Beer, wine and cider tasting events

Deveney's beer festival

Click for details of Deveney’s festival, one of the events exploring Irish and international beers.

Wine, beer, cider and food are on the menu at all sorts of public events coming up all over Ireland – from highly structured tutored tastings and dinners through to the open wander-aboutery of fairs and festivals..

Many of them are great value, and give us consumers an invaluable opportunity to sample what’s out there. As well as being fun, you could think of it as tastebud gym.

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As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you.

 

█ Fri Aug 31 – Italian night in Cork

Curious Wines kick off their incredibly busy season of courses, dinners and tastings with an Italian night from 5pm to 9pm at The Bowery on Tuckey Street in Cork. It’s hosted by Francesco Riccardi of  Borgo Magredo, one of whose proseccos I reckon is one of the best-value bubblies around.

It’s a packed programme so for now here’s just the first month’s worth.

█ Thu Sept 6 – Australian Night with Peter Perrin (Bleasdale) at
Meades 126, Oliver Plunkett St., Cork. 7pm to 10pm. Admission free.
█ Fri Sept 21 – McLaren Vale with Scott Collett (Woodstock) at
Hayfield Manor, Cork. 7.30pm-9.30pm. Tickets €15.
█ Thu Oct 4 – Tapas Night w/ Ivan Acebes García, Castelo de Medina at
Cafe Gusto, Washington St., Cork.  7.30pm-9.00pm. Admission free.
I’ll add the rest and more details later.  And see curiouswines.ie.
 

█ Wed Sept 5 – Winemaker Dinner at Donnybrook Fair

César Morales Navia, the oenological manager of Emiliana in Chile is the latest in a pretty illustrious list of winemakers to host a dinner at The Restaurant at Donnybrook Fair at 89, Morehampton Road, Dublin 4. Emiliana produces some outstanding wines, principally the biodynamic Coyam which I’ve occasionally enjoyed down the years. With a well-established nous for making good wines, including a growing acreage under organic and biodynamic grapes, Emiliana’s reputation has been heading in one direction only. Check them out yourself at stockists including O’Briens and independents, or in pleasant company with a good dinner in Donnybrook, all presented by César.

It takes place on Wednesday September 5 at 7.45pm. Book (€60 a head or €100 for two) on 01-6144849, by email at restaurant@donnybrookfair.ie or online if you click here.

█ Sept 5 to 8 – McGuigan City Vineyard, Dublin

From Wednesday to Saturday, McGuigan Wines present their bold and imaginative City Vineyard project in Dublin. Open daily from noon to 7pm, it consists of dozens of living vines transplanted to a temporary perch in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Also there will be members of the McGuigan family who will present tastings of quite a wide range of their wines. The family’s been in wine business for decades — first under the Penfold’s marque but more recently under their own name, building to their present status as one of the big brands on the market. They’re imported by Barry & Fitzwilliam who mainly sell their Black Label range into independents, and also by Tesco which sells a more extensive range.

The city vineyard is similar to wine dinners: to wine firms, it’s an opportunity for deep marketing; to us, it’s an unusual (and in this instance, unique) opportunity for wine-related fun. If you haven’t gotten round to visiting real working wine lands, this could be a fun and interesting introduction — I reckon it would be particularly attractive to wine fans and gardeners.

It’s free, and you can just turn up. But make sure you check the conditions beforehand on this website. For one thing, no-one under 18 is allowed in, and that includes babes in arms or in buggies. You might brush the hair too as they may be filming for broadcast, and turning up implies consent to being filmed. Also, such is the persistence of the internet, there’s still some incorrect info around the place – the vineyard has been moved from the site originally mooted, across the river at the IFSC.

█ Aug 30 to Sept 9 – Irish Craft Beer Week
█ Sept 7 to Sept 9 – Irish Craft Beer Festival

After its brief turn around the IFSC, the annual Irish Craft Beer Festival returns to RDS in Dublin from September 7 to 9, 2012.

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne

Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne, one of the breweries pouring good beers and ciders from cask, keg and bottle at the RDS.

This year, the bash in Dublin is the culmination of the first Craft Beer Week when participating pubs, off-licences and restaurants nationwide will have special offers, tastings and expert talks on Irish craft beer. The website below has details of both the week and the weekend festival.

At the RDS event, more than 20 of our craft breweries and cider producers will be showcasing beers and ciders for you to taste. They’re joined this year for the first time by some guest breweries from out foreign — a brilliant move in my opinion, as I think it’s vital for beer fans and brewers alike to keep comparing notes with the wider beer world as we reinvent the traditions we nearly lost.

The whole effect at the RDS is a bit like an Irish take on a Bierhalle, complete with live music and artisan food stalls. At the time of writing, the Irish contingent comprises O’Hara’s, Dungarvan, White Gypsy, Eight Degrees, Trouble, Franciscan Well, Porter House, Dingle and Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne aka West Kerry Brewery. There may be more.

The festival returns to the RDS again this year.

Guest breweries include Sierra Nevada and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. And the night before the festival proper, there will be a beer and food pairing event exploring the character of Irish beers and the food they go best with.
Festival tickets start at €10 per day and you can get them at participating pubs and shops or at Ticketmaster.
Tickets for the beer and food pairing evening on September 6 are available directly from info@IrishCraftBeerFestival.com.
 For more information on both the Irish Craft Beer Festival and Irish Craft Beer Week, see their website at IrishCraftBeerFestival.com.

█ Sun Sept 9 – Clare comes to East Cork

At 6pm on Sunday September 9 at Ballymaloe, Winemaker Dave Palmer, Skillogalee Wines, Clare Valley, South Australia, and Birgitta Curtin, Burren Smokehouse, Co Clare come together to present their respective wine and food under the title ‘It’s a long way from Clare to here – A Taste of Clare in East Cork’.  Get tickets (€18) and more information from 021 4652531,  colm@ballymaloe.ie or www.ballymaloe.ie.  Other events there include…

[] Sun Sept 16, 4.30pm – New Zealand winemakers Larry McKenna, Escarpment Wines, Martinborough & John Hancock, Trinity Hill Wines, Hawkes Bay present a tutored tasting of their wines (€15).
[] Thurs, Sept 27 Margaret River experience – surfing on Shanagarry Strand and cricket with the East Cork Cricket Club, followed by wine tasting and food with Australian winemaker David Hohnen, Ted Berner’s Wildside fire-cooking, and music. €35 all in.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you.

 

█ Sept 13 to 22* – Oktoberfest Beag, Cork

Kudos to whoever came up with the name. The annual event at the former Beamish & Crawford Brewery on South Main Street in Cork centres on Paulaner, one of the six Munich breweries which host the original Oktoberfest in their home city. And compared to that blow-out, it is small (‘beag’ in Irish). But it’s not to be sneezed at either, being eight days of, well, beer, food and drindl-und-lederhosen-themed entertainment.

