• Early Easter Treats!

    With Easter looming large on the Horizon, many of us will be thinking of serving the traditional roast leg of spring Lamb, and the classic partner of red Bordeaux to serve alongside it.

    So, it is very apt, that we have just launched our spring Bordeaux parcels promotion, of course buying Bordeaux can seem daunting for some, so to help de-mystify the region, I have laid out a few simple tips below.

    The first point of note is that all Bordeaux wines from entry-level right up to some most of the world’s most expensive wines are made from a blend of two or more varieties, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc.

    Also, the region is bisected by the Gironde River, and indeed you may have heard Bordeaux wines referred to as right or left bank.

    On the left bank, Cabernet Sauvignon is king, these wines have more structure and tannin, with dark blackcurrant and blackberry fruit and can possess tremendous ageing potential.

    On the right bank, the Merlot-dominant blends are generally softer and more approachable in their youth with layers of chocolate, spice, plum and red berry fruit.

    As you can see from the map below, with the dozen wines chosen, we have covered a wide geographic spread with our Bordeaux line-up, so we also have a wide range of wine styles represented.

    This map highlights the broad geographic spread covered in the promotion

    To give you a sense of the promotion, I have picked out a few of my favourites below.

    If you really learn more about Bordeaux though, in my opinion tasting is far more enjoyable than reading, so why not start out by trying one of the wines below, all of which have 20% off this April & May.

    From the Left Bank:

    In 2006 Ch. Fourcas-Hosten was bought by the Momméja brothers (owners of the Hermès fashion house) who have since then lavished money on upgrading what was already one of the leading estates in Listrac.

    Château Fourcas Hosten (€23.95 down from €29.95) excelled in 2009, so expect ripe dark fruits, some classic Medoc lead pencil spice, a touch of oak vanilla and seamless tannins.

    Wine ageing in expensive new oak barrels in Château du Glana's recently renovated and thoroughly modern cellars.

    Château du Glana 2013 (€32.00 down from €40.00) shows an interesting mix of black fruits, cherry and plum plus the typical aroma of Saint-Julien wines, tobacco leaf, with some tannin on the palate.

    From the Right Bank:

    Château Haut-Badon 2012 (€19.95 down from €24.95) is a beautiful Saint-Émilion Grand Cru that immediately displays the charm that makes Saint-Émilion the easiest to love of all Bordeaux wine.

    As you can see the classic right bank communes sit side by side.

    Château Franc Maillet 2011(€34.35 down from €42.95) is from a family-owned estate which always delivers a classic expression of the Pomerol terroir, with deep raspberry, plum and black cherry flavours, undercut by some subtle spice and smoke. The tannins are ripe and fine.

    To launch this promotion, we will have a selection of Bordeaux wines open on the tasting table in your local O’Briens store this weekend, so why not pop in, and try before you buy.

  • The Great Gin Hunt

    Here at O’Briens we have been searching out some of the very best and most interesting gins from around the world. Each week we taste, nose and examine gins from around the world looking for unique and interesting flavours and aromas. We are looking for gins that have a story to tell or an interesting approach be that through unusual botanicals or distillation methods. Above all of course they have to taste great. Yes, sometimes it’s a tough job!

    Here are just a few picks of world gins from our current gin sale line-up.

    Nordes, Citadelle, Monkey 47

    Citadelle Gin is produced in the heart of France’s Grande Champagne Cognac region. The French AOC laws governing cognac allow it only to be distilled up to the 31st of March following the grape harvest. This means the stills are quiet six months of the year so the distillers on the Logis d’Angeac estate decided to produce gin in the months they were not producing cognac. Citadelle is the only gin in distilled in a traditional Cognac pot still with a naked flame. Distilling over an open flame requires a particular set of skills and also means the gin is made in smaller batches compared to that which could be produced using a column still or steam distillation. The result of this unique distillation method the is an elegant flavour and a very smooth palate. This is a juniper lead gin supported with eighteen other botanicals for a complex floral and spicy flavour profile.

