There are so many great new beers and new breweries joining our line-up it’s sometimes hard to keep up. This week I decided to take a look at three new breweries from across the water you may have missed in the last couple of months. Each produce a fantastic range of beers, too may for this blog to contain, so I’ve had to pick just one from each to showcase what each the brewery is about.
Wylam have a pretty long history in the craft beer world as they began brewing in 2000. A lot has changed in the UK brewing scene since then, Wylam has moved with these changes, from ‘real ale’ to hoppy West Coast styles. They also operate out of perhaps one of the most impressive looking breweries in Newcastle’s Palace of Arts, built in 1929 as part of a world’s fair exhibition, The North East Coast Exhibition.
Their Swipe Right pale ale is packed with soft and juicy hop fruit notes. Plenty of citrus and tropical fruit (melon, papaya, passionfruit, grapefruit) mixed with a light pine needle character. The flavour follows from the nose on an exceptional smooth pale malt body. Mild bitterness to the finish, reminiscent of bitter orange peel.
Now for a brewery with an even longer history, Samuel Smith. Yorkshire’s oldest brewery brews using water from an on-site well. The original well, sunk in 1758, is still in use with the hard water is drawn from 85 feet underground. Samuel Smith’s beers are fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’, fermenting vessels made of solid slabs of slate, which give the beers a fuller bodied taste. They have used the same strain of yeast since the nineteenth century.
The Organic Chocolate Stout pours dark and dense with a creamy beige head. Roasty aromas of dark malt, hazelnuts and cacao. The body is velvety with weight from unfermented sugars. Taste is sweet with chocolate notes to the fore alongside caramel and cream. Light fruit notes of cherry and red berry towards the back end. Long creamy sweet finish.
My final pick is a brewery that is bring farmhouse beers to a new level using mixed fermentation and barrel aging and blending as well as foraging for ingredients. The Wild Beer Co. brew beers that reflex a real sense of place, their house wild yeast was collected in a nearby orchard.
Redwood 2017 brings lots of Wild Beer is about in to one bottle. A sour ale aged with locally foraged summer fruits for one year in red wine barrels and finally blended by the team at Wild Beer. Full bodied with flavours of tart berries alongside cranberry and sweet plum. Beneath you will find dry wood notes with an earthy funk and a light touch of sweet spice. Finished with a light touch of toasted oak and a deep fruity and mildly sour twang. A wonderfully complex and rewarding beer.
Bottles of Crémant ageing on the lees in Langlois-Chateau's cellars.
L’Extra Langlois Crémant de Loire NV (€17.95 down from €19.95) “Pale lemon in colour. Light aromas of freshly zested lemons. Youthful freshness and well-integrated acidity giving an overall balance and elegance. Over half the blend made with the local star, Chenin Blanc and 40% Chardonnay for a more familiar accent. Owned by Champagne House, Bollinger for 45 years.” - Liam Campbell, the Taste.ie, May 5th
Bougrier Chenin Blanc 2015(€13.95) “Fresh, aromatic and dry with soft pear fruits. Drink solo or with white meats. Hake baked in foil with dill and lemon.” - John Wilson, Irish times, April 21st
A Vaca Cuca Albariño 2016(€19.95)“An elegant, very poised Albariño, this comes from the coastal Val do Salnés sub-region of Rias Baixas, so you get wet stone minerality and a whisper of salt balancing out the acidity and restrained apricot and grapefruit flavours. Beautiful with fish and seafood.” - Corinna Hardgrave, the Irish Independent, April 21st
Monte Real Reserva spends a minimum of two years ageing in American oak barrels in Bodegas Riojanas' stunning cellars.
Monte Real Rioja Reserva 2012 (€20.95) “It was good to remind myself about classic Reserva Rioja, especially at such a good price. Classic, sweet vanilla and red fruit aromas combined with savoury mature fruits, complex on the palate with decent length.” - Leslie Williams, the Irish Examiner, April 21st
Needless to say, we owe a great debt of gratitude to all the Irish writers who take the time to review and write about our wines, however we are particularly appreciative and honoured when someone devotes their entire column to us, as Matthew Nugent did in the Irish Sun earlier this month, many thanks Matthew.
You can read Matthew’s piece here and listed below are the Rosé wines he highlighted, all of which are included in our Buy one, get one ½ price Rosé promotion which runs all summer long.
As I write, the sun is beating through the office window, which has inspired me to return to the topic of Rosé for my blog today.
Regular readers will by now that I am a huge fan of Rosé wines, and for most of us, thinking of a crisp glass of Rosé conjures up images of sitting in the evening sun on a terrace somewhere in the Mediterranean, which is all well and good, but for me where Rosé’s star really shines, is when it comes to food-matching.
