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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Golf for sure at Tulfarris but Wine and Dine Scores Well Also


Golf for sure at Tulfarris but Wine and Dine Scores Well Also
Toons Bridge Fior di Latte Mozzarella

Attention of golf fans will be focused on Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort at the end of the month, when The PREM Group Irish Masters takes place there from the 28th to the 30th. The Sky Sports cameras will be present, filming the action on the spectacular golf course and no doubt taking in the lovely Wicklow countryside. With the package being screened in 138 countries, the event should prove to be a major boost for the hotel and its golf course and also for tourism in the area and indeed in the country.

The course and hotel are looking splendid as I found out on a recent visit, arranged to highlight the golf tournament. PREM have spent some six million here in recent years and the majority of it has gone into improving the hotel and surrounds. And it shows. It is already a popular place. When we arrived late on a Sunday afternoon, we walked into the bar for a cuppa and were amazed at the buzz there. By the way, they have their own Tulfarris ale and it’s a pretty tasty drop.
Breakfast view from the restaurant

Thinking about it afterwards, the Tulfarris hotel is quite a handy base, not just for golf (by the way admission is free for the tournament at the end of the month) but also for visiting attractions in the area. It is just about twenty minutes from Exit 12 on the motorway and we used it to visit the Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre and enjoyed the factory tour, the Museum of Style Icons, the shop (of course) and also a light lunch in the busy café, a stylish bright and airy place. 

The following morning, we called to Russborough House, just a few minutes away from Tulfarris, and did the full tour there. Finished up with a cuppa and pastry in the house café and, just over two hours later, were back in Cork.

Other places to visit with Tulfarris as a base, include Kildare Village, Punchestown Racecourse, the Wicklow Mountains (including the Sally Gap) and Glendalough. Of course, the Blessington lakes and the Poulaphouca reservoir are close by.

After all that mountain climbing, walking and shopping, you’ll need to refuel and Tulfarris will sort you out in the Lime Tree Restaurant which has great views over the golf course. Here, they promise a mix of world cuisine with the best of Irish. Indeed, Irish producers and suppliers are used as much as possible.

And I was able to check that out straight away with my starter: Toons Bridge Fior di Latte Mozzarella (Peas, mint, pea-shoots, Wicklow Rapeseed oil and crispy bread). Delicious. Meanwhile, CL was singing the praises of her Vine Ripened Tomato Terrine (Heritage tomatoes, basil emulsion, olives), quite different and also very tasty.
Elderflower semi-freddo

We were onto the wine now. Butterfly Ridge blends went down well. The Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon was vibrant, fruity and soft on the palate while the Riesling Gewürztraminer was a perfect match with the fish dishes on offer.

One was the Pan-roasted fillets of plaice with hazelnut, charred cauliflower and spinach, quite a delicious combination. Being in Wicklow, I couldn’t resist the local lamb served with courgette, goats cheese and elderflower. Another winner, especially with that red wine.
Wicklow lamb

Sleep well!
Would we have dessert? Of course! And they had some tempting ones of offer, including Eton Mess, Hazelnut mousse, Pannacotta. I choose the Baked Raspberry and White chocolate cheesecake while CL’s pick was the Elderflower semi-freddo (with gooseberries, oak crumb and elderflower jelly). Both were excellent but I think she may have picked the better one! 

Happy out with that, though we did have time enough for a few more chats, not all of them golf related, before the enjoyable evening came to a close!

We had a terrific ground floor room here, with lots of space and comfort (bed and armchairs), and everything we needed, including hair drier, iron, safe, coffee machine, large TV and faultless WiFi. The bathroom too was spacious, very well lit, separate bath and shower and excellent Elemis toiletries.

For more on The PREM Group Irish Masters, please check here.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Two Gems from Classic French Regions


Two Gems from Classic French Regions

Chateau Vincens “Prestige” Cahors (AOC) 2013, 13%, €23.50 Vanilla Grape Kenmare

Recently, while reviewing a different bottle from this independent South of France producer, I remarked that while Argentina Malbec is popular, the expertise of centuries in Cahors has not suddenly vanished. My point, hardly original, is once again illustrated with this latest Chateau Vincens that I found on the ancient shelves (over 100 years old) of the Vanilla Grape wine and card shop in Henry Street, Kenmare. Alain was delighted that I picked this wine from his neck of the woods.

