Showing posts with label Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Stunning Pair from Karwig Wines


A Stunning Pair from Karwig Wines

Abadia Retuerta Selección Especial Sardon de Duero 2014, Castilla y Leon (VDT), c. €36.00 Karwig Wines

Our winemaker Ángel Anocíbar likes to describe Selección Especial as a compendium of each new vintage in the Abadía Retuerta estate. And the recently released 2014, …., is one that he finds particularly satisfying.”

This is how the winemaker at Abadia introduces this wine and it is indeed a particularly good one, outstanding in fact. The winery is just outside the Ribera del Duero and so cannot use that DO hence the Vino de la Tierra of Castilla y Leon on the label. But don’t let that put you off - this is excellent, as good as many Ribera and Very Highly Recommended.

It is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 17% Syrah and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage produced some 390,000 standard bottles, 22,000 magnums and 1,800 double magnums. Seems like a lot of wine but, at the same time, if you want it, I’d hurry on down to Karwigs and get a bottle or two. Don’t think it’s available anywhere else in Ireland.

Colour is a dark ruby. Aromas are intense, of blackcurrant, cherry, vanilla. Fruit flavours are concentrated, a touch of spice, abundant fine-grained tannins a benign factor. Vintage conditions were excellent and this rich wine is a polished expression of the fruit and the year. Eleven months in oak, French and American, help make this a harmonious wine, smooth and easy drinking. A very special selection indeed.

Surprisingly, the winery offers “our very own Selección Especial cocktail”. I didn’t try it but just in case you want to give it a go, this is the recipe:

5 cl. (1.7 fl oz) Abadía Retuerta Selección Especial
6 drops of Droplets Fresh Ginger
2 cl. (0.7 fl oz) Chambord
1 spoonful of Apple Pie syrup
4 cl. (1.4 fl oz) pineapple juice
Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake well and serve in a Martini glass and garnish with Luxardo cherries on a skewer.

Cheers!

Chateau de Chatelard “Cuvée Les Vieux Granits” Fleurie (AOC) 2016, 13%, €20.30 Karwig Wine
Fleurie, like all ten Beaujolais crus, is in the north east of the region. Here the Gamay grape, thrives on the granite soil, the wines always refreshing and never short of acidity. Fleurie, with delicious cherry scents, flavours of red berries, is an elegant and excellent partner for a wide variety of lighter dishes.

And this Chatelard, as you may guess from the name, is made exclusively from vines planted on an old pink granite hillside. The Gamay, by many accounts, flourishes here. This is a happy wine.

It has a mid ruby colour. And aromas of ripe red fruits. Bright and juicy fruit flavours, enlivened all the way by a refreshing acidity. Delicate tannins too on hand as it reaches an impressive finalé. This elegant and engaging wine is Very Highly Recommended.

The winery reports that, after pressing, the ageing is done in tanks on very fine lees to preserve the maximum freshness. They suggest pairing it with fillet of pikeperch, truffled sausage Lyonnais, oysters served with small sausages, venison terrine with cherries, Poulet Bresse, Lobster Sashimi. A few interesting ones there for you.



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Superb Wines from Austria's Judith Beck


Superb Wines from Austria's Judith Beck
Beck Blaufränkisch 2016, 12%,€17.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This organic wine from Austria is produced by Judith Beck from the Blaufränkisch grape, the second most widely grown red grape in the country but not very well-known outside of it.

Colour is quite an intense red. Aromas of darker fruits (plum, cherry). Those dark fruit flavours are intense, spicy too, excellent acidity; tannins have a noticeable grip (nothing too serious though). This inviting medium-bodied wine, vibrant and refreshing, is Highly Recommended.

Since 2007 Judith Beck has produced wines in accordance with biodynamic principles. The winery is housed in an impressive airy new building in the middle of the vineyards from Gols. Now the emphasis is on refining the style whilst capturing the potential of the grapes. Judith is passionate about the traditional red wine varieties: Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. 
Le Caveau say that Judith is an impressively calm, thoughtful person and that sense of relaxation seems to transmit itself into her wines, which possess a lightness of touch not always apparent in this region.  

You can meet her Wednesday 15th May  at The Chocolate Factory, King’s Inn Street, Dublin 1, the venue for the “The Real Wine Fair”, a one-day wine fair celebrating artisan growers who farm organically and/or biodynamically in the vineyard and make wine with minimal interventions in the winery. 



