Riesling in the years

 As of October 2012, I am no longer a drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. CLICK HERE for details. I’m leaving up most of the info I posted then in case it might be helpful. Thank You.


WINE fans in my parish (Cork) may have noticed a few interesting changes for the better recently in that twilight zone somewhere between a few drinks and casual dining. Quite a few places are providing new and improved fun. I’ll return to some others later but because it combines two of my enthusiasms – wine and retro stuff – the last shall be first: a venue that opened three days ago.

Arthur Mayne Pharmacist

Muted tones and shadows in Maynes on Pembroke St, Cork.

Arthur Mayne

7, Pembroke Street, Cork
Telegrams: “Mayne Pharmacist”

You know those time capsule buildings? For instance thisTube station sealed off in 1959 and only reopened in 2010 still festooned with original posters advertising the latest works of Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth and Alec Guinness? Yeah, that kind of thing.  That’s what you need to bear in mind when you go in to Arthur Mayne Pharmacy & Wine Garden.

A bar serving mainly wine, coffees and simple plates of food, it is stuffed to the gunwhales with the stock, fittings and equipment you might find in an Irish pharmacy from the recent to the distant past. Everywhere you look, there are many decades worth of jars and phials, essences and unguents. Registers, ledgers and till rolls. When done well, collections of memorabilia can strike an atmospheric chord in a restaurant or bar. But there’s something special about this particular immersive retro 3D collection – because every scrap you see around you is the day-to-day stock in trade and equipment of the chemists shop that traded from this same building until recently. I mean everything – from the prescription ledgers under glass on the counter, down to the cardboard rolls of coppers (change as packaged and issued by the bank some time before decimalisation) among other ephemera in the front window.

The big difference between the example of the Tube station above and Arthur Mayne premises is that there’s nothing abandoned about the latter. Far from it. It was a going concern until recently (voluntarily ceding its pharmacist’s permit only in February 2011) and the pharmacist and leaseholder since the 1940s, Jim Byrne, has handed over the whole thing – lock, stock and Hai Karate – to Benny McCabe who has made only such changes and renovation as were necessary to turn it into a stylish wine bar. Benny is well known in Cork for the diverse collection of venues he has gradually developed over the years. There are the pubs (The Oval, South Main Street, The Mutton Lane Inn off St Patrick’s Street and Sin É on Coburg Street); a pub and restaurant, The Bodega on the Coal Quay; and the pub /night club, The Crane Lane on Phoenix Street, onto which Arthur Mayne connects.

Each is atmospheric and idiosyncratic: cosy memorabilia-stuffed Sin É ringing with traditional and folk music; family-friendly Sunday lunches amid the bevelled glass and polished wood of the Bodega.

Just before the new bar opened, Tommy Barker talked to Benny and other people behind the transition. As he points out, the chemists shop was a major photo processing lab, once the biggest in Munster it seems. The new venue will be a magnet for photographers, not only because its so photogenic, but because the stock in the display cabinets includes quite an arc of picture-making, from Box Brownies to Polaroid and Instamatics – all technologies which have been eclipsed in living memory. Cameras, projectors, photos and slides. Agfa. Fuji. And as a wistful reminder of relentless change, Kodak, which was folding and fading as Maynes was being renovated, is here too.

You can buy retro stuff by the yard. This, though, is palpably different – not only because its so specific to the site, but also because of the way its been curated. Alongside the dusty aphothecary jars, each with traces of its original contents, are brands of hairspray, razor blades, bath salts and condoms dating close to the present day.  1960s, 1970s, 1980s… Its like a 3D Reeling In The Years. You may betray your age by which brands you recognise. Or even used. Elastoplast, Silvikrin, Rave.

The menu is simple and inexpensive

Theyve all been accorded similar space and the same respect as those ancient generic glass jars, each bearing the dust it has earned down the decades. Theres something lovely about this brand archaeology. It would be a mistake to fetishise the items themselves – theyre only things after all, and wallowing in such sentimentality is surely an abandonment of the real world. But they are tangible mementoes, a dip into a world just as real as ours is, to the people who milled about the location youre sitting in. We live in the present, but can dream of other times.

Unsurprisingly, given the riches in the cabinets, the decor is visually stripped back, all muted tones and shadows. Even the doors on the fridges behind the counter are opaque so we’re spared the glare of fluorescent light bouncing off a platoon of beer bottles: what you can see is the company you’re in, set against a century’s worth of memorabilia bearing the shadows of other people who have passed this way before you.

