Tomas Clancy reviews Blackwater No.5 Gin, Chateau La Vielle Cure, AC Fronsac 2008 and Peter Yealands Pinot Noir New Zealand
Blackwater No.5 Gin, Co Waterford
Pricing : around €29
Available : Carry Out and off licences nationwide
The Irish Gin Revolution is matching the Whiskey revival and Artisan Beer and Cider movements in restoring Ireland’s position as an island of active, local, artisanal producers. Almost every county can now boast a new distillery or brewery with the attendant local jobs in production, in farming and soon in tourism.
One of the pioneers of this new wave of distillery is Peter Mulryan, who along with Kieran Curtin, both formerly in the media, decided to found a gin distillery on the banks of the River Blackwater and to channel the spirit of the locality. Mulrayn was a television producer previously but also the author of a superb book, The Whiskeys of Ireland, which in many ways kept the spirit of regional distillery alive in people’s imaginations during the 40 years period when there were only 3 distilleries left in Ireland.
This Gin is made in a dry style, which to contrast it from the sweeter styles made in Holland and central Europe in the 18th century became known as London Dry Gin style. This is a style like, Peking Duck, where, spoiler alert, the ducks are not, from Peking.
Being a stickler for historical accuracy and a writer on distilling history Mulryan’s Blackwater Distillery uses the right term. Blackwater are also channelling older Waterford distilleries who would have produced under the same heading.
This is a clean, precise, delicious gin using a fabulous botanical array including Juniper, Bitter Orange, Bitter Almond, Lemongrass, Liquorice root, Green Cardamom and Orris which brings hints of violets. A brilliant local Irish craft creation and one of the finest gins currently being produced at half the price of some highly branded gins.
Chateau La Vielle Cure, AC Fronsac 2008 - €32
Pricing : around €33
Available : from Karwig Wines Carrigaline County Cork and nationwide on karwigwines.ie and good independent Off Licences and wine shops nationwide
Being located beside St. Emilion and Pomerol and like those two superstar regions also making wines with a dominant Merlot blend, the Fronsac region has suffered consistently from being forgotten or overlooked.
For wine lovers this is good thing, less so for the producers in the region of course. What it means is that the wines sell for less than they otherwise might. It does not mean they are cheap unfortunately rather they are a great deal less expensive then their neighbours.
If you want a bargain Merlot, then Chile, Australia and many of the eastern European wine producing nations are a much better place to look. However if you want a celebratory wine or an event wine of real weight at a saving from the superstars of Pomerol and St.Emilion, t5his is where to look.
This estate has been a source of wine since the 1600s and was mapped as a chateau over 300 years ago. This is not surprising, Fronsac and its northern neighbours Bourg and Blaye were the most ancient part of the wine region we now call Bordeaux.
The chateau here have very old vineyard sites, excellent ancient cellars and a long expertise in wine, made in the older, savoury style with firm tannins to allow long ageing and to be very definitely wine to accompany food, mainly red meat, lamb and beef in particular. This 2008 is at a peak of cedar, earthy and forest aroma joy, with a fine robust finish. A classical treat.
Peter Yealands Pinot Noir New Zealand
Pricing : around €19.99
Available : Widely available nationwide from Off Licences and wine shops nationwide
A very brilliant example from one of New Zealand wines most down to earth producers. Peter Yealands was a mussel farmer, a tractor driver and a deer farmer before he entered the wine world. Hi proudest award is New Zealand Farmer of The Year 2013 and his autobiography is titled, very deliberately, A Bloke For All Seasons.
The Yealands entire winery project is driven by his passion for farming and for seeing it as a part, indee at the forefront of protector of the environment. So this si organics, green production hand crafting all dialled up to 11.
Sometimes of course eccentrically so, as in his use of music speakers in his vineyards to play a vast and changing array of music to his vines, these days all run through his Spotify account.
And in those vineyards, micro sheep, miniature breeds of sheep chosen for their manure, but also so they cannot reach the succulent, alluring grapes and prevent them heading towards the winery.
A Carbon Neutral rating, sustainable production ecosystem and impeccable organic credentials all complete the picture.
Thankfully the wines do match the talk. This is a very Burgundian or Oregon style Pinot Noir, in contrast to many of the Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand’s far south where the startlingly the profile in some can be much more Californian, much beefier. This is a restrained, balanced, delight with great purity and a lifted, bright finish.