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Nessa Morrissey
Nessa Morrissey

15.00 20 Mar 2020


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3rd July 2020: Light white wines to brighten up any weekend

Summer time means lighter styles of wine and today we have two wonderful white wine from Lidl to try.  The first, from South African is made from Chenin Blanc and the second is one of the world’s most reliable wines styles,  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

2019 South African Premium Fairtrade Chenin Blanc €7.99

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

In the realm of things South African wines are a relative newcomer to the Irish wine market.   Like Chile and  Australia  the arrival of their wines  en masse onto the Irish shelves is one of the developments of the wine market in Ireland during the last twenty years.    What is perhaps not as well known is that South African has a wine making tradition which stretches back over three hundred years. South Africa is the world’s sixth largest wine exporter; they export their wines to over 140 countries.

The father of the South African wine industry was a 33-year-old Dutch surgeon, called Jan van Riebeeck, appointed by the Dutch East India Company to set up a supply station.  Van Riebeeck brought vines from France with him, largely believed to be Chenin Blanc, and successfully planted them in 1655.  Since then, over 300 years later, the vine continues to be successfully grown in South Africa.

The quality vineyards of South Africa are widely dispersed through the Western and Northern Cape strung between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  The climate is Mediterranean which gives long hot summers from November to May moderated by cold, wet, blustery winters, with snowfall on the higher mountains. Late frosts are rare so are heavy summer rains.   The Benguela current from Antarctica also cools the weather in the Cape Region.  Average summer daily temperatures is 23 degrees between February and March.  This warm climate produces very ripe grapes.

Famously South African vineyards always contained more white varieties than red.  At the start of the 1990's Chenin Blanc (known in South Africa as Steen) made up more than 30% of all plantings.   today Chenin Blanc is reduced to 18.3% of total vineyards plantings.  Chenin Blanc is by far the most widely planted white variety is also the grape variety that produces the most outstanding white wines coming out of South Africa today in terms of quality.

South Africa grows an enormously diverse range of both red and white grapes.  From Chenin Blanc to Touriga Nacional (a grape indigenous to Portugal), in the last decade the quality of their wines have improved enormously.     Many of the top wineries are less than 20 years old.  The industry today is marked by innovation and a new generation of wine makers.

This wine comes from a beautiful part of the Cape, the region of Paarl (which means Pearl in Afrikaans).  This mountainous region enjoys some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see.  Paarl is next door to Stellenbosch, probably one of South Africa’s best know wine regions.

This is a fine example of what South African Chenin is capable of.  A wine with tons of fruit and a zesty lively freshness that will appeal to the consumer who loves acidity.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Valley €9.49

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

New Zealand grows the world's most southerly grapes and a parallel is sometimes made between the southern latitudes of New Zealand's wine regions and those of famous European regions.  If New Zealand were in the Northern hemisphere the country would stretch from North Africa to Paris, but the moderating influence of the Gulf stream on European vineyards results in hotter growing conditions than in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Zealand lies in a temperate zone.  It is a cool climate wine region.  This cool climate prolongs the period during which the grapes ripen, allowing for the development of deep flavour and intensified varietal character.  Intensity of fruit flavours and crisp acidity are the hallmarks of New Zealand's white wines.

The majority of vineyards are situated in coastal areas, generally cool but ideal for the production of light wines, sunlight providing warmth during the day and sea breezes cooling the vineyards during the night.

Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in Auckland in the 1970's and then in Marlborough in 1973.  The first wine made in commercial quantities took place in 1980.  Success at local and international wine competitions boosted winemaker's confidence in the varietal, as well as consumer demand.  By the early 1990's Sauvignon Blanc was firmly established as New Zealand's flagship wine, with local and international demand increasing every year.  It is now the country's most widely planted varietal.

Sauvignon Blanc has a distinctive aroma, The smell of the so-called thiol character of Sauvignon is reminiscent of passion fruit, gooseberry and grapefruit. The characteristic odor is followed by a rich flavor with a pronounced finish.

This wine comes from Awatere which is next door to Marlborough.  The Wither Hills form the boundry between the regions,  Awatere is to the South of them.  From the small town of Sedden the vineyards stretch inland along the Awatere river (which means fast flowing in Maori).

Awatere is a region in its own right, but it is seen as a sub-region of Marlborough. There is a lot of vines grown here, it is the third largest region in New Zealand, even if it is categorised as a sub-region.   Awatere is a cool region, with great variation between day and night time temperatures which means cool climate grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc perform well here.

Awatere Sauvignon Blanc’s are typically punchier, racier and more herbal than those from Marlborough.  This is a good example of a well made wine from this region.  Fresh, aromatic with lots of citrus fruit flavours and a burst of zippy acidity.

Wine Diary:  https://jeansmullen.com/

26th June 2020: Hard Seltzers taking the world by storm

Today on Movies & Booze we are going to look at the brand-new alcoholic beverage that’s guaranteed to take Ireland by storm, Hard Seltzers. Not so much a drink, more a lifestyle trend.  We’re also going to take a look at the grape varieties we Irish like to drink and our featured wine is Barefoot’s White Zinfandel.

Barefoot Wine Seltzers 250ml can €2.75

Last summer, across the Atlantic, the biggest drinks trend was a brand-new product called a “Hard Seltzer”..basically alcoholic water.  The Seltzer walking off the shelves was White Claw and its biggest customer was the Millennial/Gen Z consumer who fell in love with it for lots of reasons!  Part of the appeal was that it came in cans, so it went to all the outdoor events, festivals, concerts, barbeques and picnics.  It was also low calorie so win win all round.

Now I’ll be honest, I read about White Claw last summer in the drinks media and was a bit sniffy.  So, when the press release arrived to let me know that Barefoot Wine Seltzers had arrived, accompanied by a sample, I was fully prepared to sip and bin, especially when I saw a few derogatory comments on social media from those in the wine world who have an opinion.

I was expecting to try a chemical fruit flavoured drink with lots of sugar in it, that tasted like alcoholic lemonade.   Not at all, a “hard seltzer” has a flavour unlike any I have tasted before and I loved it!.  It is bone dry in terms of mouth feel, it’s like drinking soda water, with a nice crisp finish and an alcoholic kick.  You do get the hint of fruit, but it’s so subtle its barely noticeable.  The can is great too.. at 250ml is just the right size for a small glass to give you a lift after a long hard week sitting in the sun (as we all seem to be doing at the moment).

I’m a fan and in future before I get judgy, I’ll try something first.  This is not a wine spritzer which Barefoot also produce, this is actually a hard seltzer.

Hard Seltzers are here to stay and the drinks industry are waking up to them.  Some of the big-name brewers in the US are now getting into the Seltzer game, including Budweiser and Corona.   The reckoning is that Seltzers are going big and by 2021 in the United Sales alone, Seltzers are expected to be generating sales of up to US$2.5 billion.

Californian wine brand Barefoot, the 5th most popular wine brand in the world have just launched the Barefoot Wine Seltzer on the Irish market.  It comes in two flavours, Pineapple and Strawberry.   It is made from sparkling water, white wine and natural fruit flavours.   It has an ABV of 4% and for those so inclined, it is gluten free.   Oh, and the icing on the cake, 70 calories a can.

 

Barefoot White Zinfandel €11.00

Stockists:  very widely available in supermarkets and off licences

Anyone who drinks wines is familiar with the names of grape varieties (or varietals) as we in the trade like to call them.  A long time ago, the names of the grapes never appeared on the labels, but in the 1970’s that all changed, when the Australians, in an endeavour to sell their wines on export markets decided to name the wine after the grape that made it, rather than the region it came from.  A revolution was born and the wine world never looked back.

Recently someone asked me what the most popular grape variety was on the Irish market and to be honest I hadn’t got a clue.  Then a colleague shared with me some recent data relating to the Irish wine market and in it, broken down by varietal was the top 10 grape varieties, there were a few surprises.

In 2019, Sauvignon Blanc was the most popular grape variety on the Irish market by a mile, over 50% ahead in terms of case sales to the second most popular grape variety, Cabernet Sauvignon.  It also came as a surprise to see Chardonnay in third place, significantly ahead of Pinot Grigio/Gris in fourth position. I was also heartened to see Malbec appear in fifth place, which of course is due to the success of the Argentina.  In 6th place was White Zinfandel the grape that we are featuring today on Movies & Booze.

White Zinfandel is the red Zinfandel grape, vinified as a white wine.   It  was developed by Sutter Home Family Vineyards winemaker Bob Trinchero in 1972.  Bob Trinchero wanted to make a more intense style of red  Zinfandel so he removed some free run juice from the must and didn't know what to do with it so he made a small batch of white, or blush, Zinfandel.  This style was first made by a winemaker called George West in 1860's but without much success.  The Trinchero's  found a keen buyer for the wine and decided to call the first batch "Oeile de Perdrix" (Eye of the Partridge). This first Sutter Home "white" Zinfandel was fermented  dry and oak aged and became the first commercially produced white Zinfandel to be sold on the market

Today we are trying the Barefoot White Zin, and Barefoot winemaker Jen Wall has put her own stamp on this unique Californian wine style.  Jen’s  secret is that she blends her White Zinfandel with a very rare and unique native grape called Symphony.  Symphony is a Californian crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris developed in 1948 by the late Harold Olmo, professor of viticulture at UC-Davis. As its pedigree suggests, it is an aromatic variety with aromas of peach, apricot and lychee with slightly spicy flavours.  Symphony gives the Barefoot White Zin its added character.  Definitely worth a try.

Wine Diary https://jeansmullen.com/

19th June 2020: It once had a bad rep, but now Riesling soars

Friday 5th June, 2020

Today on Movies & Booze we will focus on two of my favourite grapes, Riesling and Syrah.  We’re going to Germany to the Mosel, home to some of the steepest vineyards in the world to take a look at a super example of this very under-rated white grape variety.  Then to France to the Languedoc region, where near the town of Beziers on the slope of an old volcano, Syrah is grown in the warm Mediterraean climate.

2019 Weinhaus Reh Kenderman Riesling Schiefer Steillage  €12.00

Kenderman is a family-owned German producer who has been making wine since 1920.  They have  four wineries in three key German wine regions, Mosel, Pfalz and Rheinhessen. Kenderman are one of the world’s largest distributor of German wines and they export to over  35 countries.  The Weinhaus Reh Kendermann featuring here today is part of their premium wine category.

