Friday, December 14, 2018

Amuse Bouche


As winter approached…they would finally make their big move and the whole world would find out what they had been up to.
It was going to be a great and important day. To celebrate the years of hard work, Norris promised to take Randall and Berryman to dinner at Peter Luger, a famous Brooklyn steakhouse, where gruff old waiters throw down $80 platters of sizzling porterhouse. It seemed a fitting tribute because Luger’s happened to be Chuck Blazer’s favourite restaurant.
Blazer had been a terrific cooperator. There could never have been a case without him.

from Red Card, FIFA and the Fall of the Most Powerful Men in Sports, by Ken Bensinger (2018). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Couples. One White. One Red.


Christmas Couples




A couple of bottles of wine, one red, one white, can go a long way at the Christmas meal. Lots of lovely couples below!







Karwig Double

Cunas Davia Ribeiro (DO) 2016, €21.15 Karwig Wine
It has a light straw colour. And a lovely intense nose where floral and herbal notes mingle with ripe white fruits. Rich, long and balanced on the palate, fruit and fresh acidity in perfect harmony and there is a long citrus led finalé. A pleasure!

Herdade Do Esporão Quatro Castas, Vinho Regional Alentejano 2014, €20.95 Karwig Wine
This deep ruby red wine has concentrated red fruit aromas, also a little spice and a little vanilla. Fresh, fruity and spicy on the palate with a very acceptable balance. Lovely mouthfeel and long finish. Just another beauty from this area of Portugal and Very Highly Recommended.

Two from South Africa

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Red 2016 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2014 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

This James Nicholson red is a very popular wine and you’ll see it on quite a few restaurant lists. It is a dark ruby colour, the legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits (plums, blackberries) feature in the enticing aromas, also a touch of vanilla. That fruit is also there on the vibrant palate, a drift of spice too, smooth with silky tannins, well balanced and with an excellent finish.

It is mainly Syrah (86%) and the other grapes in the blend are Mourvèdre (13) and Viognier (1). It is fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak prior to blending and bottling.

The Wolftrap white was accorded Superquaffer of the Year by the prestigious Platter's Guide to South African Wine.

It is an unusual blend of Viognier 48% (for spice), Chenin Blanc 41% (melon) and Grenache Blanc 11% (white peach), all contributing to the experience. The different grapes are fermented and aged partially in French oak before blending and bottling. 

It has a very clean light yellow colour with green tints. Pleasant white/yellow fruits, plus floral notes, feature in the inviting aromas. Fresh and fruity, unexpected depth in this elegant body, a lively acidity all through and then a lip-smacking finish.

Two from Portugal

Herdade do Peso Trinca Bolotas Alentejo (DOC) 2016, 14%, RRP € 19.99 wineonline.ie

It’s a vinho tinto (red wine), a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Aragonez (Tempranillo). It has a vibrant mid ruby colour and intense ripe berry aromas. Fruity and dry, full-bodied, very well balanced with a prolonged finish. Thanks to the equilibrium of tannins, acidity and fruit, this is an excellent food wine and Very Highly Recommended.

After malolactic fermentation, the wines are transferred to French and Caucasian oak barrels, where they are matured for around six months. To maintain its high quality, the wines are bottled without cold stabilisation. It may thus throw a slight deposit during bottle-ageing.

Herdade do Peso Sossego Branco Alentejano (IG) 2016, 13%, 
RRP €16.99, Matson Wine Store 

The local tranquility wasn’t too bad either as I opened the Sossego with its light yellow colour and tints of green. Scents of citrus fruit and blossoms, more floral than fruity, enhance the mood. Lively and fresh on the palate, the fruit flavours are balanced by excellent acidity and a good dry finish follows. Refreshing and flavourful. 

The grapes used by winemaker Luis Cabral de Almeida were 75% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto, 5% Roupeiro. This may be enjoyed on its own or as an aperitif. It pairs wonderfully with various fish dishes, some white meats and an array of salads. 