Beck Chardonnay 2016, Burgenland Austria, 12%, €18.95  64 Wine DublinBradley’s of CorkGreenman DublinLe Caveau Kilkenny

Le Caveau, who bring the fabulous Judith Beck wines into Ireland, say the region around Lake Neusiedl is particularly suited to cultivate Burgundy varieties and provides optimum conditions for Chardonnay (most of the Beck wines are red). “Manual harvest, matured for 5 months on its lees, the wine has developed a tasty richness without losing any of its focus and brightness.”

Colour is a light start yellow. Fairly intense fruit on the nose (peach, apple), floral notes too and a mild hint of spice. Lively and delicious, full and creamy, acidity enough, and with a long dry finish. Harmonious from start to finish. Very Highly Recommended.Try with fish or poultry dishes or pasta or on its own.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

In Spanish Wine Week: A Couple of Compelling Spanish Reds


A Couple of Compelling Spanish Reds



The first thing you’ll notice about this wine is that Garnacha is displayed prominently on the front label. This is to distinguish it from the more usual Tempranillo. El Coto has six or seven vineyards in Rioja and these grapes come from their Los Almendros vineyard.

They say that Garnacha was, for years, “a disparaged variety due to its complex viniculture, but prepared and aged in barrels matched to its delicate and complex character, it results in very pleasant wines, with a lot of fruit and a good body, very much in line with the demands of the consumer of today.”

I certainly liked it very much. It has a mid-ruby colour with a lovely sheen. Pretty intense red fruit aromas, hints of vanilla. Juicy and fruity (cherry and more), fresh with balsamic notes, good acidity, fine tannins in a long finish. A vibrant harmonious wine, easy-drinking and Very Highly Recommended.

The character of the fresh fruit has been carefully respected during its 12 months in 225-litre American oak barrels (followed by six months in bottle). It comes to you silky and velvety with good intensity. Serve at 16 to 18 degrees. Perfect, they say, with white meat, certain fish (especially cod), veal and mild cheese.



Casa los Frailes Trilogia Valencia 2011, 14.5%, €19.00 Mary Pawle Wines, 

This compelling organic wine from the south east of Spain is a blend of Monastrell (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Tempranillo (10) and aged for 12 months in Hungarian oak. 

It has a dark ruby colour and the legs are slow to clear. Rich powerful aromas with blackcurrant perhaps the more prominent. Super concentrated flavours of ripe fruits, fresh acidity and more than a touch of spice. This layered award winner finishes dry and long. Could be kept for a few years yet but it gives great pleasure right now and is Very Highly Recommended. 

Casa Los Frailes “was certified organic in 2000, being one of the very first ones in Spain. 15 years later, we are convinced that we do not only need to respect and sustain the land, but also transform it and make it a livelihood. As a result, we embrace biodynamic agriculture as an inspiration pattern and model.”

This is Spanish Wine Week in Ireland. Check here for details of the main events.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Excellent wines from uncommon grapes: Loureiro and Treixadura


Excellent wines from uncommon grapes: Loureiro and Treixadura

Antonio Lopes Ribeiro Vinho Verde (DOC) 2015, 9%, €17.96 Mary Pawle Wines

One variety, one river. It says on the label. Better tell you about the variety as I had to look it up myself.  It is 100% Loureiro. Wine-Searcher says it is a thin skinned white grape variety native to northern Portugal and used to make the ever trendy Vinho Verde wines. Taking its name from the laurel or bay-leaf plant for its resembling aroma, Loureiro wines are refreshing with a slight effervescence. They have fresh acidity and are low in alcohol making them a perfect wine to enjoy on its own or with light meals.

Many of you will be familiar with Vinho Verde wines from the north west coast of Portugal which has a relatively cool climate, perfect for growing vines. Quite often Loureiro is used in a blend. Food pairings suggested include with canapés or seafood. It also pairs raw fish in a flawless fashion (sushi, sashimi) and dishes of strong and exotic flavor (especially oriental food).

This organic crisp and dry wine, from Casa de Mouraz, has a light straw colour. Aromas of peach and apricot, orange blossom too. It doesn’t have the obvious petillance that you sometimes get in Vinho Verde but there is a quite a tingle on the palate. Fruit is light and lively and the high acidity reinforces its refreshing nature. This low alcohol Vinho Verde, even without the bubbles, is Highly Recommended.


“La Flor de Margot” Treixadura Ribeiro (DO) 2016, 12.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

A grape name that is not very familiar on Irish shelves features in this white from the north west of Spain. Treixadura is grown mainly in Spain and in Portugal where they call it Trajadura. It is usually blended. This one though is 100% Treixadura and has been aged on its lees.

It boast an attractive light gold colour, lots of tiny bubbles cling to the glass. Aromas are fresh, both fruity and floral. Flavours of peach and apricot mainly, also citrus; it has a lovely mouthfeel and the citrus is more in play through to the long finish. Wouldn’t mind a few examples of this one, Highly Recommended.

