Cheers for a cracking new stout

Edit: 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. 

My beer of the week over in the Irish Examiner today (Saturday June 23 — print edition only) is Elbow Lane Angel Stout. It joins a growing band of fine Irish stouts and porters from the likes of Porterhouse, Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne and Carlow Brewing Company.

There’s another novelty about Angel: it’s a cleanskin. That is, the label doesn’t name the brewery in which it was made. It does say it was brewed in Cork though, so that narrows it down a bit and I can only think of one likely candidate.  While many cleanskins are own-label (where an existing product is rebranded in new packaging) Angel Stout seems to have been commissioned and made specifically for the people behind Elbow Lane.

It’s being marketed by two restaurants in Cork — the Castle Café at Blackrock Castle and Market Lane on Oliver Plunkett Street. At first I thought it was only going to be available in those places, but it turns out it’s also stocked by Bradley’s on North Main Street, which is apt as that shop is one of Cork’s two astonishingly comprehensive beer collections, the other being The Abbot’s Ale House on Devonshire Street North across the river from the Opera House. I’m not sure if the latter will also stock Angel. If they and further stockists are added, I’ll add that info here.

We’re more used to the cleanskin concept from the wine world, which is where the word comes from. For instance, once upon a time M&S didn’t disclose where their wines were made. Nowadays they do — to their advantage, I’d imagine, as there are some great names in tiny writing on back labels on their shelves. If I recall correctly, Aldi’s cracking O’Sheas Stout is also a clearskin – made by the aforementioned Carlow Brewing (aka O’Haras), a fact which I think isn’t disclosed on the label. Must check next time.

♦ Also today in The Irish Examiner Weekend, I’m picking out my highlights from a tasting through 50 or thereabouts wines at O’Briens. It was a pretty impressive tasting, and I’ll have to come back at a later date to a few more of those wines, as well as two interesting themes I just didn’t have room for in the column — namely ‘natural’ wines, and a whole lotta rosés. The latter requires a summer so that  might be on hold for quite a while.

Edit: 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. 

Rieslings to be cheerful

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.

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 res@ballymaloe.ie 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.

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.

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.

Carl Ehrhard riesling - back labels

The two rieslings by Carl Ehrhard featured in today’s Irish Examiner

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Franciscan Well microbrewery 2012 Easter Beerfest

Beerfest, Cork 

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.

Blindfold tastings could help hone your senses….

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 jacobscreek@idl.ie (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.

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.

Whipping The Herring Out Of Town

Cork, Easter Sunday

“Whipping The Herring…” at the Crawford gallery.

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. ♦

http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/mapsimages/corkphotographs/michaelolearyphotos/southgatebridge/

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.

Buying wine online

Buying wine online


HERE’s a list of Ireland’s best wine websites and below are some  general guidelines to getting good wine delivered to your door in time for Christmas day. You should of course bear in mind all the usual caveats when shopping at an online wine retailer. The criteria I’d suggest you consider include…

1. The quality and value of the range of wines it sells;
2. Comprehensive information on each wine, including useful notes;
3. Free or reasonably priced delivery;
4. A range of styles sufficiently substantial to cope with different needs or occasions;
5. Ease of use of the site;
6. Fun and/or useful extras such as blogs, links and more information about wine.

There is also one overriding hygiene factor: clear and accurate information on price, delivery, terms and conditions made clear to the shopper before s/he starts the purchasing process. If any of those issues are in question, forget about it.

Specifically, any wine website worth looking at should be…

VERSATILE: Most sites offer two ways to buy: You can choose one of their pre-picked selections, or you can put together your own mixed cases will-nilly.

INFORMATIVE:It’ll list every wine’s full name, vintage and regional designation. It ought to have a little bit of further information about the wine’s producer and the region.

UNAMBIGUOUS: One of the things you should check immediately – that the site has unambiguous information about
1 minimum order
2 delivery charge, if any.*

3 extra costs, if any.
*The first two points can be related, as often delivery is free if you order over a certain value or volume.
The third point is ultra-important. There should be no extra costs, end of story.
*

AUTHORITATIVE: If there are notes about the wines, ask yourself if someone has actually tasted the wine and tried to communicate something of its character. Or is it just vaguely positive-sounding blurb.

UP TO DATE: It’s quite possible that a site promising “sizzling bargains for summer 2007” might be selling top class wines at good prices. But really you’d have more confidence in the ones that have accurate up-to-date information.

I’d be highly sceptical of any site that pops in a cost such as insurance on top of the list price. In particular, watch out for VAT. It is an offence for a retailer to advertise consumer goods without its VAT component.

Yet one site, http://www.throughthegrapevine.ie, (which should not be confused with the estimable http://www.onthegrapevine.ie) promotes itself as supplying individual customers, providing wedding wines etc. However, it does not include VAT in its list prices, that component being added in later in the purchase process. Some people (yes I mean me) get a bit fuzzy about numbers when they go into three figures and I can imagine a less-than-alert wine buyer innocently clicking ‘buy’ without realising his or her wines have gotten a whole lot dearer.
How can this site justify this? Well it also sells business-to-business and as such is entitled to show ex-VAT prices. But by rights they should emulate those flyers from Dell which clearly show both prices for business and private customers.