It is a blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot and has been raised (70% of it) in oak casks. The producers recommended that their  award winning “well balanced wine, with the wood well integrated” be served at 17 to 18 degrees and paired with red meats and duck breasts.

In 1947, a few growers founded this cooperative in Parnac. Their goal was to revive the Malbec, the grape of Cahors. They succeeded and were still going strong a few years back when I called.
Colour is mid to dark ruby. Rich dark fruit on the nose, notes of liquorice too. On the palate it is plump and luscious, a hint of spice, great depth of flavour, smooth and elegant, and a cherry led acidity helps towards a very pleasing harmony, mellow tannins too playing a role in a long satisfying finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Cahors was famous for its “black wines” even before Bordeaux became established as a producing area. It has had its problems, including phylloxera in 1883-1885. There was a rebirth for Malbec with the founding of the Parnac Coop in 1947. But trouble again in February 1956 when frosts wiped out almost all the vineyards of the region, which thus needed to be replanted en masse. In this replanting, Malbec became more dominant than it had been before. Cahors was awarded AOC status in 1971. Most of the vineyards are planted close to the River Lot.

Parize Givry 1er Cru (AOC) “Champ Nalot” 2017, 13%, €28.30 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This tempting and aromatic wine is a vibrant Givry gem. A subtle and warm wine that will go wonderfully with red meats, small game, and cheeses. Or on its own. This is Very Highly Recommended. Aged in 1-year old oak barrels, Le Caveau themselves are excited: “A brilliant Pinot Noir, very expressive…”

Mid ruby is the colour. Cherry and plum in the seductive aromas. Vivacious, absolutely delicious in the mouth. Smooth rounded red fruit, superb acidity, spices too, refined tannins and an excellent lingering finish. Not too much more to be said. Just go and buy one.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Four of the Best from O’Brien’s Summer Promotion


Four of the Best from O’Brien’s Summer Promotion
 -22nd July to 1st September-
The O’Brien’s Summer Promotion began this week and runs until 1st September. Over 100 wines are on offer, with discounts ranging from 6% to 42%. I think I've been lucky with the examples I've picked (below),  all red as it turned out.

But there is so much more in the promotion. Anyone for rosé? Why not try L'Ostal Caze from the many on offer. Whites to consider include the Château-Fuissé Saint-Veran  and the outstanding Robert Weil Riesling trocken. Having a little get-together out-the-back? There are two Rizzardi proseccos reduced and no shortage of cava or champagne either. Enjoy the summer! Responsibly, of course. Regular price in brackets.

Vaglio "Chango" Red Blend 2015 Argentina, 14.5%, 15.95 (18.95)

An expressive and pleasant wine according to the man who produced it: José Lovaglio Balbo, from Mendoza. Vaglio is a new micro-winery located in Tupungato created by José. He produces four single vineyard wines that all focus on micro-climates and minimal winemaking. José is a young winemaker at the well known Dominio del Plata and the son of renowned winemaker Susana Balbo. Each of his wines represent a unique terroir as well as different stages of his life. 

The fruit comes from different vineyards, the Malbec (65%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) are from Altamira and the Tannat (20%) is from Cafayate. It has spent 11 months in oak (2nd/3rd use barrels).

Colour is close to a dark ruby. Bruised red fruit on the nose, a touch of orange peel too, slightest hints of vanilla emerge also. Palate is soft, full of that red fruit flavour, then the long-lasting finish, with tannins that are not yet quite smooth. A really well-made wine from Mendoza, an amazing amalgam of the grapes and the terroir conducted by the young wine-maker. He does ask for your feedback on the bottle! Very Highly Recommended. Chapeau, José. @joselovaglio


Tandem, at the foot of the Camino de Santiago in the Yerri Valley, is a cool micro-climate where they practice sustainable farming and minimal intervention. Built north-facing and partially underground to use a gravity system, they have the finest natural conditions to age the wines.

Owner José María Fraile was in Cork last year and told us  the vineyard is quite close to Pamplona and on the northern edge of the Navarra wine region. “We like freshness and elegance and luckily we’re in the coolest part of the appellation. It is super green where we are, a big contrast with the desert in the south. The Atlantic influence, the cool summer nights and picking late in the season is good for the grapes and we get that natural acidity.” We would soon see how that acidity helped with the food pairings at 12 Tables.

Inmune (Spanish for immune) was one of the wines on the night, a 100% Garnacha paired with Gubbeen Chorizo, Ardsallagh Feta, Olive Tapenade, Romesco, Physalis and Avocado Oil. “Immune, to failure, to critics!”, joked José. “This is a powerful expression of the Garnacha (the vines are 70 years old and more); great depth and structure, a stunning wine that fills the palate.”