Seafood is widely considered a match, eg clams in tomato sauce, seared scallops with herb salad. Red peppers stuffed with cheese is also recommended.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Fine turnout for the latest Wine Dinner at Maryborough Hotel


Blackwater Gin

Maryborough Wine Dinner Excels
Superb Food from the Bellini Kitchen

Quite a turnout for the latest Wine Dinner in Bellini’s at the Maryborough Hotel. And quite a tour-de-force also by Head Chef Gemma Murphy, every dish of this multi-course meal a delicious delight.

The reception of the hotel wine events provides an easy and pleasant prelude to the night ahead. And last Friday’s was no exception with the excellent Blackwater Gin and Poacher’s tonics, both from the sunny south-east, easing the way and helping the friendly hotel staff and management get to know their guests.

After that relaxing start we were shown to our tables in the restaurant and soon we were enjoying the breads - the treacle butter was perhaps the highlight here! And then they poured our white wine, the Domaine a Deux Sauvignon Blanc (Touraine). This very quaffable white from the Loire, vibrant and dry, with citrus led fruit flavours, provided an excellent match for the opening rounds.
Langoustine

Not least with course number one, the Crisp Fried Langoustine in a delicious Tonkotsu sauce. The second offering was even better: Kombo and Sake Cured Salmon, Tapioca, Edamame and cucumber, and blood orange. What a delightful combination of textures, colours and flavours.
Salmon

Sorbet
Time then for the Green Apple Sorbet with Rosehip Gel, a pleasant palate-cleanser, eye-catching too. Now for the fish course: Halibut Fillet, Fregola Pasta, Cep Mushroom, Asparagus Tips, Morteaux Sauce, and Roast Chicken broth. Another outstanding mix: the fish perfectly cooked, that Morteaux a superb contrast and that broth brought them all together.

Now the staff were introducing the red wine. Oh by the way, they have no hard and fast rule here. If you prefer red all the way through, then that’s what you’ll get! Chateau Siran is well known in Margaux and beyond through its first wine of the same name. Its second wine is S de Siran, also bearing the Margaux AOC. Next comes our red, the Saint Jacques de Siran 2015, a Bordeaux Superieure (AOC), an blend of 42% Merlot, 29% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (though the amount can vary from vintage to vintage). In any event, ours was smooth, soft and complex and paired perfectly with the lamb in the main course.
Halibut

That duo of lamb was yet another illustration of the expertise in the Bellini  kitchen. We got Marinated Rump, Parmesan and Tarragon crumbled shoulder, smoked parsnip, Cannellini Bean, Pardon Pepper, Black Garlic Infused Lamb jus. Both the lamb treatments were top notch and the black garlic jus was an amazing factor as well.
Lamb

Gemma eased us out with a delightful easy to eat dessert. The Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Yogurt from County Mayo has been earning plaudits all over the country for the past year or so. Gemma and the Square Table’s chef Martina Cronin soon realised its potential and have been using it for quite a while. I fancy Michael and Aisling, the Mayo couple behind it, would have been well pleased with our Baked Velvet Cloud Yogurt, poached rhubarb, confit orange and ginger biscuit. Soft and delicious!
Dessert

There were still some petit fours to negotiate but, wisely, the staff had these little gems served in a little box. You could eat them there and then or, as we did, tie the ribbon and take them home. And, no, we didn’t eat them in the taxi; the denouement came at morning coffee on the Saturday as we recalled the pleasures of the night before. 

This was probably the best of the recent wine events here at the Maryborough, so do keep an eye on the hotel’s social media and on this blog as well for future events.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Two Very Enjoyable Reds from Bordeaux.


Two Very Enjoyable Reds from Bordeaux.

Larose Perganson Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois (AOC), 2007, 13%, €26.20 Karwig Wines

A keen sense of anticipation as I opened this one, pulling out a cork that had been there for about eleven years. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot and has been one hundred per cent raised in oak (40% new).There is no let-down here, quite the contrary. I decanted for an hour as advised and served somewhere close to the 16-18 degrees on the label. 

Colour is a dark ruby with lighter rim; legs are slow enough to clear even if the abv is not that high. Ripe fruit aromas (blackberries, blackcurrants), a touch of chocolate too. Ample and fleshy, classic and elegant, spicy too, soft and well integrated tannins, a superb finish, fruity, smooth, long and dry. Very Highly Recommended. Look out too for the 2010 as it is supposed to be even better!

Pair with hard cheese, grilled lamb or a juicy steak.