This wine is made from the Riesling grape, the home of Riesling is Germany.  Young Riesling has aromas of honey and lemon backed by  a crisp acidity.  As Riesling  ages it will take on kerosene, or diesel aromas but the crisp style of citrus fruit will remain on the palate.  Riesling is a noble grape variety, it is capable of giving extraordinary results in depending on the location where it is produced it can vary in style.  For example, Riesling from the Mosel tends to have be a light tangy style of Riesling. German Rieslings are usually low in alcohol, so they make perfect wine  for drinking on a summer’s day. This wine has an ABV of 11.0%

Soil plays a major part in German wines, the vines grow on soils that have been formed over millions of years by physical and chemical weathering of rocks. The most frequently found soil types in German vineyards are slate, loess or limestone.  They are between 10,000 and 400 million years old. Each of these soil types has special properties which have a  particular influence on the grape variety which grows on it.

The slate on the Mosel's steep slopes produces delicious slate flavours with fruity acidity, this wine has Schiefer Steillage on the lable.  Schiefer refers to the slate soil which dates back to the Devonian era (350-400 million years ago). The Mosel is about as far north as grapes will grow and, in this cool climate, steep slopes (Steillage) and their angle to the sun help the grapes to ripen.  During the day the slate soil absorbs the heat of the day and retains is at night vines which helps with the ripening of the vines in this very northern cool climate wine region.

This wine is off-dry which means it retains a little of the original sweetness from the grapes, which rounds out the steeliness and softens out the character of the wine.

If you are a fan of blue cheese, then this is the perfect wine to serve with it.  Alternatively, this wine is made to go with a Thai Green Chicken Curry as the hint of sweetness that is part of the wine style will work perfectly with anything with a little spice or heat in it.  Alternatively, why not enjoy it as an Aperitif wine, perfect for summer drinking.

2019 Domaine de Sainte Marthe Syrah IGP Pays d’OC €10.00

Another family owned company, this time from France.  The Bonfils family have been making wine for six generations since 1870.  Today their wines are distributed in 42 countries and they have 17 estates, mostly in the south of France in the Languedoc region.  The Bonfils family are one of France’s largest independent wine growers, they farm 1,600 ha of vines in 17 Domaine and Chateau.  They have one estate in the Bordeaux region.

Our red today is part of the Bonfils estate from the Pays D’Oc  region in the Languedoc region now known as Occitanie.  This was the name used for this part of France during the middle ages.  Since 1st January 2016 it is the name that the regions formerly known as Languedoc Rousillion and Midi Pyrenees is once again known as.

This wine is a Vin de Pays,  a category of wine created in France in the 1970’s to encourage the production of wines that are a step up from basic table wine. In 2009, France registered their VDP wines with the European Union as IGP’s (Indication Géographique Protégée) in a nutshell if you see on a label it simply means quality wines from a specific region.

Domain de Sainte Marthe was constructed on the slopes of a dormant volcano.  The estate has 95 ha and the soil  structure that the grapes are grown on is  mainly basalt, marl and limestone.

The Syrah grape gives a deep coloured positively perfumed dry wine,  Syrah is one of a nobel black grape varieties, it produces serious red wines which are capable of ageing for decades.  Wines made from Syrah tend to produce dense, purple-coloured wines with rich, often spicy fruit flavours and are usually very tannic when young. Syrah gives flavours of blackcurrant, spice, pepper, mint and eucalyptus.  Syrah like all classic red grapes responds well to oak-ageing.

This is a classic warm climate Syrah wine, it has flavours of blackcurrant fruit, dark chocolate and a hint of spice.

Wine Diary:  https://jeansmullen.com/

 

12th June 2020: The difference between bitters

BITTER CONFUSION

There are some terms that are synonymous with beer.  Bitter (as a flavour) has to be either near the top of the list, or at it.  When it comes to talking about English Ale Styles, again the Bitter style comes out front.

Today, we will be tasting two bitters from York Brewery – Guzzler (an Ordinary Bitter) and Minster (a Best Bitter), and discussing and clearing up some of the confusion that surrounds the term ‘bitter’ as it pertains to beer.

Bitter as a Flavour –

In flavour terms, ‘bitter’ in beer is a very specific flavour.  I’m going to start with what it is not, and then discuss exactly what bitter is in flavour terms.  Later on, I will discuss how bitterness serves to provide balance in beer.

When somebody tastes lemon juice, they will often grimace and crunch up their face and exclaim ‘That is bitter’.  This is NOT bitterness.  I know that I am delving into the nether regions of beer geekery here, but bitterness is a very specific flavour in beer.  Quinine tonic water is bitter.  IPA’s are bitter.  Lemon juice is SOUR or acidic – a very different flavour.

Our tongue picks up five flavours – sweet, salt, savoury, sour/acidic and bitter.  Early on, flavour scientists ‘mapped out’ the tongue, identifying specific areas of the tongue that, supposedly, were individually responsible for detecting specific flavours.  In 1901, a German Scientist – David P. Hanig – investigated the sensitivity of different parts of the tongue to different flavours.  He found that the front or tip of the tongue was more sensitive to sweet flavours, the front/middle picked up saltiness better, sourness was detected more notably on the sides of the tongue, and bitterness was detected at the back of the tongue (savoury, or ‘umami’ – a Japanese term – is a ‘tongue flavour’ that has emerged more recently than 1901).

This idea of different parts of the tongue being responsible for different flavours was further developed in 1940 by a Harvard Psychology professor with the (perfectly ironic, for a social scientist) name of Edwin G. Boring.  Boring reimagined the concept of different parts of the tongue being responsible for different flavours into a ‘tongue map’ – with the tongue divided into different, labelled, geographic regions that were, supposedly, responsible for detecting different flavours.

This idea of a ‘tongue map’ has emerged from the work of Boring.  This concept has survived – probably because it is intuitive and appealingly simple to understand – been disputed, and is now particularly misunderstood.

Continuing our strangely appropriate trend of scientist names, in 1965 a surgeon named T.R. Bull called ‘bull’ on the idea of the tongue map.  There are two cranial nerves responsible for taste perception – the glossopharangeal nerve at the back of the tongue and the chordo tympani at the front.  Bull argued that, if different parts of the tongue were responsible for specific flavours, then damage to one or other of these nerves should nullify the person’s ability to taste that flavour.  Bull found that subjects who had their chordo tympani (the nerve linked to the front of the tongue) cut in a surgical procedure could still taste sweetness.  In a later experiment, Linda Bartoshuk from the University of Florida found that applying anesthesia to the chordo timpani nerve not only did not nullify the subject’s ability to taste sweetness, in fact people with their chordo tympani nerve anesthetised could taste sweetness more intensely.

So is Boring’s tongue map valid, or is it Bull?

We now know that our tongues have receptors spread across the tongue that are capable of tasting all five flavours associated with the tongue.  In fact, receptors for bitterness exist not only in the tongue, but extend down the digestive system all the way through to the anus.  So from this perspective, the idea of a tongue map – different parts of the tongue being responsible for detecting different flavours – has been spectacularly refuted.

However, before throwing the tongue map out with the bath of perfectly flavourful beer in which I have been resting while writing this, it is probably a good idea to take a step back and look at where each of our scientists were coming from.  Boring was a social scientist – a Psychology Professor – who was interested in perceptions of flavours.  Bull, on the other hand, was a medic – a surgeon.  Boring was most interested in what our brains were telling us about flavours, while Bull was interested in understanding how our body machine processed the information relating to these flavours. This is where the root of the confusion about the tongue map comes from.

We know that it is true that different parts of our tongue are more sensitive when detecting different flavours.  These different levels of sensitivity are associated with the different regions mapped out by Boring.  Furthermore, our brains tend to ‘attach’ a flavour to a part of our mouth – so while our entire tongues are capable of detecting flavours like bitterness, when we are seeking to perceive bitterness, our brains trigger the idea that the bitterness has been detected at that part of the tongue that is most sensitive to it – the back of the tongue.

In summary, looking at things from a medical point of view, the idea of the tongue map – that different parts of our tongue are responsible for detecting different flavours – has been entirely debunked.  However, when it comes to detecting flavours, the idea of a tongue map helps us understand the parts of our tongue that are more sensitive to particular flavours, and this can help us detect these flavours more readily

Perceiving Bitterness –

Our tongues have different types of receptors – tonic and phasic receptors.  Tonic receptors take a flavour and react slowly to this flavour.  They continue to react over a longer period of time, sending signals to the brain that the flavour is being detected.  Phasic receptors react quickly to a flavour, and the signal to the brain diminishes quite quickly.

The receptors for detecting bitterness are tonic receptors – the slow ones.

Taking what we know about the sensitivity of our tongue to different flavours, and putting with this the fact that the receptors that pick up bitterness are tonic – slow acting – receptors, we can work out the best way to pick up bitter flavour in beer.

Take a mouthful of beer.  Hold the beer at the back of your tongue for about fifteen to twenty seconds.  After holding the beer at the back of your tongue for this time, swallow the beer, and count to fifteen or twenty.  Think about the dominant flavour that emerges at the back of your tongue.  If bitterness is present as a flavour in the beer, this bitter flavour will be perceived using this method.

Bitterness in beer comes primarily from one of the elements of hops.  Alpha acids in hops are converted (isomerised) into isomerised alpha acids in the boil in the brewing process.  These isomerised alpha acids are both more soluble – meaning that they dissolve more easily into the beer liquid – and taste bitter.  The more iso-alpha acids there are in beer, the more (absolute) bitterness there is in the beer.  I.B.U.’s (or International Bitterness Units) are a measure of the concentration of isomerised alpha acids in beer.

 

Many brewers will now indicate the level of I.B.U.’s in their beer.  An American Lager will typically have a level around 8 to 12 I.B.U.’s – very low.  Some European lagers will have bitterness around 18 to 25 I.B.U.’s.  American Pale Ales might have bitterness levels between 30 and 50 I.B.U.’s and IPA’s can have bitterness in the region of 40 to 70 I.B.U.’s.  Note – these numbers are not absolute, but they are good indications of what is to be expected from each of these styles.

 

However, there is a difference between perceived bitterness and absolute bitterness.  I.B.U. measurements measure the absolute amount of isomerised alpha acids present in a beer that can deliver bitter flavour to the drinker.  However, the drinker will perceive this bitterness in the context of the other flavours present in the beer.

Sweetness and bitterness serve to balance eachother out.  Sweetness can be pleasant, but too much sweetness can be cloying.  Bitterness can be harsh or overpowering, but the right level of bitterness can provide a crisp drinkability to a beer.  The balance between sweetness and bitterness in a beer is the primary determinant of the level of perceived bitterness (and perceived sweetness) in a beer.

