Showing posts with label Tesco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tesco. Show all posts

Thursday, June 1, 2017

These Ladies Like to be Out and About. Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese

These Ladies Like to be Out and About

Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese

“Our goats are outside all the time. They have the use of the shed but seem to prefer the outdoors, even when it’s wet,” said Victor O’Sullivan to me when I visited his Bluebell Falls goats, all four hundred of them, last week. “It makes a definite difference to the cheese.”

Victor and his cheesemaker wife Breda have a mix of three breeds on the farm, just outside Newtownshandrum in North Cork “Why the mix?”, I asked. “They each have different characteristics and, with the three, we get a more balanced type of milk.” 
Milking lessons!
Two of the breeds here are originally Swiss. The Saanen goats are a white or cream-coloured goat breed, named for the Saanen valley in Switzerland. The Toggenburg goat, is a breed of milk goat, named after the region in Switzerland where the breed originated, the Toggenburg valley in the Canton of St. Gallen. The British Alpine is a high-producer of quality goats' milk, and the breed can be found in many goat dairies.

They’ve had goats here since the middle of the last decade and the herd was up to the 400 mark by 2007, the milk being sold on to dairies. They took the big step in 2013 when they bought out Bluebell Falls (then in County Clare). Breda and Victor did cheesemaking courses under Eddie O'Neill at Moorepark (near Fermoy) and, very importantly, Paul Keane of the original Bluebell gave them a solid grounding in the business over a three month period. 
By 2014, they were retailing their own cheese. And, continuing “the same system as Bluebell”, have expanded each year since and are proud of their BRC accreditation, the global standard for food safety.

Their long oval packages have becoming well known to cheese lovers at markets, festivals and in the aisles of supermarket such as Dunnes and Tesco. Varieties such as the Original, the Honey and Garlic, the Cranberry, the Pepper, Mixed herbs and Garlic, and the Caramelised Onion and Caraway seeds, will be familiar to many of you.

I met Victor at the recent Mallow Garden festival and he showed me the original and the cranberry in a newer different “tub” packaging. As tasty as ever but looking well. 

And right along them were the new products, not made from goats milk but from cows. Not any cows either. He uses gorgeous creamy milk from a herd of pedigree Jersey cows on a farm in nearby Dromcollogher. And the two new products, the Jersey Cream Cheese Original and the Jersey Cream Pesto  are absolutely superb, well worth seeking out.
After that chat, it was time to get out and do a bit of farm work. Victor took us through the long grass where a big group from the herd were grazing and soon, with the promise of food, we were surrounded.

“How about giving a hand with the milking?” was the surprise question. Both of us put the hand up. Soon, he had a hold of one of the goats and CL was taking instructions, trying to concentrate and avoid the odd stray leg flying out. A second goat was more steady and the milk flowed, well flow may not be an exact description but she was getting the hang of it as I did later.
One of the young ones
Luckily, Victor doesn't have to rely on city visitors to do the milking of the large herd. He has a mechanical set-up that milks them twice daily. Then of course the cheese making starts. 

And when it is made, you must sell it. And that too takes time. Last weekend, Victor was at both the Mallow Festival and at The Sheridan's Irish Food Festival in Co. Meath. This week, it is five days at Bloom in Dublin, not counting the coming and the going. Tough going really but he gets great satisfaction from making a top class product and getting it out to the public. He is rightly proud of Bluebell Falls cheese and we consumers are lucky to have him on our Irish doorstep. Bluebell Falls is another reason why I'm happy to buy local!
Victor at the Mallow Show
The multi-award winning soft cheese is supplied to top end  hotels, restaurants and food service. It is distributed by, among others, Pallas Foods, La Rousse Foods, and Plassey Foods. Also available in all major retailers and good health stores.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Sides of the Andes

Cabernet Sauvignon
From Both Sides of the Andes
Cono Sur winemaker Adolfo Hurtado in the Opera House last year.