Cru Bourgeois is an evolving classification: Since 2010, the official selection has been published annually. Criteria: The quality and value of red wines produced in one of the eight Médoc appellations: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. 

Each year, between 243 and 278 properties, often family-owned, form the Crus Bourgeois Alliance, accounting for more than 40% of the Médoc's production. From the 2016 vintage, there are three tiers of quality; Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. It is an evolving system! Read more about it here. 

Chateau Turcaud Cuvée Majeure Bordeaux (AOC) 2015, 14.5%, €20.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny 

Stéphane Le May of Chateau Turcaud

This award winner from the area known as Entre-Deux-Mers has quite a dark ruby robe. A great bouquet of ripe cherry and berry, smoky notes too. Intense flavour, a touch of sweet spice, tannins are very soft, superb character and it has a lovely lingering finish. Well balanced, well made. Well, try it! Very Highly Recommended.

It is a Bordeaux Supérieur and is, as is usual in these parts, a blend. The grapes are Merlot (about two thirds) and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is aged for about 15 months in oak barrels (new barrels and ones used for 1 or 2 previous vintages).

Chateau Turcaud recommend pairing it with full-flavoured meats such as rib of beef, game, duck breast, and strong cheeses. and say it is best decanted one hour before the meal. The wine name comes from the Sauve-Majeure Abbey that overlooks the vineyard and that I had the pleasure of climbing a few years ago, all of its 159 steps.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Masi & Louis Jadot Feature as Findlaters bring Wineberries to Cork

Masi and Louis Jadot Feature as Findlaters bring the Wineberries to Cork
Part Two: Masi, Louis Jadot
Mick O'Connell MW of Findlaters talking to guests at the Chapoutier stand.

Masi (Italy) and Louis Jadot (France) were among the winemakers featured as Findlaters brought their all star combo, the Wineberries, to Cork’s Montenotte Hotel last week. Quite a line-up with Bollinger, Hugel, M. Chapoutier, Louis Jadot, Masi and Torres all showing their excellent wines.

Started off with a glass of Bolly and then got a chance to take in the views over the city, including the impressively refurbished hotel’s newly laid out gardens. It was quiet - I was early - so I had a good chance to walk around and savour what was coming.

Masi 

Masi are “one of the great entrepreneurs of Italian wine,” according to The Modern History of Italian Wine and they were ably represented in the Montenotte by Export Manager Giacomo Boscaini.

Masi are well known for using techniques that enhance the flavour and concentration of their wines but I was somewhat surprised when he mentioned the technique in conjunction with the white he was pouring, the Massianco. It is a blend of 85% Pinot Grigio and 15% Verduzzo from Friuli. The Verduzzo spends three weeks drying and this enables it play quite a part in the final result (the fruits are vinified separately). This 2017 carries the DOC de Venezia.

They are proud of their techniques, experts in “enhancing aromas and tastes using lightly semi dried grapes”. This appassimento leads to a higher concentration of fruit and it seems to work well here.

There are excellent white fruit and blossom aromas and the colour is light gold with a green hue. This is Pinot Grigio plus, with character and concentration, a lip drying acidity and an impressive finalé. Well worth a try.

Just as I was going to another table, Giacomo asked me to try their Canevel Brut Prosecco Superiore DOCG. I’m so glad he did. I can take or leave Prosecco but will forever regard it in a different light after tasting this beauty, proudly sporting its DOCG, the fruit from the prime area of Valdobbiadene. A benchmark in the Canevel range, a dry and silky sparkling wine with delicate aromas of apples and spices. More than enough to convert me!

Skipped on down to Tuscany then for the first of the Masi reds. It was the Poderi Bellovile Rosso di Toscana (IGT) 2015. “Fresh, fruity, an everyday wine with lots of Tuscan character.” Would do nicely at the weekends too!

It is made from a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo grapes grown in the Cinigiano hills on the Poderi del Bello Ovile estate. Masi's purchase of this estate in collaboration with Conti Serego Alighieri marks the return of the descendants of the poet Dante to Tuscany.

Off to Argentina now with Giacomo to try the Passo Doble Valle de Uco 2016, a red wine with an unusually high aromatic content made on the organically run Masi Tupungato estate at Mendoza. The fruit is grown on sandy soil at a height of 1000 metres.

It is striking for its intense fruitiness and delicate spiciness and lovely finish. Its strong and exuberant character comes from the local Malbec grape, while the addition of lightly dried Corvina Veronese (that technique again!) gives it the easy appeal and attractiveness of Venetian wines.

Superb Prosecco
It is also the subject of a double fermentation. At the end of the first (after a month), the dried Corvina is added to start the second fermentation.