When a beer has a high level of bitterness, this bitterness will be perceived to be more intense if there is a low level of sweetness in the beer.  Increasing the sweetness will serve to reduce the intensity of the bitterness perception.  Likewise, a beer that is particularly sweet will have improved drinkability if this sweetness is appropriately balanced by bitterness.  This bitter-sweet balance is the balance that is most central to many styles of beers.

Perceived bitterness, therefore, is a function of the absolute amount of bitterness in the beer – the I.B.U.s in the beer – coupled with the amount of sweetness and the perception of sweetness in the beer (from residual sugars and potentially from other sources).  A beer can have a high level of absolute bitterness, but can be perceived to be not overly bitter.  Likewise, a beer can have a relatively low level of absolute bitterness, but can be perceived to be quite bitter if there is not a lot of sweetness there to balance the bitterness.

 

Bitter as a Style –

The phrase ‘a pint of Bitter’ is synonymous with the English pub.  While the style Mild was the predominant style in the U.K. up to the mid 1900’s, and while lagers now dominate the mainstream market, English bitter is the most popular traditional style of beer in England.

One would be forgiven for assuming that bitterness is the predominant flavour that one should expect from a ‘Bitter’.  However, such would not be an accurate assumption.  Most bitters are brewed to present as perfectly balanced beers, with the level of bitterness present designed to complement the malt character and to enhance the drinkability of the beer.

A ‘bitter’ is an English Pale Ale.  Colour for a Bitter can typically range from a rich gold to the lighter amber colours associated with pale beers.  When beer is brewed with lighter coloured malted barley – the colour of the beer comes primarily from the grains and malted barley used in brewing the beer – the flavours from these grains can be more delicate.  Dark grains used in the brewing of brown ales, red ales and stouts can deliver rich caramel, burnt sugar, and roast character to the beer.  In contrast, when a beer is brewed with paler malts, the grain flavours can come through as ‘grainy’, light honey and/or biscuit.

Sweetness in beer comes primarily from sugars that come from starches contained in grains used in brewing the beer.  These lighter coloured grains that qualify a bitter as part of the ‘Pale Ale’ family provide less intensity of grain flavour – and often less intensity of sweetness – to the beer.  Couple this with the fact that bitters are typically attenuated to a significant extent – the sugars that are generated from the grains in the mash tun are fermented out into alcohol to a notable extent causing the beer to have a relatively dry finish – and one has a beer with an absence of sweetness available in the beer to balance any bitterness that might be present.

The bitter style is divided on a ‘ladder’ of alcohol strengths.  Ordinary Bitters have an alcohol strength between 3.2% and 3.8% a.b.v.  Best Bitters range from 3.8% to 4.6%.  The top rung of the latter – Strong Bitters (previously knows as ‘Extra Special Bitters’ or E.S.B.’s, but now with a new name as ‘E.S.B. was claimed as a trademark by one London brewer) range from 4.6% to 6.2% a.b.v.

Bitters have a reasonable but not overpowering level of absolute bitterness present in the beer – 25 to 35 I.B.U.’s for Ordinary Bitters, through 25 to 40 I.B.U.’s for Best Bitters and 30 to 50 I.B.U.s for ‘Strong Bitters’.  In comparison to other darker (and, sometimes, sweeter) English ales the bitterness might be perceived more readily.  However, balance is the over-arching characteristic of an excellent English Bitter – enough bitterness to ensure drinkability and to balance the malt character of the beer, but not so much as to distract the beer drinker.

 

Guzzler –

Beer Style                   –  Ordinary Bitter

Alcohol by Volume    –  3.6% a.b.v.

Brewed by                   –  York Brewery

Brewed in                    –  York, England

With an a.b.v. of 3.6%, Guzzler from York Brewery qualifies as an ‘Ordinary Bitter’ – an English pale ale designed for everyday drinking that could very possibly be the lunch time beer of choice for farm labourers.  In Ireland – where mainstream beer norms have lead many people to expect beers to be 4.3% a.b.v. – 3.6% is a relatively low level of alcohol content.  With lower alcohol, the ratio of solid ingredients (malt and grains) to water tilts towards water, so the opportunity for the beer to have more flavour is lessened.  However, with Guzzler, York Brewery have done an excellent job in brewing a beer that delivers significantly above its alcohol strength both in terms of flavour and in terms of complexity.

Aromas for Guzzler combine grainy, biscuit malt flavours with floral, earthy hop character.  Rose petals and Turkish delight come through on the nose, and this combines with classic earthy English hop character.  A touch of citrusy grapefruit comes through from the hop flavour on tasting the beer.

Tasting this beer, the malt character develops.  Subtle honey combines with the grainy, biscuit malt character and powdery marshmallow is also in evidence in the foundations of the beer.  This beer is perfectly balanced with mild bitterness – just enough bitterness to balance the sweetness of the grain character, making the beer incredibly drinkable, but not enough for the bitterness of the beer to be a notably characteristic of the flavour.  Soft spice character – black and white pepper – emerge to provide further balance to the golden grain character.  The slightest hint of French cheese – camembert (a flavour developing from the English ale yeast used in brewing the beer) provides a barely perceptible note of complexity to the flavour of this beer.

Guzzler is eminently drinkable and intensely satisfying.  The complexity of the beer makes this everyday beer something that any beer connoisseur would particulary appreciate.  While, as the name suggests, the beer is easily quaffable (a ‘Guzzler’), there is much more flavour available in this beer that the 3.6% a.b.v. suggests should be there.  This is a beer that punches way above its weight – easily one could assume that this beer carries the character of a beer with 0.5% to 1.0% more alcohol.

Guzzler rounds out with a mild bitterness and a dry finish.  This is a superb English ale that originally started out as a seasonal for York Brewery but quickly, due to its popularity, has become part of York’s core range of beers.  Definitely one to hunt out!

 

Minster Ale –

Beer Style                   –  Ordinary Bitter

Alcohol by Volume    –  4.2% a.b.v.

Brewed by                   –  York Brewery

Brewed in                    –  York, England

At 4.2% a.b.v. Minster Ale fits into the ‘Best Bitter’ style of English pale ales.  While quite close in alcohol content to Guzzler, and given that Guzzler punches above its weight on flavour versus alcohol strength, Minster delivers a distinctly different flavour profile to the beer drinker.

As an English Pale Ale, Minster presents at the paler end of the pale ale spectrum with a straw gold colour.  Woodland and herbal aromas come thrugh from the hop character of this beer.  Earthy, minerally English hop character is very much in evidence.  The combination of flavours in this beer is quite delicate.  It is a complex beer with layers of flavour, but these flavours are subtle, well balanced, and emerge particularly as the beer opens up.

On tasting the beer, fruit flavours come through.  Plum – particularly appropriate for an English style – is the first fruit flavour that comes through, with the flavour of the beer evoking the idea of biting into a rich, purple, juicy plum, and tasting the slightly sweet, and distinctly ‘plummy’ yellow orange flesh of the fruit.  Peach or nectarine also develop in the flavour.

The grain foundation of this beer combines on initial impression of honeycomb with grainy character and cream cracker.  The bitterness of the beer is again present to balance the grain character of the beer rather than existing as a separate flavour dimension by itself.

Continuing to taste the beer, herbal character – thyme and allspice – come through, and the fruit flavour develops further.  The beer is mouthwatering, and the impression of watermelon and cucumber are evoked, combining with the aroma and flavour of nettles.  Subtle white and black pepper provide further balance in the beer.

Minster Ale finishes out with a dry character.

In Minster Ale, York Brewery have brewed a second English bitter with its own unique, and particularly delicious character.  On a side-by-side with Guzzler, these two beers are distinctly different examples of their respective styles, and two delicious representations of the bitter style family.  I would recommend hunting both out, and tasting them together if possible to see the variation and differences in character between the two beers.

 

 

29th May 2020: Australian wines from Lidl, with some delicious recipes to pair with them

Built on the pioneering spirit of Australia's early vignerons, the Australian wine industry with its 200-year heritage is now spread across all states and territories.  With a geographical size similar to Europe and with its own distinct climates, soils and terroirs, Australia now produces an increasingly diverse range of styles, flavours and grape varieties.  Australian wine is the second most popular country of origin on the Irish market.  Today on Movies & Booze we’re going to take a look at a few Australian wines, all currently available in Lidl.

2018 Lidl’s Premium Australian Chardonnay €7.99

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

Chardonnay was one of the original grape varieties brought to Australia in the 1820’s where it thrived in Australia’s warm climate. An experimental vineyard planted in 1908 in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney is now one of the oldest Chardonnay vineyards in the world.  Due to its adaptability, there's no one universal style. Australian Chardonnay tends to express the diversity of the people who craft the wines and the unique regional characteristics, depending on where the grapes are grown.

Lidl’s Chardonnay comes from grapes grown in Coonawarra in South Australia, where the vineyards are cooled by breezes from the Southern Ocean. This wine has lovely ripe tropical fruit aromas, with a hint of spice coming from the wood.  When tasted it has lovely melon and tropical fruit flavours with a hint of butter and a lovely touch of vanilla.  This wine would be lovely with roast or BBQ chicken but if you want to go for it and make a spicy chicken satay or curry or chicken with tarragon and spices, then there is enough weight of fruit and power  in this wine to stand up to any strong flavours such as  chilli or other spices.

For a dish to pair with the Coonawara Chardonnay available in Lidl store nationwide, why not try Prawns with clementine pomegranate and rosemary butter

300g of cooked prawns

Zest and juice of 2 clementines

1 sprig of rosemary finely chopped

2 spring onions finely chopped

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

The seeds and juice from 1 ripe pomegranate

125 g of butter

Salt and pepper

  • Melt the butter in a pan and add all the ingredients to it except the prawns
  • Once all is combined, add the prawns and heat through
  • Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices

For a video on how to cook this, click here

 

2018 Lidl’s Premium Australian Cabernet Sauvignon €8.99

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

Australia’s Limestone Coast extends from Cape Willoughby at the east end to the border with Victoria. The best-known Australian wine regions here have been designated as an Australian Geographical Indication (AGI) and the best known of these are Coonawarra and Pathaway.