“The Los Cardos wines are readily available and are among the world’s great values.” So says the recently published Wines of South America. Not that readily available around here but did find this one in the city centre Tesco a few weeks before Christmas and alongside it was the Block 18 which is made by Cono Sur winemaker Adolfo Hurtado who, coincidentally, was hosting a wine tasting in the Opera House at the time. “That will be good,” he told me. And he was right, as he usually is! The prices at the time of purchase were €18.00 for the Doña Paula and €20 for the Block 18 (a Tesco Finest).
Cabernet Sauvignon makes wine that can age for decades. The two below are very young but don’t worry. “South American Cabernets...are bursting with flavour at only a couple of years old.” declares Grapes and Wines. I think this pair confirm that.

Doña Paula Los Cardos Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza (Argentina), 14%
Los Cardos means thistles, “a sign of good terroir” according to the bottle. The vineyards, by the way, are at about 1050 metres up. Doña Paula is the Argentinian arm of the Chilean company Santa Rita. Malbec is their signature wine but they are also well respected for their Cabernet Sauvignon and more as you can see from the Wines of South America endorsement.
Despite the large size of the company, they make quite a lot of wine, including this one, from estate grown fruit. Colour is deep ruby and the aromas are quite expressive, featuring mainly dark fruit including typical blackcurrant scents. Quite an intense attack from this one, smooth fruit, spice and fine tannins and a long finish and Highly Recommended.

El Recurso Vineyard Block 18 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Valle de Maipo (Chile), 14%,
This is also a dark ruby and the aromas are a shade more intense with dark berries and plums to the fore. It is smoother and rounder and more complete on the palate, more full bodied than the Doña Paula and the long lingering finish too is superior. Twelve months in French oak has had the desired effect in terms of complexity and smoothness. Very Highly Recommended.
The El Recurso Estate has vineyards divided into blocks and the grapes for this wine, carefully selected by Adolfo, come from number 18, selected for its privileged location in the upper north east Maipo Valley. The rocky, alluvial soil here contributes to the impressive colour and marked intensity. Great with grilled, roasted or barbecued meat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rioja Rocks. Voluptuous Red Wines

Rioja Rocks

Rioja wines are voluptuous; they  are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.*
Samaniego, between Haro and Logroño (2012)

Rioja in the north of Spain is one of the great red wine areas of the world. Like some of the other big red wine areas, there is a river running through it. The Ebro, the longest river in Spain with more than 200 tributaries, has given its name to the peninsula. But where has the name Rioja come from … Hard to say! Ana Fabiano in her 2012 book, The Wine Region of Rioja, says there are twenty two theories! But she narrows it down to two serious ones.

One of the pair does include the River Oja, Rio Oja, a tributary that joins the Ebro near Haro, in the mix. It is convenient for the modern reader to jump to that conclusion. But, as Ana points out, it is too simple. The origin is clouded in history and by versions in so many languages, including local, invader and Euskara (Basque). Much easier though to work your way through the wineries, even if many of them have Basque names!

Must admit I didn't know until recently that Rioja (the wine region) and La Rioja (the administrative region) are not exactly the same. Vines don't recognise where the border ends and so a Rioja vineyard can extend into Navarra or Álava. Rioja is divided into three sub regions: Alta, Alavesa and Baja.

Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. She (yes, it is a she) is so called because she ripens early and the Spanish word Temprano means early.

*The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano.

Rioja red wine stickers:

The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.

The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.

Finca Cien Vacas Tempranillo 2012 (Rioja), 13%, €11.95 Karwig Wines

Decent fruit and a matching acidity combine to make this a quality, easy drinking wine. Colour is ruby and you have a bowl of ripe red fruit in the aromas. It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and has been produced by a family undertaking to be “pleasant, healthy and for daily consumption,.... reflect in a straightforward manner the qualities of the environment and the benefits of the vintage”. All sounds honest to me and the wine is Recommended.

