Phew. Been a bit busy recently so had to temporarily suspend the blogging til now.
But the fun and flavour have continued as usual on the food and drink pages in the Irish Examiner Weekend. I might put up further details on some of the stuff in the column over the last few weeks. But for now there’s just one link – about a remarkable eye-opener of a tasting that I covered on March 10. I’d urge you to check it out as you might save yourself a bundle on good quality wine.
Speaking of tastings, below are some details of a few public events that may interest you.
+ Rieslings to be cheerful – April 7 +
In today’s column in the Irish Examiner I’m looking forward to a unique tutored tasting. An initiative of Wine Australia, it brings together winemakers from the three most important sources of quality Riesling wines.
The Riesling Revolution
The Grain Store at Ballymaloe
7pm on Thursday May 17, 2012.
Join Carl Ehrhard (Rheingau, Germany) Tim Adams (Clare Valley, Australia) and Séverine Schlumberger (Alsace, France) for a tutored tasting exploring this great wine varietal. Book tickets (€25) on firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 4652531. For more information, contact Colm@Ballymaloe.ie or Ireland@wineaustralia.com.
I’m also looking at a handful of terrific accessibly-priced rieslings I’d recommend.
You really do need Riesling in your wine repertoire. While we love many big kitchen-sink styles of reds and whites, there is nothing like the rifle-shot pinpoint accuracy of an elegant white, and Riesling is widely regarded as the chief among them. (Although in my view there are other contenders such as pinot blanc and chenin blanc).
Riesling is hardly ever oaked (but I have tasted commendable ones which were) nor blended (and again there are exceptions – sparklers mainly – on our shelves particularly from Chile and Australia). While wine fans should neither fear nor regret the way wines are manipulated in the winery (it’s all about human intervention after all) good riesling really is made on the vine, much of the winemaker’s attention being paid to the degrees of natural ripeness the grapes achieve.
This is reflected in one of the treasures of the wine world, the German tradition which ranks wines first by the ripeness of grapes at harvest, and then by dryness caused by the way it’s fermented.
If you’re seeking wine as we know it, dryish, one of the key words to look out for is Trocken meaning dry (with Feinherb or Halbtrocken meaning off-dry).
The higher QmP standard stipulates one of six ascending order of grape ripeness, and ascending order of rarity, as winemakers can’t depend every year on achieving the conditions for making the latter three. The six, well worth getting familiar with, are as follows.
Kabinett means that the wine has been made from fully ripened grapes. Usually fresh and low in alcohol.
Spätlese: made from riper late-harvest grapes. Again, these wines are more intense in flavour and concentration, and are usually but not necessarily sweet. For instance, the back label on the left above, indicates the wine is made with late harvest grapes but crucially, spells out that it’s been fermented “Trocken” or dry.
Auslese: made from very ripe bunches of selected grapes. Makes intense, usually sweet wine.
Beerenauslese: wines made from individually-selected, overripe grapes — and usually infected by noble rot, Botrytis cinerea. One of the effects of this is in drawing water out of the berries, thus concentrating sugars and the flavours. Made only in exceptional years when the weather has favoured ripeness and rot, such wines tend to be rich and very sweet.
Eiswein: What the rot does for Beerenauslese, freezing conditions do for the grapes used in Eiswein — they have to be harvested and pressed while frozen on the vine. A unique process which has been much emulated by winemakers in Canada (and, yes, they do). It tends to produce highly concentrated sweet wines.
Trockenbeerenauslese means that individual overripe grapes have been hand-picked — they will also usually be infected by noble rot.
By the way, Germany isn’t unique in having a strong tradition of slightly sweet wines. You might notice New Zealand rieslings on wine shop shelves described on the label as ‘dry riesling’. Why would they specify that when dry’s what we’d expect anyway? Because, perhaps surprisingly, the traditional default setting for aromatic whites in New Zealand is in fact off-dry, and they need to spell out which ones are at the more commonly anticipated level of dryness.
Today and tomorrow, April 7 and 8, the Franciscan Well microbrewery on North Mall in Cork is playing host again to its legendary Easter Beerfest, featuring some of the finest brews being made in this country today.