It’s €11 in, including booking fee, but you also have the option of reserving seats (which must be taken up by 7pm). For instance, the Gold ticket for €26 gets you in, two drink vouchers, a substantial dish and guaranteed seating. You need a minimum of six people to book a table.

We here in Ireland and Britain tend to associate the great German breweries with just one or two styles (such as hefe and kristall) but they typically make a whole spectrum including seasonal one-off brews. Happily, the choice in off-licences has been flowering. And events like Oktoberfest Beag provide a unique opportunity to try out a wider range. As of now, as well of course as wine and soft drinks, the website only mentions the special Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier, and Paulaner Weissebier. By the latter I presume they mean the one we’re most familiar with, the naturally-cloudy Hefe Weissbier Naturtrüb.  I expect though that Oktoberfest Beag will in fact run out a wider selection of Paulaner’s dozen or so brews. If so, don’t pass up the opportunity!

* The festival runs from Sept 13 to 22 with the exception of Tues and Wed Sept 18 and 19, when it’s closed. Opening hours are 5pm to 10pm each day, apart from both Saturdays when it opens an hour earlier. For more information, phone 0867248284 (9.30am to 5pm), email reservations@oktoberfestbeag.ie and see oktoberfestbeag.ie.

█ Sept 15 – Deveney’s Beer festival

Deveney’s are clearly trying to put me off the scent. Their fourth annual craft beer festival has a new name, new venue and new date – but I’m on to them, the rascals. It takes place this year at Pembroke Square in Dundrum Town Centre on Saturday September 15 from 2.30pm to 10pm. It’s ticket-only and, naturally, over-18s only. But you knew that.

One of the early adopters promoting Irish and world craft beers on a large scale, they promise to have hundreds of craft beers from around the world on offer in the garden marquee, live music, and beer-friendly food from some of the best restaurants in the area including Siam Thai, Harvey Nichols, Cortina’s Mexican, Wagamama and, of course, The Port House. Tickets (€20) include a festival tankard; three beer vouchers and a festival booklet. Book now at www.beerfestival.ie or their blog; by phone on 01-2984288; or in 3-D by dropping into Deveney’s of Dundrum at 31, Main Street, Dundrum, D16.

You can also get tickets at these off-licences and wine shops – Redmond’s of Ranelagh; Deveney’s of Rathmines; Jus de Vin Portmarnock; The Corkscrew; McHugh’s on Malahide Road; The Vintry, Rathgar and Martin’s of Fairview.

█  Fri Sept 21– Beer club in Cork

Paddy Cullen at the No 21 Off-Licence on Coburg Street (at the foot of St Patrick’s Hill) in Cork is still mulling over which beers to sample at the next meeting of the No 21 Beer Club at 7pm on Sept 21.
To give you an idea of what they do, last time round it was a tutored tasting led by Phil Tavey of distributor Four Corners of six beers from the USA (Brooklyn Brewery and Magic Hat) and Scotland (Brewdog).

Get more info and make your own suggestions in store or by emailing Paddy at no21offlicence@gmail.com or on Twitter at @no21cork.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you.

█ Sat Sept 22 – Wine fundamentals in Cork

L’Atitude 51 wine café is kicking off a series of Wine Fundamentals sessions in its beautiful  upstairs room overlooking the River Lee on four successive Saturday afternoons from September 22 at 3.30pm. The price per session is €25, or book all four for €90. You don’t need any prior knowledge to take part. Full details are in a PDF on their new website at  www.latitude51.ie, phone 021-2390219, email them at info@latitude51.ie or just drop in to l’Atitude 51, 1 Union Quay, Cork.

█ Wed Sept 26 – Glassware comparative tasting

The size and shape of your glass has an enormous influence on your wine. Really. There’s more about that over on this post including the reasons I’m more than happy with one range of glasses costing only a fiver a go. But if you can stretch to €60, I think you’ll enjoy and benefit from a glassware comparative tasting hosted by Riedel from 6.30pm at The Miele Gallery, Citywest, Dublin 24. The ticket price (€60 from Mitchells on 01 6125540 or www.mitchellandson.com) includes a Riedel Vinum tasting set which normally costs about €96 apparently. 

█ Weekend beer fest

This weekend (Friday to Sunday August 24 to 26, 2012) an Irish Craft Beerfest takes place in Doolin, Co Clare. Participants include Carlow Brewing; Dungarvan; Eight Degrees; Franciscan Well; Stonewell Cider; Trouble Brewing; White Gypsy. Tickets €5 at the door. Larks and antics a-baa. For more, see their website at www.irishcraftbeerfestival.com.

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Irish online wine shops

There’s an updated introduction to Irish online wine retailers below, while elsewhere on this blog is a suggested checklist for choosing an online shop, and I hope both are of some practical use to you. (There was one glaring omission in this list which I’ve rectified this morning. If you see any other amendments you think I ought to make please let me know by leaving a comment below).

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

A well-chosen line-up of rosés at O’Brien’s most recent tasting. Click it to see my review in the Irish Examiner.

While I was revising the list of shops, the thought struck me that, like the dog in the night-time, many wine business sites are interesting for what they don’t do. I’m thinking particularly of stores which don’t trade online at all.

While obviously not of direct relevance to someone who wants to shop online right now, the thought is germane to people interested in wine, which is why I’m starting with that footnote.

Many retailers, large and small, are missing a trick. I wish those trading only from physical shops would put their wines on the net in the same way as online shops do. Even though we customers obviously wouldn’t have the opportunity to click through to a till, I think the shops in question would benefit greatly from proffering that virtual shelf online. And we wine fans (and perhaps wine itself) would benefit setting such information free.

Certainly, an online placeholder might be of some use to a retailer – a rudimentary site with a store finder, opening hours, contact details etc. But by not showing the actual wines, such stores are passing up on the unique opportunity presented by the internet. Browsing a wine business’ site which doesn’t have a proper database of the wines it sells is like walking into a carefully planned shop designed by architects, laid out by professional display artists and  illumined by lighting engineers – but which doesn’t show what’s on sale nor how much it costs.

I’m thinking in particular of big retailers such as Dunnes, and franchises such as SuperValu and Carry-Out.

Often the nearest you’ll get to wine range is a PDF of the current ‘special offer’ leaflet – usually headlined by big brands (led by spirits and slabs of lager) thereby sidelining the store’s own exclusive wines. At best you’ll see only a handful of wines, rarely kept up to date and often without key specific information such as vintage. I’ve encountered cracking wines from all and would love to be able to point to a link on their sites. And so would other shoppers. Look around at social media where people are sharing hints and tips: Even a shop’s biggest fan really couldn’t be arsed putting up a link directing their friends to a site which essentially says ‘buy from us, we’re great’.   No, we want the specifics. What customers are saying online is “Got a great sauv blanc from WineCo – here’s a link with the details”.