“We aimed to make a powerful, deep and concentrated wine, with nice weight and tannins in which the purity of the fruit garnacha would shine.” Reckon Tandem got it spot-on. Very Highly Recommended.



Leyda, 12 km from the Pacific is an ideal spot for viticulture. The maritime influenced cool conditions makes it an extraordinary area for the development of Pinot Noir. Vineyards are all on slopes, planted on the least fertile soils and they are managed in order to keep low yields. 

Light to mid ruby is the colour. Summer berries combine for an intense aroma.  Rich rounded palate of ripe red fruit (cherries prominent), a lively acidity, smooth tannins and a long and pleasing finish. An excellent Pinot Noir, Very Highly Recommended. Good value too, even at the original price.

Leyda, founded in 1997, are best known for their Pinot Noir (notably Lot 21), Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah (according to Wines of South America). This wine was aged in French oak barrels for ten months and pairs well with cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Pheasant/Pigeon, Pork Belly, Slow roast Pork loin.


Words of wine wisdom from the Contessa (below) encourage us to drink with emotion rather than a data sheet, passion rather than intellect.

Mid to dark ruby is the colour of this light Munus from the Lake Garda area. Aromas are intensely fruity, a hint of spice there too. Flavours are quite concentrated, acidity is excellent, hints of that sweet spice too, and a good finish to boot. 

All that acidity means it's meant for food. I’m thinking: Bring on the lamb! The producer says: “Superb with pork and poultry dishes and lighter game such as partridge and quail. Also porcini mushroom risotto.” Another note from the vineyard recommends it to be served (16° C or 60° F) with pork roast, spicy dishes or casseroles. Quite versatile apparently!

A wine that belies its youth.  Very Highly Recommended.

Lots of history behind Rizzardi and Munus which is produced mainly from Corvina, Merlot and Ancellotta grapes from their vineyards. 

Created to celebrate the Contessa Loredan Rizzardi, a descendant of the Loredan Doges of Venice and she has been quoted as saying that this is her favourite wine, adding You have a perfect marriage of grapes when one grape is not prevailing over another. ….But I drink with passion, and without brains. 

The label bears the word Munus - a gift - which was engraved on the silver coins given by the Doge on special occasions. It is part aged in large oak barrels. Serve at 16-18 degrees. Estate grown and bottled.

You may be wondering about the Ancellotta grape. Wine-searcher: Ancellotta is a dark-colored grape variety that originated in Italy. It is most often used as a blending component in sparkling red Lambrusco wines, but varietal examples can be found in BrazilArgentina and Switzerland.







Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Couple of Excellent Whites, Both Organic. Three to watch in Karwig's Sale.


A Couple of Excellent Whites, Both Organic

Diwald Grüner Veltliner “Goldberg” Wagram (Austria) 2015, 13%, €20.75 Mary Pawle

The loess soils of the Wagram are particularly favourable to Grüner Veltliner and this is another excellent example by Diwald. Very Highly Recommended.

This is a light gold colour, and bright. Aromas led by citrus, a touch of pepper. Zesty too on the palate as this light and lively wine spreads around. Light and thirst quenching yet also quite assertive. It has spent 8 months on lees.

Generally GrüVe is well paired with salads and vegetables and makes for a mouthwatering aperitif and importer Mary Pawle recommends serving this Diwald with scallops. 

But the grape is very versatile. Terry Theise, in Reading Between the Wines, says GrüVe is a hugely important variety “both for its flavour and also for its usefulness”. It is “by far the most flexible dry white wine in the world at the table”. He concludes: “..once you encounter it, you may not be able to imagine life without it”. High praise indeed.

The Diwalds, long-time practitioners of organic wine-making, say Goldberg is one of the best single vineyards in the village. Terraces and hills which slope towards the Danube Valley and mighty loess ground build the foundation for the Goldberg wines. According to Martin Diwald, the goal is “to produce cheerful wines, in which the zest of the region and the philosophy of the vintner are united.” Reckon he scores with this one! As do his customers.

Jacques Frelin Pouilly-Fumé (AOP) 2017, 13%, €26.60 Mary Pawle

Minerality and elegance are head-lined on the back label of this organic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire and they are indeed a notable part of the very pleasant experience.