This is probably because, due to the way in which it’s made, Rosé expresses some of the character of both red and white wines. Whether you are serving Asian cuisine, tapas or a salad, hot or cold dishes, meat, fish, or vegetables, or even with a BBQ, Rosé will offer a tasty match. In fact, very few other wine-styles are quite so versatile.
I have chosen four wines below which should illustrate what a wonderfully diverse wine style Rosé can be.
The most classic region for Rosé has to be the South of France, so to start I am going with two choices from here, first up is Gérard Bertrand's Hedonisme (€15.95 buy one get one ½ price), which is a delicious, berry-scented, organic, dry-Rosé. Bursting with fruit on the palate & quite full-bodied for a Rosé but all very well-balanced.
Pairing it with a simple grilled Chicken salad would allow Hedonisme rosé to shine.
The next of these southern French stars is Les Pins Couchés Rosé (€16.95 buy one get one ½ price), which is an extremely elegant, refreshing, dry rosé with abundant yet subtle red fruit aromas. On the palate, darker fruit and herbal notes evoke the terroir of the Mediterranean coast. Wine maker Jean-Luc Colombo grew up in Marseille where his parents had a restaurant, so it should come as no surprise that this wine is a perfect match for the iconic local dish ‘Bouillabaisse Marseillaise’.
For a match made in heaven, pair Jean-Luc Colombo's Les Pins Couchés with ‘Bouillabaisse Marseillaise’
We cross the Pyrenees into Spain for my next choice, Sierra de Enmedio Rosado (€12.95 buy one get one ½ price), is a 100% Monastrell from the sun-drenched vineyards of the south-east and quite full-bodied for a Rosé, this is filled to the brim with red-berried fruit but holds out for a refreshingly dry finish. For food matches think tapas such as Seafood Paella or Prawns Pil-Pil.
A Seafood Paella would pair perfectly with Sierra de Enmedio Rosado
Last up is Italy and the Veneto region in particular, where Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé (€18.95 buy one get one ½ price) sees minimal skin-contact and cool fermentation in stainless steel to make for a very elegant style of rosé.
A beautiful pale salmon pink in colour, 11 Minutes tastes of strawberry, raspberry and pink grapefruit and has a wonderfully textured palate thanks to three month’s ageing on the lees. Barbecued pork chops with a simple marinade of lemon and garlic would be the perfect partner for this wine.
Marinated Pork chops straight off the BBQ would be an ideal choice to pair with Pasqua 11 Minutes.
The number of great craft breweries in County Wicklow continues to grow! Larkins have entered the fold this month with their new brewery in Kilcoole.
Larkins is a family affair headed up by Cillian Fahey, the ‘Larkin’ comes from his mother’s side. Where they seek to differentiate themselves from the growing number of beers on the shelves is through their focus on lager styles. They want lager to get more attention in Ireland, so they have set about brewing lagers with real flavour and balance but also brewing lager styles we don’t get to see too often on this island. But don’t worry, they have the hop heads covered as well.
From the off they have an impressive set up with 35hl brewhouse and 10 fermentation vessels along with all the requisite bottling, canning, and kegging equipment. They are also bringing a new level of attention to design and labelling, the colourful images on their cans and bottles are of crystals found in brewing taken using an electron microscope.
Larkins release their bottles and cans to the world this month.
First up for the hop heads. Coming in 44cl can their IPA is the very modern, full bodied and exceptionally soft kind with plenty of sticky peach and melon finished with a citrus twist and moderate bitterness.
Their Pale, again in 44cl can, is an exceptionally sessionable affair with low bitterness, a slight haze and light body while delivering candied lemon, and touches of orange rid and a lightly herbal edge.
For lagers, Larkins have launched with a trio of beers leaning to the darker side. First up, Marzen, is an amber lager with light toffee and toasty notes with a refreshing snap to the finish. Marzen is the style of beer synonymous with Oktoberfest, and they have hit the style perfectly.
Next up, bigger and bolder, coming in at 7.6% (although you might not notice the alcohol!) is their excellent Doppelbock. Expect caramel, fresh baked bread and fig tones.
You want to go darker still? Baltic Porter, is a black beer, all dark roast with coffee and caramel notes. Don’t let the name fool you, we are still taking lager here, so, with all those dark flavours we still have a medium body and crisp finish.
These beers will be joined by their flagship Helles Lager very soon. Having tasted this recently its certainly one to keep an eye out for.
There are quite a few Organic wines included in our French Wine Sale, so I thought now might be a good time to look at the category.
