Monday 14 October 2019

Corinna Hardgrave

Mad about Marlborough: Wairau is one of two main valleys in the region

The wine buff: The home of Cloudy Bay has a much broader spectrum of wines than it's known for 

When you visit New Zealand, you get a sense of why Sauvignon Blanc from this country is so unique. It is unspoilt, there is something very crystalline and pure about the countryside, and the bright sun beams down, occasionally shaded by a few passing fluffy clouds. All of these factors, as well as a focus on sustainability, contribute to the distinctive and vibrant taste of the grape as it is grown...

Vines with a view: Vineyards in Campania produce crisp, zesty whites

Corinna Hardgrave: Coastal wines that are well worth trying 

The idea of coastal wine is likely to conjure up wonderful memories. Holidays spent by the beach, lounging on a sunny terrace, with something very chilled sitting in an ice bucket - a crisp white, or a delicate rosé. And chances are, the wine you were drinking was produced somewhere nearby. Not necessarily right on the beach, but on hills overlooking a bay, where the temperate breeze cools the slopes so the freshness is preserved in the grapes.

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Sunny California: Old Zin vineyards are bush vines and grown without trellises

The wine buff: Lodi may lack the expensive polish of nearby Napa but it's been producing wine for more than a century 

You have to love a vine that survived Prohibition, don't you? Yes, I'm talking about American vines and, in particular, the old Zinfandel vines of Lodi in California. Set between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lodi may lack the expensive polish of nearby Napa or Sonoma. Its style is more cowboy hats, boots and check shirts (a great place to buy them if you can rock that type...

Wild west: The Santa Rita hills overlook the Pacific Ocean

The wine buff: California superstars you can buy in Ireland 

I was recently watching Amy Poehler and her Saturday Night Live squad of women hit the Napa Valley tasting rooms in Netflix's Wine Country, and was reminded of a stunning wine trip I had to California. Except I was further down the coast in the less manicured but very beautiful area of Santa Barbara. It is a relaxed, laid-back coastal town with great restaurants and a really cool area called the Funk Zone, which is devoted to wine bars.

A picnic - with wine - is a lovely way to meet up with friends

Corinna Hardgrave: Pairing with picnics 

On a long weekend, when the sun shines (hope I'm not jinxing things by saying that), I love to be a tourist in my own country. My husband, who is American, always marvels about how lucky we are in Dublin, we have a beautiful park within walking distance, and the coast and the mountains are just a few miles away. In fact, there really isn't anywhere in Ireland that isn't driving distance from a nice little spot where you can perch yourself under a tree and have a picnic.

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The wine buff: The top 15 wines for Easter 

Lamb at Easter is one of those great traditions, and, if we've taken anything on board over the last few decades, it's that traditions are made to be broken. But that doesn't mean that you have to. We'll be having lamb, but rather than roasted, it will be done Nigella style, butterflied, marinated and barbecued. When it's done this way, you get a mix of rare and charred meat, so it seems to suit everyone, except the vegetarians and vegans. So yes, a few more dishes will have to be prepared.

'There are many vegan-friendly wines out there'

Vegan wines: The best ones to buy 

Stroll around the beautiful cities of Lisbon or Bordeaux, and it is likely that you will be as enchanted by the beautiful pastries as you will be by the wine. Pastéis de Nata, the delicious custard tarts which date back to before the 18th century, are thought to have been invented at the Jeronimos Monastery in the Confeitaria de Belém area of Lisbon, and cannelés, the spool-sized pastries which taste of custard and rum, are attributed to the city nuns from Saint Eulalia church.

Pronouncement: The ceremonies marking World Port Day

The wine buff: Hailing a vintage 

If I asked you to describe port, what would you say? Probably that it is red and you drink it at Christmas. Unless of course, you've visited Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, the two stunning Portuguese cities that lie either side of the River Duoro, almost touching distance, reflecting their historic, colourful buildings in the water. It is quite simply impossible not to learn about port when you visit here and if you haven't been, this is definitely a city to put at the top of your weekend break list.

Galicia. Photo: Xurxo Lobato

The wine buff... Life's a beach 

It is particularly exciting to visit wine regions during harvest time, and better still when the harvest is good and everybody is happy. On my recent visit to Galicia, I stopped off in the historic town of Cambados, on the coast of Rías Baixas. On the main square, I could see a winery working at full throttle. It was after midnight, the shutters were pulled up, and two people were loading crates of hand-picked Albariño grapes into the de-stemming machine, and, outside on the street, another guy was busy stamping down the discarded stems in a large crate.

The wine buff 

For many people, the most daunting thing in a restaurant, particularly a fine dining establishment, is being presented with the wine list. Invariably, people default to the second wine on the list, which may or may not have the highest margin, or they stick with a wine style they know. But the best thing to do is to talk to the sommelier. No, you're not going to look stupid, all you have to do is point to a certain wine on the list and say, 'I'm looking for something around this range', and the sommelier will be able to recommend you wines within your price range.