Through The Grapevine may not be doing anything illegal but really it is a bit cheesy to say the least and you don’t need people like that in your life. Puh.

El Coto Crianza

El Coto Crianza

Oh and apart from all that, the corporate or private shopper may do better elsewhere anyway. Last time I compared, Through The Grapevine listed El Coto De Rioja Crianza 2004/05 as €120 for a 6-bottle case. Add in €25.80  in VAT and the total comes to €145.80, meaning you’re stumping up over €24 every time you brandish your corkscrew. A high-end premium wine then? Break it out for special occasions?

Well hang on, look up another site,  www.karwigwines.ie, and there it is, El Coto Crianza [not to be confused with the Gran Reserva] the same wine for €14.15 a bottle straight up, VAT included. Delivery is free if you buy the right quantity. And even if you’re buying less than that, the €9.50 delivery charge is swallowed up by the 5% case discount  or the 10% discount on orders worth more than €200.

The point is — tame your credulity and shop around. If you’ve any comments or questions, please add a comment below. ♦

AUTHORITATIVE

Tasty food and drinks events

Slow Food is hosting a wild food festival in co Wicklow.

December 2 – Immigrant support groups’ wine tasting

NASC and Cois Tine are getting together to present an evening of delicious wine and food  from 6.30pm on Friday December 2 at Cois Tine, beside St Mary’s Dominican church on Pope’s Quay, Cork.
Michal Lewandowski will present a selection of wines (courtesy of O’Donovan’s off-licences) accompanied by grub from (drool) three fine food specialists in the English Market — On The Pig’s Back, Heaven’s Cake and Iago.

Tickets are €19.10 – a fee that wasn’t picked at random: that’s the weekly allowance asylum-seekers receive.

[] Cois Tine (pronounced kush tinn-eh, it’s an Irish language term meaning ‘by the fireside’ chosen to signify hospitality) is a Christian multicultural organisation working to promote “the integration of people from all communities, cultures and faiths”. It works primarily with asylum-seekers and refugees, particularly those of African origin. See www.coistine.ie for more.
[] Nasc (it’s an Irish word meaning ‘link’) is The Irish Immigrant Support Board. It links immigrants to their rights, and works across a wide variety of fronts including combating racism, promoting the Cork City Integration Strategy through to direct provision of services.  See www.nascireland.org for more.

December 2 & 3 – Curious Wines Christmas Wine Fair, Cork

THE Christmas Wine Fair at Curious Wines on the Kinsale road in Cork takes place from 4pm to 8pm on Friday, and from noon until 6pm on Saturday, with more than 100 wines open for tasting, along with tasty gourmet food. Tickets cost €10, and all proceeds go to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Phone 1800-991844 or click here www.curiouswines.ie for more details.

This is precisely the sort of tasting I keep urging wine fans to check into. Yes, it’s a commercial showcase of one particular retailer’s range. But it’s also the sole opportunity you will get to dive in and sample any or all of this wide range of wines, free of commentary, advertising, and the suggestions of bloggers and columnists. And if you don’t often dip into such tastings, you may find some useful tips in my post suggesting how to get best use out of open wine tastings.

December 6 – Stickies and fortifieds at Hayfield Manor, Cork
December 7Stickies and fortifieds at Ely IFSC, Dublin

THERE’s any number of lesser-visited wine styles I’d urge everyone to check out. Off-dry riesling. Dry riesling. Portuguese wines (all of them).  Loire reds and whites.  Sometimes it feels like a hopeless mission to persuade people to try out dessert wines or port. Understandable really. After all, what more do you want towards the end of a good dinner than more of the same — a good white or red that you’ve been enjoying?

But discover how a dinner can be turned into a banquet — with tiny glasses of cold botrytis semillon as a beautiful foil to hot bitter coffee, or a rich round spicy port  on the couch — and you’ll never look back.

If you’d like some inspiration, there’s an event next week at venues in Dublin and Cork — Ely bar & brasserie, IFSC, and Hayfield Manor Hotel respectively — that you shouldn’t miss. Courtesy of Wine Australia Ireland, they’re hosting a tutored tasting presented by winemaker Chris Pfeiffer whose Rutherglen Muscat has featured in my column a few times. He’ll present a top line-up of Australian stickies and fortifieds, accompanied by nibbles. The tastings in both venues cost €20 per person and begins at 7pm.

For the Cork tasting, book on ireland@wineaustralia.com or 065-7077264.
For the Dublin event, book on wineclub@elywinebar.com or  01-676 8986.
And if you want any further information on either, contact John at the Wine Australia contact details above.