This is premium wine country; viticulture has long been part of the tradition in this south east corner of South Australia. The first vineyard was planted there in 1860.  It has a maritime climate, it is famous for its 'terra rossa' or red soil, which adds to the quality of the grapes grown here.  Many of Australia's premium wines are born in the vineyards of Coonawarra.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the world's most renowned grape variety for the production of fine red wine.  What makes Cabernet Sauvignon remarkable to taste is the fact that over the centuries, Cabernet Sauvignon has developed a special affinity for oak barrels.  The particular appeal of Cabernet Sauvignon lies not so much in the primary fruit flavours but also in the flavour compounds that evolve when the wine is aged in wood.

Cabernet Sauvignon has a pronounced taste of blackcurrants, often with extra flavours of mint, herbs and cedar.  The wine is high in tannin which is what makes it  age so well. Cabernet Sauvignon is an extremely important grape especially when grown in quality wine regions such as Coonawarra.

Lidl’s Premimum Cabernet Sauvignon is a very fruit forward style of red wine, you get the lovely blackcurrant fruit showing through and a nice wedge of firm tannin.  This is a great wine to match with any sort of meat dish, especially with a Sunday roast, of lamb or beef.  This is a very drinkable good value Australian Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the country’s best-known wine regions.

For a dish to pair with the Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon available in Lidl store nationwide

This is quick easy and very satisfying, with big bold flavours, just what my cooking is all about.

Serves 4

14 cooked new potatoes (650g) skin on and cut in half

Half a chorizo sausage (125g) peeled and cut into chunks

2 red onions (280 g) peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic (10g) peeled and chopped

1/2 packet(100g) baby leaf spinach

A splash of olive oil

I180g goats cheese sliced thickly.

Salt and pepper

  • Heat the oil and add the potatoes, cook for 3 -4 minutes on a medium heat then add the onions and garlic, followed by the chorizo a minute later
  • If the mixture looks a little on the dry side add another splash of olive oil.
  • Cook everything for 5 -6 more minutes turning occasionally then add the spinach and seasoning
  • Serve hot with the goats cheese on top which should start to melt into the salad.

For a video on how to cook this, click here

2017 Lidl’s Premium Australian Shiraz €8.99

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

Australia had its biggest vintage for 10 years in 2017, the only major producing country globally to have a decent harvest.  Europe if  you remember in 2017  had a huge drought and vines struggled in the heat.

The Syrah/Shiraz  grape is very distinctive, it is dry, dark and dense with lots of blackcurrant fruit, firm tannin and a hint of pepperiness.   In Australia the grape is known as Shiraz and today it

is the red grape variety most associated with Australia and was probably brought there by horticulturist James Busby in 1832.  Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s best-known red wine regions.  This small  hilly region north of Adelaide has become one of the world’s best-known red wine regions of the modern era.

Barossa is not your average Australian region; it has a range of microclimates that includes a good amount of seasonal rainfall.  It has mild daytime temperatures and is cool at night. Some of Australia’s greatest wines made from the Shiraz grape are produced here.  Shiraz has been grown in Barossa since the mid-19th century.

The Lidl Premium Australian Shiraz has tons of blackcurrant fruit backed by a touch of vanilla with a little chocolate twist.  It is full bodied and the earthy hint of bell pepper also shows through.  I love the slightly spicy finish.  This wine would be perfect with steak cooked on a barbeque.

Wine Diary https://jeansmullen.com/

22nd May 2020: Ciders to enjoy in the sunshine

While Irish Summers are never what one could call reliable, the first suggestions that we might get some sunny days have come, and with them comes the inexorable move towards the cider season.  Cider is a delicious drink year round, but seems to be particularly popular when the weather is warm.

Today we are tasting two craft ciders, and discussing what the difference is between mainstream and craft cider.  Our ciders for today are Hogan’s Killer Sharp and Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider.

Craft Cider –

The term ‘craft’ is so over-used these days as to have become almost meaningless.  I believe that the straw that broke the camels back for me might have been when I saw McDonald’s arguing that their burger range was ‘crafted’.  Perhaps ‘artisan’ would be a better term.  In any event, there is a need for  a term to distinguish beers and ciders that have been made with artistry and panache from mass market, mainstream drinks.  Craft or Artisan – take your pick.

In cider terms, the definition of a ‘craft’ cider is just as challenging as it can be in brewing terms.  Attempts have been made to define craft cider in terms of juice content of the cider – but some ciders naturally lend themselves to being made with a lower percentage of apple juice, so challenges can emerge.  Some craft cider makers make ciders with 60% to 70% juice content – still way higher than the 30% to 35% prevalent with mass market ciders.  Fermenting apple juice to dryness can result in a liquid with anywhere between 7% and 10% a.b.v., so if the cider maker is seeking to make a cider with a more ‘normal’ level of 5% a.b.v., use of 100% apple juice simply will not work.  The result cannot be achieved without using ‘brook apples’ – to bring down the alcohol content to a more normal level.

In my mind, craft ciders are ciders where the artistry of the cider maker shines through.  This can be in the selection of the particular blend of apples used in making their cider.  It can be used in the application of traditional or creative cider making processes.  It can be in the maintenance of heritage and tradition in the cider making art – foregoing modern approaches that might reduce costs, but which might threaten the quality and purity of the cider that results.

Both of our ciders today reflect what I believe are central virtues that belong in craft cider.  The first cider – Hogan’s Killer Sharp – brings sour fermentation to cider, and integrates a complexity of mouthwatering acidic flavours into the cider, resulting in a truly refreshing artistic masterpiece of a cider.  Cockagee revives a traditional cider making process that would have died out in Ireland. This process – keeving – resulted in ciders that were exported from Ireland to France fifty years before Guinness was ever exported, and in ciders that commanded prices that were many multiples higher than some of the finest French wines.

Cider making is an art.  Cider making can also be a mass market process resulting in a basic liquid sold through heavy investment in image development and marketing.  True cidermakers would argue that many of the mass market ciders available should not qualify as ‘cider’ – but this argument would be hard to sustain given that society at large is not open to having their mind changed.  However, true artisan cidermakers deserve to have their craft – or artisan – ciders distinguished from mass market ciders, as the quality of the liquid is simply streets apart.

 

Hogan’s Killer Sharp –

Cider Style                  -  Sour / Brett Fermented Cider

Alcohol by Volume    -  5.8% a.b.v.

Made by                      -  Hogan’s Cidery

Made in                       -  Warwickshire, England

In any tasting note for a cider, the word ‘apple’ is inevitably going to appear – with an alcoholic drink that is focused around fermenting apple juice, this is probably inevitable.  However, Hogan’s Killer Sharp brings layers of complexity to the flavour – driven by the fact that the cider is fermented with Brettanomyces (or ‘Brett’).

In the past, we have reviewed sour beers on Movies and Booze.  There are various ways in which sour beers are brewed – ranging from spontaneous fermentation, a la lambics to mixed fermentation, a la Flanders Red.  With most beers, the beer is fermented with a particular family of yeast – saccharomyces cerevisiae if it is an ale, or saccharamoyces uvarum if it is a lager.  Sour beers allow wild yeasts and other unusual microorganisms to get involved in the fermentation, and the resulting flavours can be diverse and surprising.

No different with a sour cider.  Hogan’s Killer Sharp is fermented with Brettanomyces – a particular family of micro-organisms associated with sour fermented beverages and which can give mouthwatering acidity and distinctive flavours to the cider.  Killer Sharp has a foundation of sweet apple juice combining tannic dryness, but integrated into this flavour is a distinctive acidity.  Citric sourness – in the form of lemon juice – combines with tart gooseberry/rhubarb flavours and a touch of acetic malt vinegar.  A note of apple cider vinegar develops in the finish.  These flavours can sound unusual in the context of a cider – and it is true to say that Hogan’s Killer Sharp stands out from other ciders – but the complexity of flavours works particularly well.

While the sour character of Killer Sharp is very evident, it is superbly well integrated into the flavour of the cider.  Citric lemon becomes a counterpoint to the apple flavour of the cider, and the rhubarb and gooseberry flavours provide further dimensions to the fruit flavour.  The mouthwatering acidity balances the sweetness of the apple juice.  The tannic dryness of the finish is quite unusual – at the same time as balancing the sweetness of the cider, it also is quite unusual to experience a liquid with a dry finish while at the same time finding that this liquid is causing your mouth to water profusely due to the sour acidic character of the drink.

 

Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider –

Cider Style                  -  Keeved Cider

Alcohol by Volume    -  5.0% a.b.v.

Made by                      -  The Cider Mill

Made in                       -  Slane, County Meath, Ireland

Keeving is a traditional cidermaking process that was prevalent in Ireland, the U.K. and France, but which had all but died out in two of these three countries.  The French have maintained keeving as part of their cider-making process – it is more likely that a French cider will be keeved than otherwise – but the practice has all but died out in England.  Some craft cidermakers are reviving keeving in the U.K.  In Ireland, Mark Jenkinson has revived keeving in Ireland in the form of Cockagee Cider.

Bittersweet and Bittersharp apple varieties are used as the base ingredient for Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider.  Such apples contain enzymes that are critical to the process involved in keeving.

Keeving is the very definition of an artisan cider-making process.  Where normally with cider apples are washed, milled and pressed to achieve apple juice for fermentation, in keeving this process is separated.  Apples are washed and milled to a pulp, and this pulp is then held overnight.  The maceration of the pulp overnight allows contact between the fruit flesh and skin, and triggers an action of enzymes within the pulp.  On the following day, the pulp is pressed to achieve juice.

Wild yeast starts a very slow fermentation, and natural pectins in the apples separate out and are brought to the surface of the liquid by CO2 bubbles from the fermentation.  A film of gel forms on the surface of the liquid which brings with it various substances that cause cloudiness in the juice.  The result is a brilliant clear liquid under this ‘chapeau brun’ or ‘flying lees’.  The bright liquid is decanted from the chapeau brun for fermentation.  Where there is discussion about whether cider should contain 100% apple juice or whether cider with 60% juice should still qualify, Jenkinson of Cockagee proudly proclaims that Keeved cider is effectively 110% juice.  While mathematically this does not make sense, only apple juice is used in making keeved cider, and the separation of the chapeau brun from the bright liquid means that a starting volume of 110 litres of juice gives a finishing volume of 100 litres of cider – hence 110% apple juice.

Fermentation in the keeving process is very slow – lasting over an 8 to 12 month period, and carefully managed by the cider maker.  Fermentation is spontaneous.

What is the result of this complex process?  Keeved ciders can range from ciders where the natural apple juice character of the cider dominates to ones where funky flavours from the mixed fermentation stand out.  Cockagee is the former – the flavours of apple in this cider are rich and full.  Body and mouthfeel are velvety, as the natural fruit apple sweetness of the cider combines with a complexity of proteins from the apples.  Cockagee is balanced with drying tannins.  The finish rounds out with a light white pepper spiciness.  Overall, this is a truly delicious cider for which its artisan credentials shine through.