And then there’s the search engines. Shops looking at search engine traffic will quickly discover that, in general, we aren’t searching for what the wine shop thinks of itself

award-winning red… delicious wine… small, family-owned winery… serving Ireland since 1922… you’ve tried the rest now buy the best… enjoy a drink in relaxing surroundings…

We’re far more likely to be looking for terms specific to us, such as

chenin blanc… cava… Bordeaux available in Mullingar… Chateau Wotsit 2011 half bottle…

We’re not landing on the vague sites. Or if we are, we’ll find little or nothing about what the store is selling right now.

For all the foregoing reasons, I hope wine shops, wholesalers and shoppers alike take a look at the first site here – even though it doesn’t actually sell wine.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

www.searsons.com

Searsons has been in the wine trade for about 90 years, having bought into the Davy family’s grocery business which had been operating around Dublin for most of the 19th century. They remain one of Ireland’s best importers and wholesalers, equally adept at posh high-end wines for special occasions and good solid wines at relatively approachable entry-level prices.

Unlike the wine stores listed below, the site is not a click-and-buy, but rather a shop window linking to retailers that Searson’s supplies. The site used to be the least sophisticated wine site in the world ever – merely a series of PDFs and a phone number. But it’s now a proper site allowing you browse wines and view a map showing stockists nationwide. Crucially, it also has the full name, rank and serial number (well ok, full name, appellation and vintage) of every wine. As it doesn’t sell directly, the site can’t of course tell you what the retail price is: that contract is between you and the retailer. But it does helpfully give an rrp (recommended retail price) for each. It workd as an excellent support for the independent retailers the company supplies, and a wine-finder resource for us.

There’s no such restriction on big non-online retailers, which could easily offer all the specifics and, for instance, update special offer and multiple-buy info with a few keystrokes. (Indeed there’s no reason such publicly available info couldn’t be integrated with their stock control system).

And franchises could just as easily emulate the wholesaler Searsons. Some have gone part of the way. For instance, the Carry-Out site has an excellent, well-organised interactive map of all its 50-plus franchises with full contact details. Yes there’s a special offer leaflet as described above. But no indication of its basic range.

That’s a pity. There’s nothing preventing all the franchisees agreeing to stock say a dozen or twenty basics, each in an agreed, tight price band. Suddenly anyone – bloggers, columnists, Facebookers, tweeters, TV radio pundits – could feel confident in saying ‘cracking pinot blanc in Carry-Out for €x’ knowing that it actually means something to anyone, anywhere in the country.

Now on to the online wine retailers proper, starting with the top six that I would choose first if I were buying wine for delivery right now.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

Irish online wine shops

Curious Wines website

www.curiouswines.ie

Curious Wines is an exemplary, comprehensively searchable and informative website.

Between their participation in big tastings, and snapshot samplings of parts of their range (most recently a handful of discounted wines from Bordeaux and Spain) I’ve found the store offers many terrific, good value wines.

Nicholson's

http://www.jnwine.com

Stunning list operating out of James Nicholson’s award-winning shop in Crossgar, Co Down. You’ll also find some of these at Parsons’ Wine Warehouse, Carrigaline Co Cork as well as in selected restaurants such as Star Anise on Bridge Street in Cork. In brief, Nicholsons sell a disproportionately large number of my favourite wines on the Irish market. As far as I’m aware it has another distinction as the only site that allows you to buy and deliver anywhere in Ireland or the UK — I’ve found it a godsend for sending gifts to England. Finally, make sure you select the right jurisdiction in the “Delivery Location” tab on the opening page so you see the wines priced in the right currency.

www.obrienswine.ie

The growing off-licence chain (with stores all over Leinster plus one-off outposts in Galway, Limerick and now also in Douglas, Cork) has a winning wine selection, and is also a great one-stop shop, as it also stocks a wide range of good beers and ciders too. Their most recent tasting  confirmed again its expertise with an imaginative well-chosen range including some cracking good value.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

www.wineonline.ie

Excellent site featuring hundreds of wines from everyday sippers to special interest bottles.

www.winesdirect.ie

One of the first wine retailers online (now in its 20th year) Paddy Keogh’s site is excellent in terms of functionality and its wine-list. Check out Sticks Chardonnay, Viognier Yarra Valley 2006, €12.90 or rich ripe spicy Chateau Haut Rian Cuvée Prestige Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux 2005, €13.70.

www.simplywines.ie

Ian Dornan’s smashing list is very well worth returning to for its frequently top-class wines – backed up by a money-back guarantee.

++++

www.bubblebrothers.com

Began exclusively with Champagne, hence the name, but now sells a wide range of classic wines. Also has a drive-in warehouse at Marina Commercial Park, Cork as well as its original store in the English Market in the city centre.

www.karwigwines.ie

Award-winning wine list also sold from their store at Carrigaline, Co Cork. Smashing affordable wines from all over but I am particuarly fond of several of Joe’s wines from Italy, Germany and Portugal.

www.lecaveau.ie

Extensive list also available at its store in Kilkenny.

www.marypawlewines.com

Ireland’s longest-established importer of organic wines. I’m agnostic on the whole organic thing but believe that winegrowers and winemakers even aiming for organic certification  by definition lavish TLC on their plants which is where it all begins. Mary makes no specific health or even quality claims for wines made from organically-grown grapes – but rightly emphasises that she’s looking for good, carefully-made wine and there are several winners in her list.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

www.mccabeswines.ie

Excellent online presence of the shops in Blackrock and Foxrock.

www.mitchellandson.com

One of Ireland’s most informative and interesting sites and a premium range of wines from the 200-year-old upmarket Dublin wine merchant.

www.onthegrapevine.ie

Long list touching the most important bases with some brilliant minority interest specials.

Bordeaux, try rich ripe Chateau Rauzan-Despagne Bordeaux Reserve 2006, €15.50.

www.FromVineyardsDirect.ie

The newish Irish outpost of a British online store. Highlights include a cracking value expressive plump tropical chardonnay from Burgundy, Saint-Véran Merloix Bourgogne Blanc 2007, €12.45, and crisp white Rocca di Tufo Orvieto Classico 2007, €11.45.

www.superquinn.ie

Extensive range. Delivers only in the Dublin area.

www.terroirs.ie

Spin-off from the eponymous gourmet shop in Donnybrook, Dublin.

the wine store

www.thewinestore.ie

The retail wing of importer Tyrrell & Co is a multiple award-winning site focusing on wines from France, Spain and Italy and, in particular, the Rhône valley.

Finally, it’d be pretty understandable if you skipped the long footnote that I opened with. But it is worth thinking about if you get a chance. Information belongs to all of us, rather than being in the gift of some presumed elite. As Tim Berners-Lee tweeted during the recent inspirational Olympics opening ceremony, ‘this is for everyone’.  ♦

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

Wine and beer tastings, and online shops

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

It’s that time of year again, and some interesting and fun wine beer tastings are beginning to be teed-up for the autumn. While still relatively quiet, here are two commendable events. There’ll be more in my column this weekend in the Irish Examiner Weekend.