Once seen as a niche product, consumption of organic wine is now growing faster than that of conventional vintages.
Their success can be put down to the fact that many Organic producers are now making innovative and delicious wines as good as or better than anything made by conventional methods, and a growing awareness of the environmental consequences of conventional agriculture is making itself felt.
I have picked out just a few of my favourite organic French wines below.
Domaine Begude Owners, James and Katherine Kinglake amidst their organic Chardonnay vines.
Starting out in the Languedoc at Domaine Begude, where all fruit is organically-grown on rocky-limestone soils, in high-altitude, south-facing vineyards. Technically speaking one’s not supposed to do it, but Begude’s owner James Kinglake is so proud of his little part of the Languedoc that he felt he just had to put the postcode on a bottle! ‘Terroir 11300’ (€13.95 down from €17.95) is a pure Chardonnay with zesty citrus freshness coupled with apple and pear notes; fine structure & pleasing minerality.
Domaine Begude Winery Owner James Kinglake on why they are Organic - YouTube
For my next choice I am going with an organic Sancerre, Dauny Père et Fils (€17.95 down from €22.95) which displays wonderfully crisp Sauvignon characters, with appealing flavours of gooseberry and elderflower. The vineyards that produce this wine, Les Caillottes, are notably pebbly with chalky subsoils, and this mineral-rich terroir is reflected in the wine - which remains keenly dry but is made in a more accessible and creamy style than many Sancerres.
Chateau le Croisille Owner and Winemaker Germain Croisille Vineyard and Wine Note - YouTube
On to the reds now, and first up is a Malbec from Cahors in the southwest of France, now I know most of us immediately think of Argentina when Malbec is mentioned, but this part of France is where the grape is originally from. Château les Croisille Silice (€15.16 down from €18.95) is thoroughly-modern Malbec; delicious ripe black-berried fruit and restrained use of oak make this a must-try wine.
Eitenne Besancenot - Château de Caraguilhes - YouTube
My last selection is from Château Caraguilhes, one of France's oldest and best organic estates. Although from the Languedoc, Les Jardins Caraguilhes (€14.16 down from €17.95) is quite like a premium Côtes-du-Rhône in style; incredibly smooth and brimming with plenty of sweet ripe fruit flavours of crushed raspberry, blackcurrant and cherry along with some underlying herbal notes.
Our French Wine Sale continues right through until Bank Holiday Monday, May 7th, so there can be no better time to pick up a few bottles of your favourite French wine or even to try something new.
*Please note, these prices are available in-store or online until May 7th only, please check our website or stores for the most up to date pricing.
We are delighted to have a great range of new beers from Wild Weather Ales. Hailing from Silchester, a small village just outside Reading, Wild Weather was founded in 2012 by Mike Tempest (Tempest = Wild Weather, get it?)
The team at Wild Weather don’t take themselves too seriously and have a very simple goal; to make your drinking experience as enjoyable as they find the brewing process.
In practice that means constantly trying new recipes but never cutting corners in terms of ingredients or production. This approach has paid off with a growing fan base. So much so that they have recently moved on to their second larger in-house canning line, giving them complete control over the process.
You certainly won’t miss the cans sitting on the shelf. Their distinctive playful art style is created by the punk artist and guitarist for the London punk band MÜG. We got our first delivery of said cans with some of the below beers.
Each year France comes in at either 2nd or 3rd place in the list of the world’s biggest wine producers depending on the weather conditions during the vintage (although last year saw an historic low).
However, it is fair to say that no country comes close in terms of their contribution to wine culture globally.
Our French wine sale begins this Wednesday, April 25th and is running right through until Bank Holiday Monday, May 7th, so there can be no better time to pick up a few bottles of your favourite French wine or even to try something new.
With over 220 wines covering a wide variety of wine styles, there's something here to suit everyone.
To get you thinking, I have highlighted just a few of my French favourites below, but to see the full range, click here or even better why not drop into your local O'Briens Store where a range of French Wines will be on the Tasting Table all weekend long.
The 'terroir' of the Loire Valley allows the region's winemakers to produce some spectacular Sauvignons.
Starting with the whites, I have chosen three expressions of Ireland’s favourite grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc, all from the Loire Valley but each offering something different.
The first of these three is from the Touraine region, Domaine de la Madelaine (€9.95 down from €17.95) has fantastic aromatics of crisp green fruit and just cut grass with a lime zest fresh finish. It would make a great aperitif and will work well with most salads.
Winemaker Sophie Bertin follows a minimal-intervention philosophy, allowing the fruit from her sustainably-managed vineyards to shine.