8th May 2020: New wines from Sarah Jessica Parker and Sting

The number of celebrity-branded wines has grown steadily in the past few decades, from just a few brands in the 1970s to several hundred today (the celebrity wine industry is now worth more than $50 million in the US alone). Roughly speaking,  'celebrity winemakers' fall into two categories: those who establish their own winery and those who contract an established winery to produce a wine to their specifications. The long-established member of the first category and probably the best know is  Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola,  , who bought the Niebaum Winery in Napa Valley in 1975 and went on to make his first vintage Rubicon in 1978 with help from Robert Mondavi.

Today celebrities from many arenas have their own wines to sell.  Sports stars, rock stars, film stars and musicians.  Sports stars include golfer Greg Norman and the cricket player, Ian Botham.  From the world of rock AC/DC, Madonna, Boz Scaggs, Mick Hucknell and of course Sting whose wine we are featuring this afternoon.   Film stars include Sam Neill, Dan Ackroyd, Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich.  Best known from the television world are Graham Norton and Sarah Jessica Parker whose wine is the first to be shown on today’s Movies & Booze.

2019 Sarah Jessica Parker Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc €18.00

(on offer at €15.00) 

Stockists:  Off licenses nationwide

Sarah Jessica Parker is no stranger to Ireland, she and her family own a holiday home in Kilcar in Donegal which she visits regularly.  Today we are featuring her latest venture her own wine label which has just been launched on the Irish market.  The SJP Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is produced in collaboration with New Zealand winery Invivo.

Invivo has been described as “New Zealand’s most innovative winery.” Founded in 2008 by school friends Tim Lightbourne and winemaker Rob Cameron, Invivo set out to make great wine without the elitist attitude the industry can be known for, they believe that nothing should stand in the way of a great drink. 12 years later, the formula has been a success, with their wines receiving over 200 international wine show medals, distribution in 16 countries and sales of over 3,000,000 bottles.  Invivo also works in partnership with Graham Norton.

The wine is a collaboration project and Sarah Jessica Parker has been working with Invivo and has been involved in every aspect of the new wine, from the winemaking itself to choosing the final blend, as well as the brand name, and the label design

Invivo winemaker Rob Cameron said  “This wine is 100% Sarah Jessica Parker. So other than selecting the base wines for the Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé,  we have taken a back seat and we let her create the blends”. The blending, tasting and adjusting involve the same process followed by any winemaker the blend was chosen by SJP with the final production overseen by Invivo

So what of the wine?  Well it’s a very well made Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region in the south island.  It has lovely tropical fruit notes, mango and pineapple and it is a level up in quality terms.  There are lots of ripe tropical fruit nuances and on the palate the wine  has some depth and complexity.

 

2018 Message in a Bottle IGT Toscana €24.00

Stockists :  Off licenses nationwide

Our second celebrity wine is produced at the Tuscan estate owned by British singer-songwriter Sting and his wife Trudie Styler. The couple have been producing wine for the last 21 years at their Tenuta Il Palagio winery in Tuscany, which is also their family’s summer home. The 16th century,  350-hectare estate was purchased by them in 1999 and the entire estate has been replanted, refurbished is now run biodynamically.

Wines has been made on the Il Palagio estate since the mid-1500s Sting and Trudie have gone to great lengths to keep the tradition alive they produce four Tuscan reds,  Sister Moon, When We Dance, Casino Delle Wie, which means “little house by the roads” and the wine we are featuring today Message in a Bottle.

When Sting wrote his iconic song Message in a Bottle, he sang of the universal human need to connect, never more apparent during this time of Covid. The wine is made by their winemakers Daniel O’Donnell and Paolo Caciorgna,  and is a Tuscan Indicazione Geografica Tipica, in theory 'simple' table wine but with a geographical description and (optionally) specification of vintage and grape variety.  In practice the category is much used for all wines, of whatever quality level, that do not fit the local DOC criteria.

This wine is a blend of Sangiovese 70%, Syrah 15% and Merlot 15%, and has been aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.  Sangiovese is the native grape of Tuscany and the most important when it comes to producing Chianti.  It is not unlike Pinot Noir in style, in that it produced a lighter fresher style of red wine.  Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavours of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavours when aged in barrels.  This wine is chocolaty with red fruit flavours, it has a hint of spice and lovely integrated tannin, there is also a subtle sweetness on the finish which makes it very appealing.

WINE DIARY https://jeansmullen.com/

1st May 2020: Happy Sauvignon Blanc Day!

The grape with “rock star” credentials these days, must surely be Sauvignon Blanc.  It even has its own day, which rotates on an annual basis.  Today, on 1st May, 2020 we celebrate the 11th Annual Sauvignon Blanc Day.   In honour of the occasion, here on Movies & Booze we are featuring two white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc.  The first comes from Sancerre a French AOP in the Loire Valley and the second from Marlborough on New Zealand’s south island.

No other grape seems to garner the support of the wine trade quite like Sauvignon, no other grape gathers so much derision either. Oz Clarke summed this up, he described wines made from Sauvignon as “the wine, wine snobs can’t bear”.. Why?  Because this is the wine a generation of fans seeks out for its ripe distinct flavours and aromas.  The best Sauvignon Blanc does not have to be expensive or complex it entertains with its attitude.

If you are going to enjoy a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc today then tag them using #NZWine and #SauvBlancDay.

2019 Vignoble Dauny Sancerre €19.95

Stockists:  Independent Off Licences

The home of Sauvignon Blanc is the Loire Valley, here Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 16% of their total grape production, or 32% of all Sauvignon Blanc planted in France. The Sancerre vineyards lie on the left bank of the Loire north east of Bourges.

Grapes have been grown in Sancerre since 582. In the 12th century, the vineyards developed significantly under the auspices of the Augustine monks. At the time, Sancerre produced a famous red wine made mainly from Pinot Noir, however when phylloxera struck at the end of the 19th century, many of the vineyards were destroyed and were subsequently replanted with Sauvignon Blanc, a grape particularly well-suited to the region’s soil and climate. Sancerre white was granted AOP status in 1936; then in 1959, the AOP was extended to include reds and rosés made from Pinot Noir.

The vineyards that produce this wine, Les Caillottes, are notably pebbly with chalky (limestone) subsoils, which you can taste in the wine. Christian Dauny Sancerre Blanc is absolutely classic Sancerre with an abundance of all the flavours that you would expect, grassy and pure. This wine is also produced organically. It is classic, grassy Sancerre  lively, vibrant and full of citrus fruit with an edge of minerality showing through that adds a lovely lean character to the finish.

2019 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc €15.00

This Sauvignon Blanc is currently on offer at €11.00

Stockists:  Independent Off Licences you can also buy it on-line at www.WinesOfTheWorld.ie

From a single vineyard planted almost sixty years ago in1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria was created and today it is still family owned.  Villa Maria has been New Zealand's leading wine award winner, both nationally and internationally since the early 1980's.  Villa Maria is still the number one New Zealand wine brand in the Irish market and Drinks International voted Villa Maria  New Zealand’s Most Admired Wine Brand last year.

Interestingly enough from a Movie perspective Villa Maria have just released a feature length documentary called Vintage, in collaboration with American film maker, Colin West.  It was shown in Dublin recently at the Stella in Ranelagh.  The documentary features the beautiful landscapes and vineyards of the Marlborough region and the work of Nick Picone, Villa Maria’s chief winemaker. Colin West follow the wine making team for 40 days and the film gives a unique insight into the realities of wine making.  If you want to watch it is currently available on Virgin Media 3 or Amazon Prime.

Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most widely planted grape variety. The Marlborough region was first planted 142 years ago, yet it is only a mere 30 years since Cloudy Bay put New Zealand on the global wine map in 1986.   Today Sauvignon Blanc is firmly established as New Zealand’s flagship wine with international demand increasing every year.  Today it accounts for 66% of New Zealand’s total wine production.

Pungently aromatic, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc assails the senses with red capsicum (bell peppers) and gooseberry characters, lush passionfruit and tropical fruit notes.  Fresh cut grass, tomato stalk and lime flavours added to the mix give this wine style its enormous appeal.

Virtual Wine Tastings

Lockdown has created a new wine genre. Virtual wine tastings.  They are springing up all over the place.  They are a great way to pass a few hours, if you want to learn more about wine.  Details of current tastings are now available on the wine diary at https://jeansmullen.com/

 

24th April 2020: Classic beer styles

Sometimes a term in beer literally ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’.  The term ‘session’ is one of those – it is applied to a beer when the beer is designed to drink in a ‘session’, or to drink a number of beers rather than just one.

The IPA style is the most popular style of craft beer in the world.  It is not surprising that the IPA style has been stretched in various different directions by brewers looking to brew creative adaptations of the style.  Today, we are comparing one of these IPA variations – the ‘Session IPA’ with a classic IPA.

Variations of the IPA Style –

One can take a ‘paint by numbers’ approach to beer styles, and sometimes when brewers seek to stretch creativity with a beer style, this is exactly what they do!  They take the core elements of the style, and look at varying one or more of these core elements to come up with a variation on the style.

The classic India Pale Ale style has three core elements that define the style.  At the dead centre of the style, an IPA is a hop-forward beer – hops are a central flavour characteristic of the style.  Brewers have varied the hops used in brewing IPA’s to give different sub-styles – we get American IPA’s (which are brewed with American hops) or English IPA’s (brewed with English hops).  Getting more specific, we get West Coast IPA’s (brewed using hops that were popularised on the West Coast of the U.S.A.) and more recently New England IPA’s (where the hops are used in brewing practices that has resulted in the development of a fruity, relatively low bitterness style of IPA which emerged in New England in the U.S.A.

The ‘Pale’ in India Pale Ale has been stretched in so many directions that people describing the style now purposefully shorten it to IPA.  Given that brewers have brewed Black IPA’s, Brown IPA’s and Red IPA’s, it is hard to highlight the idea that these are ‘black’, ‘brown’ or ‘red’ PALE ales.  Pale gives the idea that the beer is golden in colour, or at most amber.  Stretching the IPA style has even given rise to people renaming the Black IPA to account for the dichotomy in the name – some call Black IPA’s Cascadian Dark Ales (after Cascade hops which are popularly used in the style).