Beerfest

This weekend (Friday to Sunday August 24 to 26 2012) Irish Craft Beerfest takes place in Doolin, Co Clare.  Participants include Carlow Brewing; Dungarvan; Eight Degrees; Franciscan Well; Stonewell Cider; Trouble Brewing; White Gypsy. Tickets €5 at the door.  See http://www.irishcraftbeerfestival.com/

Meet the Winemaker

l’Atitude 51 on the corner of Anglesea St and Union Quay in Cork.

As part of their Meet the Winemaker  series, L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay in Cork is hosting a tasting on Wednesday August 22 at 6pm. It features wines from Domaine de L’Hortus in the Languedoc, presented by Yves Orliac, and accompanied by bite-sized versions of their French, Italian and Irish influenced cuisine.  Tickets are €12 from L’Atitude 51 on 021 2390219 or at info@latitude51.ie.

The wines are imported by one of Ireland’s longest-established quality online wine shop, Wines Direct. Coincidentally, I’ve been looking at the online presence of wine businesses and have updated a guide to shopping online over here.

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

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Reeling in the years 2012

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

IF you haven’t already seen it, I’d recommend you download and read The misuse of alcohol and other drugs, a report released this week by the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

As the name suggests, it has a wide focus. Among its recommendations are stricter controls on prescription drugs, and funding for drug and alcohol rehabilitation schemes. But as you’d expect from a wine blogger, my main focus is on the parts of the report dealing with alcohol.

Alcohol consumption in Ireland has gone up by 231% since 1960. Source: http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx

Some of the recommendations have hit the headlines but it’s really worth reading the full report as it delivers a more rounded sense of the submissions the committee heard, lays out some key evidence, provides useful graphics which can help our understanding of the issues, and contains comprehensive references/links to further relevant stats, audio etc.

Retailers

One of the most controversial recommendations (11) suggests the government should consider an “outright ban on the sale of alcohol in certain outlets”.

But the more specific proposal in this regard is (10) for legislation to “ban the presentation and sale of alcoholic products alongside groceries, confectionary and fuel”.

This is the ‘garages-and-supermarkets’ bit you may have heard about in the news.

While on the face of it, this may look like an enormously radical change, it’s little more than a reversion to the situation that prevailed a few decades ago. The recommendation doesn’t suggest firms operating supermarkets shouldn’t run off-licences, and in practical terms it could mean little more than alcohol being hived off into an area separate from the groceries in supermarkets. This is pretty reasonable really, giving alcohol its proper place as a speciality rather than normalised as a shopping trolley staple.

However I think the 12th recommendation — “that the Government prohibit the practice of retail deliveries of alcoholic products directly to consumers’ homes” — may be a mistake. I believe it’s inspired at least in part by the shocking images from a sting operation in August 2010 on RTÉ’s Prime Time.

That film showed how four off-licences and two supermarkets had sent round alcohol to people who certainly looked like under-18s without checking for identification. The practice is also being targeted by Garda undercover sting operations.

However it’s important to distinguish between such a dial-up booze taxi and the activities of online stores occasionally mentioned in this column which take orders by credit or debit card and deliver wine and beer days later. I see little connection between the online wine stores mentioned on this blog and the booze taxi scandal. Is this because those online wine shops appeal to middle-class folk like me? Captured by the posh? Moi? Don’t think so. No, really. No, it’s because factors including price and the time lag between order and delivery are likely to make them far less appealing to underage drinkers. I’m not convinced anything would be achieved by banning them that wouldn’t be done better by ensuring they’re regulated.

A majority of the committee commended the government’s plan to indroduce minimum pricing, with a minority proposing tax increases, the proceeds to be ring-fenced for alcohol addiction services. The committee also backed a recommendation by the chairman Jerry Buttimer TD to end VAT refunds on below-cost sales. It came as a surprise to many including me that the state was, I presume unintentionally, subsidising some retailers’ sales.

The Nanny State

Inevitably, some of the committee’s recommendations, and the outlook expressed here, will be ridiculed as advocating ‘the nanny state’: folks being coddled and controlled by big brother. Well fine. Let’s look at the world from that perspective…

The Nanny Sector

Instead of the nanny state we have the nanny sector. The retail and drinks lobbies have persuaded the state to privatise much of its policy on how alcohol is advertised and sold, along with winning concessions on matters such as store size and opening hours. And then there’s the advertising and sponsorship. The ‘nannying’ we get from state bodies such as safefood.ie shrinks to infinitesimal dimensions when compared with the wall of communication funded by the powerful, largely self-regulated, alcohol industry. It’s been building its brands by advertising to impressionable young people. For many children and teens, some of the most exciting, engaging experiences are coming to them with alcohol stapled on.  The afternoon movies over Christmas on UTV were sponsored by an alcoholic cider. Matches at the most recent soccer World Cup were bookended by comedy sketches advertising a beer. The very name of Europe’s premier rugby competition is a brand of beer.

Here’s the committee’s recommendation (4)

that the Government explore the option of a ban on all retail advertising relating to the discounting of alcoholic products, a ban on the advertisement of alcoholic products on television before 9PM, and any advertisement of alcohol products on social networking websites (these bans to be given legislative standing).

In what way is this nannying? What will be missing from your life if you see fewer advertisements for drink?

If such advertising weren’t so powerful, they wouldn’t be spending so much money on it. Young people also can’t help but notice the ubiquitous availability of alcohol as part of the weekly shop — which helps normalise drink as a somehow inevitable part of grown-up life.

What happens next?

The report is now being considered by junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall. But she doesn’t get to sit on the couch and just read the report. Not by a long chalk. Don’t forget that various interested parties will be lobbying hard right now, now that change is in the air. The obvious lobbying battle line (alcohol-industry-versus-regulation) is likely to be blurred, and the hardest skirmishes may well be fought by the various sectors of that industry trying to ensure they don’t lose advantage to the others. From their persepective, it’s all about access to markets. The one justification you won’t hear for such opposition is ‘because we profit from it’.

If I knew how, I’d add a countdown clock to this blog. It’d be interesting to see, starting from the publicaton date of the committee’s report, how many days til we read press reports about the disastrous impact alcohol regulation would have on employment.

If I do get round to it, my countdown clock will be accompanied by a wry visual metaphor– a picture of a telegraph operator protesting against the advent of fax, email, SMS and social media and their effect on jobs in that now obsolete medium. 

Here’s an idea: Public policy in areas fundamental to our wellbeing such as health, education, crime, justice and welfare – should never depend how many jobs are in it.

To anyone workng in the alcohol or retail fields who feels I am being glib about the prospects for your business or your job, please be assured that is not the case. Take it from someone working in the print media: things change. It may even be for the better. And anyway, the liberalised regime of retailing and promoting alcohol in this country right now is an recent invention. I don’t recall anyone in the 1990s protesting that their sons or daughters (perhaps you) couldn’t get a job in the alcohol industry just because the local garage wasn’t allowed stock it, or your local sports club wasn’t allowed promote it. One day soon we will regard the ubiquitous alcohol policy as a flash in the pan – as brief and unwise as prohibition.  