Colour is a very light straw. Intense aromas (melon, pear/apple, honeysuckle notes). Lively fruit, the classic citrus in there too, lively acidity, that minerality and elegance, very refreshing and a good dry finish. Well made, well balanced. Excellent and Very Highly Recommended.

No need to say too much more. Mary Pawle recommends trying it with trout or salmon and also goat’s cheese. I’ve seen recommendations for pairing it with shellfish, spicy food, salads, pork, and light pasta dishes.

Karwig's Closing Down Sale Continues
Three to look out for!


Rochebin Macon Lugny (AOP) Chardonnay 2018, 12.5%, Karwig Wines was 15.85, now 10.30…

Colour is a mid gold. Aromas of white fruit, floral notes too. Soft and rich on the palate, peach and melon flavours, rounded mouthfeel, fresh acidity too and a good finish. Very quaffable on its own and pairs well with: spiced tapas, charcuterie, white meats (chicken, veal) or seafood platters. Treat yourself - Highly Recommended.

Machard De Gramont “Dom. De La Vierge Romaine” Pinot Noir Bourgogne (AOC) 2017, 13%, €19.95 (prior to closing down sale) Karwigs

Aged in old oak for 13 months, this is an excellent Pinot Noir, full of character and well-priced even before news of Karwig’s closing-down sale broke.

Mid-ruby is the colour and it has a bright sheen. Aromas, with berries and cherries in the mix, are light and lovely. On the palate it is deliciously fruity, the merest touch of sweet spice, acidity enough, tannins barely noticeable with a decent finish. Elegant and fresh and Highly Recommended.



Georg Müller Stiftung Hattenheimer Hassel Riesling Kabinett Trocken Rheingau 2012, 11.5%, €20.50 (now 12.30) Karwig Wines.

This has the VDP eagle displayed on the neck, “a guarantee of pure wine pleasure”, not a bad start. For many years the winery was a foundation for the benefit of the town of Eltville in the Hattenheim region. In 2003, it came back into private ownership.

Colour is a light straw with green tints. Citrus aromas with a touch of diesel. Lively and fruity on the palate, fading slowly to a dry finish. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wines from New Zealand and France via Le Caveau and Mary Pawle


Wines from New Zealand and France
 via Le Caveau and Mary Pawle

Pebble Dew Pinot Noir Marlborough 2017, 13.5%, €24.95  Le Caveau

“A real drinking pleasure” is how Le Caveau describe this Pinot Noir from New Zealand. They have been trying to source a Kiwi supplier for Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc for a while and reckon Pebble Dew is the answer.

It has one of the lightest red colours you’ll see, very close to rosé. The red fruit aromas are packed with promise. And the fruit delivers well on the palate, supple and juicy, right to the refreshing finalé, with a touch of tannin, evident on the top of the lips. It is a light and lively wine for summer, has a bit more going for it than the Sauvignon Blanc.  Highly Recommended.

Pebble Dew Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2018, 13.5%, €20.95  Le Caveau

Colour of the Pebble Dew Sauvignon is a very light straw. Aromatic too with white stone fruit and lime in the mix. Gets more citrus-y on the palate, the lively fruit matched with acidity. Pleasant and easy drinking. Nice aperitif and should go well with seafood and salads. Recommended.




Château de Bastet “Aeris” Côtes du Rhone 2015, 13%, €15.20 Mary Pawle


Generally, white Côtes du Rhone have a clear and crisp appearance, with a floral and fruit bouquet and a well balanced palate. This “Aeris”, organic and biodynamic, certainly fits that description. Serve at 8 to 10 degrees and it is the perfect match to grilled fish, shellfish, fish stew and goat cheeses. Salad Nicoise too.

Château de Bastet decided to go biodynamic in 1997. This 2015 is a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Other white grapes permissible in the region are Clairette, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc too and Picpoul.

It is light straw in colour. And there is a nice mix of aromas, floral along with pear and peach. Smooth with good depth of flavour and a pleasant finish. Highly Recommended and, by the way, well priced.

Chateau Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet (AOP) 2018, 13%, €13.80 Mary Pawle

A dry white from the Languedoc region near the Med in the south of France. Mary Pawle tells me this grape, Picpoul de Pinet, is often referred to as the Muscadet of the South and is excellent with oysters and most shellfish. And that’s confirmed by the label recommending fruits de mer, coquillages et crustacés, with a serving temperature of 8 degrees.