The third letter of the IPA – ‘A’ – stands for Ale.  This too has been stretched.  India Pale Lagers (IPL’s) are one of the results, with lager yeast substituted for ale yeast in the brewing of the beer.  The result is a cleaner fermentation character in the India Pale Lager as compared to an IPA, with the result that the hop flavour can be more prevalent.  However, the interaction of hops and yeast can also cause the flavour from a specific hop to be quite notably different in an IPA as compared to an IPL – for example, ale yeast’s propensity to develop fruit flavours during fermentation can mean that the fruit essential oils from some hops can morph during fermentation giving fantastic tropical fruit flavours.

 

Given the origins of the style, the hops in an IPA helped to preserve the beer on the long sea voyage from England to the Indian colonies (hence the ‘India’ in India Pale Ale).  A second characteristic of the classic IPA was a relatively high alcohol content (at least by today’s standards).  Classic IPA’s are typically 5.5% a.b.v. to 7.5% a.b.v.   The style has been stretched in two directions.  Imperial IPA’s (or ‘Double I’ PA’s) stretch the alcohol strength upwards – it is not unusual for a Double IPA to stretch anywhere from 7.5% a.b.v. up to 10% a.b.v.  Likewise, Session IPA’s can range from 3.5% a.b.v. to 5.5% a.b.v., and sometimes lower than this range.

Varying the alcohol content in a beer can impact the character of the beer.  Alcohol contributes fullness and richness to the body of a beer.  It also carries flavour, so the flavours that one perceives in a higher alcohol beer can be fuller as well.

Reducing the alcohol content has an effect in the other direction, and it can make the beer more ‘sessionable’ in more ways than one.  In Ireland, when one thinks of a ‘session’, often people think of it in terms of consuming an above average quantity of alcohol.  Somewhat ironically, when ‘session’ is used in beer styles it refers to a situation where somebody can consume more liquid while consuming less alcohol relative to the amount of liquid consumed – the alcohol by volume percentage in the beer is lower.

By reducing the flavour carrying power of the beer, reducing alcohol content can also make a beer less satiating and more refreshing.  If the goal is for the beer to be a ‘session’ style beer, this it makes perfect sense to have a beer that does not overwhelm the drinker with flavour to the point where they feel that they simply have had enough after one glass.

When brewing a beer, one of the most critical elements of success is maintaining balance in the beer.  If alcohol content is reduced, so too is the amount of grains used relative to the amount of water used in brewing the beer.  When brewing a session IPA, the brewer has to cleverly balance the extent to which they want hops to be prevalent in the beer with the available ‘balancing power’ of malt flavours in the beer.  When a brewer is brewing a classic IPA, the IPA can have lots of hop character.  This hop character can contribute sweetness, which can serve to balance hop bitterness, be balanced by hop spice character and complement fruit flavours in hops.  If the malt character in the beer is reduced – as is the case with a session IPA – so too does the brewer need to manage the level of hop character in the beer so that balance is maintained.

Commuter Session IPA –

Beer Style                   -  Session American IPA

Alcohol by Volume    -  4.1% a.b.v.

Brewed by                   -  Hop City Brewing Company

Brewed in                    -  Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Commuter Session IPA pours with a deep golden colour and a white/off white head.  Straight away, the hop character in the beer is unmistakeable in the initial aromas.  Delicious tropical fruit and citrus fruit are quickly in evidence on the nose, with a background suggestion of hop spice (white pepper).  Sweet mandarin orange aromas come through as both fruit and sweet orange juice / tropical fruit juice aroma.

On tasting the beer, the hop fruit flavour follows through and grows in complexity.  Sweet mandarin orange (from the similarly named ‘Mandarina’ hops) is present, but it is coupled with cantaloupe melon, honeydew melon, golden delicious apple and stone fruit flavours.  The fruit sweetness in the beer is balanced by hop bitterness which is present to enhance drinkability, but not so assertive as to dominate the flavour of the beer.

The finish of the beer is crisp and refreshing – keeping with the ‘session’ of Session IPA.  The body of the beer is light, carbonation, contributes to this crispness, and the fruit flavour finishes relatively quickly with a mouth watering character.

 

Hopbot IPA –

Beer Style                   -  Classic American IPA

Alcohol by Volume    -  7.1% a.b.v.

Brewed by                   -  Hop City Brewing Company

Brewed in                    -  Brampton, Ontario, Canada

When looking at the presentation of Hopbot IPA, its appearance is similar to Commuter IPA.  Burnished gold colour with a white/off-white head.

Aromas are quite similar – with IPA’s, hop aroma is a key characteristic of the beer.  However, the fruit aromas for Hopbot IPA lean more towards slightly richer tropical fruit aromas complemented by citrus aroma.  The more substantial malt character is evident in background aromas behind the hops.  Hop spice in the form of white pepper and allspice is also in evidence in the aroma.

Straight away on tasting Hopbot, the greater substance in the beer is in evidence.  Richer malt character comes through as toasty bread character coupled with sweet malt, malt honeycomb character.  The fruit and spice of the hops follows through on the flavour, with stone fruit (peach /  apricot), tropical fruit (guava, lychee) and citrus fruit (pineapple, grapefruit, lime) all present.  The juiciness of the beer comes through as an almost chewy juiciness – almost reminiscent of the flavour of fruit pulp.

The finish of the beer is richer.  Substantial bitterness is present to provide balance, but this bitterness, while assertive provides balance, and is properly balanced by the sweetness of the beer.

 

 

End of Notes.

10th April 2020: Delicious wine to pair with your Easter lamb

Easter is here and for everyone it is going to be unlike any Easter we have ever had before.  A glance at social media shows that food and drink is keeping the nation sane in these days of isolation.  Work is cancelled, schools are shut and socialising is not allowed, so everyone is cooking to pass the time.  The latest social media trend is menu envy and bottle brag, the communal practice of sharing wine and food with friends continues and many wine lovers are reviving family recipes and opening a bottle to match.  They share the experience live with friends via social media, no safer way to party these days!  Today on Movies & Booze we are going to recommend two wines from Lidl to enjoy with your Easter Sunday dinner, whether alone or online!

2019 Pinot Gris (Gisborne) €8.99

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

Gisborne, situated on the hilly East Cape of New Zealand’s north Island is their third largest wine region.  Gisbourne is one of the sunniest regions in New Zealand and is usually one of the first regions to start harvesting.  Because of their proximity to the sea, many of the vineyards in the area are influenced by sea breezes which cool down the temperates in the vineyards.  Gisbourne is also quite a wet region,  they have high rainfall levels.  The region is best know for white grapes, especially Chardonnay which grows extremely well here.   They produce a range of very good “drink young” wines made from Chardonnay, Viognier,  Gewurtztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Semillion and of course Pinot Gris.

Lidl’s Gisborne Pinot Gris is new to their core range, which means it will be available all year round.

This is a very drinkable white wine, with lots of ripe tropical fruit flavours.  The wine has a slight pink tinge, which is what you would expect from wines made from this grape, one of its parents was the red Pinot Noir grape and the skin of this grapehas a touch of pink in its colour.    Pinot Gris is a full bodied white wine style.  Its tropical fruit flavours can be quite lush with peachy flavours and tropical melon fruits and it can sometimes have a hint of ginger spice.

The grape belongs to the Pinot family  (it is widely cultivated in Italy where it is known as Pinot Grigio), the grape has been widely planted in New Zealand since 1995 and Gisbourne and Central Otago are the two New Zealand wine regions best known for this grape.

New Zealand Pinot Gris is not like Italian Pinot Grigio, it tends to have riper more lush flavours and a lovely richness, this classic cool climate grape is very versatile and is a great match with a wide range of food styles.  For white wine drinkers who are

This medium bodied Pinot Gris would be a perfect match with roast turkey, if that is your choice for this year’s Easter Sunday dinner.   It will also be perfect with any sort of fish, so if you are having a salmon mousse starter then that will work, or even better with garlic prawns.  For white wine drinkers cooking spring lamb, it will also work as a food match.

The wine has ripe tropical pronounced peach fruit flavor with a hint of white flowers, it is quite full bodied and would also be perfect as an aperitif wine.

 

2017 Saint Emilion Grand Cru €14.99

Stockists:  Lidl, Nationwide

Saint Emilion,  a small medieval town on the east bank of the Gironde River in Bordeaux is renowned as much for its beautiful buildings and scenery as for its wine.   The town has wonderful steep, narrow, cobbled streets, and a huge Romanesque church with the iconic 13th-century Tour du Roy tower.   Here the Merlot grape is king and in most of the wine blends produced on this side of the river, Merlot dominates.

This was a gold medal winner at the 2019 Berliner Wein Trophy Competition, which I took part in, one of a panel of 130 international wine judges.  Lidl’s Saint Emilion Grand Crus is part of their core range, which means it is be available all year round.

Younger St Emilion wines tend to have a lot of fruit and so it can be served with poultry and that includes turkey! This is a very soft easy drinking style of red from the Bordeaux region of France.  Grand Cru means that the vineyard sites where the grapes for this wine are grown are some of the best in the region.   Lidl’s Saint Emilion Grand Cru has lovely spicy aromas of cloves with hints of mocha or coffee on the nose.  When you taste it, the Plum fruit dominates and it also has hints of spice and lovely soft approachable tannin. It is a very approachable red and would be a great choice for anyone serving lamb this weekend as it goes particularly well with red meat.  So why not match  this with traditional leg of lamb, roasted with rosemary and garlic and served with a selection of veg and roast potatoes.

Or if you prefer, you can wait until the end of the meal, and match it with a selection of mature cheese such as Vintage Irish cheddar or Comte or an aged Emmental served on crackers.

Wine Diary: https://jeansmullen.com/

 

3rd April 2020: Spectacular, opulent and polished wines to spruce up your quarantine

Tomas Clancy reviews Mas de la Dame, Cuvée Gourmande Blanc 2015 and Bodegas Condado de Haza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain 2016

Mas de la Dame, Cuvée Gourmande Blanc 2015

Pricing: €17.95 down from €19.50

Available: Online for zero contact

Mas De La Dame is run jointly by two sisters Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Misoffe both winemakers  in the very strange and remote Mas de la Dame in the heart of France's most mystical Provence village Les Baux de Provence.

The winery was painted by Van Gogh, written about by Simone de Beauvoir and mentioned by Nostrodamus

It is surrounded by Saint Remy de Provence, a little known landlocked nation state, an enclave of Monaco... It is Monaco's Billionaire's secret summer retreat. Crammed with high end shops, restaurants and rare tiny boutique wineries like this one Mas de La Dames.