Read the industry submissions included in the report and you’ll get a sense of the lobbying. For instance, the National Off-Licence Association is promoting measures which will make it more difficult for supermarkets to mop up market share. The supermarkets in turn — who need no lessons in lobbying from anyone — will be fighting to water down any proposals which impact on their business. I presume  other interest groups such as online wine traders are getting together right now to contact the minister. And on it goes. And it’s in that melee that policy will be formed.

Reeling In The Years

I’m hardly alone in suffering occasional pangs of embarrassment-by-proxy while watching Reeling In The Years on TV. You get that sharp pain when you spot among the video clips from yesteryear the often bizarre clothing, regrettable haircuts, ashtrays in the maternity wards, and members of our ruling class in mullets and kipper ties talking up the property bubble. The blithe reassurances that, yes, it was a good idea to hand our power to churches and companies and forego democratic oversight and regulation of them. And there’s us voting for them. What the hell were we thinking?

Well here’s a handy hint. If you’re wondering about the wisdom of anything from a political policy to a haircut — now, today — just cast your mind forward and imagine how it would look featured ten or twenty years hence on Reeling In The Years 2012.

With regard to alcohol, I figure there’s a good chance we’ll be pretty embarrassed. The way we drink, and especially the way we allow the industry to behave in 2012, will look wildly inappropriate when we look back at it a decade hence. With the lucidity of hindsight, we’ll look back in wonder at the way we handed over power to a small few stakeholders in the alcohol and retail industries, and it’ll all look utterly mad. Here’s a snippet of what we’re likely to say…

“Self-regulation? Given the lessons we’d already learnt from what that kind of power did to the financial industry? What the hell were we thinking?”

We ought to commend this Oireachteas committee, and any governement with the courage to drive on with the broad thrust of its report. As I mentioned above, there will be powerful groups who make their money from alcohol lobbying the minister. So who’s missing from her table? Most of us, really — disenfranchised by our silence, left reading page after page of court reports about alcohol-related violence and accidents. Because right now. whether we like it or not, that’s what’s ‘normal’.

The advertising, availability and display of alcohol aren’t the only factors contributing to the abuse of alcohol. But they are among the few in our direct political control. That’s our power which, for a generaton, we’ve ceded to private firms for profit. If you welcome the partial rolling back of ubiquitous alcohol and alcohol advertising, and taking power back from sectoral interests, you might consider contacting your TD or the minister to give them your backing.  ♦

As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. Thank you.

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Food and drink events

These are in the past tense but I’ve left them up here as a sort-of diary. For the latest events, see here.

The wine and beer events here range from dinners showcasing particular wine ranges, through to massive open-ended freestyle wine tastings,  and a beerfest next weekend. Any of them would be well worth getting to, and a few are in my view particularly good value for fans of fun and flavour.  To add an event, email me – firstname. lastname @examiner.ie – using my name of course. You might also like to take a look here at my guide to making best use of open wine tastings.

October 22 and 34 Halloween apple picking, Co Tipp

A small deviation from the wine, beer and cider — but something that is closely connected: The Apple Farm is offering a great way for families to celebrate Halloween with pick-your-own days this weekend. From 2pm to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, they’re opening the youngest orchard meaning it’s the smallest and easiest to-reach trees (and a memorable hands-on reminder of where our food comes from). There’s no cover charge — you only pay for what you pick. €1 per kg with a minimum of 10kg. See their website here for more details.

October 24 Portuguese Wine Fair, Dublin

One of the highlights on the calendar is the Portuguese Wine Fair which this year takes place at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin 8 on Monday October 24 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Phone 086-8168468 or email jean@jeansmullen.com for details.

October 24 Dylan supper club: wine through the ages

The latest in the current series of cleverly-themed wine and food event at the Dylan Hotel (Eastmoreland Place, Dublin 4) is a vertical comparison of vintages from what they say are ‘renowned vineyards’, paired with a four-course supper. €55 per person. From 7pm. Email: reservations@dylan.ie or phone 01 660 3000.

October 26 – Port and chocolate tasting, Port House, Dublin

Graham’s Port and Lily O’Briens chocolates are collaborating to present a port and chocolate masterclass with Henry Shutton, winemaker with Graham’s Port in The Port House, Dublin 2 on Wednesday October 26 at 5.30pm. Out-of-towners – make sure you don’t confuse the venue with the equally splendid Porterhouse in Temple Bar. The Port House tapas bar is at 64a South William Street, Dublin 2, near the Powerscourt Townhouse. Phone 01 6770298 or see www.porthouse.ie. Speaking of porter…

█ October 28 to 30 – Octoberfest Cork 

WHILE the Franciscan Well microbrewery’s big Easter event is all about indigenous beers, its autumn/winter counterpart is a showcase of international craft beers – with one exception: the brewery’s brand-new limited edition Shandon Century Extra Stout. Whatever way this beer turned out, its launch is enormously significant as it’s the first one the Franciscan Well has ever put in bottle. This is an enormously significant move, as it means the brewery might now begin to address the many many people who can’t (or don’t want to) savour its wares in pubs. Hurrah! 

I haven’t tasted it yet and look forward to doing so. I’ll keep you updated in my beer and cider columnlet in the food pages of the Irish Examiner Weekend.  [Update – Saturday October 22] I got to try it since this post went up, and it features as my Beer Of The Week in the Irish Examiner today. That ferocious full-throated alcohol level is certainly at the upper end of the scale, and your palate will feel it. Crucially though, the whole is really well balanced:  Pouring with a short-lived foamy head, the stout is dense and viscous with (surprisingly) quite a delicately fragrant, hoppy liquorice aroma. Would I stand in a pub with a pint of Shandon Century Extra Stout? No I would not. But I certainly would consider sharing it at the dinner table replacing, say, a sinewey shiraz to accompany a rich roast or a few steaks.

As well as the Franciscan Well’s own pub on Cork’s North Mall, you will find Shandon Century Extra Stout at the Bull & Castle in Dublin. Retailing at just under a tenner, the only off-trade shop they’ve told me about so far is Bradley’s off-licence just a stone’s throw from the brewery on North Main Street, Cork. There’s a note about Bradley’s and its beers here.

Beerfest is back at the Franciscan Well in Cork at this weekend.

Anyway, back to the festival: On the Saturday between 3pm and 6pm, the Franciscan Well, in conjunction with Bord Bia, will present a cheese and beer tasting, pairing local artisan cheeses with various beers, ales and stouts.

You’ll find the brewpub on the North Mall in Cork city. Visit  them online here or phone the bar on 021-4393434 or the brewery on 021-4210130.

November 2 Wine dinner at Star Anise, Cork

ON Wednesday November 2, Tim and Judy Finn from the Neudorf Winery in Nelson, New Zealand, present a wine dinner at Star Anise restaurant, Bridge Street, Cork.

I haven’t yet encountered the wines from that estate (something I hope to remedy soon) but four factors suggest this will be a particularly promising and great value wine dinner.