So. Anyone for a glass of wine?

The enomatic dispencer at Mayne's

The enomatic dispensers at Mayne’s.

Oddly, given its emphasis on the passage of time, Maynes has an up-to-the-minute system designed to press the pause button on time. I’ve long been a fan of the enowine dispenser system and am delighted to see it used in a bar in my hometown. This and other nitrogen-fed systems provide a way to keep wine in the same condition as the moment it was opened. You may be familiar with it from Eno Wine’s shop at the IFSC in Dublin, or at Bubble Brothers in the Marina in Cork. I’ve also seen it at pro tastings such as London Wine Fair. It allows a bar to greatly expand the number and variety of wines it can feasibly offer – after all, a barkeep can’t reliably expect to sell out every left-field minority interest wine every two days – but in a less labour-initensive way than the open-and-reseal systems many wine bars use.

Bottles are lined up in glass-fronted temperature-controlled cabinets. Each has a tube leading from the bottom of the bottle to a nozzle at the front. And as each serving of wine is dispensed, the volume displaced is replaced by a shot of inert gas (nitrogen). No air in there at any stage. It’s as if you’d just opened the bottle each time.

Repeat prescription: Maynes debit card.

But arguably the bigger innovation with the system as seen in Maynes is that it’s self-service, and paid for with a debit card. You charge up your card with a tenner or whatever over the counter and off you go, brandishing your glass, to the wall of enowine cabinets. A little display over each bottle shows the price for each of the three different size measures it will dispense. (Here I have to lapse into uncustomary vagueness: unlike the tastings I attend, which are like a mashup of sensory lab and trade fair, I have absolutely no intention of milling about in a bar wth a notebook and pen. It would be a bit intrusive I think and Id feel like a right gowl doing it. Hence I have neither the precise names of the wines, nor tasting notes, nor the volumes of wine in each measure. I might add them later).

In the absence of numbers Ive named the three measures as follows.

The taoscán Nowhere near what wed sit down to sip, this is a similar measure to what you might pour at a tasting session. Because, crucially, it provides more than enough to judge the colour, smell and taste of the wine in hand. And indeed enjoy a sensory journey. You could really have fun working your way through the cabinets trying each wine one after another, pausing to properly swirl and sniff each. If youve never done it, please do: Anyone whos done so will tell you what a revelation it can be, that it will change the way you view wine for the better. Even wines you dont like the look of: try them. Given that this bar has made it so easy for you, itd be a shame to pass up the chance. And thats the way to choose a wine to settle down with, not the diktat of any expert or me.  Hurrah!
Oh thats a daycent glass This is what I would call a glass of wine. It’s the size I’d choose to pour at home or out and about, and its the size Id drink at Maynes when Id settled on one bottle after dallying with the small taoscáns above. This size also has the benefit of leaving plenty of room in the glass for air – which you should really regard as a component of your glass of wine. To me, this middle size is the Goldilocks serving – neither too big nor too small. Just right.
Ah lads, steady on All right, I confess I havent actually seen this measure. But really I see no point in pouring any more than the middle size. But sure don’t mind me. Suit yourself, you rascal.

In my brief look around I particularly enjoyed some wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero as well as an outstanding spicy torrontés. It’s fitting that Maynes happens to have a torrontés on offer and that it turned out to be so pleasing to at least one punter (me). Because that’s a perfect example of the system in action and the benefits it brings – to bar owners certainly, but also to any of us consumers who get over our reticence and use the opportunity to taste widely (L’Atitude 51 also serves a choice of measures from its extensive list).

I love the  torrontés grape  and coincidentally, I’m recommending one in my column in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner. But it’s a bit of an unknown. I can’t envisage too many people committing to a whole glassful from a standing start. And if they did, many of them wouldn’t like its honeyish apparent sweetness.

But made available for convenient tasting as one of a series, each costing you little over a euro, delightful left-field minority-interest wines like this will find the people who don’t yet realise they love them. And that’s a win as far as I’m concerned.