December 8Martin’s Christmas Crackers Tasting
(Note change of date)

Martin Moran MW (who presents movies and booze on Newstalk with Sean Moncrieff) has put together an event that sounds practical and inspirational in equal measure. He’s trawled the shelves of the major supermarkets and put together a shortlist of approximately 25 wines chosen to compliment seasonal foods and parties.
But as Martin explains on his site, there’s more to it than that and if you want it, he can customise your choices and give you advice on hundreds more wines from the supermarkets’ ranges.

It all takes place at Darc Space Gallery, 26 North Great Georges Street, Dublin 1 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Tickets cost €10, or €15 for two.

December 8Red Nose portfolio tasting, Clonmel

ON Thursday, December 8, Rudolph the Red Nose Wine Shop Red Nose Wine is hosting a portfolio tasting  from 8pm at Hickey’s Cafe, Westgate, Clonmel.   Tickets are €15, or free if you buy a €50 voucher – a handy money-saving idea. Click on www.rednosewine.com for details.  Last time I checked in, Gary was putting a list of the wines opening on Facebook – and says he’s open to suggestions from customers of further bottles to add to the tasting. Check it out!  ♦

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

November 15 – Beer and food in Cork

EACH Tuesday in November, The Cornstore in Cornmarket Street, Cork is playing host to beer and food pairing events matching menu with beers such as Birra Moretti, Paulaner and Tiger, in association with Heineken Ireland. At each event a beer and food expert will be on hand to take you through the tasting of beers from around the world and how they match with the food on a specially designed menu. A three-course set menu with beer tasting is €24.95, it kicks off at 7.30pm and you can find out more on 021-4274777.

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 17 to 19 – Simply Wines tastings

SIMPLY WINES is probably best known as an online store but you can shop in person there too, and if you’re in the parish I’d strongly suggest you check out their wine fair. They’re holding it over three days with extended opening hours (until 9pm on both the Thursday and Friday, and until 7pm on the Saturday) to showcase more than 80 wines in their range.

You’ll find Simply Wines at Unit 2, Ballyogan Business Park, Ballyogan Road, D18, just around the corner from The Park retail centre, Carrickmines. There’s more details about the wine tasting opportunity here, and a map and stuff here.

And now for something completely different…

November 19 & 20 – Wild & Slow, Macreddin, Co Wicklow

This is big. The BrookLodge Hotel, Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow, is the HQ for a busy weekend of food inspiration from 11am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday November 19 and 20. In addition to the food on sale from the stalls, there is a programme of wild-food workshops, tastings, talks and demonstrations around Macreddin presented by Slow Food and sponsored by Fáilte Ireland and Bord Bia.

Harvesting hedgerows – what is available for free, where to look for it, and when it is best harvested.
Photo safari in the National Park – a strenuous hike in and around Wicklow, to stalk and photograph the resident wild deer herd and game birds.
Handling and plucking game – a masterclass with licensed game dealer Mick Healy, including a visit to the Wild Irish Game premises in nearby Glenmalure valley.
Game tasting workshop – Taste pheasant that’s been hung for one, two and three weeks cooked for parallel tasting by Ross Lewis of Chapter One.
Game tasting workshop – Tim Daly from BrookLodge presents a sensoray evalutation of three wild meats, rabbit, hare and venison.
Matching game with wines – Martina Delaney, sommelier at l’Ecrivain  will host a workshop pairing gamey wines with these traditional meats.
Wild fish workshop – Mick Murphy, licensed traditional snap-net fisherman explores issues of seasonality and sustainability and fisheries management.
♦ Herbalists Freda Wolfe & Clodagh Mulvey on foraging from among more than 400 plant species used in mainstream medicine and alternative therapies alike.
♦ The gamekeeper’s year – Keith Wooldridge, the retired head gamekeeper of Ballinacor Estate will talk you through the year from preparations in spring through to winter shoots, with an emphasis on habitat and environmental management.

For more, see
http://wildandslow.com
www.slowfoodireland.com

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.

Heineken Ireland is bringing beer and food tasting to top restaurants in Dublin and Cork. Ely Bar and Brasserie, Siam Thai and Roly’s Bistro in Dublin and The Cornstore in Cork will give food lovers and beer fans the chance to come together and sample the natural pairing of beer and food with beers from around the world like Birra Moretti, Paulaner and Tiger. At each event a beer and food expert will be on hand to take you through the tasting of beers from around the world and how they match with the food on a specially designed menu. So whether you’re a beer lover or have never even thought of drinking a beer with your food, there is a beer for you that will add a new dimension to the food you know and love.

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.


Making wine in Ireland (via Blake Creedon’s Wine Cork)

Making wine in Ireland UPDATE, July 1 2011: A little over a year after the post below went up, I’ve had the great pleasure of tasting Stonewell Medium Dry Irish Craft Cider 2010, the first release of Nohoval Brewing Company, which is named for its location near Kinsale in south Co Cork. Made with “regionally sourced” Dabinett, Michelin and Cox apples, it’s a crisp and fragr … Read More

via Blake Creedon’s Wine Cork

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