Ireland and France have a long history for many reasons, partly because of proximity, a common religion, a common ‘old enemy’ and of course trade.
“Enjoying Claret in Georgian Ireland” by Patricia McCarthy is a beautiful new book that explores the Irish love for Bordeaux red wine that continues to this day, but arguably peaked in the Georgian era of the 18th century. . Patricia’s previous book waswhere she realized how central Bordeaux was in the life of a Georgian Gentleman (and some Gentlewomen).
Many exiled second sons or revolutionaries of the Wild Geese ended up in the wine trade in Bordeaux and this bolstered an already nascent trade. Their names are still there on the labels – Barton, Lynch, McCarthy, Phelan and Dillon. Jonathan Swift called Bordeaux ‘Irish Wine’ and in Georgian times we drank more of it than all the other British nations combined. Gentlemen fought over the size and quality of their wine cellars, there were ‘5 bottles a day’ men, and it was a central part of Irish hospitality, generously served at every ball or social gathering.
McCarthy’s book is cheerful throughout and delves into everything from recommended remedies for gout (unexpectedly a common ailment of the Georgian gentleman), to Georgian winery management to the emergence of the wine connoisseur (God we assistance !). Drinking clubs such as the famous Hellfire Club are discussed and a general appreciation of the joys and excesses of Irish conviviality is the dominant theme running through the book – it is lavishly illustrated, well written and warmly recommended – every gentleman and gentlewoman enthusiast of wine in the country needs a copy for their shelf.
Claret, in case you were wondering, is a corruption of ‘Clairet’, the name of a lighter style of Bordeaux which is still around but rarely seen on Irish shelves these days. The color is somewhere between a rosé and a light red with a dark pink color – a perfect summer wine. The current trend for pale onion skin pink Rosé de Provence has certainly not helped sales.
This week’s six suggestions are for ‘Claret’ in different price ranges. The scale of Bordeaux production is enormous and can therefore be found between under €10 and over €1,000. Bordeaux is also one of the few regions where the average ABV is 13.5%, making Claret one of the friendliest and most digestible wines.
This is part of the Centra French wine sale which ends on June 8, check it out – the €10 André Goichot Fleurie is also recommended. This pours in with a deep purple hue, cassis flavors with a hint of cassis leaf – solidly done with good fruit and some light spice notes on the finish. Excellent for the price but would recommend decanting to open it up a bit – serve with something meaty.
Retailer: Dunnes Stores
Côtes de Bourg/Castillon/Blaye were formerly labeled separately but are now under the same PDO. This is brand new to Dunnes but should be on the shelves by the time it appears. Dark purple with a black centre, aromas of cassis and dark fruit with a hint of chocolate, crisp and fruity – maybe a little crisp and taut but with good balance. To decant.
The Saint Emilion Grand Cru is more or less the equivalent of the Cru Bourgeois in the Médoc and it is rare to see one at this price. Round dark plum and dark berry aromas, solidly fruity with some light chocolate tones on the mid-palate and with good weight and length. A solid Merlot-based Bordeaux from a ripe year that should age and improve for a few more years.
Resellers: O’Briens, Greenacres, Juice of Vine, Searsons, Independents, www.theallotment.ie
The Barton family still hold their Irish nationality and are a family affair with Lillian Barton caring for Langoa and Léoville Barton and her children, the recently acquired Mauvesin Barton. The 2014 was served at the book launch and it has chewy cherries, but I think I prefer the younger 2018 for its juicy dark fruit with hints of mint, dark chocolate and cassis.
Resellers: McCurtain St Wine Cellar, JJ O’Driscolls, Vintry, Jus de Vine, Independents.
This is the second wine of Domaine Margaux Château d’Angludet – their first wine will set you back around €95. Although not a Cru Classé, the estate has enjoyed a solid reputation for more than a century. Aromas of violets and blackberry juice, supple, ripe and elegant on the palate – despite its youthfulness and a bit of crunch, this is a magnificent drink right now.
Resellers: MacCurtain St, Bradleys, The Corkscrew www.thecorkscrew.ie, Blackrock Cellar, Green Man, Baggot St. Wines..
From an altitude vineyard planted with 85% Merlot from one of the French pioneers of organic/biodynamic agriculture. It’s as ‘natural’ as Bordeaux wine is with aromas of ripe blackberries, a deliciously fruity and plummy mouthfeel and with a pleasant freshness and drinkability. Le Puy still has a well-focused energy and purity, which Bordeaux needs more – which is worth its reputation.
Resellers: Tesco, Carry Outs, O’Briens, Martins Fairview, McHughs, Lilac Wines, Joyces Galway.
The Macivor family planted their first orchard in 1855 and have been growing apples ever since. It’s available as a four-pack for €10 at select outlets and is a little less alcoholic than regular MacIvors.
It is made from 100% table apples (e.g. Falstaff, Elstar and Golden Delicious), so it is ideal for a session-style cider. Aromas of cooked pears and ripe apples, fruity and crisp on the palate with hints of dried apple and citrus with textured tannins to balance any sweetness. The finish is pleasantly dry with lingering hints of tart green apple.