There’s more to Ireland then Guinness & potatoes – food & wine matching
Ireland has been in the news a lot lately and sadly it´s not for it´s gastronomic delights. This past October, I visited the Emerald Isle and I can attest to the high quality and just plain deliciousness of their cuisine. The old stereotype might be of potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes but Ireland has experienced a culinary boom in the past few years and I was invited along with 4 food bloggers, Eat like a Girl, Scandilicious, Gastronomy Domaine and Simply Splendiferous to see what´s going on.
Although food is not my main thing, I do think that food and wine should go together so I was very curious to see what an Irish wine list would look like. I was not disappointed at the Cliff House Hotel. Situated on a cliff overlooking the sea, the Cliff House is a beautiful 5 star hotel in West Waterford and boasts one of the few Michelin starred restaurants in Ireland, the one star, House Restaurant. We had the tasting menu which was matched by their female German sommelier Anke Hartmann. Although Anke was not there that evening, the assistant sommelier, Hungarian Niki Fajd, was on hand to answer my questions.
Each course was paired with a wine and was all Irish, from the salmon to the venison. The wines were all European, heavy on the Italian side but a German riesling was matched with a course as well as a Jurancon. The list was well rounded, not too big or small. The hotel had chosen wines mainly from Italy to pair with our tasting menu. I’m not very familiar with Italian wines, sadly, but the ones that Anke picked were spot on. From Sicily, a white blend from Donnafugata, a Veronese red, and a Sardinian red to go along with the German riesling and French Jurancon.
The next night we stayed and dined at the Castlemartyr Resort and golf course!! Castlemartyr is an 18th century mansion which has been renovated into a luxurious spar and resort. It sits next to the ruins of an 800 year old castle that is said to have been built by Strongbow himself, Richard Earl de Clare. A beautiful setting, the castle ruins providing lovely views from the pool house. Sadly, I didn’t have time to play golf. It was a choice between early morning swim and jacuzzi or a rushed game of golf as we had to be on the bus by 10am. I chose the pool. I needed to work off the previous nights meal anyway.
A big plus for me on this trip was that since I was with a group of food bloggers, they let me choose all the wines when possible – FUN! We had a 5 course gourmet meal at Castlemartyr and it was bit tricky to match everything but I was assisted by their very friendly sommelier, Sandra Biret, who advised me on the wines. My choices ranged from 2007 Dom. Schlumberger pinot blanc, a 2005 Cote de Nuits Village, a Spanish Albarino, Luis Pato’s 2005 Portuguese vino tinto, and finishing off with a 200o Hungarian 5 puttonyons tokaji aszu.
The discerning wine lover doesn’t have to worry about getting a good wine (or good food for that matter) in Ireland. These were only the first two places we visited. We also visited the English Market in Cork, Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe, Paul Flynn’s cooking school in Dungarven, an abbattoir that’s been in operation for 10 generations and a few other choice restaurants around Cork, which I will be getting round to writing up soon.
In the meantime, if you’re worried about finding more to drink in Ireland other then Guinness, put your fears to rest, there’s plenty of ace wines to match with your meal.