Australian Pair 

Free Run Juice “Samurai” Chardonnay (Australia) 2016, 13%, €14.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Tastes, they say, like rain on a hot day. In any event, this organic wine tastes very well indeed, is Very Highly Recommended and is also excellent value.

Colour is a light straw. Aromas are fairly classic Chardonnay, melon and peach. A hint of a tingle on the palate as the creamy textured liquid, laden with rich fruit flavours, spreads across. A crisp acidity balances it and a persistent finish crowns it.

Free Run Juice “Samurai” Shiraz (Australia) 2016, 13.5%, €14.95  

“Tastes like Australian sunshine, and ninjas”. Not familiar with either! Conditions were “ideal” for the harvest, giving a delicious richness and intensity. Another remarkable wine, remarkable value too, and Very Highly Recommended.

A crimson red pours from the bottle with that cracking label. Aromas speak of spice and vanilla but mostly of intense plum. Medium to full bodied, flavours of juicy dark cherries and berries, velvety tannins and a finish that reverberates. A rich and delicious Shiraz. Go for it.

Spanish Couple

Dominio de Punctum Finca Fabian Verdejo Castilla (Vino de la Terra) 2016, 12.5%, €12.20, Mary Pawle Wines


This Verdejo is made  from organically grown grapes, night harvested and cold maceration before fermenting. Colour is straw yellow, bright and clear and there are white fruits in the aromas, floral notes too.

It is fresh and a little livelier than many Verdejos, excellent fruit flavours and balancing acidity. A lovely drop indeed with a long and pleasant finish. Highly Recommended. Good value also, by the way. 

Punctum Viento Aliseo La Mancha (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €13.30 Mary Pawle Wines

This joven (young) wine is a blend of Tempranillo (70%) and Petit Verdot. Organically and biodynamically farmed (Demeter approved) and made from “our estate-grown grapes”.

Cherry is the colour. Cherries and blackberries feature in the aromas. And the same fruit too on the full and smooth palate, matched by a lively acidity, the tannins just about in evidence. Quite complex for a joven and Highly Recommended. Good value also.

Gary’s Pair

Haven’t tasted these in quite a while but must say I like the look of this pair from the excellent Luis Canas at Gary O’Donovan’s. The red is the Madurado Tempranillo/Garnacha while the white is Viura/Malvasia. Both are 2017 and the total cost of the presentation two-pack is €25.00. 

The white blend is dense and unctuous on the palate, with a good balance between acidity and alcohol. The aftertaste brings notes of ripe fruit and minerality.

The red blend has spent 12 months in oak, is fruity on the nose, all enveloping on the palate while it finishes well with fruit and acidity.

Duo from O'Brien's

Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment €21.95 (was 24.95).

The grapes are grown high up in circles around the top of the craters on Santorini, one of the Greek islands. Sometimes wines from hot climates lack acidity, but that is not the case here. Try it with shellfish, also smoked fish. The grapes are soaked on the skins after crushing for a long period. This gives the wines their excellent structure and complexity of flavour. Well worth a try!

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz Australia, 19.95 
Colour is a clean and bright purple. No need to nose the glass here as the aromas - attractive dark berries and plums mainly - come up to meet you. Terrific fruit too on the palate with great balance, tannins are fine, lovely and a lingering dry finish. Footbolt is a favourite here and Very Highly Recommended.


The Odd Couple

Elgin Ridge 232 Sauvignon Blanc South Africa (from Le Caveau).
Decanter praise: vibrant, at once savoury and saline, yet ripe and tropical. 

Made by Brian and Marion Smith. Marion’s from Cavan. I’ve sampled this a few times and have a bottle in the house for the festivities. Well worth a try.

Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt “St Severin” trocken (Austria) 13%, €14.45 Karwig Wines

This well-priced quality red wine has gorgeous and intense fruit aromas. Also engaging red fruit flavours (cherries, berries, redcurrants), a touch of spice, full bodied and quite dry to the finalé. This is easy drinking, light and bright, not unlike Pinot Noir.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brunch at Hook Head. Then take the tour.