(1) While price certainly isn’t everything, you may take the €20+ per bottle retail price of these wines as some indication of the level they play at. (2) They are imported by the multi-award-winning James Nicholson Wines www.jnwine.com whose range I regard as one of the best on this island. (3) The venue: Even with its various awards and highly reviews, Star Anise is one of the most underrated restaurants I’ve ever visited — exquisitely-prepared food served with cheery informality.  (4) Value: After a glass of James Nicholson bubbly you’ll be dining from a menu created to match some of the Neudorf wines, all for only €65 a head.
To book, call Star Anise on 021-4551635.

November 17 – Cases Wine Warehouse Christmas Wine* Fair

The great big annual wine* fair at Cases Wine Warehouse on the Tuam Road, Galway takes place from 6.30pm to 10pm on Thursday November 17. There will be about 120 wines open for tasting on the night, and there’ll be tasty food provided by Cava restaurant. Other antics include Cases annual blind tasting competition and live music….
*Kudos to Cases for putting good beer centre stage, as they’ve announced the tasting includes a range of delicious beers from Irish artisan beweries including Galway Hooker, O’Hara’s, Dungarvan Brewing and 8 Degrees from Mitchelstown. Tickets, €20, (with all proceeds going to Self Help Africa) from Cases on 091-764 701 or at info@cases.ie.

November 24Cork Wine Fair

THE 11th Cork Wine Fair, organised by O’Donvans Off-Licences, takes place on Thursday November 24 from 4pm to 9pm at the Clarion Hotel, Lapps Quay, Cork. About 400 wines as well as beers and spirits will be open for tasting, and there will also be samples of gourmet foods. Two masterclasses, led by two of Ireland’s leading experts, will take place in a side room during the show, featuring the wines of Australia (John McDonnell) and New Zealand (Jean Smullen). All proceeds from tickets (€10) go to the Simon Community in Cork. Booking/enquiries at any of O’Donovan’s 16 stores in Cork city and county or phone 021 4296060.  ♦

Delicious events

Bodegas Conde de Valdemar & good Irish food at O'Connell's

Bill Casey is one of the six top-class Irish food producers in O'Connells Donnybrook on Tuesday. Click pic to visit their site and see more below.

I’M leaving this post here as it may be useful as an aide-memoire or whatever. But the events here are in the past tense which is why they’re in grey.

THE calendar of public dinners and tastings is pretty hectic at this time of year. Wine dinners and tutored tastings can be great fun, and are often terrific value.

For me though, the occasional big open tastings tick both of those boxes (fun and good value) but also offer us consumers an invaluable sense of what’s out there and whether it’s good value or not. So if you’re going to wine fairs like Lohan’s, this  detailed description of how open wine tastings work, along with suggestions on how to navigate them, may be useful. The other new stuff is my latest column over at the Irish Examiner, about some cracking value wines at SuperValu   plus, because it’s well worth repeating, the old caveat about wine sales.

See below for some great forthcoming dinners and tastings. First though, a quick look back, at the antics over the weekend just past. Festivals of Irish craft brews aren’t new, but the weekend’s All-Ireland Beer Festival at the RDS  was a bit like a founding AGM. A glance at the event’s website will give you a sense of the scale of it. About forty or so beers and ciders plus a handful of whiskies were being poured by their makers, who ranged from old hands O’Hara’s of Carlow through well-established businesses such as Porterhouse,  to new kids on the block, Dungarvan and Eight Degrees.

Although my main interest is always in bottled beers and ciders for home consumption, dipping into the draught product is always a welcome eye-opener, and I tried quie a few of both.

I loved the fruity, spicy Metalman Pale Ale from the cask, am as delighted as Meatloaf by three of the four bottled ciders made by Tempted? and fell head over heels in love with the chocolatey bottled Cúl Dorcha porter from Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne aka West Kerry Brewery. I’ll follow up on these, complete with stockists etc, here and in my beer & cider columnlet in the Irish Examiner in the near future.

<— There are links to all three over there.

The Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne / West Kerry Brewery stand at the All-Ireland Beerfest.

I usually take pictures at tastings etc only as a memo for myself – sometimes the layout of a hall or a tasting table is a useful synaesthetic memory-jogger especially at big tasting events. There was no such need at Beerfest, but I did snap a handful including the one above – a reminder of the beautifully-presented beers at the West Kerry Brewery stand. If ever there’s a competition for the worst photo ever taken, this is my entry. Still though.

█  September 27 2011 – Food producers & winemakers in O’Connell’s of Donnybrook
Wow. Even alongside some of the other rich pickings, this is likely to be an outstanding event. O’Connell’s have worked with several of their partner food producers and with wine importers Febvre to put together an enormously impressive and yet chilled-out food and wine evening. You will choose your starters in the style of a buffet – but you’ll be picking them up directly from the producers as follows…

Organic smoked salmon from Bill Casey Shanagarry Co Cork
Chorizo, Salamis and Cheese from Gubbeen
Organic Pork and Vegetables from Alan Pierce, Gold River Farm, Co Wicklow
Organic Chicken from Mary O’Regan, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Hereford Prime Steaks, Christy Broe, The Irish Hereford Prime Beef Society
Fresh fish from Shellfish de La Mer, Castletownbere, Co Cork

Then, the mains and desserts will be served to you at your table. And Carlos Martínez Bujanda from the top-class Bodegas Conde de Valdemar, Rioja, will be on hand to pour complimentary wines. There will also be a tasting flight of the winery’s wines at 20% off the normal price. Speaking of which, your final bill depends on what you order thereafter, including their €20.95 all-night early bird. That’s good value.

Kudos to O’Connells et al for the imagination to put together an event that’s both useful and exciting, and also so accessibly-priced. All the details are here on O’Connell’s website. Go book.

█  September 28 2011 – Latin American wines at The Merrion
The Merrion Wine Society’s second dinner this year is focused on wines from Latin America. The six-course dinner will be accompanied by wines from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay presented by Mary Dowey, wine editor of The Gloss. Book tickets (€90) now on 01-2755310 or email register@thegloss.ie.

Winequake, September 29

Well, we seem to have dodged the satellite falling from the sky, and the neutrino antics at CERN haven’t melted the space-time continuum just yet. But the laws of physics are under threat on Thursday September 29, when several really good events compete for our attention. I believe there may be more to follow but the first three confirmed are as follows…

█  September 29 2011 – Yalumba tasting and/or dinner in Co Cork
One of the best tutored tastings I’ve been at was conducted by Jane Ferrari. As she’d say herself, ultimately it’s what’s in the glass that matters most, and Yalumba does make terrific wines, from entry level to posh upmarket bottles. But the presentations that Jane brings round the world are themselves superb — informative and highly entertaining. This event is in two parts as follows
7pm
Jane will present a tutored tasting on various wines made by Yalumba (€10).

8.30pm Wine dinner, with each course paired with one of Yalumba’s wines, which Jane will introduce (€75). Book now on 021 4652531 by email to res@ballymaloe.ie and see http://www.ballymaloe.ie.