My next choice Sancerre, is a real classic of the wine world, and is considered by many to be the definitive white wine; Sophie Bertin’s example (€15.96 down from €19.95) is a very-polished single-estate Sancerre which shows a lively mix of pungent gooseberry fruit with zesty cool citrus notes and a lingering mineral finish. The classic partner for this wine is goats cheese, and boy do they work well together.
The last of these Loire whites, Domaine de Bel- Air (€15.96 down from €19.95), comes from a sustainably-farmed family-owned estate and is a benchmark Pouilly-Fumé: the firm, mineral palate has excellent balance of fine acidity with intense lemon, flint and pear flavours and a long finish. This is a wine that is crying out to be paired with some grilled seafood.
Wonderfully-ripe fruit on its way to form part of the blend for Ortas Côtes-du Rhône Reserve.
Moving on to the reds, I am starting with that ever-popular and most versatile of wines, Côtes-du-Rhône; Ortas Reserve (€9.95 down from €13.95), is a classic example with strawberry and plum fruit leading the way, but with a little tapenade like spice too adding complexity and supported by light tannins. Great on its own, this wine also works really-well with charcuterie.
The glorious Southern French sunshine makes for perfectly ripe fruit at the l'Ostal Cazes estate.
To finish I have chose a seriously classy red from a Lynch-Bages owned estate, L' Ostal Cazes Estibals (€12.95 down from €16.95), is richly-textured with a wealth of bramble fruit and expensive French oak ageing, this is very polished wine and to see it at its best, I would serve it alongside a juicy char-grilled rib-eye steak.
The Dutch invented gin, the British added the tonic, but it was the Spanish who perfected the art of a perfect G&T.
Spain is Europe’s largest gin market with an estimated 3.2 million cases consumed each year. If you have visited the country in the last 10 or 15 years, it’s easy to see how gin has become the national spirit where even the humblest bar could have a stock of fifty different brands lining the wall.
Here you will pick up some truly impressive G&T’s or as the Spanish call it simply, Gin Tonic. Spanish bars are known for serving their Gin Tonic in a large wine glass with plenty of large chunks of ice, topped with incredible, and sometimes outlandish, garnishes. Yes, sometimes they can go a bit wild with the garnish, the term ‘gin salad’ has been used disparagingly for some, but one sip and you’ll appreciate the benefit to the Spanish approach. An approach we are see more and more of on this island.
Doing away with the standard collins glass, instead using a large glass allows you to really enjoy the aromas. The more ice cubes in your drink, the slower they will melt so preserving the taste for longer.
There is more gin, delivering more flavours, in a standard Spanish pour with 70ml to 90 ml of gin in the glass combined with a standard 200ml bottle of tonic, so a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1. Spaniards also pay as much attention to the tonic as the gin, mixing and matching different tonics to each gin.
The garnish? While adding flavour it also adds to the fun! Experiment with different fruits and herbs to find the one that suits you best.
So, pull out your largest wine glass and try one of these great Spanish gins, all three are included in our gin sale!
No list of Spanish gins would be complete without a mention for the venerable Gin Mare. This unusual and herby gin is world class. In fact, I dedicated a whole blog post to it a little while back, check it out here. My recommendation is for a fruitier citrus tonic, with some rosemary or thyme garnish.
A gin with a real sense of place. Nordes is distilled from the pomace of the local Galician grape variety Albarino, lending the gin a smooth soft body. Floral notes with hints of mint and lemongrass abound. Try it with a dryer style tonic and lime garnish to bring out the fruitier elements.
There is no escaping the pink gin graze! Spain hasn’t been found wanting here either. This is a delicate and fruity gin with plenty of red summer fruits; strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Try it with a classic premium tonic and a wafer of dark chocolate, trust me it tastes great.
Please note prices are correct at time of publishing, these offers will end on May 1st, please check our website or stores for the most up to date pricing.
Galicia is located in the Northwest of Spain on the verge of the Atlantic, it is known as the seventh Celtic nation. The language is peppered with Celtic words, pagan customs still abound and numerous Celtic symbols can still be identified in the stone relics of the region.
Interestingly, and perhaps because of this historical kinship, the white Albariño wines from this region seem to suit the Irish palate very well. Indeed, the current export figures show that Ireland is the seventh largest importer worldwide and these numbers are on the increase as the Irish fan base for the wines continues to grow.
Vines of between 200-300 years of age have been discovered in the region, but the Rias Baixas DO was only established in 1980. This is in stark contrast to Rioja for example, where the protection of the region for quality grape growing started in the 16th century.