Brunch at Hook Head
Then take the tour.
On a good day!

A reviving brunch first. Followed by the refreshing lighthouse tour t. Vice versa perhaps? 

It’s up to you when you visit the fabulous Hook Head Lighthouse in County Wexford. And it’s a place you may visit any time of the year, even during the winter, even during the Christmas holidays.

Let us start with the brunch as I did on a recent Sunday. They have really upped their food offering here since a 2016 visit and brunch is available all day every Saturday and Sunday and they hope to extend it throughout the week during the school holidays. 

Oh, by the way, the lighthouse and cafe are open year round. So if you’ve seen the beautiful views on a calm day, do not hesitate to go down on a rougher one and you’ll get a different “tour”.
Not such a good day!

During our December (02.12.18) visit, the weather was mainly cloudy and very windy at the Hook and that meant it was quite spectacular, a great day to visit! Even if we had to work our way through spray flying across the narrow approach road from time to time. Indeed, there is a wooden “rampart” by the wall surrounding the lighthouse and we got an invigorating splash or two as we took in the views from that vantage point.

Before all that though, we sat ourselves down in the spectacularly situated café in the former lighthouse keepers cottages and found that the food offering wasn’t bad at all! Indeed, it was considerably better than the breakfast fare endured earlier at an expensive hotel in the north of the county.

The two rooms were close to full. No wonder it is proving so popular. You may also choose from a more general menu for lunch or just for snacking.
Brunch

The Brunch list includes morning mainstays such as Eggs Benedict and Ballyhack Smokehouse Salmon. There’s also a Protein Packed Avocado Toast and another vegetarian option is Toast and local mushrooms, both options on toasted sourdough.

The general menu offers Soups, salads and sandwiches and quite a few more substantial meals such as a heart-warming Pie of the Day and they also have a Children’s Menu. At any time, you can drop in for a cuppa and a scone, a dessert perhaps.

Very encouraging too to see they are committed to the environment. Quite a few examples of that from their compostable napkins to their use of paper rather than plastic straws.

Back to the food and we ordered their Home-made Pancakes, described as Beer and cardamon sugar pancakes. No shortage of toppings: banana, crispy bacon, Ballyhack smokehouse salmon, cream cheese and, of course, maple syrup. We choose the banana and syrup and a generous  pot of decent quality tea.

So having made your way to Hook (about two hours from Cork, take the Passage East-Ballyhack Ferry), you may as well do the guided tour. Indeed the guides here are regularly praised and our fellow was also top class.
Take the ferry, from or to the Waterford side

If these walls could talk. You say to yourself as you enter the 800 year tower that houses the Hook Lighthouse on the tip of Waterford’s Hook Peninsula. 

You soon find out, they do talk. In the first room, with its ribbed vault structure just like the two rooms above, a monk, a digital one, appears and talks about when he came here in the 6th century (maybe!). He was Welsh and called Dubhain. Having founded a small monastery, he and his fellow monks noticed the many shipwrecks in the area and set up an open fire to warn mariners.
Inside the lighthouse

Good, but not good enough for the next person you meet, on the next floor. This is William Marshal, another Welshman and a powerful knight, who was very influential in the south east of Ireland at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century. He built the nearby Tintern Abbey and the town of New Ross and more, including this lighthouse (sometime between 1210 and 1230). Monks were again in charge, living here, keeping the faith, keeping the flame.


As you climb the solid building, you see where the monks cooked, lived and slept. Many changes then during the centuries, before, in 1996, the lighthouse was automated and the light keepers (no longer monks!) departed after almost 800 years. And the modern keepers are commemorated on the third floor, projected onto the wall to tell their story.