█  September 29 – Lohan’s Wine Fair Salthill Co Galway
Taste more than 100 wines as well as international beers, whiskeys and spirits, speciality cheeses, cakes and canapés at Lohan’s big annual wine fair – and as if that weren’t enough, there’s entertinment laid on too.
As ever, the entire proceeds go directly to local charities – Croí which supports families affected by heart disease and raises awareness of the issue; and Cystic Fibrosis, the most common life-threatening genetically-inherited disease in Ireland which has the highest incidence of it in the world.
Tickets (€20) are available from Lohan’s Bar & Restaurant, 232-234 Upper Salthill, Galway, 091-522696, or email goodtimes@lohans.ie and see www.lohans.ie.

█  September 29 – Wilson & Caviston in Greystones Co Wicklow
St Patrick’ Parish Centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow, is the venue for what promises to be a highly entertaining evening in a good cause featuring John Wilson, wines from Mitchell & Son, and food from Caviston’s – with all proceeds going to the Parish Fund. Tickets are €15 and are available from the parish office on 01-2010648.

█  October 21 – Mas De Daumas Gassac in Ballymaloe
Two importer/retailers, Curious Wines in Cork and Red Nose Wine in Clonmel, are co-hosting a two-part event with this top-class idiosyncratic winery in Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, Co Cork.
7pm — There’s a tutored tasting including a vertical comparison of different vintages of Mas De Daumas Gassac Rouge led by Samuel Guibert in The Grainstore theatre at Ballymaloe. Tickets, €15, from either retailer as above, or from Ballymaloe.
9pm — Four-course dinner at Ballymaloe House accompanied by wines of Mas De Daumas Gassac. €85 per head. Email colm@ballymaloe.ie to book for either or both events, or phone Ballymaloe House on 021-4652531.

♦ Other forthcoming attractions include
Dingle Food & Wine Festival – October 1 and 2. http://dinglefood.com
Cork Wine Fair – November 24
Taste of Christmas, Dublin – November 25.

♦ I’ll be adding more items here as they crop up, so please check in again.
To add an event, email me – firstname. lastname @examiner.ie – using my name of course. And please don’t wait til you have the details finalised: As soon as you know who / what / when / where, please let us all know.

] Family of Four & Grenache 23 [] Nofla SIP 7 gold star wards 2 [] Pio Cesare Donnybrook September 28.  [] Portugal 24/10 []

Autumn tastings

NB: I’m leaving this post with previous events up for reference only – if you want to see up-to-date listings of forthcoming tastings etc pop over here.

█ September 21 – Tinpot Hut winemaker in Cork
OH my. This is so promising. A tasting menu of some potentially top-class wines, presented by the winemaker, delivered at a very modest price and in a flexible way (to accompany a budget set menu or à la carte as you choose). It’s a pity it was set up at the last minute, as I’d have been there in a heartbeat if I could rearrange. So go and check it out for me.

While I haven’t tasted the wines in question, they certainly have a promising pedigree. Co-owned by Matt Thomson and Fiona Turner, the Tinpot Hut marque — comprising wines from both north and south islands of New Zealand — has picked up various posh awards.

Fiona is on a brief visit to Ireland and will be at Electric on the South Mall in Cork on Wednesday September 21. I don’t yet know if there’s a format but from 5.30pm, anyone dining from the early bird menu can also plug into her wines — a half glass each of the Tinpot Hut sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, grüner veltliner (gv), pinot noir and syrah. I’m interested in all of them, and am particularly intrigued by the gv which is rarely seen outside its native Austria. That’s five wines and your snap for €29. If you’d rather order à la carte, you can just add the wine bit as above for just €10. Ah come on, like.

You’ll find all the info about the event in Electric on their website here.  And again if you’re involved in such events, please drop me an email and let me know.

█   September 22 – Big tasting at Ely
More than 70 wines and cocktails on offer at Ely’s second BIG tasting. It’s €20 or, for a set three-course dinner, €35. 6pm and 8pm. Book on wineclub@elywinebar.com or 01 678 7867.

█  September 23 to 25 – The All-Ireland Beer Festival at the RDS
More than 40 beers and ciders (along some whiskies) will be pouring at this new festival which clearly aims to become a major annual fixture. It’s open on Friday (4pm to 12.30am; Saturday noon to 12.30am; Sunday noon to 6pm. Tickets are €10 per day or €15 for a three-day pass. You have to change your cash into festival ‘Beer Bucks’ to buy food and drink from the exhibitors at an exchange rate of €2.50 per buck, each of which buys you a half pint. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.ie or from The Bull and Castle pub near Christchurch on Lord Edward St D2, and L Mulligan Grocer at 18 Stoneybatter D7. www.irishcraftbeerfestival.com.

█  September 23 Culture Night
There’s one deviation from the wine and beer events on this list, and it’s a biggie. On  Culture Night this Friday, hundreds of venues nationwide throw open their doors to the public late into the evening, many of them hosting special events, and all free of charge. Here’s the national Culture Night website.

Take my manor, Cork, as an example. There are 200 events in 75-plus venues, all quite rightly mashing up the arts — exhibitions, plays, film screenings, readings etc — with culture in the widest sense.

To give you a sense of the event’s breadth, you could…
♦ bring the littl’uns to the excellent Graffiti theatre-in-education in Blackpool,
♦ paddle your boat up and down the Lee,
♦ tour the innards of the Everyman Palace Theatre, a beautiful Victorian music hall whose stage was once graced by Miss Minnie Cunningham,
♦ join the Lord Mayor for City Hall’s open evening,
♦ be serenaded aboard the three Culture Bus shuttles laid on for the night,
♦ go to church for tours & talks by architectural and historical experts,
♦ drop in on rehearsals in the bandroom of the Butter Exchange Brass Band,
♦ visit the barracks that provided troops for conflicts ranging from the Napoleonic Wars through to UN peacekeeping missions…

And even if you got through that impossible itinerary, you’d still have experienced less than a tenth of what’s on offer. See what I mean? Download the PDF on the Cork Culture Night website or, better still, seek out the printed booklet in arts venues, libraries etc all over the city.

County Cork is weighing in for the first time this year, with a full programme of events at County Hall, right on the doorstep of the city. But there are also events going on from Beara in the west to Youghal in the east, and many points in between: Baile Mhuirne, Ballydehob, Bandon, Carrigaline, Castlelyons, Castlemagner, Castletownbere, Charleville, Coachford, Cobh, Crookstown, Cúil Aodha, Cullen, Eyeries, Fermoy, Freemount, Glengarriff, Goleen, Kilworth, Kinsale, Macroom, Mallow, Midleton, Millstreet, Mitchelstown, Schull, Shanagarry, Skibbereen, Youghal. So take a look at the County Council site above or ask around locally.