Prior to 1980, and today, a meander through the region will highlight a local culture of grape growing to make local wines for personal consumption. In fact, numerous houses can be spotted with two or three rows of vines growing alongside, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and other garden vegetables.
The style of the wines made from the Albariño grape range from refreshing greengage and green apple notes from the Northern cooler areas of the region to melon, peachy and floral in character from the more Southern parts. Both style share an integrated refreshing acidity and can also have an underlying saline note.
Whilst the wines are usually unoaked, they can be oak fermented or aged in oak with the intention of adding a touch of depth, concentration and roundness to the palate.
Wines from this variety are very versatile and work remarkably well with food especially shellfish, fish, vegetable dishes, risotto and typical casual Spanish dishes such as tortilla.
For fans of Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño is certainly an excellent alternative if you want to experiment with something a little different. The grape is now being more widely planted and apart from Portugal beside the border of Galicia, Albariño can also be found in New Zealand, US, Uruguay and the Languedoc.
Lagar de Costa Albariño
This is a small family winery located on the Galician coast in the heart of Albariño country near Cambados. The mother and father established the vineyards and winery a few year ago and their son is now managing the vineyard and their daughter is making the wines.
The style of the wine shows some peachy fruit, hints of melon and crisp acidity.
Granbazán Contrapunto Albariño
Started in 1980 in the early days of quality Albariño growing, this family estate is located in the Salnes Valley close to the sea.
The property is dominated by a Chậteau style villa nestling amongst Albariño vineyards with the modern winery housed within the villa. The wine is crisp, refreshing and elegant with a hint of ripeness mid palate.
Marqués de Murrieta Pazo Barrantes Albariño
This small twelve hectare estate is owned by the iconic Marqués de Murrieta Rioja producer.
Also located in the Salnes Valley, this single vineyard wine is known for its highly developed aromatic profile of fruit and flowers and a concentrated palate with depth and intensity. This wine due to its complexity has the potential to age.
Domaine Les Auzine Alaina Albariño
This Albariño is in fact from the Languedoc, a family estate owned by an Irish lady Neasa Miguel, married to French wine maker Laurent Miquel.
Their Albariño vines are planted on limestone, in a cool high altitude microclimate. Laurent’s wine is beautifully balanced with notable minerality and freshness hints of citrus and a ripe mid palate.
Why not join in the celebrations at home by choosing a Malbec and take part in in the global conversation by using the hashtag #MalbecWorldDay
I know that, I for one will be savouring one of the wonderful wines below this evening, now if I could only decide which one!
The pioneering wine-making team at Ocho y Medio were the first to realise that the high-altitude vineyards of Spain's central plateau were perfectly suited to Malbec.
My first choice comes from a somewhat surprising location. For Ocho y Medio Malbec (€10.36 down from €12.95), the grapes are grown in high-altitude vineyards in central Spain, this thoroughly-modern Malbec remains un-oaked, allowing the ripe black-berried & dark plum fruit to shine.
Gèrard Bertrand's Stunning Hospitalet estate.
Staying in Europe for now, ‘H’ de l'Hospitalet Malbec (€10.95 down from €13.95), is a stunning wine made in the south of France by multi-award-winning winemaker, Gérard Bertrand. Violet and blackberry aromas on the nose lead into a palate with flavours of ripe bramble fruit, vanilla, cocoa and dark plum. The finish is long with a silk-smooth mouthfeel.
Norton's vineyards cover some of the best land in the Mendoza region.
My next three selections all come from Malbec’s spiritual homeland of Argentina. The first of these, Norton Barrel Select (€11.96 down from €14.95), displays beautifully balanced mix of fruit and oak, with intense perfumed black pastille aromas mingling with vanilla overlaying a smooth full-bodied palate.
Next up is a relatively new addition to our range, Vaglio Chacra (€15.16 down from €18.95), has an incredible concentration of dark plum and blackberry fruit on the nose, which follows through on to the subtly spicy and super smooth palate.
Bodegas Caro's Malbec vineyards are planted at high-altitude in the foothills of the Andes
My last pick, Aruma (€14.95 down from €18.45), is from top estate, Bodegas Caro, as hedonistic and full of chocolatey richness as they come. This is a joint venture between Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite and Nicolas Catena. The winemaking is overseen by DBR's technical team. Rich, full flavoured; gorgeous ripe, blackberry and plum fruit. Silky smooth this is a superb Malbec.
All of these wineries will be present at our upcoming Spring Wine Festival (Limerick on May 10th and Dublin May 11th and 12th) where you will have a chance to taste more than 250 wines from over 60 of the world’s best winemakers!
*Please note, these prices are available in-store or online on April 17th only, please check our website or stores for the most up to date pricing.
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