Out then onto the windy balcony to take in the fabulous views over the seas, over the land. The famous bird sanctuary of the Saltee Islands is visible to the east and to the west you can see The Metalman, another landmark for mariners, this on a cliff near Tramore in County Waterford.
Games and picnics

As well as the light, a fog signal was operated at the lighthouse. For centuries a cannon gun was fired off the edge of the cliff during fog. This was replaced by a hooter, which in turn was replaced by rockets. In 1972 a foghorn worked by compressed air was installed. 
If you didnlt have the brunch or lunch before climbing and descending those 115 steps, you’re probably well up for it now! Enjoy.

Quite a few walks too in the lighthouse area but be careful. Not all tragedies here have happened to people in boats.

Our guided tour was in English and it is also available in French, German, Spanish, Irish and Italian. Whales and dolphins may be observed from the shoreline around Hook Head with a good pair of binoculars. It is a great visit, to what is believed to be the oldest operational lighthouse in the world, and you can find out much more, even see a video visit, see the web cams too, on the website here

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Killavullen Christmas Farmers Market, get ahead of the crowds!

Killavullen Christmas Farmers Market, 
a chance to get ahead of the crowds!


There are just two editions of the 2018 Killavullen Farmers Market to visit before Christmas, a regular one on the 15th and a special Soltice event on the 21st. Ciaran Cotter has been in touch with all the details.
Christmas is only weeks away and that means preparations are ramping up. That couldn’t be truer for Killavullen Farmers Market as not only do they have their famous evening Winter Solstice Market coming up on Friday 21st from 3pm to 7pm, they also have one more regular Saturday morning market on the 15th from 10.30am to 1pm. Be sure to come along as it is your chance to beat the crowds at the Christmas market and also allows you to put in your orders!


All regular stallholders will be there as usual, along with a number of seasonal producers. You will find plenty for the festive season ahead from staples to seasonal veg to unique gifts, all from local producers. One of the oldest farmers markets in Ireland, now into its 18th year, the regular Saturday market. is in the grounds of the Nano Nagle Centre, on the main road between Castletownroche and Mallow with plenty of parking. The market is continually evolving and continues to surprise each week!

Regular stallholders have a range of products from locally grown vegetables all in season, handcrafted baked goods, breads, jams, chutneys and cordials. There is a fine selection of smoked salmon, fresh raw milk and yoghurts. You can also buy a free range organically reared ham or Christmas breakfast. There is also be a hot food and the always welcoming café will be open.

Killavullen farmers market is a great spot to pick up crafted goods including knitwear, kids toys and wood turned products. There is also a great selection of plants and flowers available. The second hand bookstore is a must for any reader. All books cost 50 Cent and donations of books are also gladly accepted.



Finally, unique to Killavullen Market is the KOB (Killavullen Organic Buyers grouping). Here you can order bulk foods and household supplies at discounted prices. All products are sourced from Suma Wholesalers so check out there website if you are interested and then pop along to the market to find out more!

Christmas Market, Friday 21st Dec 3-7pm

If you haven’t heard about the Christmas Market then you have missed out! The unique solstice market is an amazing setting on the shortest day of the year. You can pick up last minute gifts, stock up on goodies for the Christmas period. It is really truly a magical experience and really kickstarts the Christmas period!

Santa

A special visitor has been at the market the last few years and we expect he will be there again this time round. Keep an eye on our Facebook for an arrival time!

Facebook:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Taste of the Week. Eight Degrees Blowhard Imperial Stout.


Eight Degrees Blowhard Imperial Stout 12%, 330ml bottle widely available

Long yarn on the label, rare deep-diving whales who go down to the darkest black and blow hard on their return. The Eight Degree brewers trawled to the furthest limits here and, barely decompressed,  came to tell their daring Christmas tale and they called this deep-dark and delicious creation Blowhard.

The smooth and flavour-packed beer, from regions hitherto unexplored, was quarantined for 30 days in Jameson barrels. Don’t worry, it is now safe in this Christmas season to open the little bottle but do pour slowly, sip slowly too. No point in going overboard when the hard work of the voyage is done. Enjoy the amazing flavours and do watch out for a nice hint of uisce beatha in the long aftertaste!