The estate was founded by the sisters great, great grandfather and is planted on a beautiful, site, warmed in the evening by the heat given off from the white walled cliffs of Les Baux to their north and bathed in cooling sea breezes to their south near Arles and the Bouches de Rhone.

The wine is an exotic blend of Semillon and Clairette, giving it a white, perfumed floral note with a warm lavender heathery hint, then a dab of lime and oil and glossy richness towards the finish.

 

Bodegas Condado de Haza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain 2016

Pricing : around €25

Available : Independent off license  - online for zero contact

The story of the Ribera del Duero is a strange tale of EU policy, Sugar Beat and the Spanish Royal family. Ribera del Duero is a very high plateau located about an hour and half north of Madrid. It was until the 1950s a hard to get to location that proved of interest to several groups including winemakers at the end of the 19th century.

Just like in Rioja, Ribera was too high to have been completely damaged by the vine plague Phylloxera and so a few wealthy wine lovers planted new vineyards and founded Bodegas. The most famous of which was Vega Sicilia founded by members of the Royal Family.

Their wine was excellent but they did not sell it commercially.

In the 1940s and early 1950s Ribera’s biggest crop was sugar beat, allowing a state run sugar making industry. When Spain joined the EU the UK insisted that Ireland and Spain stop subsidising their sugar beat industries and they did. In Ireland we close down Carlow, in Spain angrily they switched to growing grapes as here and making wine.

Dismissed as poor everyday quaffing wine, Fernandez showed them with Condado de Haza that the terroir was so good anyone applying effort could make great wine.

This wine shows how right he was offering as it does opulent, spicy Tempranillo with super ripeness, yet a savoury alluring finish that yearns to be a fine dining companion.

Even better while Rioja’s top wines and peers from Bordeaux and Tuscany have become wildly expensive, Ribera wines, while not cheap remain benchmarks for excellence at fair pricing.

20th March 2020: A robust, easy drinking, gloriously ripe charmer 

Tomas Clancy reviews Ecuyer de Cournneau, Chateau Cournneau, AC Bordeaux Superior 2017 and

 

Ecuyer de Cournneau, Chateau Cournneau, AC Bordeaux Superior 2017

Pricing : €15.50 down from €19.50

Available : Independent wine shops nationwide.

This is a very well made, fruity and quite moody wine. It is a wine to be enjoyed now, in its youth, rather than wait for the tannins to cool or soften. It is a quite robust and rustic wine.

Ecuyer means, squire, a young and lower order nobleman, a Knights personal assistant in a way.

This wine is made at the fully biodynamic Chateau Cournneau, which is also Demeter certified, the most taxing of all organic certification that requires a commitment to making your estate a functioning ecosystem, so no chemicals, but also making your own fertilizer from cows and sheep, which you must raise too.

All this they ruthlessly adhere to at this 600 year old winery founded by French explorer Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada, and his family. Today it is run by the Piat family.

The chateau is located on the unfashionable for wine Dordogne region, and so despite being breathtakingly beautiful, with a proper turreted castle and langerous driveways, it has never broken through into the fine wine icons and remains well priced at all quality levels.

This is a bargain in the current sale price and can be delivered nationwide, but in the current unsettled times can be dropped to your door in a health and safety compliant manner if you live nearby Terroirs.

A robust, easy drinking, gloriously ripe dark fruited charmer.

20th March 2020: Beer for your skype pints

Dean McGuinness, the Beer messiah reviews Bitburger Triple Hopped

For the last couple of weeks, I have been reading an excellent new book by Mark Dredge – A Brief History of Lager.  My reading of this book coincided with my getting to taste an excellent collaboration beer from Bitburger (collaborating with Sierra Nevada) that was particularly relevant to my new book.  At the time, I thought it would make for an interesting topic for the next Movies and Booze – so today, we are tasting Bitburger Triple Hop (a collaboration with Sierra Nevada), and the original German Pilsner – Bitburger.

Since deciding that this would be the theme for today’s show, events in the world have drastically changed.  As I was thinking about the idea of doing a collaboration beer today, it occurred to me that the whole idea of collaborations was particularly relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves.  So as well as looking at the history of lager that has lead us to Bitburger Triple Hopped, I am also looking at enjoying beer and collaborating in the context of the current Covid-19 situation.

History of Lager –

For anybody interested in more depth on this topic, I cannot recommend Mark Dredge’s new book more.  It is thorough, well written and an imminently enjoyable exploration of the history of the world’s most popular style family, written in a way that is appropriate to both the layperson and the serious beer enthusiast alike.  I expect my potted version of this history will not do Mark’s erudite tome justice, but hopefully I will briefly capture some of the key points.

The original beers in the world (going back 6,000 to 10,000 years) would have fermented spontaneously with wild yeasts.  Beer styles like lambics and saisons would be todays best reflection of these original beers.  Many different ingredients were used in brewing beer, with the idea that beer is ‘liquid bread’ (a fermented liquid derived from grains) being at the centre of the beverage.  Moving towards the Middle Ages (before lagers as we know them today), hops emerged as an ingredient used in brewing.  The history of hops is a whole subject by itself, but suffice it to say that people distinguished (at that time) between ales, which were brewed using herbs and spices (or gruit) and beer (that was brewed with hops).  Over time, the advantages of brewing with hops – in terms of hop bitterness balancing beer flavour, making it imminently drinkable, and in terms of hops having a preservative quality in beer – lead to a situation where hops became integral to the brewing of most beer styles.  This provided a foundation for one of the dimensions of the lagers with which we are familiar today.

Lager has passed through three ages, and with craft beer today, we may be entering a fourth age of lager.  At the centre of the development of lager is the Rheinheitsgebot of 1516 – the German Purity Laws – that shaped not only beer quality, but technical aspects of the brewing of beer and beer culture.  The Rheinheitsgebot directly influenced the evolution of lager yeast – Saccharomyces Pastorianus (or Uvarum or Carlsbergensis) – which is at the centre of the lager style family.  However, more on this later.

The ages of lager were most distinctly characterised by the types of malts that were used in brewing beer.  The malts used were reflected distinctly in both the colour and the flavour of beers that are associated with these three different ages.

If we go back about 500 years – around the establishment of the Rheinheitsgebot – malting of barley would have involved a particular process that distinctly influenced the flavour of the beer brewed with this malt.  Malted barley is the grain that is used in brewing.  It provides starch, which is converted to sugar, which is later turned into alcohol, carbon dioxide and various distinct flavours during fermentation.  Drying of barley in the malting process was done over wood fires.  The smoke from these wood fires would have been absorbed into the malted barley.  These smoky flavours survive into the beer brewed using these distinctive malts.  Lager styles such as Rauchbier characterised the First Age of Lagers, and smoky flavours and dark colours were defining features of these beers.

Moving forward, around the middle of the 1800’s malts used in beer changed.  The methods for drying grains in kilning had refined, and the absorption of smoke from burning woods was not a feature of the new malted barley.  In the Second Age, lagers continued to be dark, and the flavours from the malt were more sweet, biscuit or caramel/toffee-like.  Dunkel lagers from Germany available these days would reflect this Second Age of Lagers.

1842 marked a significant time in the history of beer.  This was the birth of the pilsner style in Bohemia – what is now the Czech Republic.  The softening of malt kilning to give pale malts was a core characteristic of this style, and this golden colour is now the characteristic that people most associate with lagers – mainly because so many modern lagers emulate the Pilsner style, or its less hoppy, more malty cousin, the Helles style.  When malts are dried in the kilning process, this heating process can have the effect of roasting, toasting or caramelising the malt.  By working out how to do this in a very gentle manner, the evolution of pale malts resulted, and the consequence was that beers could be bright gold in colour, and this marked the Third Age of Lagers.

In truth, though, the evolution of the lager style family is really a story that is centred around the Rheinheitsgebot.  The defining characteristic of lagers today is that they are brewed with yeast from a particular family – Saccharomyces Pastorianus (or Uvarum or Carlsbergensis).  The evolution of this family of yeasts was very much shaped by the Rheinheitsgebot.

The Rheinheitsgebot did much more than just define four (or three or five) ingredients that could be used in brewing beer.  Before the Rheinheitsgebot was drafted, it was not unusual for a wide array of different ingredients to be used in brewing.  Some of the ingredients of the time were definitely undesirable.  Some brewers used ingredients that had psychoactive properties (like those used in absinthe) and in other instances ingredients were used that were simply bad for people’s health.  By limiting beer ingredients to four (or three), these dangerous ingredients were effectively prohibited.

The Rheinheitsgebot also recognised knowledge of the time about how to brew beer to the best standards of quality.  It was recognised that beer brewed in the colder months seemed to be better quality than beer brewed in summer months – in part because the ambient temperature allowed for effective refrigeration of the beer at a time when mechanical refrigeration was not possible.  The Rheinheitsgebot decreed that beer be brewed in the winter months, and this meant that beer was stored over the summer in cellars – again ensuring that the beer was kept at a temperature appropriate to preserving the flavour and quality of the beer.

This cellaring is the origin of the the word ‘Lager’.  The German word ‘lagern’ means ‘to store’ or ‘to cellar’.  Keeping beer in cellars once it had been brewed, and storing it for an extended period had a direct impact on the evolution of the yeast used in brewing lagers.  Lager yeasts have evolved to enjoy fermentation in colder temperatures – this evolution and self-selection has, most likely, resulted from the brewing practices that emerged from the Rheinheitsgebot.

Lagers, Craft Beer, Collaborations –

In moving through the First to Third Ages of Lagers, we see the types of malt used in these lager beers evolving, while lager yeast remains at the centre of the lager style family.  Use of hops had established itself by the time that lagers emerged in brewing history.  Over these three ages, the types of hops used did not vary substantially.  As a result, distinguishing between the first three ages of lager is much more centred on the variations in colour and flavour that resulted from different malts.  These different colours and flavours became the defining characteristics of the different ages of lager.

The emergence of craft beer has been characterised by a much more brash, adventurous and innovative approach to beer flavour.  Craft beer has built on the foundations of classic beer styles, but also explored how beer can evolve and develop.  The result is that craft beers are typically characterised by two things – firstly, brewers reimagining, reintroducing or reviving classic beer styles that had fallen out of popularity, or that deserved renewed attention, and secondly brewers using creativity, innovation, and sometimes pure madness to create new beer styles heretofore unimagined.