This bottle has a green label indicating less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle. This level of wine is often spoken of as being joven (young) but you may never see that word on the label. More than likely, you’ll see cosecha (harvest).

Ardo by M. de Riscal Rioja 2013, 13.5%, €10.99 *

You’ll love the colour of this one, ruby with a shine. There are intense aromas of ripe red fruits. Fruit and spice combine in impressive attack, fine tannins too, superb body and balance and finish. This, made from younger grapes, has had a few months in oak. It is very good indeed for your basic cosecha (green sticker) and Highly Recommended.

Torres Altos Ibéricos Crianza 2012, 13.5%, €16.99 *

While Torres is synonymous with wine in Spain, it was only in 2005 that they first purchased land in Rioja. This wine is 100% Tempranillo and has spent 12 months in French and American oak. It bears the red crianza sticker. It was first produced in 2007. Torres don't rush and they now have just two wines from here, the second a Graciano. Watch this space methinks!
This deep cherry wine has aromas of ripe fruits, wood and spices. Quite a serious wine this monovarietal, bold and confident with fruit galore, elements of the oak too, a tannic grip, and a balancing acidity. Not of the easy drinking variety but well worth making the effort to get acquainted with this smooth customer. Very Highly Recommended.

M. de Riscal Arienzo Crianza 2010 (Rioja), 14% *
In 2008 Tempranillo, Spain’s flagship variety, accounted for 80% of the red wine harvest in Rioja. You’ll also see it called Tinta del Pais, Tinta Roriz (Portugal), Tinta de Toro, and more. The blend here is Tempranillo (90%) and five per cent each of Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan).

Colour is ruby (with a super sheen) and it has ripe fruit aromas. Vibrant wash of fresh fruits leads the soft attack, some sweet spice there too and other hints of its 18 months in oak. The finalé doesn't lack for length. May not make the top wines of Riscal - after all it is a newcomer (2007) to the stable - but it will sit nicely on my short list. Very Highly Recommended.

Zuazo Gaston Rioja Crianza 2012, 13.5%, 17.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. Carpenters Off Licence Castleknock, Co. Dublin. Chill in Off Licence, Co. Dublin. JJ Gibneys, Co. Dublin. Matsons Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork. The Wine Well, Co. Meath
This comes with dark fruits aromas, hints too of its 12 months in oak. Fruit and spice on the palate, fine tannins too and sufficient acidity, complex and elegant, all before a long pleasant finish (with a hint of fruit sweetness). Highly Recommended.
This is listed as one of the best crianzas in Ana Fabiano’s Rioja. Can't argue with that. Indeed, it is that listing that alerted me to Zuazo Gaston. The bottle is of an unusual colour, frosted dark green which, when full, looks totally black. Looks well on the outside, and what is inside tastes well when you get it out!

CUNE Rioja 2011 Crianza (Spain), 13.5%, €10.00 Tesco
This bottle, from one of the longest established wineries in Rioja, has the bright red sticker that indicates its a Crianza with a minimum of 12 months in oak. It is drinking very well now. Uncomplicated, easy to drink and Highly Recommended. Penin, the leading Spanish wine guide, gave it 90 points.
Colour is a Cherry Red and there are very pleasant fruit aromas. Fruit flavours, fine tannins, plus the influence of its time in the oak and a matching acidity make this a very agreeable wine indeed and it has a decent finish too.
CUNE was founded in Haro 1879 as Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (CVNE). The transformed acronym, pronounced coo-nay, grew somewhere along the way! The sixth generation of the Madrazo family are now in charge.

Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva 2010, 13.5%, €18.50 Karwig Wines
The bottle has the burgundy sticker indicating Reserva status. It is dark cherry in the glass with aromas of fruit (ripe, red) and spice. No shortage of power here, fruit, spice and wood wonderfully combining in a smooth show of Tempranillo at its best, power yes but in a velvet glove. It has spent 17 months in oak, well over the minimum twelve.
Founded in 1970, Bodegas El Coto is one of the “younger” Rioja producers and its wines are regarded as “wonderful Classic Riojas”. And indeed reverence is due here, excellent structure, well rounded and balanced and Very Highly Recommended.

Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2011, 14%, €19.99 (down from 23.49) *

This superb reserva is made mainly from Tempranillo vines planted in the 70s. The Graciano and Mazuelo varieties, whose presence in the blend does not exceed 10%, provide crispness and a lively colour. The fruit has been hand-picked and the wine has spent 26 months in American oak.

That colour is a dark cherry and the aromas are of concentrated ripe fruits, hints too of the oak and also balsamic notes.  The palate is superbly rounded, smooth and elegant, tannins are very soft and there is a long finish, A top drop for sure and Very Highly Recommended.

They recommend pairing it with ham, mild cheeses, casseroles which are not highly spiced, bean and pulse dishes, poultry, red meat, grills and roasts.

* At leading independents, including Bradley's and O'Driscoll's of Cork and also available on-trade at leading restaurants and bars.

Check out our mini-feature on leading Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios and how he is changing the balance in your Riojan red!
More here on Rioja whites 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

5 Cork companies feature in Bord Bia/Tesco programme

A press release from Bord Bia
Bord Bia and Tesco Assist Companies to Grow at Retail Level
~ Five Cork companies to take part in retail programme for Irish food and drink companies ~
Pictured at the launch in Bord Bia’s Dublin headquarters were Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. and Maxine Hyde, Ballymaloe Country Relish.

4th April 2012 Bord Bia and Tesco have developed a programme, to help food and drink companies to develop the required skills to achieve sustainable growth at multiple retail level. At the launch today, in Bord Bia’s Dublin headquarters, the participating companies were joined by Bord Bia and Tesco representatives.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD who was in attendance, added, ‘I am pleased to be launching this programme, this form of cooperation is something which will drive this sector forward both at home and abroad. Tesco plays a large part in the current retail environment and so it is essential to work together.’

Pictured at the launch in Bord Bia’s Dublin headquarters were Sergio Furno, Cashel Blue, Co. Tipperary, Gillian Swaine, Bord Bia, Carmel-Anne Brennan, Tesco and Cullen Allen, Cully & Sully in Shanagarry.

This comprehensive retail programme will equip participants with the necessary skills required to securegrow and maintain a listing with Tesco. The programme will involve three different levels Local, National and Export to assist small, medium and large sized companies in growing to the next level of business with Tesco. This programme will be supported by Enterprise Ireland.

Pictured at the launch in Bord Bia’s Dublin headquarters were Scott Baigent, Eight Degrees Brewing based in Mitchelstown, Jacqueline O’Neill, Tesco, Gillian Swaine, Bord Bia, and Tadhg O’Donovan from Glenilen in Drimoleague.

Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia stated at the launch, ‘The Irish food industry is experiencing strong growth in export markets yet the domestic market remains challenging, with spending under pressure and consumers searching for value.  Based on Eurostat data, food prices in Ireland today are just 3 to 4 per cent above their level of seven years ago.  By comparison, in the euro area as a whole they have grown by 15%, and in the UK by as much as 35%, a period moreover of strong commodity price inflation.   It is vital in this environment that Irish food and drink companies work with the retail sector to build their competitiveness on the domestic and export markets alike. This programme with Tesco is designed to arm the participating companies with the insight required to have success at home and the opportunity to expand abroad.’

Sixteen companies covering the dairy, seafood, ready meals, beverage, frozen and ambient sectors have been selected to participate on the programme. Amongst those partaking are five Cork companies; Ballymaloe Country Relish, Cully & Sully, Glenilen, Green Saffron and Eight Degrees Brewing. Clear objectives and targets will be set for each company partaking to help them achieve key opportunities identified for their business with Tesco. The programme will consist of workshops, bespoke mentoring and access to relevant Tesco consumer data and consumer insights.