This is a classic Imperial Stout, with knobs on. They stuffed the mash tun to the gills, double mashed for extra flavour, used premium Irish malt, went overboard with toasted dark malts and extra roasted barley – all before committing the beer to a month long sentence in Jameson whiskey barrels, courtesy of their friends in Irish Distillers.

It is a spectacular seasonal special. Try it, they recommend, with steaks and cheese. Or at the end of the meal, pair with a dark and rich Christmas pudding or a decadent Belgian chocolate mousse. Didn’t have either in the house last Saturday night but did have some Mince Pies (made by Foods of Athenry). Got lucky with that pairing as it worked a treat. Pudding is next!

Availability: Very limited draught. 330ml bottles (RRP €4.20).

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Three Mid-Winter Reds. Santa Will Love Them.


Three Mid-Winter Reds. Santa Will Love Them.

Dear Santa. I have been a little bit naughty but I have said sorry am I still aloud a present. I would love these three bottles of red, please.

Hello CorkBilly: I heard about the naughty bit! We'll get over that. These three would work for the Christmas /festive season and or as winter warmers. They are sustainable and/or organic in the production of the wine.

And Marcus, who was an able deputy for Santa, says "these wines reflect the Liberty wines ethos and continue our sustainability focus and curb the effects of climate change by reducing our carbon footprint." You will also note that Rudolph will be wearing a nappy this year; Santa was in Killarney in July checking out the jarveys and their horses.



Bodegas Arráez Monastrell Barrica “Vivir sin Dormir” Jumilla (DOC) 2016, 14.5%, €18.99 Blackrock Cellar, JJ O’Driscoll Cork, Wineonline.ie

An eye-catching label and a rather fancy name draws you to this Spanish red on the shelf. The 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre in France) is grown organically on limestone soils in a high hot region 90 kilometres from the Mediterranean.

Colour is a dark ruby and the legs are slow to clear, confirming the 14.5% alcohol. Aromas are quite intense, cherry and plum noted. Intense too on the fruit-forward palate, warm and spicy also, good fresh acidity, a hint also of its few months in a mix of Hungarian, French and US oak. Good length on the finish also, the fruit still vibrant. A superb expression of the grape and Very Highly Recommended. Food match: Himalayan Salt Aged Cote de Boeuf. 



Blanville Merlot Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 13%, RRP €14.99 Cinnamon Cottage Cork, Menloe Store Cork, Next door Off licence Ennis and  wineonline.ie

From the Sud de France comes a Merlot to appreciate. Colour is mid to dark ruby and in the aromas there is a mix of red and dark fruit, a hint of liquorice also. It is certainly a smooth customer on the palate, full of flavour with terrific balance, some sweet spice and plush tannins. This very approachable wine has a superb long finish and is Very Highly Recommended.

The family-owned estate, built parcel by parcel from scratch in 1997, recommend serving it at 16-17 degrees and pairing with red meat and cheese.

The year in the vineyard didn’t get off to the best of starts with a cold rainy winter followed by very frosty spring. Early heavy rains though helped the vines through the exceptionally dry and warm mid-summer and harvest, at the end of August, was “one of the earliest on record”.

Bernard and Beatrice Nivollet came from Paris to realise their dream of becoming wine producers and now have some 40 hectares. No chemical fertilisers are used as they practice “organic cultivation and biodynamics”.

Zabu “Il Passo Verde” Nero D’Avola Sicily (DOC) 2017, 13.5%, €17.99 RRP, McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Rd, Baggot Street Wines, Finian Sweeney,   


This Vignetti Zabù organic wine is a dark ruby colour. Intense dark and red fruit aromas. Same intensity on the palate, elegant juicy fruit, spicy too, and no let-up in the long lingering finish. 