Galway Food Festival
Galway Food Festival continues until Monday April 9 featuring open-air markets promoting local produce and producers, restaurant trails, cookery demonstrations, food tours to local artisan producers, foraging workshops, tastings, wine workshops, a meet-the-producers forum and more. See www.galwayfoodfestival.com for more details.
Blindfold tasting dinners – free event
Cork, April 4 / Galway, April 19 / Waterford, April 26
There’s a very special event coming up in Cork, Galway and Waterford over the next few weeks. Jacob’s Creek is inviting 50 guests free of charge to their See Beyond The Label roadshow at pop-up restaurants in atmospheric venues in each of those cities. At each, a highly-regarded chef will be putting together a dinner, each course of which will be accompanied by matching wines — and even better, a fascinating sensory exercise presented by TV3’s wine expert David Whelehan.
As well as hints and tips about wine tasting, David will help diners focus properly on their senses, firstly with a simple comparison test in which each diner is presented with a pair of wines — for instance a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc; or a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon if opting for red — and will try to identify which wine is which.
Later in the evening another dimension will be introduced with a second, more specific, test — not with wines but bottles essences of aromas — when a volunteer from each table will try to identify the various scents. The exercises sound simple, and they are. But we are so used to allowing other factors cloud our senses that being compelled to listen to what your nose and palate says can offer a radically new insight into both what we’re tasting and how our own senses work.
The chefs and venues are as follows. Apr 4: Cork City Gaol (Canice Sharkey, Isaacs). Apr 19: Galway City Museum (JP McManus, Cava & Aniar Restaurant). Apr 26: Greyfriars Gallery, Waterford (Robbie Krawczyk, O’Brien’s Chophouse).
To enter the draw for a reservation at one of these special events, see facebook.com/jacobscreekireland or email email@example.com (with Jacob’s Creek ‘Wine & Dine Experience’ in the subject line) naming which venue you’d like to attend, your name, date of birth (as drinks will be served) and contact details for you and one guest.
Whipping The Herring Out Of Town
Cork, Easter Sunday
Again this Sunday the butchers’ apprentices of Cork will mark Easter Sunday — and the end of a slack month of Lenten no-meat misery — with music, mirth and wild celebrations, the centrepiece of which involves attaching a herring to a long pole which is then paraded around the city walls affording the town’s urchins an opportunity to flake the bejaysus out of it like some piscine piñata….
Okay this event isn’t actually happening. But it should. It’s a traditional Easter celebration which used to take place in various parts of Ireland.
It’s depicted in this small but wonderful painting, Whipping The Herring Out of Town by Nathanial Grogan (c1760) which is in the collection of the Crawford Art Gallery on Emmet Place in Cork. The painting is featured in the current exhibition, A Question of Attribution: The Arcadian Landscapes of Nathaniel Grogan and John Butts which ends on April 7, 2012.
The picture is so vivid you can almost hear the racket. I love the detail. One lad is drawing back his cudgel to take a swipe at the poor fish. I imagine the child staring at the spectacle is about to burst into tears, terrified by the mad procession bearing down on him. The woman at the lower left who seems to have been upended by a runaway dog (and is that a pig running alongside?) is pure Beryl Cook.
Digression: By the way, the arched building you see in the background is an accurate representation of the city’s south gate, which survives only in the name of South Gate Bridge. The first picture of the bridge on that Cork City Library link is Nat Grogan’s more sober daytime illustration, complete with one of his signature flourishes, a romantic John Hinde-style overhanging tree, on the right hand side. Apart from the river and the bridge, it doesn’t look much like today’s view. To orient yourself in that picture, you’re looking East from the intersection of Proby’s Quay, Crosse’s Green and French’s Quay — with St Fin Barre’s Cathedral behind you, and the Quay Co-Op on the right, further along the river. Yes, I will post a pic.
The Irish tradition depicted by Grogan reminds me of a Spanish custom which still takes place each year at the start of the Easter season. Around 1810, Goya recorded on canvas the Burial Of The Sardine parade in Madrid. The Wikipedia entry here includes a photo of the painting. Well worth a look.
And for good measure you can find out more about Grogan and his picture of Cork’s whipping the herring tradition here on www.crawfordartgallery.ie. ♦