And Giacomo still had one big treat for me, the Riserva di Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG. Proud, majestic, complex and exuberant: this is a special cru version of Masi's gentle giant, Costasera.

And here Masi's unrivalled expertise in the Appassimento technique is used to give the grapes a long period of further ripening on bamboo racks and then there’s an ageing period for the wine of at least three years in casks made from the finest wood types.

The expert use of indigenous grapes for the Valpolicella Classica area - Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara - is enriched by the addition of the unique Oseleta. Needless to say, this was superb!

The Oseleta is interesting as it had been forgotten until re-discovered by Giacomo’s uncle and “now we are using it”. Just goes to show that while companies are important, it is the contributions of individuals that can make all the difference. Saluti!



Maison Louis Jadot
Nicolas was in great form at the Louis Jadot stand. We had a Louis Jadot dinner with Marie-Pierre Dardouillet (left), Export Director of the company, in Inchydoney Lodge not too long ago and you may read about the wines here

Interestingly, Nicolas told me they had their own cooperage, Cadus, that they bought in 1996. Our first wine though, the Chablis 2017, is unoaked, deliciously fresh with a beautiful mouthfeel. Next up was the Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2016. After a soft pressing, part of the juice is fermented in "double barrels" of 406 litres. The other part is vinified and aged in stainless steel vats. Ageing usually lasts 13 to 15 months on fine lees before bottling. This is more intense, with more volume than the previous one, with good acidity and a really long finish. “Will last for years,’ said Nicolas.

Jadot make wines in Burgundy and also in neighbouring Beaujolais and when I came back to the reds, Nicolas offered the Fleurie 2017. Fleurie is one of the ten crus in the region and straightaway you notice its bright light red colour. “It is one hundred per cent Gamay. Red fruits, acidity, some tannins, well balanced.” A lovely drop as we might say around here.

In 1996, Louis Jadot bought Chateau de Jacques in Morgon, “a really old winery” who also have holdings in other crus here. Morgon is one of the main crus and this 2014 bottle had the added distinction of coming from the highly regarded Cotes de Py with its “granitic volcanic soil”. It was a cold year, natural yeast was used here and the wine spent 12-15 months in oak. Because of the cold, it took a while to open out “but now it’s getting better and better”. 

Torres and Hugel were also well represented here and you may read about my chats with them here.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Torres and Hugel Impress as Findlaters All-Stars Come to Town


Torres and Hugel Impress as Findlaters All-Stars Come to Town
Part One: Hugel, Torres, and Chapoutier

Torres and Hugel were among the winemakers featured as Findlaters brought their all star combo, the Wineberries, to Cork’s Montenotte Hotel last week. Quite a line-up with Bollinger, Hugel, M. Chapoutier, Louis Jadot, Masi and Torres all showing their excellent wines.

Started off with a glass of Bolly and then got a chance to take in the views over the city, including the impressively refurbished hotel’s newly laid out gardens. It was quiet - I was early - so I had a good chance to walk around and savour what was coming.

Hugel
Wines of Alsace in the Montenotte, with the city in the background
I met a proper star at the Famille Hugel stand where I was greeted by none other than Jean Frédéric Hugel himself and a taste of their outstanding Gentil. Gentil is an Alsace tradition, made from all the white grapes of the estate. And it is done carefully, to a very high and controlled standard.

I’ve been very partial to it for quite a few years now (the Hugel one is on sale in Bradley’s). Jean Frédéric told me it is their best seller. “It is produced from six different grapes. These are blended after the wine-making stage to balance it better. It is super versatile and works well by the glass in restaurants.” I thought that was interesting as I cannot recall seeing it offered around this area. Maybe there’s an opening there - it is delicious and, as Jean Frédéric said, super versatile.

Many shrug when climate change is mentioned but those closest to the ground - the farmers - know it is happening. Jean Frédéric referred to it as he offered me their 2009 Pinot Noir, “their simplest Pinot but from a great vintage, stellar”. Especially because of climate change, the quality of Pinot Noir in the northern regions, including Alsace of course, is incomparable to what it was twenty years ago.” Burgundy beware seems to be the message.

Back in the old days, Alsace was known for its sweet wines and, like Germany (after Liebfraumilch), it took it a while to regain the respect for its wine. “But we have learned from those mistakes and are now back on track as a region”. I think that has been the case for quite a while now.

This was well illustrated with a couple of excellent Rieslings, beginning with the 2016, “a textbook Riesling, very dry”.  The 2015 was very dry again, “even a little flinty, a little bit smoky.. just a little bit of age now but this will evolve well”.