Quite an excellent expression of the Nero D’Avola grape, full-bodied and deep-coloured, and Very Highly Recommended, particularly with red meat and game; they also recommended medium aged cheese.

The vineyards were planted in 2005 around Lake Arancio in Sambucca di Sicilia. The crystal clear waters provides an ideal micro-climate for the low-yielding vines, and protects them from the heat of the summer. This too was a hot summer, just three showers in July and August!

Only the best grapes were selected and they had a long fermentation, the aim being to extract colour, body and aromas. Half were aged in barriques, the rest in concrete tanks, both for six months. 

Nero D’Avola, almost always part of a blend in the previous century, is now regularly bottled as a varietal. It is often compared to Syrah because it likes similar growing conditions (Sicily has a hot Mediterranean climate) and exhibits many similar characteristics.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Amuse Bouche


I asked Corazón if she had a little bag of sugar. She was always stealing packets of sugar and tea bags. Her purse was full of everything she could pick up along the way.
I wanted some sugar, but Corazón had only a yellow packet of Splenda. It was better than nothing. I ripped it open and poured the powder into my hand and licked it off my palm. Many things are better than nothing.

from Gun Love by Jennifer Clement (2018). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest. Wines, Spirits and Beers. Hurry over to Leslie!


CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers

Hurry!!! Leslie Williams to host Annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser this evening.
Leslie's ready for you!

“Nasc will be hosting our Annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser on Friday 7th December 2018, in conjunction with Crawford & Co.

Where: Crawford & Co., Anglesea Street, Cork
When: Friday 7th December at 6:30 PM

Tickets are €25 and can be purchased through Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/nasc-wine-tasting-fundraiser-tickets-52715471394).

Proceeds will go towards maintaining Nasc's free legal service, which provides support to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrant families.

The event will be hosted by Sommelier Leslie Williams of the Irish Examiner.

Attendees will sample red and white wines, bubbly and port. They will also receive nibbles and be in with the chance of winning one of the many spot prizes up for grabs via our raffle.

Please join us on the night and help support Nasc's work!

For more information, visit our website: www.nascireland.org"

West Cork Brewing at Fionnbarra’s
A Birthday Party. December 8th from 8.00pm
Roaring Ruby - a super red ale

Hosted by West Cork Brewing Company
“Hi everyone! Its our 4th Birthday soon so we have decided to organise a special shindig in Fionnbarra Bar on December 8th for all our friends and customers! We will have a tap takeover on the night with Sherkin Lass, Roaring Ruby,The Rapids Rye Ale and a special keg of Breakfast in Baltimore Stout for one night only!
Delicious nibbles, special prizes and great beer are just the start of what the night has to offer!! Hope to see ye all there :-)”

Hey Dudes. It’s Flower Power for the Bees.
The Friary Saturday 8th at 7.00pm

“Hey brothers and sisters, it's time to hang loose and give some love (and moolah) to our awesome bee buddies - 60's flower power-style! We invite you to The Friary for a night of psychedelic music, shirts and flares, way out tunes, out of sight prizes, raffles and boss brews.

And all the righteous cabbage (cash :) ) we raise will go to our good amigos in Ballincollig Tidy Towns who are installing and maintaining bee-friendly sites just outside the city.

We'll have food (including brownies - not that type!), Honey Moonshine and mead cocktails (thanks to Blacks Brewery&Distillery and Kinsale Mead Company) and the Mostest Groovy Costume prize. DJ Mike Darcy will play 60's classics all night and also your requests :D The Hippie Wheel of Fortune will be going all evening for free drinks.”


Clonmel’s Red Nose Wine are ready for you!

with Christmas Offers and Sunday Openings 
“As announced last week, our Christmas Specials are now ready for you all.

You can pick up a copy of the offers here ( and also our Corporate / Gift brochure for all your gift needs ).

We also have a range of new wines ( Italy, Spain and France ) that just arrived today, and we will have loads open to try all the way to Christmas.