Tony Keohane, CEO, Tesco Ireland said, ‘At Tesco, we are long and committed supporters of the Irish food industry. Today’s initiative continues our desire to source local products, particularly fresh foods, which have always been a key part of our strategy and a cornerstone of our business. We hope that as many as possible of the programme participants will grow with us to become Ireland’s next generation of food entrepreneurs and exporters.’

The Irish Retail Market
The Irish grocery market is valued at €8.8 billion. The latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel in Ireland, for the 12 weeks ending 18th March 2012, show the grocery market has slid back into decline following four months of modest sales growth. The latest data show that the sector has fallen in value by 0.5% when compared with the same period last year. Shoppers, according to Kantar, are continuing to look for ways to control their spending.  This is reflected in growing pressure on branded items, which have seen a drop in market share from 54.1% to 52.9% in the past year. The Irish retail market is increasingly competitive with new format development, technological advances, such as contactless payments and private label all impacting on its development.

Sunday, October 30, 2011



Domaine Reine Juliette, Terres Rouges, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc 2010, 13.5%, €12.00 Bubble Brothers, 3 stars

Colour is of light honey and it has a moderately aromatic nose. Not a major impression on the palate but quite a friendly one, more of a purr, less of a bark. It has a nice lively acidity with thirst quenching fruit.

While the acidity is sharp it never gets anywhere the point where you feel you might as well be sipping a Citron Pressé. If you want something to go with your mussels or oysters (and there are a lot of months with “r” coming up) this is a banker.

Les Costières de Pomerols, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc 2010, 12.5%, €7.00 Tesco, 4 stars.

Colour and nose is much the same as the previous Picpoul. The acidity is still there but this is definitely more flavoursome, more rounded.

There will always, it seems, be arguments about Tesco’s pricing policy in the drinks department but nor argument that their buyers have come up with a good one here, underlined by the fact that Decanter gave it their Regional Trophy (Languedoc –Roussillon) for a white at under ten UK pounds.

Some differences

A – Closure is artificial cork on Bubble’s, screw-cap on the Tesco.

B- Alcohol is 13.5% in Bubble, 12.5% in the Tesco bottle.

C- The Tesco price is €7.00, Bubbles €12.00

Friday, October 14, 2011


McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005, Hunter Valley Australia, 12%, €10.00 Tesco, 4.5 stars
Colour: light gold, bright, micro bubbles
Nose: Citrus rind.
Palate: Full fruity tropical smooth waxy mouthfeel yet well balanced. The Hunter is famous for Semillon and this is a fantastic example where the patient aging in the bottle has paid off in a big way. No wonder that it comes with a bunch of gold medals! You may read much more about this prize-winning wine here

OGIO Primitivo IGP Puglia Italy 2010, 13%, €6 Tesco, 4 stars
Colour: Ruby red
Nose: Intense, mainly cherry
Palate: Rich and fruity, warm, hints of spice. With the tannins doing their job, it is an engaging mouthfeel plus it has a long lingering finish. Quite a hefty drink from the heel of Italy and recommended on Twitter by Tom Doorley.

Tagus Creek Shiraz and Trincadeira, Alentejano 2009, 14%, €8.69 Tesco, 4 stars 
Colour: Medium dark-red
Nose: Aromatic, ripe red/black fruits
Palate: Fruity and juicy, spicy and warm, yet pleasantly dry. It is supple with a comforting mouthfeel and finish.
Decanter recently awarded this its international trophy for a Red Blend at less than 10 UK pounds "Deliciously good value. Fantastic." They said. And the judges were also impressed by its freshness.
Tongue in cheek, I'm glad to say the judges agreed with me. Now, I'll get the tongue out of the way to make room for another mouthful of delicious Tagus Creek.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011



All the supermarkets are basking in reflected glory after the recent announcement of the Blás Na hÉireann Awards in Dingle. Dunne’s Store, Lidl, Aldi, Supervalu and even Superquinn had winners on sale across the board. Tesco’s own brands won a silver for their Irish Yogurt (Finest Madagascan Vanilla Yogurt for Tesco).