I then spotted the unmanned  Chapoutier stand nearby and helped myself to the sip of the white: Cotes du Rhone Belleruche 2017, quite aromatic, good acidity and with a long finish. The whites here are often under-appreciated. The winemaker’s motto by the way is “Enjoy. Don’t over-analyse.”


Chapoutier’s winery and negociant business is situated in the Rhone area (with vineyards further afield, including Australia). “Our own vineyards and the single vineyards that we select from are cultivated either organically or biodynamically.”  He is of course famous for his reds and had the Cotes de Rhone Collection Bio on show here. I previously did a little feature on him and you may read it here

Torres
With Miguel Torres (left) in Dublin
"The more we care about the earth,
 the better our wine"

Torres is a big company but it is still a family company. And concerned about the climate. Just like Hugel, they see what is happening to the earth. 

Less than four years ago, Miguel Torres, one of the family’s fifth generation, spoke in Dublin saying the threats from climate change are been seen “more and more”. “Vineyards are very much at risk. Hailstorms are an example.” And they are doing something about it as you may read here in my article “Message in a bottle”

Lucas, whose parents are from Argentina, managed the Torres stand in the Montenotte and told me he had three different wines from different regions (plus one from Chile where the family is credited with reviving and transforming the industry). 

Torres are based in Penedes (near Barcelona) in the north east of Spain but our first wine was from the other side, an Albarino by Bruxas from Rias Baixas. No oak is used and it spends just six hours on lees. Very light, citrusy and refreshing with great acidity. “Very good with all seafood and goats cheese,” Lucas advised.

Torres seek out higher vineyards (climate change again a factor) and the grapes for the next wine, the Altos Ibericos, are grown between 400 and 700 metres above sea level in Rioja Alvesa. The altitude helps the grapes retain acidity. 

Sixteen months in French oak and two years in bottle qualifies this 2012 as Reserva. It is elegant, very smooth, with softer tannins. “As it ages, the tannins will soften more, the flavours will become more like dried fruit and the colour will fade a bit.” Good now and good in the future! Oh, by the way, it is one hundred per cent Tempranillo.

And another high vineyard featured in the story of our next wine, the Celeste Criaza 2016 from Ribera del Duero. The fruit is grown in the western part of the region at a height of 900 metres above sea level. It is more or less a continental climate and the diurnal range “is good, with cool nights”. And in cooler areas, the Tempranillo grape develops a thicker skin to help protect its valuable properties. Lucas described it as a fruit bomb but it is quite a rounded one, very drinkable indeed. Crianza means it has spent 12 months in French and US oak and 12 months on bottle before release.

So now to Chile and the old vines Manso de Velasco (grown close to the ocean), a superb Cabernet Sauvignon from 2013. It has spent 18 months in French oak, small barrels. It was a warm year and the abv is 13.5%. “Fruit flavours are of blackberries and cherries. Drink now,” Lucas says, “but it will last”. One to watch out for!

Jadot and Masi also featured; details here.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Future Trends of an Exciting Wine List


Future Trends of an Exciting Wine List
It's Natural, says Beverley. Bryan's more cautious.


There’s definitely a massive trend towards natural wines, according to Beverly Mathews, owner of the L’Atitude 51 wine-bar in Cork. “Paris, London and New York are leading the way. People are looking specifically for natural wines. It’s a definite trend. Jean Foillard, who visited L’Atitude last year, is a star in Beaujolais. Aldi sold a natural orange wine last year and sold out quickly. Natural wines are full of character but can be quirky.”

Dalcassian Wines & Spirits came to Cork in force last week for a portfolio tasting. And very impressive it was too. It wasn’t all tasting of course and there was quite a bit of talking too. One of the best discussions came in a side room and was entitled Future Trends of an Exciting Wine List.  Beverley and Bryan McCarthy (Head Chef at Greene’s Restaurant) were the main speakers; Jules Mahon, Business Development Manager with Dalcassian, was in the chair and smoothly facilitated a very interesting hour or so on the main subject.

Bryan wasn’t as convinced about natural wine’s progress saying world trends in food and wine don’t necessarily follow through in Ireland.
L'Atitude 51, with natural wine-maker Thierry Puzelat (right)

He admitted to being surprised when he began to work with Frank Schiltkamp a few years ago. “I work closely on the pairing with the somm. It is when we introduce a new dish that more cooperation is required and it was something new to me that I may have to take some element out of the new dish and then Frank will have a matching wine. It’s all about the balance between food and wine. Wines by the glass is a growing trend and we now have twenty by the glass.”