It has a mid-yellow colour with green tints. Aromatic for sure - citrus, melon and floral. Rounded and abundant fruit flavour (lime, grapefruit), generous mouthfeel (close to creamy), a perky acidity and a decent finish. Highly Recommended.

Picpoul is the grape and Wine-Searcher says this Picpoul de Pinet is its most famous incarnation. “The variety's ability to keep its acidity even in a hot, Mediterranean climate makes it the perfect choice for the region, making taut, full-bodied white wines with herbal and citrus aromas.”

Monday, June 10, 2019

Three Rosés for Summer 2019 at O'Brien's. Dive in as prices tumble!


Three Rosés for Summer 2019 at O'Brien's
Dive in as prices tumble!



She laid take out on the coffee table
Prepped the dishes poured a glass of wine
Turn down the sound and move a little closer
Here for the moment everything is alright
(from Bon Jovi's  "Because We Can)

This rosé from the south of France, with an American accent, really comes into its own on the palate, a delicious melange of flavours, fresh and fruity and acidity enough, followed by a light and lengthy finalé. A superb aperitif and probably excellent too with finger food, seafood and salads. One for the back garden (no pool to dive into, alas) in the months ahead.

It is a collaboration between renowned France winemaker Gérard Bertrand and Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse, hence the American name. It was voted Wine Spectator’s top rosé last year. This appearance in Ireland is thanks to O’Brien’s. It comes with an almost clear robe, the merest blush of colour. Floral and fruity elements feature in pleasing aromas of moderate intensity.

It is produced primarily from the Grenache grape though other Mediterranean grapes, such as Cinsault and Mourvedre, are also in the blend, all selected by Gérard Bertrand. Particular attention is paid to the pressing to ensure that only the first, highest-quality juice is kept. Highly Recommended.




Quite a few words on the label here: Alicia and Lynne, Navarra, Native Garnacha, Hand Farmed, Hand picked, Wild ferment, concrete tanks, force of nature, Artisanal, vegan.

They tell you most of what you need to know. Alicia and Lynne are the wine-makers, Alicia from Tandem and Lynne from O’Brien Wines. O’Brien’s are very happy with the part played by their very own Wine Director Lynne Coyle (Master of Wine) in this “delicious little rosé using natural wild yeast". It was produced in Navarra in the north of Spain and Garnacha is the grape here.

Force of Nature hints at the overall process, they worked “without technology”. It is also the name of a thriller by Jane Harper that I’ve just finished. The book, like the wine, is Very Highly Recommended!

It has a salmon colour. A very pleasing aromatic bouquet and an equally pleasing presence on the palate, fruity for sure (strawberry prominent), persistent too. I like this one, the introduction and the while handshake, start to finish. A very attractive wine, even more so at the reduced price. Very Highly Recommended.


Another famous name on this bottle, that of renowned French wine family J-M Cazes. This rosé though comes not from Bordeaux (where they have owned Chateau Lynch-Bages since 1939) but from another of their vineyards in the Languedoc.

So, L’Ostal is from the south of France, the source of many of those rosés that we know and love. It has somewhat less flavour than the Rós which also has a longer finish. This though is a lighter wine, a drink anytime kind of wine. Try it with a salad in the back-garden at lunch-time (check the forecast!) and you’ll be delighted with it.

Made from Syrah (50%) and Grenache, it is quite a pale pink, though its colour has more substance than the Hampton Water. It has been macerated (soaked) for a very short time on the skins to create this modern blush effect. The aromas too are delicate and also complex; concentrate and you may find pomegranate and rose petals there. The strawberry flavours are restrained but nothing wrong with that. It is fresh and supple in the mouth, refreshing with a slightly fruity, slightly sweet finish. Highly Recommended.

Summary:
Not that easy to pick a winner. Each of the three has its own character. So it's down to personal taste and you won’t go wrong with any of the three. My first instinct is to go with the Rós, my second is to call for a 3-way replay! Oh, by the way, virtually every rosé in O'Brien's is reduced by 25% in the O'Brien's summer promotion that runs from now until July 21st. We'll take a look at the whites and the reds on offer soon.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Three Light Reds for the Months Ahead


Three Light Reds for the Months Ahead

Les Foulards Rouges “Octobre” Vin de France 2018 11.5%, €20.85


This is a bit of an ambush. Nothing in the colour (a weak red) or in aromas (delicate) quite prepares you for what lies ahead when you sip this Languedoc blend of Syrah (mostly) and Grenache. “Smile inducing.” “Sings in the glass.” Quotes from importers Le Caveau and I fully agree.