But Tesco also have other Blas winners on their shelves as I found out when I visited their Mahon store yesterday, on a quest for good Irish food and fine wines. The award winners I spotted – there could well have been more – were Folláins jams and Butlers chocolates.

It is a tough market out there for Irish produce and these awards sure help lift the profile. The fight to win shelf space is ongoing, particularly for our chocalatiers, and I have seen, both in the English Market and on the Tesco shelves yesterday, how hard it is for them.

Butler’s, in fairness, have a good presence but it is difficult to spot other Irish produce in the inviting display. So I was glad to see the capital Á, in a Gaelic type script. Checked it out and sure enough the Áine choc bars came from Cavan, from the multi-award winning Áine’s Chocolate in Stradone Village

Treated myself to two bars, in the cause of research of course, at 2.50 each. Only one has been tested so far and that is Áine Or. This 33% milk chocolate 100 gram bar is set to make friends everywhere. It has a smooth creamy almost caramel like centre but it is all chocolate, all gorgeous, and indulgent. Looking forward to sampling the other one, a Lime Zest in 70% Dark Chocolate.

Glenilen Yoghurts didn't feature in the Dingle prizes but they are still my favourite and we picked up a big pot of the Raspberry one from €2.25. Lots of soups and readymade meals from Irish makers including Cully & Sully and Taste a Memory. Delighted too to see the Just Food range there and popped their Minestrone Soup and Spicy Lentil Soup into the trolley.
Hunter Valley

Then I turned my attention to the wine area where Wine Festival banners were hung and many reductions trumpeted. I had a shortlist and got the four I was after, some at a reduced price.

The List:
1-    Tagus Creek, Shiraz and Trincadeira, Alentejano, Portugal 2010, €8.69;
2-    Tingleup Vineyard Riesling, Great Southern, Western Australia 2010, €11.99;
3-    McWilliams Mt Pleasant Cellar Release, Elizabeth, Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW 2006, €10.00;
4-    Coteaux du Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet 2010, €7.00.

Their Ogio Primitivo had been recommended by Tom Doorley on Twitter and I bought a bottle for 6 euro and then there was an impulse buy (isn’t there always) a Vinea Reserva Tempranillo, Cigales 2005, reduced to €8.00.

Looking forward to trying out that lot.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The major supermarket chains are often portrayed as the big bad wolves of the food industry.

Is it all bad? I know the Bridgestone Irish Food Guide editorial came down on them like a pack of Dutch defenders in the ninth edition. But the products of many of the food producers lavishly praised by Bridgestone are to be seen in the major supermarkets.

Tesco spend two billion (their own figure) on Irish food and drink each year, including everything from salads to Angus Beef. Quite a lot of organic produce on display there also.

I recently filled a trolley at Tesco’s Mahon shop, including a few of those gorgeous yoghurts from Glenilen Farm in West Cork, and that was after a buying quite a  bit at the weekly Farmers Market outside.

I understand, from some producers, that Good Food customers, especially organic fans, stay loyal in the downturn and are prepared to pay a small premium to keep getting their favourite foods but who can blame the busy financially challenged houseperson doing the weekly shopping (say for two adults and two plus kids) from taking advantage of the choices and prices at places like Tesco.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tesco Ireland in Mahon Point

Tesco at Mahon Point is one of the biggest supermarkets in the county. Aside from the clothing and electrical departments, the choice in food is staggering.
Take Balsamic Vinegar for instance; prices here ranged from one euro to close to twelve for aged varieties.
Range of wine too is impressive. Got a couple of bottles, including a Tarrango by Brown Brothers for old time’s sake. This unusual variety, which I first came across a few years ago when the brothers (sisters actually) came to town to show off their produce.
It is a red that may be chilled. Liked it then and no reason why I shouldn't like it now, especially that the price has been cut.

Check out my review of Tesco Ireland - I am cork - on Qype