'Blind tasting wine is something that most people in the industry find challenging'

An acquired taste 

When my children were small and I was faced with the terrifying prospect of entertaining 20 of their tiny friends on their birthdays, I came up with a fun guessing game to keep them amused. One by one, the tots were blindfolded and subjected to a taste and sensory challenge. I resisted the temptation to include anything like Tabasco or wasabi, it was familiar food like apple, cucumber and freshly squeezed orange juice; although I did have a bit of fun with the sensory bit. They had to stick their hands into cold sloshy porridge. Squeals all round.

'A wine club can be exactly what you want it to be'

How to start a wine club 

While people joke that 'book' club is a euphemism for 'wine' club, an actual wine club is considered to be something terribly serious indeed. Which is a complete misconception. Because it can be exactly what you want it to be. You don't have to be a wine expert to start one. An interest in wine, and in drinking it with other people, is about all you need. Apart from the wine, that is - and that's where it gets interesting. Get eight to 10 people to put €15 each into a kitty and, all of a sudden, you have a budget which gets you bottles of wine that you would never pick off the shelf on your own.

May or June is the best time to visit Champagne

Valentine's Fizz 

Valentine's Day is next Wednesday, and I don't know about you, but I'll definitely be drinking Champagne. Not only is it the coupe that toasts l'amour better than any other, it comes from a beautifully romantic part of France. While a rose-scented ticket for two to Champagne would be the most amazing Valentine's Day present, it's not the best time to visit. Far better to wait until May or June when the vines are flourishing, or go in the autumn during harvest time, when the local cep mushrooms are in season. If you want to indulge in some cep-inspired dishes, I can recommend Le...


2018's top trends 

Do you know what wine you are most likely to be drinking this year? It's Chilean. That's not a prediction; Chile accounts for the largest share of wine sales in the country, over 25pc, followed by Australia, France, Spain and New Zealand. So while that's not likely to change to a huge degree - given that these wines fit into what I describe as the 'daily drinker' category, not that I'm recommending a daily tipple as something you should aspire to - there are a few wine styles that have been growing in popularity over the past few years that are worth trying.

New trends are being set on the wine we are drinking

Wine trends… (and how they are shaped by) craft beers 

While millennial-bashing may be a sport enjoyed by some, we have many things to thank them for. Okay, we are talking very first world here, but you have to admit, the craft beer market, which is not just for bearded hipsters, has thrived due to younger customers. As more discerning beer drinkers have started to head into their late 20s and early 30s, they're also setting new trends when it comes to the wine we're drinking. And this, according to Dermot Nolan, a Master of Wine who has just opened a new wine shop, Wine Library, on George's Street in Dún Laoghaire, south Co Dublin, is...

Prosecco - softer on the palate

Make mine a Prosecco! 

Ireland, it would seem, is positively bubbling over this year and it looks like we could be hitting Celtic Tiger volumes when it comes to the fizz in our glasses. Kevin O'Callaghan, the wine buyer at SuperValu, says the only way is up when it comes to sparkling wine - and Prosecco is the darling of the frothy set, sitting comfortably in the No. 1 spot. And it's not just the Irish who are loving it. In 2006, Italy was producing an impressive 50 million bottles; last year that figure was close to 500 million bottles.

Nature background with Vineyard in autumn harvest. Ripe grapes in fall.

American Dream 

While a certain tee-total individual may be busy making America great again, as others steel their nerves by gazing into the bottom of a glass, there will no doubt be a resolute clinking of glasses this weekend as the celebrations for the USA's Independence Day on Tuesday get under way. In keeping with Fourth of July tradition, the White House will greet a procession of dignitaries, followed by parades, fireworks, and live music to salute the American dream. But Trump himself will be toasting the day with an alcohol-free glass, "Not that there's anything wrong with that", as Jerry Seinfeld...

Bertha's Revenge Botanicals

How Irish craft gin has become a global success 

When Brian McGinn, one of the producers of the award-winning Netflix series Chef's Table, was visiting Ireland in search of new stories two weeks ago, Ballyvolane House was one of the places he visited. Co-incidentally, two days later, Bertha's Revenge, the small batch Irish milk gin that is distilled at Ballyvolane House by owner Justin Green and his business partner Antony Jackson, was awarded a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the most influential in the industry.

Orange wine is still having a moment

Hipster wine 

While blue wine, called Gïk (I kid you not), may be a colour too far for the Spanish wine police, orange wine, much beloved of hipsters, is still having a moment. I'd tried it by the glass a number of times and liked it, so when I was in New York last summer, it was time to go full-on hipster. I headed into Wildair, an über-cool wine bar on the Lower East Side and ordered a bottle of Nikoloz Antadze's Rkatsiteli, as you do. I know, Rkatsiteli. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? And maybe it was the jet lag, but we found that getting through a full bottle was a bit heavy going.

Corinna Hardgrave. Photo: Fran Veale

The mystical wine made with cow horns and a full moon 

If biodynamic wine is a bit of a mystery to you, you're not alone. Twelve years ago, Caro and Seán Feely bought a dilapidated farmhouse on a 10-hectare vineyard in the Bergerac region of France, packed up their young family and left Ireland to live the dream. From the outset, they planned to farm organically, but it wasn't until Seán started researching about how to deal with mildew, the bane of winemakers' lives, that he discovered a book by Nicolas Joly, a French winemaker. That was their introduction to biodynamic farming. They embraced the lunar calendar, and according to...