 
This is all new to me. You won’t find any pub or wine bar antics in the columns I used to write for The Irish Examiner which were almost entirely about home entertaining – off-trade wines, beers and ciders. But a sense that something was stirring prompted me to lunge for the first time into a few posts about bars. A good handful of decent beer specialists have been emerging. From the international powerhouse Porterhouse which opened its Cork outpost on Sheare’s Street in February,  to The Hub (aka The Market Tavern) on Anglesea Street. Remind me to tell you a story about the building it’s in. Plus of course the three old dogs for the long road along the north channel of the river — The Franciscan Well brewpub on North Mall, Bierhaus on Pope’s Quay and The Abbot’s Ale House on Devonshire Street North. Other recent revelations (to me) include L’Atitude 51, where An Crúibín used to be, The Pav on Careys Lane and Le Chateau on Pana. Each has gone a long way to catering for people who have switched to home entertaining and want to emulate that comfort and quality on their increasingly rare forays into town.

Although I have quit writing those columns Long story — see here I might return to this topic.  Broadly in keeping with the way I did those newspaper columns, I won’t be accepting complimentary drinks etc, and if I have any connection with a venue I mention, I will declare that interest. ♦

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Food and drinks events

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.

HERE are some delicious food and drinks events you might enjoy, while over here on this post I’m following up on my column in the Irish Examiner about last week’s New Zealand Wine Fair with further Kiwi whites I’d recommend.

█ Feb 10 to 12 — Cask-conditioned beers in Cork

The Franciscan Well pub and brewery is celebrating the revival of a lost tradition with a weekend showcase of cask-conditioned winter beers. Nowadays, the industry standard is for draught beers that are all but inert, pumped by gas into your pint glass.  In contrast, these are ‘live’ beers which undergo fermentation in cask.
You can’t turn back time but, side-by-side with their more obviously commercial and popular bottled or kegged beers,  our best and most forward-looking small breweries  in Ireland and the UK are championing hand-pumped cask beers. This weekend, the Franciscan Well is showcasing 15 of them, all dispensed according to the standards specified by CAMRA. I haven’t seen the line-up of brews and breweries yet but, being a selection of winter beers, you can expect pints from the darker, deeper end of the spectrum.  Think of it as a last hurrah of wintertime as we hurtle towards spring.

♦ The Franciscan Well Brewery & Brew Pub, North Mall, Cork (021-4393434;  www.franciscanwellbrewery.com) is open daily at 3pm, closing at 11.30pm daily except Saturdays (12.30am) and Sundays (11pm).

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..

█ Feb 14 — Love and romance in the English Market, Cork 

Valentine’s Night Threshold fundraiser at the Farm Gate in the English Market, Cork.

St Valentine’s night is all about dinner à deux whether at home or, unburdened by kitchen anxiety, in a restaurant. And here’s to more of that.

But many people feel excluded by the whole two-by-two thing. Whether you’re in the tentative connected-but-uncommitted early days, or settled into a well-worn relationship, it can all be a bit much. Let alone the many people single by chance or by choice. Plus, many couples grabbing a rare night out (I’m particularly thinking of parents here) who’d love to dine out together — but in the company of their friends.

Which is where Threshold and the Farm Gate Café come in.

They’re hosting a fundraising dinner and celebration from 7pm on Valentine’s night that ought to appeal to everyone — couples, singles or whatever. The award-winning restaurant will serve up top-class food, drinks (the latter supported by Irish Distillers, whose wine list included the likes of Brancott Estate and Campo Viejo) and entertainment — and all for only €50 a head.

Threshold is a national organisation providing free, confidential advice and advocacy in relation to housing and tenancy. The registered charity also campaigns on the issues, and — as a glance at their site at www.threshold.ie will tell you — is an invaluable source of practical, sensible information

The restaurant is of course normally open only 9am to 5pm during the market’s working day, so it’s a rare opportunity to dine at nighttime in the atmospheric market building. See corkenglishmarket.ie for more about the restaurant and the market. Couples will be accommodated of course but much of the seating will be at shared big tables. It sounds like a lot of fun and, who knows, new romance could bloom on the night!

For tickets, drop into the Farm Gate, email advicecork@threshold.ie or call Threshold on 021-4278848.