The chef has noticed that German, Austrian and Portuguese wines are becoming more sought after, though the “old” wines are still popular but thought that in the future they will be seen less.
Bryan sees an increase in the popularity of Portuguese wines. This Reynolds range is  part of the Dalcassian portfolio

Beverley told us that L’Atitude is a fully licensed wine bar so they can serve a glass of wine without food and that “gives us flexibility to play around with wines. Wine is the most important element to us. We are a wine led bar.”

Jules then asked if there was a demand for lower ABV wines.
Bushby’s Strawberries at Greene's, paired with Alasia Moscato d'Asti, a low alcohol frizzante
Beverley said she gets lots of requests and that there is a definite demand for low alcohol drinks. Greene’s have introduced what they call “Sips” for couples on their tasting menu. So one gets the full wine treatment while the other can opt for Sips at about half the price.

Beverley wasn’t impressed with alcohol free wines saying “they’re not essentially wines”. But she said the technology is improving and that Torres have an 0.5% line. “There are lots of low alcohol beers and ciders, though”.

No matter the ABV, Bryan’s main aim is that the wine complements the food, doesn’t clash with it and doesn’t overpower it. Frank will have his own aims but “we do work well together”.

Organic Wine
Brian said that, for him, flavours in organic wine are similar to those in non-organic. For him too, it was more about provenance.

Beverley: “In recent years concern for the environment has been spilling over into food and wine. People are asking more and more for organic, bio and natural. Customers are drinking better, making more informed choices and are more demanding. Wines, whose sales were once static, are now more popular and giving us more fun. People now ask for different grape varieties, want to explore”.

Brian agreed the people “are more experimental”. Frank has spotted the trend and people are buying accordingly.

Beverley is a big fan of Coravin. “We have over a hundred wines by the glass. Coravin is essential and not just for the more expensive wines. I know the wines are fresh from it and we use it on many wines. Wines are at their freshest and people get variety.”

How best to present the wine list
Greene’s sommelier Frank says they have tried various formats, grouping by region, by flavour profile, by price. And it would seem that price is key for many. “Even corporate customers have a budget”. 
An Italian at Cask (Greene's little sister)

Frank though loves seeing a customer who knows exactly what he wants and ordering it straightaway. Sometimes that can be a lower priced wine and sometimes a top of the range champagne but, either way, the somm gives credit to the customer. Bryan said sample sips are not generally available in the restaurant (Greene’s) but are in Cask.

Beverley’s list is divided by style. “We have six or seven choices under each category. It encourages the customer to explore and not be daunted. It helps us that we can offer the customer a taste before purchase.”

Sparkling Trends?
A popular Friday Fizz at L'Atitude

Bryan says sparkling sales are customer driven. Prosecco is the most popular but Cava and Champagne are available. Frank concurred: “Frizzante is most popular because of price, especially among groups of women who’ll order a bottle before a meal. It is fun and nice to drink.” Beverly bemoaned that Cava suffers because of higher import duties and Bryan agreed that those same taxes “have a lot to do with what people drink”.

Could Crémant be the next big thing? “You do see it,” says Frank “but it’s still a hard sell. On the other hand, you don’t sell champagne, people buy it!” Beverley confirmed that champagne is selling well now after stalling for a good few years.

Of course, despite all the problems (including taxes of all kinds), people can still help themselves. L’Atitude have a long-running Friday Fizz where customers can buy a glass of the nominated bubbles at a very reasonable price and the Raven (who held a successful Spanish wine tasting recently) offer all wines at the same price, €22.00 per bottle, every Monday. night.

Some terrific spirits, wines and very interesting vermouths were tasted at the River Lee. Check them out here

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Frank Hederman: “Great talker. Great smoker”


Hederman: “Great talker. Great smoker”

How do you know when it’s ready? That’s a question often asked by visitors to the Hederman Smokehouse in Belvelly as they see the salmon hanging in the old smokehouse. Not an easy one to answer, lots of variables including the time of year, the weather (including the wind).
Fishing for wild salmon, close to the city, by the Lower Glanmire Road. July 2018

And you can’t put a timer on it. “You know when it’s done by feel,” says ace smoker Frank Hederman, speaking at the launch of this year’s Munster Wine and Dine programme in L’Atitude 51. And that feel can only come from experience. 

So the balance between the fish flavour, the salt (for the cure) and the smoke is achieved with some delicate handling and determined by the experienced touch of the smoker. Time, timing and touch. It’s a simple process and, when well handled, the results are simply superb, as has been the case for decades and as would be confirmed later in the evening. Thirty five to thirty six hours is the rough guideline for organic farmed fish while wild fish are done quicker.