That weak red colour is very close to a rosé. And the aromas have a delicate red berry nose, a touch of white pepper too. It is a pleasant surprise in the mouth, supple and pretty, with quite a lively character, reaching a high level of quality. 

Despite the initial doubts, I totally concede: this is exquisite, distinctive too, closer to a Beaujolais than one would think possible in a Southern red with Syrah as the main grape. Perhaps the sea breezes wafting in over the spiralling red roofs of Collioure have something to with that and with the lower ABV. If you are looking for a pretty and light red wine, and many people are nowadays, then look no further than this Highly Recommended red. 

Octobre is released each year in… October; 90% Syrah, 10% Grenache grown on granitic soil, hand harvested and spontaneous carbonic fermentation, no SO2 added. Jean-François Nicq, one of the Foulard Rouge (red scarves), took over the domaine in 2002 and practices natural wine-making and you can taste it in this pure wine.


Contrefours du Delta Côtes de Ventoux (AOP) 2016, 13.5%, €13.20 Mary Pawle

There is an increased interest in lighter red wines in recent years and, if you’d like to try one, this bottle fits the bill. It is an organic wine from the southern edge of the Rhone Valley, a “supple and juicy” blend of Grenache (60%) and Syrah.

Mid ruby is the colour. It is aromatic with a mix of red fruits (raspberries and strawberries included). It is indeed charming and light, juicy and a refreshing drop with a decent finish, tannins just about noticeable on the lips. Can be served cool too, so handy for the warmer days ahead. Well made and Highly Recommended. Well priced too, by the way.

Pairing tips included grilled lamb with thyme, goat cheese or with a fig tart.

Terrabianca “La Fonte” Sangiovese Tuscany (IGT) 2012, 13.5%, €16.15 Karwig


Do you need a light summer-time red for that pizza or pasta?  Check out this easy-drinking well-priced wine Tuscan wine from Karwig’s. Sangiovese is the grape and it is a major grape in that part of Italy, its reputation reinforced over the years by its role in wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti itself of course, and also Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. You’ll note rich dark red fruit (cherry, plum) in the aromas. Well balanced on the palate, light fruit and lively acidity, a touch of soft tannins towards the finish. Easy drinking and Recommended.


Monday, May 27, 2019

A Riesling to remember and a Chardonnay with a difference



Let the drums and trumpets sound for this outstanding German Riesling. The label does it well: A Riesling dry in style and well balanced like its Rheingau predecessors from the glorious age of Riesling a century ago: a contemporary classic and a perfect partner for many foods.

Don’t know anything about the Rieslings of a century ago but this light gold coloured wine is a gem for sure. Intense aromas of apple and pear indicate a good year in the Rheingau, a year for the grape to flourish. And that’s soon confirmed on the palate with its crisp acidity and yellow stone fruit (peach, apricot), a striking minerality too maintained to the persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended. No wonder Wilhelm Weil considers it as one of the best he has produced in 30 years (reported by none other than an enthusiastic Robert Palmer). 

You can hardly talk of Riesling without mentioning acidity and minerality. In his book Reading Between the Wines, Terry Theise says "Acidity is innate to the berry". "Minerality, " he continues, "is inherent to Riesling, because the variety is, in its essence, more mineral than fruit. The Riesling genre is one of a mineral-tasting wine into which are woven various strands of fruit, depending on site and vintage."

Fruity, tangy, yet charming and harmonious, you’ll find it this Weil typically versatile at the table. A couple of suggestions, one “a merry table companion to a wide range of cuisines” and another, this via Google Translate, “goes brilliantly with fried fish, poultry and Asian dishes. But even without banqueting - he can sip excellent …"


The Mornington Peninsula, just over an hour south of Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, is perfectly suited to growing Chardonnay and “a foremost region” too for Pinot Gris”. Chardonnay here though, according to Halliday’s Wine Atlas of Australia, “is markedly different from any other Chardonnay produced in Australia”.

Stonier was established here in 1978 and are noted for their Burgundian style cool climate wines. The vineyards overlooks the ocean. Chardonnay is a signature wine for Stonier and this is a gem.

It has a yellow colour, with green tints. The aromas are gentle, of exotic fruits. Even the background flavours are delicate with melon and citrus to the fore. There is excellent texture, a pleasant creaminess, and complementary acidity. And it boasts a long and distinctive finish too. Delicious and satisfying, this is well made, harmonious and Highly Recommended.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley On Kenmare Foodies Tour.