█ Feb 14Valentine’s night at On The Pig’s Back Café

On The Pig’s Back, market neighbours of the Farm Gate – are decamping to their Douglas venue for a night of love and – intriguingly – murder. Greenshine (Noel Shine, Mary Greene and Ellie Shine) will present a night of love songs and murder ballads on Tues  Feb 14 from 8pm at On the Pig’s Back Café Deli in St Patrick’s Mills, Douglas, Cork. Booking (€10 from either of the On The Pig’s Back outlets or on 021-4617832) is essential. And a menu of bubbles, wines & chocolates is available too.

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.

Feb 17 – Big tasting at ely, Dublin

Try out more than 80 wines in a big open tasting at ely bar & brasserie, IFSC. Tickets are €20 and choose either 6pm or 8pm.

█ Feb 23 — Wine dinner at Hayfield Manor, Cork

The next date in the dairy for Hayfield Manor Wine Society is on Thursday, February 23 with a dinner paired with wines from the Santa Sofia winery in Italy. Executive chef Graeme Campbell and sommelière Sandra Biret-Crowley have matched each of the five courses to five wines. It begins with aperitifs at 7pm, and dinner is served from 7.30pm. The event costs  €79 per person. Book on 021-4845909 or at events@hayfieldmanor.ie.

█ Feb 29 to Mar 2 — Pop-up dinners in three cities

From Vineyards Direct is hosting a series of ‘pop-up ‘ dinners (that is, in locations that aren’t normally restaurants) featuring the wines of the Castello di Potentino vineyards at Monte Amiata near Brunello in Tuscany as follows.
February 29 – Cork City Gaol – 6.30pm to 9pm
March 1 – Limerick City Gallery – 6.30pm to 9pm
March 2 – Dublin, Science Gallery – 6.30pm to 8pm
The latter event is part of the Science Gallery’s Edible exhibit which apparently examines relationships among food, wine, science and nature. Ooh. Interesting. All three events sound attractive especially (to me) the Science Gallery bit. I’ll be looking into this and popping more information up here as I get it.

█ March 5 — Rhone wine tasting and dinner in Cork

On Monday, March 5 from 7.30pm, the Wine Store – aka Simon and Emma Tyrrell – is taking a road trip to Cork’s L’Atitude 51, the new wine café in what used to be The Lobby, as outlined at the top of this page.

There are two parts to the evening. First, Simon will talk guests through six wines (mainly from the Rhône Valley) accompanied by tasty morsels of tapas from L’Atitude’s kitchen.  €15 per person. There will also be the option to stay on for a set menu dinner for just another €15. To book a place for either or both, call L’Atitude 51 on 021 2390219. And see http://thewinestoreireland.wordpress.com/ for more details.   ♦

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.

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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Beer and food at the Cornstore

HERE’S an event promising delicious grub, great value — and an eye-opener if you only ever consider wine for the dinner table.
Food & Beer dinner in the Cornstore restaurant, Cornmarket Street, Cork, on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 7.30pm.
Reservations on 021-4274777 or reservations@cornstorecork.com. €24.95 a head. Also see http://www.thisisbeer.ie.

While wine is my main interest, overlooking good beer and cider as accompaniments to food is frankly nuts. Just like wine, beers grew up alongside the food traditions on these islands and elsewhere and can be  perfectly suited to the dinner table. I’m particularly thinking good ales and stouts, but really there’s a whole world of beer styles that can be perfect with food.  Fermented grape, fermented grain. Your call.

Each of three courses on Wednesday is matched to a selection of the international beers marketed by Heineken Ireland.  Some of the company’s previous food-and-beer promotions were tutored tastings. I’m not sure if that’s the case this time. But the info Heineken did send includes the tasty-looking menu below. To me this looks like a great value night out.

STARTERS

 Duck liver parfait with brioche, Wild mushroom and brown bread dumpling
 Goats cheese crostini with sundried tomato pesto
 Mini white bean and bacon soup
with Paulaner or Zywiec

MAINS

Roast hake on braised leeks and sautéed samphire with a champagne, crab and coral sauce with Heineken or Tiger
Chicken breast with a mushroom duxell, roast swede, scallion mash, savoy cabbage and truffle jus with Zywiec or Coors Light
Slow-roasted pork belly  with roast potatoes, sauerkraut, candied walnuts and a cider reduction with Tiger, Affligem or Zywiec
Braised lamb shank with roast orange sweet potato, celeriac and green beans with
Affligem or Zywiec
Cannelloni of butternut squash with goats cheese, spinach and figs with sun dried tomato pesto, rocket salad with Birra Moretti

DESSERT

White chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet, flourless chocolate cake and lemon posset, with Paulaner or Affligem 

Finally, In my column in the Irish Examiner today (Saturday January 14, 2012) I’m looking at a fascinating book, The Wine Trials, which may change the way you view the wine world. I’ll be posting more about that book, as well as a guide to blind tasting later today.

