal dos Jordoes Finest Reserve Port (Portugal), 20%, €17.20 (375ml) Mary Pawle Wines




Warm, sweet (not cloying) and spicy, this is your classic Port offering, tradition with high quality from organic grapes. Masses of fruit, excellent concentration from this Port which features the Touriga Francesca grape. Delicious on its own before and after meals and the importer’s tip is to try it with chocolate desserts! Highly Recommended




Casal dos Jordoes Quinta de Esteveira Douro Reserva Tinto 2011 (Portugal), 13.5%, €15.20 Mary Pawle Wines
Made from organic grapes (including Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca), the human touch is all important here. The grapes are harvested by hand and are then crushed “by feet of man”, part of a system “utilised by the Romans”, a tried and tested method that increases colour and tannin extraction.

That colour is a deep red and the tears are slow to clear. Aromas are of dark fruit, good and strong. Fruit, spice and acidity combine in quite an engaging mouthful and there is an excellent finish too. Made by the same vineyard that produces the port (above), this is Highly Recommended.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sparkling Intro to Le Caveau Tasting


Sparkling Intro to Le Caveau Tasting
Sparkling Sugrue

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.
Mark of Cockagee.
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.
Stephane of Chateau Turcaud
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.
Orange alert!

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.
With Eleonora of Menade

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pearls of Portugal. Super Reds & A Port!

Pearls of Portugal. Super Reds & A Port!



Messias Grande Escolha red 2011 (Douro DOC), 14%. €16.30 Karwig Wines

Colour is an opaque purple and it has intense aromas, more or less the raisins and spices the winery itself mentions. In the mouth, the fruit is intense, some spice, silky smooth, tannins quite fine, with a dry and persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.


This is a blend of traditional grape varieties: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional.


Quinta do Valdoeiro red Reserva 2009 (Bairrada DOC), 14%, €19.20 Karwig Wines

Another gem from Messias, this from a different area and the blend here is the local Baga with Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, Very Highly Recommended.


It has a deep violet colour with complex aromas featuring mainly dark fruits. There is a superb supple structure, tannins are fine and the balance overall is excellent with an imposing length at the finish. Worth taking your time with this one; you'll appreciate it all the more.


Messias Porto LBV 2007, 19.5%, €21.85 Karwig Wines

Picked this up when I bought some Portuguese wines in Karwig’s and it turns out to be an excellent Late Bottled Vintage at a very good price indeed. Not one of the big names in port in Ireland but Very Highly Recommended. It is made from much the same grape varieties that go into the Grande Escolha above.

It is tawny colored as you'd expect, with a warm, rich and complex aroma with notes of dried fruit. It is satisfyingly full in the mouth, very smooth and finishes long. Well worth a try.

Messias was founded in 1926 and nowadays produces high quality wines from several demarcated regions: Dão, Bairrada, Douro, Vinho Verde, Beiras, Terras do Sado and Vinho do Porto.

Late Bottled Vintage, as the name suggests, is bottled later, remaining in wood between four and six years. All the fruit used is from that one year. During this relatively long period of wood ageing, an LBV matures and settles down.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Aromas give the game away!

Aromas give the game away!

Del Duque Amontillado, Jerez (aged 30 years), 21.5%, €22.99 Bradley’s, North Main Street.


The minute she walked in the room, I lost all chance of keeping the precious 37.5cl bottle of Del Duque Amontillado for myself.


“What is that aroma?”, she asked, enthusiastically. “Toastie? Caramel? So sharp. So clear. Where is is coming from?” I just had to offer her a glass. Knowing full well it wouldn't stop at that.

Now that this Gonzalez Byass bottle was out in the open - had been under a small coffee table - I could really appreciate its brilliant amber colour, even enjoy those marvellous aromas, fruit and floral notes there too and hints of cinnamon.

Little sips will do you, I advised. And took that advice myself. Thirty years on - the wine, that is, not us - the palate is dry and lively, aromas everywhere in those intense and complex flavours, such concentration and, of course, that marvellous finish. Don't go chilling this by the way - serve it at room temperature, with some mature Hegarty’s cheddar perhaps.



A Glass of Croft for the Cook!


Croft Triple Crown Ruby Port, c.€17.50 O’Donovan’s


Needed a glass of Port for a favourite liver recipe the other evening. But the cupboard was bare! A quick dash (maybe not that quick, I did have the dog in tow) to the local O'Donovan's Off Licence uncovered this one (and in fairness, quite a few more).