A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley
On Kenmare Foodies Tour.
Enthusiastic Emma at Maison Gourmet
Henry Street is abuzz this sunny mid-May morning. Shoppers out and about, drivers trying to find parking. All kinds of small shops here, cafés and bars too. But we’re in a back lane watching bakers at work. We’re privileged because we’re with Karen Coakley, the Kenmare Foodie herself, and her Kenmare Foodie Tour takes you to places you won’t get to on your own, allows you see what goes on behind the scenes (away from the bustling street and the busy counters) and in most places you get to chat with the person or persons who started the food (or drink) business.

Margaret of Kenmare Ice Cream is one of those protagonists. Rose also plays a key role but she has to leave on business and it is Margaret that tells us the story. Both are Ballymaloe trained and were looking to start something in 2007. A gourmet deli was the first aim and they did much work on that before a discouraging coffee stop in Adare put them off. By the time they got back to Kenmare the ice cream idea was born but not yet taken seriously!

Margaret at Kenmare Ice Cream
But after research, it quickly gathered momentum and they got some equipment. How do we sell? They bought a tricycle, added three planks, and Margaret went off selling while Rose made the ice-cream. By the end of that summer, with over 11,000 scoops sold, they knew they were on to something.

Soon they had to scale up. They found “proper equipment” , including a 24 flavour cabinet, and a UK expert came over to give them two days training. They had  started making French style ice cream but now switched to the Italian style. “Because it’s all about flavour,” said Margaret. “More so than the richer (egg based) French style. Raspberry Ripple was our first flavour, and still my favourite. We stay as clean and green as we can. Four years ago, we started making whipped ice cream and that is now a big success. We do high quality but at a good price.”

Their Bia Bia is a full scale cafe, including ice-cream of course, in Railway Street while Kenmare Ice Cream, where we visited, can be found on Henry Street (open 11.00am to 11.00pm in season when Margaret and Rose have 22 people employed). Oh yes, you may still see that tricycle around Kenmare on special occasions but their famous cow, Moodini, is parked up for a while, awaiting a suitable grazing spot!
Patrick and Emma talk sourdough
If you’re arriving in Kenmare from the West Cork side, you’ll spot Maison Gourmet on top of Henry Street on your left. It was here, on the terrace at the rear that we joined up with Karen and her group. Soon, we met Emma, the French lady behind the bakery/café. And she took us out the back, to the lane where the bakery is and where we got our hands on the dough and fashioned our little baguettes (which we would collect, nicely baked, at the end of the tour).

Here they use a rather special butter, the Isigny AOC (now AOP). They can’t use Irish butter. It is good but it doesn’t have the same elasticity as the Isigny. Emma, having been part of large bakeries in Carcassonne and Toulouse, is delighted to be in Kenmare and you can see that Kenmare is delighted to have her and her bakery. Amazing too how many French visitors find their way to Maison Gourmet. Maybe it's that tempting smell of the breads, cakes and Java coffee.

Thirty years ago, she met Patrick who was already a baker, fell in love with the baking and the baker. Emma has “flirted” with Ireland since she came here as an au pair when she was twenty. Then, 3 years ago, she and husband Patrick “took the path of our dream and we opened a bakery in Kenmare. That was the best idea that we ever had.”
Beara Gin truffles at Lorge

Their butter and flour may be imported from France but they also use lots of high quality Irish produce in the busy café. But it is the breads (including sourdough) and pastries that attract me, all those classics from butter croissants to pain au chocolat (again the very best of chocolate is used) to Macarons to Mille Feuille, strawberry tartlets and more.
Olivier (On the Wild Side)

More chocolate down the street where’ll you find the Lorge shop. Hard to believe he started making chocolate by accident. His “factory” at nearby Bonane is housed in the old post office and is now a thriving business. Karen told us he is currently working with Beara Gin and indeed we sampled some of those delicious white chocolate truffles and, later, bought some bars and a bag of his marshmallow.
Alain knows his wines

Soon we found ourselves down by the town park where the weekly market was in progress. As we walked, Karen was dispensing food and recipe ideas, lots of tips all the way through the morning. 

At the market, we sampled the cured meats (including a beetroot and pork saucisson and a delicious chorizo) by Olivier of On the Wild Side. Later we called back to get some of his paté and also those Merguez Lamb Sausages. Cheese samples then, including Milleens and Coolea, from Christian’s cheese stall where he had many choices for his customers.