Craft beer is often more often associated with the ale style family.  However, many craft brewers have also experimented with lagers.  In some cases, craft breweries have focused exclusively on only brewing an array of lager styles.  The first three Ages of Lager provide a rich foundation for these craft brewers to emulate historic lager styles.  The historic lager styles, together with the experience that craft breweries have had in experimenting with different beers, provides an alternative foundation to brewers to create new beer styles, or new interpretations of classic beer styles.

The Bitburger Triple Hopped collaboration reflects the fusion of the essence of Sierra Nevada’s craft experience with Bitburger’s history, heritage and tradition.  The resulting beer reflects the essence of both of these traditions, and this reflects the essence of collaboration beers.

Collaborations bring together the best of two breweries to create a beer that neither brewery might brew if left to their own devices.  When two breweries come together for a collaboration they, in effect, create a virtual brewery.  While the beer is brewed at one of the breweries (in this case, Bitburger), the reality is that the ‘brewery’ (or the creative force behind the beer) is a virtual brewery that fuses the talents and creativity of two breweries.  They come together because it makes sense, and the results can be amazing.

In light of the current COVID-19 situation, maybe it’s also important to highlight something else.  While it is great that these two breweries have come together to create a new beer, that doesn’t mean that they have to stay together all of the time.  After the collaboration, both breweries/sets of brewers return to their home base, and continue their normal operations as separate breweries.

Which is to say that, while often it is great when people come together, in some cases it is necessary for people to stay apart and operate independently.  With COVID-19, we are asked to practice social distancing, and this can be challenging to people who enjoy meeting up on a Friday or Saturday night.  With creativity and ingenuity, we can come up with ideas to enjoy beers and social contact virtually, while still practising physical distancing.  Collaboration beers involve two breweries – who are used to staying apart and operating independently – coming together for a specific reason to work together.  So too can we – people who enjoy coming together regularly – work out a way to achieve social contact, and perhaps share a few beers in a virtual social setting for the short time that this is necessary and appropriate.

Bitburger Triple Hopped –

Beer Style                            -  German Pilsner

Alcohol by Volume          -  4.8% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  Bitburger Brewery

Brewed in                            -  Bitburger, Germany

While bright beer is what one most associates with German Pilsners, this particular collaboration beer reflects the current trend in hoppy beers – a cloudy beer, with the cloudiness resulting from the generous dry hopping of  the beer.  As a consequence, the golden colour of the beer is a touch deeper – more orange gold, and characterised by a golden ghostliness in the haze.

The aroma betrays the influence of Sierra Nevada.  The nose is treated to delightful aromas of West Coast hops.  Piney woodiness combines with tropical and citrus fruits in the aroma.  The hops deliver a punchy but complex aroma – all of the promise of West Coast hops to follow through in the flavour, but reflecting the restrained sophistication that has emerged in the last decade with the original American craft brewers understanding that complexity can work better than intensity.

Juiciness comes through in the flavour.  Mandarin oranges, melon, grape, lychee, a touch of restrained pink grapefruit are all balanced by classic piney West Coast hop flavour.  The fruitiness of the beer develops the perception of sweetness in the flavour, and gives the beer the impression of an ale, but from a lager.  This dichotomy comes from the fruity flavours that one would normally associate with an ale being infused into the lager by the hops used in brewing the beer.

This is a beer to look out for – available for a limited time, and a beer that marks the start of a new age of lagers in the history of beer!

Bitburger –

Beer Style                            -  German Pilsner

Alcohol by Volume          -  4.8% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  Bitburger Brewery

Brewed in                            -  Bitburger, Germany

Bitburger is bright golden in colour with a clean white head.  The initial aromas in this beer come through as grainy pale malt combined with tobacco, mild spice and herbal European hops.

Tasting this beer, it is incredibly clean and refreshing.  The grainy flavour comes through on the palate – malt grain, combining with gentle honey sweetness, and perfectly balanced by crisp, clean hop bitterness.  The hop flavour in the beer is complex and layered.  Spicy hops – black pepper, but like a beer that has been gently seasoned with same, combines with white pepper.  Tobacco complexity is present in the hop flavour.  A hint of chilli heat is there, but again the hop flavour is emphasised by subtly and complexity rather than by the standout distinctive hop flavours that are more associated with modern craft beers.

This beer is a modern classic – the beer that represents the birth of the German Pilsner style.  A truly delicious classic.

 

 

13th March 2020:Wine to get you through isolation

Jean Smullen reviews 2018 Fabrizio Vella Bianco Organico, Sicily, Italy and 2018 Vina Zorzal Garnacha, Navarra, Spain m

Today on Movies & Booze we’re going to look at a white wine from Italy and a red wine from Spain both of which are available in Independent Off Licences.

2018 Fabrizio Vella Bianco Organico, Sicily, Italy   RRP: €14.95

STOCKISTS: Independent off licences 

Italy and Spain have a very good track record when it comes to producing organic wine.  90% of organic grapes globally come from European wine regions, Italy leads with way with organic wines accounting for 15.9% of all wines produced there; Spain comes in second place with organic wines accounting for a total of 11.6% of their total production.

This organic white is made from an relatively unknown Italian white grape variety called Catarratto.  Catarratto is native to Sicily, where it is used mainly as a blend.   This wine has been made with minimal intervention, which means it hasn’t been filtered, so it is a little cloudy in the glass.  However, the lack of filtration lets the charachter of the variety with its juicy texture and crisp lemon flavours shine through.  Ideal as an aperitif or perfect with fish, seafood and light salad dishes Certified organic and vegan friendly.

2018 Vina Zorzal Garnacha, Navarra, Spain RRP €14.95

STOCKISTS: Independent off licences 

The region of Cantabria is the largest producer of organic wine in Spain with 35% of production, this is followed by Navarra at 20.9% and the region of Castille y Leon with 19.7%.

Navarra was awarded its own DO in 1958.  Navarra is one province but within it there are two DO’s.  The DO Navarra and the DOCa Rioja, the latter in six districts to the south in the Baja region. Navarra has been working very hard to drag itself out of the shadow of its famous neighbor. The key to their success lies in the fact that many of the producers are now organic farmers and as demand grows for organic wines, I would expect much more visibility for the region’s wines in the coming years, especially now as 40% of wines exported from the DO Navarra region are organic wines.

Three brothers took over from their father and set about to rescue native grape varieties from Navarra that have almost been forgotten, producing single varietal wines that speak for themselves and are affordable for everyone.

The wines are fermented in stainless-steel tanks and this Garnacha (Grenache) remains completely unoaked. Full of flavour. Vibrant, soft and juicy. Fleshy and full with red fruits and a touch of spice. A joy to drink ! Organic methods followed, though the wine is not technically certified.

Wine Diary:  https://jeansmullen.com/

 

6th March 2020: Wines for the Weekend

Tomas Clancy reviews Domaine Michel Bouzereau, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy 2016 and Warre’s Otima, 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal

One of the consistent Holy Grail elements in the world of wine is finding a wine from next door to a great producer that sells for a fraction of that famous neighbour. This kind of happy discovery mainly occurs in Europe where a combination of petty officials, historical feuds and centuries of deeply random boundary marking can split an ancient village in half.

Domaine Michel Bouzereau, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy 2016 €35

Available : Searsons Wine Merchants and at Independent Off Licences and Wine Shops nationwide

Well that is the story here. The vineyards of Domaine Michel Bouzereau are located across the landscape of two of wines most alluring and beautiful villages, Puligny and Meursault. The honey coloured stone walls that run along the roads and divide up many of the vineyards are made into more formal cut stone houses, each one apparently a small winery. The villages are compact and surrounded by slopes and vines, no one wants to build on or give up the centuries old jewels of the vineyards themselves.

Even the graveyard is located in a very tight and unappealing spot. The Bouzereau family have many plots and vineyards that have been designated over the centuries as either appellation Puligny-Montrachet or Meursault, but several parcels of land, around four hectares are located within the vilages of Puligny and Meursault but not designated as within the legal appellation of either village.

This is where wine lovers pounce. The grapes from each plot are made into a simple AC Bourgogne each year by the family and unless you know, this could be from poor flat, overworked vineyards on the flat parts of the Cote D’Or or throughout the legal overly wide Burgundy zone. Some Burgundies labelled like this can be dreadful watery nonsense. This wine by contrast offers Meursault like charm and complexity at a fraction of the full appellation wines. It is not cheap, rather it is a huge bargain over such wines and a secret to enjoying the nutty, hazelnut and honeyed wash with touches of toasted brioche and a fine, precise, cutting finish. Delicious.

Warre’s Otima, 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal €27

Available: Martins Off Licence, Fairview and Independent Off Licences and Wine Shops nationwide

Without Irishman Arthur Wellesley we might not today in Portugal’s Douro Valley have a wine and Port wine business as we known it. Wellesley played a vital part in advancing Douro wines by firstly with his military hat on, defeating the French Napoleonic Army who had invaded and were occupying vast portions of Portugal including Porto, the capital of the Douro. Driving out the French Wellesley reinforced the power and safety of the great Port Houses who made wine in this unique region.

Secondly, Wellesley popularised the drinking of Port wines from the Douro and kept close contacts with many of the Port houses especially Warre’s where William Warre had been one of Wellesley’s officers during the War.

Wellesley is better known to us of course as the Dublin born, Duke of Wellington and many Irish links still persist today across the Douro.

The unique Port wine is the Douro’s greatest creation. It begins life on the death defyingly steep slopes of the winding Douro River, one which has carved mile high canyons through Portugal’s remote high interior. Many of the vineyards or Quintas in the high Douro are almost unreachable by road or rail and for centuries the only way to gain access to these vineyards was by river.

The red wines made from local indigenous grapes like Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, as here, are fermented into wine but with a portion of the sweet juice left to ferment, a spirit such as Brandy or Cognac is poured into the fermenting wine. This kills the yeast and stops the fermentation leaving a sweet and strong wine of around 20% alcohol. This is then shipped down river to Porto where it is aged. If it is to become vintage Port it will be poured quickly into bottles and stored for decades.

If we wish to create a Tawny Port however the wine is poured into small oak barrels and left to the intervention of oak and oyygen in the best examples for 10, 20 or more years. The result is that the wine is etched of its deep purple colour and a mahogany amber delight emerges as here and shown off so beautifully in this clear, almost test tube like bottle.

The flavours of cinnamon, Christmas cake, spice, toasted nut, light fig and hints of caramel over a clean, lifting bright fruity finish here are startling and served chilled with cold hard slices of cheese like Comte or Very Mature Cheddar, it is one of the world’s underappreciated delights


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