Did you know that there are now just seven permits for wild fishing in Cork harbour and that’s where Frank gets his small supply of wild. “In some cases, it’s the third generation that are supplying us. They get just 12 weeks a year to make an income. We get our organic from Clare Island off Mayo”
Smoked mackerel on the Hederman stall at a local market 

It wasn’t easy for Frank when he started up in the mid 80’s. “Then it was only wild fish, lots of them. Drift netting though was very indiscriminate and was banned in 2006. When I started no one would tell you anything and there was also a recession to contend with.”

He doesn’t use any fancy salts, certainly not of the Himalayan variety. (Salt must be consistent, not exotic, just consistent). Once salted, the fish are then put on hooks in the smoker and left hang there until it’s ready. "We use beechwood. Salt, smoke and time are all that’s needed. A bit old-fashioned but it works rather well and people like it”.
Hot smoked salmon

And soon that last phrase was confirmed as we tucked into Smoked salmon and mushroom soup, with a touch of chilli and also Smoked sun-dried tomato on Brioche, both paired with a Pena del Aguila Fino En Rama Sherry from St Lucar. By the way, if you open a bottle of this,  don’t let it hang around for more than a month.

Next came the smoked Mackerel Paté followed by Hot Smoked Salmon with horseradish, lemon juice and creme fraiche. The matching drink here, and a good match too, was the Basque wine Ameztoi Txacoli de Getaria
Mackerel smoked on the bone by Hederman. Find out more about this amazing smoker here

And there was more including a generous tasting of the fantastic smoked organic salmon and a final flourish of delicious Smoked Salmon and Spinach cakes with garlic, the wine here Cantina Tollo Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
Trebbiano

Big thanks to Beverley and the L’Atitude kitchen for their contribution, to Jaques Restaurant for the brown bread and to Le Caveau for the wines.  Beverley had introduced Frank and his wife Caroline at the start of the evening, saying he was a great talker and a great smoker. Spot on, Bev.
Txacoli

Then Munster Wine and Dine announced details of the 2019 programme with at least four major events on the cards including an April multi-stop tour of producers and a restaurant in the Clon area, the next one in June will concentrate on Macroom and neighbouring parishes for more food and drink, September sees the bus going east to the new Blackwater Distillery, a cheesemaker and a top notch restaurant, before ending in November with a call to the Bertha’s Revenge micro distillery and a macro lunch at Ballyvolane House. Munster Win & Dine: mwdcircle@gmail.com
A vineyard in Getaria, where the dry Txacoli wine (made from local grapes) comes from.





Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Little Museum of Dublin

The Little Museum of Dublin
Was your first wine step with Blue Nun? You weren't on your own - it was the biggest selling wine of the 70s

The U2 room. These few pictures are just a little dip in the treasure trove that is in the museum.
The Little Museum of Dublin, across the road from the northern edge of Stephen’s Green, is a superb visit with a guided tour and three floors of exhibitions. In the basement, there is the excellent Hatch and Co café where your museum ticket entitles you a discount!
FX Buckley - still serving excellent steak to this day
The museum tells the story of Dublin in the 20th century and indeed all the exhibits have been donated by the public. There’s a lot there to go through and a guided tour is included in your ticket. Your guide, most are actors, will set the scene for you over half an hour or so and then you are free to wander back and forward through the rooms.
Express delivery

Our guide,  June,  expertly and light-heartedly (mostly) took us through the 20th century in the capital, the big events such as the 1916 rising and later the bombing of North Strand during the second world war, and often the small ones too, like the six ducks that were killed during the 1916 fighting in Stephen's Green where the rebels were led by Michael Mallin and Countess Markiewicz.
At the grocers
 There is a U2 room also with all kinds of artefacts from the group’s rise to fame. There is a room dedicated to Wings of Ireland, A people’s history of Irish aviation, a relatively new exhibition. Also The Shaking Hand of Dublin display recall Alfie Byrne who was the most popular Dublin-born politician of the 20th century. Byrne's personal archive is now on view here. There are features on the women who have always played a part in Ireland's history- their contribution now recognised. And a corner called the Editor’s Desk, a tribute to the Irish Times.


 And there is much much more. Lots of events too are arranged here, the Green Mile is a guided walk around the green, bring your school class to visit the museum for free, every Monday at 1.00pm Sarah Costigan tells you the story of Ireland's famous female pioneers……. I could go on and on. Do visit - it is Very Highly Recommended for young and old alike, maybe young and old together!

Irish Times exhibit

The Joshua Tree Award


Rory Gallagher (in the U2 room)


Good old days (for some) remembered

The Little Museum of Dublin
15 St Stephen's Green
Dublin 2
also on this Dublin trip:
Pearse Lyons Distillery
Café en Seine