And we are now open Sundays ( from 2-5 ) all the way to Christmas. A good day to call in if you have a busy week.” 


O’Brien’s Wines Limerick. Christmas Tasting
In Store from 4.00pm to 8.00pm, this Friday.
The Parkway Shopping Centre.

Festive Night: 18 different suppliers popping in. Whiskeys Gins Wine Craft Beer Brandy's and cocktail making.

Note too that O’Brien’s Fine Wine Sale nationwide ends at close of business next Sunday the 9th. Here are a few to tempt you:
insert pic from downloads.

Riojan Vineyard Turns Back The Clock - by 50 Years!
Now Arturo and his brother Kike, who joined Artuke in 2010 and spends most of his time on the vineyards, work their land like it was done 50 years ago and have returned to macerations that last six days (“if you work well in the vineyard and have moderate yields, there’s no need to force things at the winery”), cement containers, wooden vats and large 500- and 600-litre barrels, although they still use stainless steel tanks. 

Read the full story (via Spanish Wine Lover) here 

The Growing Wine World: Everyone Wants In, according to Wine-Searcher

Wine drinkers live in all parts of the globe and the wine world needs to adapt.
By James Lawrence | Posted Wednesday, 28-Nov-2018


If one were to imagine the most likely destination for an ambitious sommelier to thrive and prosper, the United Arab Emirates might, to put it mildly, not come very near the top of the list.
Yet despite the theoretical confines of Islam in the Middle East, record numbers of students are enrolling on WSET programs in the region, while leading hotel chain Jumeirah has started running courses in-house for staff. read more here .

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Karwig Gems from Alsace and Ribeiro.


Karwig Gems from Alsace and Ribeiro.

Chateau D’Orschwihr Pinot Gris Bollenberg Alsace (AOC) 2010, 14.6%, €20.95 Karwig Wine

This is not your usual Pinot Gris.This is from the Alsace where they make them full-bodied, wines of substance and character. “At table,” says the World Atlas of Wine, “it offers a realistic alternative to a white Burgundy.” Different for sure but Very Highly Recommended.

For a start, you are advised to “Take your time to discover this golden yellow coloured wine”.

And that colour is amazing, a brilliant golden yellow, very much like you’d find in a dessert wine such as Monbazillac. The intense exotic nose gives ripe yellow fruits (apricots), floral notes too, even a hint of honey. The palate’s rich with flavour, a creamy mouthfeel, but with an excellent balance and persistent finish.

This full-bodied wine, according to the chateau’s website, “is perfect with white meats, fish or seafood in sauce. It is particularly suited to fit scallop dishes”. 

I think though you can be more adventurous. Bolder suggestions include broiled salmon, rich lentil stews, roast duck and washed rind cheeses. And, with the hints of sweetness (it does have a sugar content at 9g/l), I tried it with a few pitted Tunisian dates (from Bradley’s of Cork) and thought they went perfectly well together. Different strokes for different folks!

Cuñas Davia Ribeiro (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €24.95 Karwig Wine

This pleasant young red wine from Spain is not that widely available; just 2,125 bottles were produced from this vintage and the number on my bottle is #477. It is a blend of 40% Mencía 30% Brancellao 15% Caíño 15% Sousón, not the best known of grapes! Raised for 6-8 months in casks made from French oak and 6 months in the bottle.

It is lovely wine with a dark ruby colour, the rim a little lighter. Fresh and intense aromas of darker fruits (plum, cassis), hints of oak. Warm and smooth on the palate, black and red berry flavours, pleasant acidity, tannins are pleasant too, and there is a long dry finish. Highly Recommended.

The acidity marks it as a wine for food and the makers say it matches perfectly with Galician style octopus, blue fish, grilled meats and earthy casseroles.