█  September 23 – Second International Grenache Day at elyCHQ
Grenache (aka garnacha) is the secret star of many beautifully-perfumed wines, particularly from southern France and northern Spain, but also from Australia and beyond. Here’s a whole evening’s opportunity to get up close and personal with the grape.
5.00pm to 6.30pmseminar
6.30pm to 7.30pmtasting
8.00pm til latedinner.
Tickets are €65. For information and bookings, drop in to elyChq in the IFSC (http://www.elywinebar.com) or phone 01-6720010.

█  September 27 – Food producers & wine in O’Connell’s of Donnybrook
Wow. Even alongside some of the other rich pickings, this is likely to be an outstanding event. O’Connell’s have worked with several of their partner food producers and with wine importers Febvre to put together an enormously impressive and yet chilled-out food and wine evening. You will choose your starters in the style of a buffet – but you’ll be picking them up directly from the producers as follows…

Organic smoked salmon from Bill Casey Shanagarry Co Cork
Chorizo, Salamis and Cheese from Gubbeen
Organic Pork and Vegetables from Alan Pierce, Gold River Farm, Co Wicklow
Organic Chicken from Mary O’Regan, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Hereford Prime Steaks  Christy Broe, The Irish Hereford Prime Beef Society
Fresh fish from Shellfish de La Mer, Castletownbere, Co Cork

Then, the mains and desserts will be served to you at your table. And Carlos Martínez Bujanda from the top-class Bodegas Conde de Valdemar, Rioja, will be on hand to pour complimentary wines. There will also be a tasting flight of the winery’s wines at 20% off the normal price. Speaking of which, your final bill depends on what you order thereafter, including their €20.95 all-night early bird.  That’s good value.

Kudos for the imagination to put together an event that’s both useful and exciting, and also so accessibly priced. All the details are here on O’Connell’s website.  Go book.

█  September 28 – Latin American wines at The Merrion
The Merrion Wine Society’s second dinner this year is focused on wines from Latin America. The six-course dinner will be accompanied by wines from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay presented by Mary Dowey, wine editor of The Gloss. Book tickets (€90) now on 01-2755310 or email register@thegloss.ie.

Winequake, September 29

Several high-profile and otherwise worthwhile events are likely to compete for our attention on Thursday,  September 29.  I believe there may be more to follow but the first three confirmed are as follows…

█  September 29 – Yalumba tasting and/or dinner at Ballymaloe Co Cork
One of the best tutored tastings I’ve been at was conducted by Jane Ferrari. As she’d say herself, ultimately it’s what’s in the glass that matters most, and Yalumba does make terrific wines, from entry level to posh upmarket bottles.  But the presentations that Jane brings round the world are themselves superb — informative and highly entertaining.  This event is in two parts as follows
7pm
  Jane will present a tutored tasting on various wines made by Yalumba (€10).
8.30pm Wine dinner, with each course paired with one of Yalumba’s wines, which Jane will introduce (€75). Book now on 021 4652531 by email to res@ballymaloe.ie and see http://www.ballymaloe.ie.

█  September 29 – Lohan’s Wine Fair Salthill Co Galway
Taste more than 100 wines as well as international beers, whiskeys and spirits, speciality cheeses, cakes and canapés at Lohan’s big annual wine fair – and as if that weren’t enough, there’s entertinment laid on too.
As ever, the entire proceeds go directly to local charities – Croí which supports families affected by heart disease and raises awareness of the issue; and Cystic Fibrosis, the most common life-threatening genetically-inherited disease in Ireland which has the highest incidence of it in the world.
Tickets (€20) are available from Lohans Bar & Restaurant, 232-234 Upper Salthill, Galway, 091-522696, or email goodtimes@lohans.ie and see www.lohans.ie.

█  September 29 – Wilson & Caviston in Greystones Co Wicklow
St Patrick’ Parish Centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow, is the venue for what promises to be a highly entertaining evening in a good cause featuring John Wilson, wines from Mitchell & Son, and food from Caviston’s – with all proceeds going to the Parish Fund.  Tickets are €15 and are available from the  parish office on 01-2010648.

October 19 – Malbec tasting dinner at Thornton’s

The Corkscrew on  Chatham Street presents a dinner showcasing Argentina’s finest with winemaker Mariella Molinari presenting some of the premium wines of Argentina’s Catena Zapata to accompany a five-course menu created by Kevin Thornton. Tickets are €120 per person. See www.thecorkscrew.ie or phone 01-6745731.

October 19 – Roger Ravoire at Donnybrook Fair

Olivier Ravoire will present wines from his family’s Roger Ravoire Rhone winery in The Restaurant at Donnybrook Fair from 7.45pm. Phone 01-6144849 to book.

October 20 – Mitchell’s October Wine Tasting

On Thursday October 20, from 7pm, Mitchell’s present a  tasting of new additions to their range in their CHQ shop. It’s an excellent consumer-friendly format that other retailers might consider emulating: You pay €10 to take part in the tasting — but you get a voucher for the same amount that you can redeem in store on the evening.

October 20 – Food and beer at Cornstore Cork

Applause please for what looks like a terrific five-course tasting menu, each course paired with a selection of German, English, Scottish and Belgian beers. To pick just one menu item…

Pan-seared Ballycotton sea bass with roast pumpkin, sautéed spinach, grilled baby sweet corn with carrot and orange emulsion accompanied by Schneider Weisse Kristall

That sounds both delicious and a great match, as does the venison with celeriac, kale and cabbage matched with a doppelbock. Some of the matches sound a bit surprising to mefor instance Fuller’s Honey Dew pale ale with the salmon — although the latter is cured with treacle… But preparing to be surprised is half the fun of it, and you are in safe hands at the Cornstore, and that assuredly confident menu. It ought to be a delicious, interesting evening putting beer back where it belongs, on the dinner table.
Cornstore, Cornmarket Street, Cork at 7.30pm on Tursday October 20.
Tickets (€45) from 021-4274777 or reservations@cornstorecork.com.


█ October 20 – Mas De Daumas Gassac in Thurles, Co Tipp
October 21 – Mas De Daumas Gassac in Ballymaloe, Co Cork

TWO Irish wine importers and retailers — Curious Wines in Cork and Red Nose Wine in Clonmel Co Tipperary — are collaborating to put on three great opportunities to meet wines and the people behind one of the Languedoc’s classiest names, Mas De Daumas Gassac. Samuel Guibert will present some of their wines at a dinner at Inch House, Thurles, Co Tipp, at 8pm on Thursday October 20 (60 from 052-6182939 or gary@rednosewine.com). And on Friday October 21, he’s in Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, Co Cork to present a tasting at 7pm (15) and a dinner at 8.30pm (85). Contact Ballymaloe on 021-4652531; Curious Wines on 021-4320233, or mike@curiouswines.ie.


] Family of Four & Grenache 23 [] Nofla SIP 7 gold star wards 2 [] Pio Cesare Donnybrook September 28.   [] Portugal 24/10  []

Dingle Food & Wine Festival October 1 and 2. http://dinglefood.com.[] Cork wne fair 24/11  [] Taste of Christmas 25/11.


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