The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine is next weekend and there are lots of drinks-related events.
The big wine names are Jancis Robinson, arguably the world’s most read wine writer, and Alice Feiring, the influential wine blogger and champion of natural wines.
Jancis is hosting a tasting on Saturday, on ‘Wines New Wave — Lighter and Fresher’, and Alice is on the panel for a few events and is chairing one: ‘The Dangers of Natural Wine — It Could Change Your Life’
Prominent names in Irish drinks writing will also be there — and a few of them are no fans of natural wine, so sparks might fly!
I am hosting a discussion on emerging wine regions, and I will also be on panels discussing ‘Good Value Wines’ and wine literature.
I will be focusing on Persian Sufi wine and love poetry, and presenting my favourite wine from the Middle-East, which I suspect is somewhat similar to the wines that were so loved by Rumi and Hafiz back in the day (I suspect you can guess the wine).
I will also be chairing a panel discussion on Saturday, on Irish craft cider, which I have come to believe is as close as we will ever get to an Irish wine industry.
Cocktails, gin and whiskey will also feature and, of course, there will be lots of craft beer to sample, including a number of events featuring beer writer and brewer extraordinaire, Garret Oliver, of Brooklyn Brewery.
My selections, this week, are tasters of what you might find at Ballymaloe and if you can’t come at least you can try some of the wines, instead.
For the diary
May 15-17: Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest; www.LitFest.ie
Tuesday, May 19: Italian-themed long table dinner at The Mustard Seed, Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick, with wines from the excellent house of Terrabianca (imported by Karwig Wines). For more details, tel: 069-68508 or visit: http://goo.gl/qajoS7
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Hidalgo Manzanilla, Spain — €13.99
Stockists: Celtic Whiskey Shop, www.celticwhiskeyshop.ie, Vintry, Corkscrew, DrinkStore.
Given that this wine (and, yes, sherry is a wine) takes five years of constant monitoring, I am stunned it costs so little. This will be my contribution to LitFest’s discussion on value wines on Saturday morning. Aromas of sea air, camomile and baking bread, light, yeast-infused salty fresh palate.
La Reñas Barrica 2012, Bullas, Spain — €12.95
Stockist: Karwig Wines, Carrigaline, www.KarwigWines.ie, JJ O’Driscolls, Ardkeen Stores, Cinnamon Cottage.
Spain will feature heavily at LitFest as an emerging, good-value wine region. Bullas is near Murcia, on the east coast, where Monastrell (Mourvèdre) is the grape — spicy, ripe-red fruit aromas, soft, chocolate-tinged fruits on the palate and a smoky, juice-driven finish. Great value.
Clos Lojen 2013, Manchuela, Spain — €14.95
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure, 64 Wines, Baggot Street Wines
From the little-known region of Mancuela (near Valencia) and made from 100% Bobal, a grape you will be hearing more about at LitFest and in the coming year. Alluring aromas of smoke and blackberry — refreshing yet structured, soft yet racy, with hints of crème de mûre on the finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Biblia Chora Ovilos 2012, Macedonia, Greece — €23.99
Stockists: Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.ie
This is Tomás Clancy’s pick, as Greece seems to have turned a corner in recent years and quality is definitely on the up. Ovilos is a blend of creamy Semillon and vibrant Assyrtiko, barrel-fermented, with creamy vanilla and lemon flavours, with a solid, fresh centre and touches of mango and apricot on the finish.
Gaia Assyrtiko 2013, Santorini, Greece — €22.99
I first tasted Assyrtiko, from the beautiful isle of Santorini, at LitFest 2013, thanks to Jancis Robinson. This is wild yeast fermented and made from 80-year-old, ungrafted vines — aromas of pear and limes, steely, fresh acidity on first taste, but followed immediately by a mineral complexity and a creamy, pear finish.
Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa — €17.95 (was €19.95)
Stockist: Le Caveau Kilkenny www.lecaveau.ie, World Wide Wines
Grapes for this wine are bio-dynamically grown at 282 metres above sea level to create an aromatic, cool-climate Sauvignon. This will feature at Susan Boyles’ Wine Geese Theatre Show, at LitFest. Aromas and flavours of pears, apples and a spritz of lemon — lees contact gives lots of richness and poise — a rare thing in Sauv Blanc.
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