This full bodied very approachable ruby is quite fruity with a decent bit of spice.Three years in seasoned oak hasn't done it any harm at all. It did its sweet job with the liver and the glass for the cook, recommended by the O'Donovan's manager, went down very well indeed.


Ruby ports are also ideal with the cheese-board and this could hold its own with Crozier or Cashel Blue. Or maybe just have it on its own.

The company of Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman is one of the most significant of all Port producers. They own a number of Port houses, including Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft. Ruby port is the cheapest and most extensively produced type of port. It does not generally improve with age.

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)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe, Port. Cheese, Chocolate.

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe

Port. Cheese, Chocolate.
It was all about farmers at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening, appropriately enough in the week that the East Cork food destination celebrated the 90th birthday of Myrtle Allen.  Myrtle turned her front room into a restaurant fifty years ago and the rest is food history, still evolving. And Ballymaloe is still a farm, of course.

Thursday was also about Port, cheese and chocolate. The only real farmer on stage was Dan Hegarty whose family in Whitechurch make the well known and well loved cheddar. Chris Forbes from Taylor’s Port told us of the many small holders on the steep slopes of the Douro while Shana Wilkie of Wilkie’s Chocolate, Ireland's only bean to bar chocolate maker, told us of the small Peruvian farms from where she gets her beans.

It is mountainy in the Douro and very hot. There are some 35,000 tiny holdings, according to Chris, but Taylor’s buy grapes from less than 100. Taylor’s also grow their own - their Quinta de Vargellas is one of the best known in the world - and the port is made from a variety of indigenous grapes.

Port is a fortified wine. Fermentation is stopped after 2 or 3 days by adding 77% proof alcohol. That arrests the fermentation and maintains the high sugar level. Some hard work before all that though. The pickers start early, stop for lunch and wine, start again and stop in early evening for more food and more wine.
But they are not finished. They then start the traditional foot-treading in the lagar, two hours of tough going, squeezing out the juice and the colour. All Taylor’s vintage ports are made using traditional methods, including foot-threading.

We started the tasting with a 2008 LBV (Late Bottled Vintage). LBV was created in the 1970’s by Taylor’s, all the grapes coming from the one year and it spends 4 to 6 years in large wooden vats. Taylor’s are the world leaders in this style and, as we saw, it goes very well indeed with both cheese and chocolate (the Amazonas). By the way, if you open a bottle, Chris advised to finish within 3 to 4 weeks, as it loses its freshness after that.

Dan Hegarty was  very impressed with the Port and said he was thinking of giving up his favourite lager. Indeed, there is no shortage of good humour as Dan took us through the family’s relatively short history of making cheddar.
Shana and her relationship with the farmers
They started in 2000, using the traditional methods, and sell their products at different ages. They “went mad” early on, going flat out with production but now they are more restrained and there are only marginal increases from year to year. It is a two year cycle and they milk about 100 cows. On Thursday, we tasted three ages: 6 months, 12 months and 18. The older was the more popular though, according to Dan, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port 1998, the produce of just one vineyard, was next up, “an affordable way to drink vintage Port.” It is now 14 years in bottle with opulence, spiciness and red currant flavours. It proved an excellent match with Wilkie’s Amazonas with Cocoa Nibs and also with the 6 month old cheddar. And a word of advice from Chris: “On opening, decant, and drink that evening!”

Shana too had a few tips for recognising good chocolate. “Shiny chocolate is normally good, dull is not so good. A sharp snap is also a good sign.” Shana is originally a graphic designer “by trade" but always had a great interest in food.

She went on to tell how she got into chocolate making and got familiar with the different beans and flavours and was drawn to the Criollo flavour bean. She now works with a few families in Peru. At home, and home now is Midleton as she has returned to the East Cork, she is always experimenting, always getting better and indeed she already has some impressive awards to her name. 
Her Tumbes chocolate was an excellent match with the 10 Year Old Tawny. This port has spent ten years in small wooden casks, no new wood used. It is lighter in colour with mellow notes and little spice. Chris described it as a “liquid fruit cake”. Went well with the chocolate and also the 18 month cheddar. Great too with pates and terrines, according to Chris. “The style is fresh and clean and it is easy drinking.”

Chris surprised some by suggesting that these Tawines (we finished with the exquisite 20 Year Old, even lighter in colour and with a toastier aroma) be served slightly chilled and also suggested serving them in summer as well as the more traditional winter usage.

The three gathered on stage for a deserved round of applause and there was thanks too for Peter Corr of Febvre who assisted throughout the evening and for Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann and his team.
Left to right: Chris Forbes, Peter Corr, Shana Wilkie, Dan Hegarty and Yours Truly.