It ties in with the approach to wine this blog strives to promote, so you might like to start here with this heap of links for the sceptical wine lover♦ 

How to use a wine tasting

THIS picture sums up what faces us in the wine shop, off-licence, or big weekly-shop supermarket — a dizzying array of wines, a whole heap of mixed messages, and precious little categorisation of it beyond price, colour, and country of origin.

So which one, if any, to buy? The most obvious answer is arguably as unhelpful as the question, because there’s a veritable cacophony of opinion out there, from tips offered by bloggers and columnists like me, through the recommendations of friends and colleagues, to the suggestions made by the people who make and market wine, all happy to suggest what you might drink…

There’s a far better answer out there, and I can assure you it’s a lot more fun.

The single greatest favour we wine fans can do for ourselves is to stop depending on the suggestions of others, and instead to learn how to make a fair guess about what’s being offered by different grapes, regions, and styles in all those bottles.

If you feel a bit lost in the world of wine, there’s a lot to be said for signing up for an introductory wine course, especially one that abides by the standards of WSET. But, with or without such grounding, the single best way to get great value, and buy the best wines you can afford, is to taste lots of wines.

Tasting lots of wines side-by-side will help you snout out a few specific bottles you like at the tasting event. But it’s also an exciting journey into what are arguably our least explored senses — taste and smell. Dive in, and you could end up with something far more valuable than any hot tip: an active, merrily sceptical attitude offering you independence from other voices, including mine and those of wine businesses alike.

Time to stop listening to the voices and learn to trust your tastebuds.

What follows is a guide to navigating open-ended freestyle tastings (essentially the same type as those held for trade and press). I’ll follow up later with shorter posts on wine dinners and tutored tastings.

One of the tables at a tasting in Avignon. The point of a wine tasting is to ignore what I and the people selling the wines say – taste them all yourself!

Please note: 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 tastings and wine fairs

THIS is what I mean when I say ‘wine-tasting’: Not a gathering of fusty oul men peering at posh clarets over their pince-nez, and murmuring their verdict on them. Nor a roomful of red-carpet party people sipping and nibbling at some glittering launch. But something far better than either — an open-ended freestyle test-drive opportunity where we can try out dozens or even hundreds of wines.

They’re most commonly organised by retailers (such as O’Donovan’s Cork Wine Fair, or Lohan’s in Galway) or by trade representatives such as the Spanish Embassy’s commercial office which is behind the big event in Cork recently.

There will usually be a small fee (say €20) which often goes to charity. If a retailer is organising it, they may be set up to take orders on the night, often with a special disount. And some retailers make the entry fee redeemable against orders. But there will never be an obligation to buy: The businesses organising proper open-ended wine tastings are doing so to showcase their wares in the hope we’ll like what we find and buy them at some future date. It’s a bit like a test-drive opportunity.

The tasting will usually take place in a biggish hotel room or conference centre. In general, on arrival you’ll be armed with a glass and a catalogue and left to your own devices. Each table is typically laid out with open bottles, a water jug and a spittoon, and is manned by someone from the firm that sells those wines.

Joe Karwig with some of his wines during a food fair in Carrigaline Co Cork.

Use the tasting

Think back to the picture at the top of the page. You know that frustrating feeling in a wine shop or supermarket when you’re faced with a whole wall of wines? And you wish you knew what each was like? Or can’t remember which bottle was the one you enjoyed before? Well the big wine tasting is like that — except the bottles are all open for you to try.
Many people treat wine tastings as a fun social event, dropping anchor for a chat armed with a glass of something nice. Yes, that does sound like fun. But, to me, that’d be like going to a concert and putting on your headset to listen to your own playlist. Don’t waste the opportunity: among those open bottles may well be some stunning great value wines. Let’s go find them…

It’s only rarely all those wines are open at the same time for us to compare – don’t pass up the opportunity. Picture: Paul Sherwood (www.sherwood.ie).

