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...

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Cork Forest – Portugal, EWBC 2009

Another European Wineblggers Conference has come and gone….sigh…it just flew by! Before I knew it, I was back winging my way back to Heathrow. But in between landing and take off at Lisbon’s Portela Airport I met some of the nicest people, saw the most amazing scenery and had some pretty good wine to boot! For me, the highlight of the weekend, not including the tour of the Douro Valley which was AFTER the conference, was the visit to the cork forests north of Lisbon, hosted by the Quinta do Lagoalva in the Tejo appellation and sponsored by Amorim, who produced a quarter of the cork in the world, something like 60 BILLION corks a year and that’s not even counting all the other things that can be made out of  cork. We left Lisbon early Saturday morning a bit worse for wear not having had our morning coffee and set off for the province of Tejo and the old cork forests scattered about. To call them forests is a bit of a misnomer as they’re more like orchards, the trees being oak and planted in more or less straight lines but they are old, most of the trees over 100 years old and most live up to 200 years or more. Cork trees are fascinating. They’re only harvested after they reach 25 years of age  and the cork ,called virgin cork, is not of suitable quality to be used for as cork stoppers. The tree is then harvested periodically, every 9 years until it reaches around the age of 40 when the cork can finally be used to make cork stoppers. The cork from the previous harvests is not wasted but put to use in a myriad of other items, including tiles on the Space Shuttle. Pretty cool, cork is  used to insulate the Space Shuttle on re-entry. Our guide from Amorim, Carlos de Jesus was a font of information regarding cork and told us that cork has a very high tolerance for heat, the bark protecting the inner tree...

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