Alberto joined his father Antonio García Carrasco in the vineyard in 2009. Alberto says his father “learned the basics of biodynamism - the interaction of cultivation, wine and the Cosmos - from my grandfather, along with a great respect for sustainability and the environment. With these principles, he founded Valdavia in April 2004. My sister, María, and I accompany him on this journey.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Winter Weekend in Wexford


Wexford Winter Weekend

Top chef Kevin Dundon circulated among the visitors to his Dunbrody House Hotel Market last Sunday and we had a chat as we bought some of his conserves and relishes. He’s particularly proud of his Lemon Curd and the Brandy Butter. Lots of other food on offer too from local producers and no shortage of Christmas crafts either in the cluster of yards and sheds. 

Dunbrody House is in a wooded area above the small fishing village of Authorstown. The market is on every Sunday from noon until 4.00pm. It was packed at the weekend with both car parks close to full. And if you want to take a break from the shopping, then you may relax in the onsite pub with a drink and live music.

We had started the weekend a day earlier in Wexford town itself with its narrow busy streets. After the morning trip from Cork, a spot of brunch was in order and we found a good one in Button and Spoon, just a few steps up Church Lane from the quay. Excellent food and friendly people there.

Had a look around after that and called to Greenacres to do some Christmas shopping. Not difficult at all in that well-stocked emporium and a good amount of Irish produce, such as Bean and Goose Chocolate, Melanie Harty’s jellies and Tom Cowman’s Wexford Honey, included. And if you’re a sportsperson, you’ll note the sculpture of local hurling hero Nicky Rackard in an action pose on the street outside.
Not Nicky Rackard!

Headed north then, up along the coast until we came to the Strand Inn which has a fantastic position overlooking the sea and the pier at Cahore. They too put the emphasis on local (including Yellow Belly Beer) and there’s a fine menu there - I enjoyed my plate of Prawn Pil Pil as the daylight began to retreat. Must go back in the summer-time!

Our destination for the night was the Ashdown Park Hotel on the edge of Gorey and, after a warm welcome, we took a break here for an hour or two. We had a table booked at Table 41 on Main Street, about a ten minute walk away. A very tight menu in this upstairs venue but quite good food on offer and friendly service in this relatively new venue.

Back in the hotel bar, we were disappointed to find no craft beer at all, not even a bottle of any of the local brews. They did have some Irish gins though and we had a bit of a “tasting” with Blackwater, Drumshanbo and Short Cross in the mix. Breakfast was nothing to write home about.

Actually, there’s a much better brunch menu, believe it or not, in the cafe at the Hook Head Lighthouse, and it’s available all day Saturday and Sunday. They have upped their game here, as should all visitor attractions. Places like Good Day Deli (in Nano Nagle Place) and the Café in Cork’s Crawford are excellent examples. Some not so good that I can think of are the Skellig Visitor Centre on Valentia and Spike Island, unless they’ve improved over the last 12 months or so.

The weather was mainly cloudy and very windy at the Hook and that meant it was quite spectacular, a great day to visit! Even if we had to work our way through spray flying across the narrow approach road from time to time. Indeed, there is a wooden “rampart” by the lighthouse and we got an invigorating splash or two as we took in the views from that vantage point.

Dunbrody was our next stop and, after that, we came back down, just a few minutes drive, to Aldridge Lodge (near Duncannon). This is a Michelin Bib restaurant with just three rooms and luckily we had one booked.
Yogurt from the breakfast bar at Aldridge Lodge

Everything was just perfect here, from the warm welcome by owner and chef Billy Whitty to the fantastic evening meal based hugely on local, even family, produce. No full bar here so no draught or whiskey. But no shortage (they carry the local Cleverman beers) and we finished the pleasant evening with a drop of the Stonewell Tawny.

We would leave the following morning but not before a treat of a breakfast.The plaice was served with a poached egg (hen or duck), mushroom and tomato. It was a great start to the day. Time then to say goodbye to this highly recommended place and head to the village of Ballyhack to take the ferry to the Waterford side (8 euro single trip); we were home in less than two hours overall after two great December days in the Model County!