“How about a glass of wine?,” said Karen. Oh yes was the answer. We headed for the Vanilla Grape, a wine and card shop owned by Alain and Christine. “We are here 15 years now,” said Christine. “though those shelves are over 100 years old.” Frenchman Alain is always on the lookout to give his customers wine at a good price, not easy though considering we “had two tax hikes since the recession”.

But he did have just the job for us, a Cà Vittoria apassimento style, not from the Veneto but from Puglia, and well priced at €19.50. As we sipped the Nero D’Avola, we discussed serving temperatures with Alain saying the fridge is not a friend of wine. Had another chat with him later in the afternoon and bought myself a bottle of Chateau Vincen from Cahors much to the delight of Alain who himself is from the area (Figeac).
Making coffee with the Syphon

Alexa and Dave are the duo behind Babors Beans at the Brewhouse in the Square. Here they are serving top quality coffees, sharing bites, monstrous burgers and zesty cocktails to brighten up your day. But we’re here for the coffee that they roast themselves.

Dave told me they have eight single origins and five blends. He has to keep an eye on the price. “You have to watch the market as the price changes every day. It is too expensive to buy from the individual farmers. I get mine from Inter America Company. 

He is, of course a passionate enthusiast. “You can drink 10 to 15 cups a day and it’ll do no harm if you drink a lot of water as well!” He showed us two ways of making coffee, with the Syphon (which I preferred) and with the Chemex. We also enjoyed an espresso. By the way, not alone can you buy 250 grm bags of the various coffees here but you can also get the implements including the Syphon and Chemex. The new roastery is close to being ready and then he’ll be doing classes and demos and no doubt Karen will have that on her tours as well!

After all that, it was back up to Maison Gourmet to collect our loaves and say goodbye to one another. The tour takes about three hours but it was so enjoyable, with so many different and informative chats, that the time flew.
Christian and his cheeses

Get all the info on Kenmare Foodie Tours here.   Karen is always working on varying the tour and soon there’ll be a fish call.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A couple of French classics that unexpectedly landed on my table

A couple of French classics that unexpectedly landed on my table


Château Vincens “Les Graves de Paul” Cahors (AOC) 2009, 15%, 

A village, on the River Lot, in the Cahors area
I needed a Malbec to go with a steak in winter and pulled out this one from Cahors, a gift from a friend, from his own stock. If you use wine-searcher.com I’m pretty sure you’ll find an Irish supplier, and the search will be well worth your time for, while Argentina Malbec is popular, the expertise of centuries in Cahors has not suddenly vanished, a point well illustrated in this bottle.
Hard at work in a Cahors vineyard


Chateau Vincens is in the heart of the region and Les Graves, aged from 20 to 22 months in new oak barrels, is Very Highly Recommended. Old vines from the best low yielding (gravelly) parcels of the estate are the basis for this intense concentrated gem.

Colour is a deep red, almost black. Intense dark fruit aromas, vanilla too. Harmony is perhaps the word for this, now that it has survived to 2019. Harmony of fruit and oak as this powerful wine purrs over the highways and byways of the palate, tannins close to smooth, the final stretch long and very satisfying indeed.

While a glass went down well with the steak, the winery suggests pairing it “with a duck with figs or a tagine of lamb with prunes”.








Joseph Domaine de Bellecours Sancerre (AOC) 2016, 13%, imported by Longueville Wines

This is Sauvignon Blanc from the quiet country hills of Sancerre. No salty aromas here from where ocean meets land, though the ocean has been here, twice, in ages past. No ocean spray here now, no high grass bent by the fresh wind, sun yes but nothing blinding in the calm countryside, just the calm of centuries of crafting the vine and its fruit. Une vieille verité dans le verre.

Since 1513, the Mellot family have worked in the vines and cellars here. Once, one of them was wine adviser to the King of France himself. Their customers now, in forty countries worldwide, are somewhat more modest (presumably!), especially for this young wine with its light straw colour and aromas of pears and peach. The palate of fruit and freshness has brio and balance. Highly Recommended. Their Cuvée Pierre Etienne 2015 would be Very Highly Recommended.

Food pairings. Shellfish (Oysterhaven mussels) and a Seafood Bourride  (the Provençal bouillabaisse) have worked well for me. The producers recommend Grilled sole, fried langoustines, scallop terrine or goat's cheese.