Use the catalogue

The catalogue (anything from a few photocopied sheets through to a lavishly-printed bound booklet) ought to spell out the full name and vintage of each wine, and its price. And there’ll be space for notes. Don’t be shy about using this, with any notation you feel like.

For instance, you could put a big asterisk or exclamation mark near the wines that stand out, bearing price in mind, at each table. Do that and you’ll end up with an instant shortlist of candidates for your attention and your money. You could then go back and try, say, the three asterisked cabernets, one after the other, and that way settle on one or two of them for future reference. The first time you do this you may be astonished to discover that one of the less expensive bottles is the one you prefer. Or that you love a bottle of a wine style you ‘hate’.

The more tastings you go to, the less surprised you will be about either phenomenon. Firstly, the price/quality relationship in wine is a very wobbly line. And secondly, we base our outlook on minority interest grapes and styles on only a few encounters, and may be surprised to discover how well we chime with them when we give them a proper go. Yes it’s a revelation. That penny will only drop when you properly open up your senses by actively tasting, free of any commentary from me or the salespeople.

Use the spittoons

The impulse to swallow food and drink is pretty powerful. In general, unless something tastes disgusting, down it goes. If you’re going to navigate wine tastings (as opposed to wine dinners or, um, drinking wine) you really have to unlearn that impulse and learn to spit. Obviously if you’re drinking the samples, you’ll end up langers half way through the tasting and may as well write off the opportunity to discover some great wines. What a waste.

Please note: 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 tried it before, why not practice spitting into a basin or sink at home? Sniff it. Sip it. Pause to taste it. And then spit it out. Spelling out all this may seem pointlessly gumpish but spitting out wine (or tea or whatever) runs so profoundly contrary to our instinct that we do have to consciously do it.

So a wine-tasting is as dry as Tehran? Not quite. Often, what people do is hold off on swallowing until the end and then enjoy drinking a glass or two of their favourite discoveries. Often as not though, the drink of choice is a beer. Having been subjected to a sustained assault of high acidity, tannin and alcohol, there’s nothing your tongue would love better than to be bathed in a soft, delicious, 4% or 5% ale or lager or stout. Yum.

Use the water

Most people wouldn’t bother rinsing the glass between, say, two sauv blancs. But if you’re changing style, it’s no harm to give the glass a quick scoosh from the jugs of water on each table. Similarly, there’s far too much fuss about cleansing the palate: if we were incapable of tasting one flavour after another, hardly anyone on earth would know what rhubarb crumble tasted like. But given all that acidity and alcohol, a refreshing glass of water now and again can help keep your senses on track, especially if and when you’re switching from red to white. But even better, and true to the spirit of this post, why not listen to what your body is saying? When you need water, drink some.

Big open wine tastings tend to fill up. Get there early and whiz round to get a proper sense of what wines are out there. And then chill with a glass or two.

Use the information

Some of the wines may be accompanied by brochures with information both hard (for instance the area under vines, yields, the technical specifications of each wine etc) and soft (comprising anything from text about the winemakers’ passion for making wine, through to photos of the vineyard, and a biography of the winery dog).

Information isn’t a burden, and I wouldn’t turn any away. However, when there’s a choice between tasting further wines, and pausing to read up on one particular range, you’re better served by moving on. Ultimately, the only two things that matter are what’s in the bottom of your glass on a Saturday night many weeks hence, and what you’ve paid for it in the wine shop. The memory of the accompanying brochure will be worth zero, so your taste testing ought to be in the driving seat. Anyway, most wineries these days have websites with much of the same sort of information so you can always follow that up at your leisure.

The same goes for conversations you can fall into with the people manning the tables. These invaluable people will usually know all there is to be known about the wines they sell, and are happy to talk about them, or indeed about anything. While it’s great to be able to check details, remember that there are likely to be similar wines and similar stories at most of the other tables. Keep going and get the big picture.

(While we’re on the topic, here’s a hat-tip to the people who present wines at tastings. By time we meet them, they’ve been standing for hours on end, presumably keeping a good front out. They may well have been hefting heavy cases of wine and other paraphernalia into the venue since early morning, all the while wearing a suit. And often, the public tasting comes tacked on at the end of many hours of a media / trade tasting, so they’ve been on their feet since morning.)

Yes this is a long post but it’s possible I didn’t anticipate some questions you may have. Post a response here and I’ll get back to you. ♦

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!  ♦

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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 []
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