    Nordes gin comes from Galicia region in northern Spain. Nordes is not your usual gin. One of the things that is unique about the gin is its base spirit. The gin is distilled from the pomace of Albarino grapes which gives the finished spirit a superb rounded mouthfeel and texture. It also features twelve, locally sourced, botanicals including lemon peels, hibiscus, liquorice and eucalyptus. This is a fruity and floral gin with a light touch of mint and juniper tucked in the background.

    The beautiful Monkey 47 still

    We can’t talk of great gins from around the world without mentioning the venerable Monkey 47. The bold uncompromising style of this gin has lead it to pick up numerous awards and set a benchmark to which many others are compared. What’s unusual about this gin is the sear number of botanicals used, the clue is in the name, with 47 different botanicals in the distillation. The complexity on display from its long list of botanicals has to be tasted to be fully appreciated.

    You can pick these up on offer, along with a host of other Irish and international gins, in our Gin Sale.

  • Saor (Free!)

    9 White Deer brewery was founded in 2014 by publican Don O’Leary and former marine engineer Gordon Lucey and set about brewing approachable full flavoured beers. It was when Don was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance within a year of opening the brewery, discovering how limited the craft beer offering was, that the focus for the brewery became creating great tasting gluten free beers across a range of styles. This began with the release of their first gluten free beer simply named Saor in 2015. The warm reception this received encouraged the team to continue and after a lot of hard work and experimentation they now have a full Saor range with not one but five new gluten free beers, offering greater choice for celiacs and those with gluten intolerance.

    Gluten is the name for a range of proteins naturally found in many grains including barley, the primary ingredient in most beers. There are two approaches to producing a gluten free beer, either by substituting the malt in the recipe with grains that don’t contain gluten such as sorghum or rice or by removing the gluten from the beer after it has been brewed. If you If you want to make a beer that more tastes like ‘beer’ you really want to start out with malt, brewers then use enzymes to denatured the gluten in the beer. This is what 9 White Deer have done with their Stag Saor range with each batch independently tested to ensure that gluten levels are below the 20ppm threshold to be certified gluten free.

    Of course, offering a range of gluten free beers is great but how do they taste? Thankfully these are great tasting beers in their own right. The IPA has a great balance of malt and hops bringing all those juicy citrus and tropical fruit notes but with restrained bitterness. The Pale Ale is softer and lighter than the IPA but still brings great fruit hop character with a soft fruity finish.

    The Stout, Ireland’s first gluten free stout for that matter, is again smooth and approachable with chocolate and vanilla notes over rich malt. The Red Ale is soft and easy-drinking with smooth toffee and caramel notes while the Kolsch is light, crisp and refreshing with a gentle hop bitterness to the finish.

    9 White Deer have to be applauded for creating great range of beers with something to suit all palates whether you are avoiding gluten or not. If you would like to try these beers for yourself you can pick them up this month in our Irish Craft Beer Sale at 6 for the price of 5.

     

  • Wine Fair 2017, Bigger & Better!

    As our spring wine fair in now just a little over five weeks away, we all getting very excited about it here in the office.

    With fifty-seven wineries visiting Dublin on Friday & Saturday May 5th & 6th, this will be our biggest fair yet and I firmly believe it will also be best we have held.

    Of course, we have plenty of our favourite wineries returning to fair, many of them regular visitors, but we also have several first-time attendees, and also new this year on Thursday May 4th, we will be taking our fair west to Limerick for the very first time.

    So to be sure not to miss out, drop into to your local store or follow this link to purchase tickets online, all proceeds from the ticket sales go towards our charity partners, the Cancer Clinical Research Trust, Cystic Fibrosis and the Milford Care Centre.

    To whet your appetite, I have picked out below just a few of those first-time attendees who will be flying in for the weekend.

    Germain Croisille, is the winemaker at Cahors’ Château les Croisille, which his parents Bernard and Cécile founded in 1979. Working with 30 and 35-year-old vines organically-grown on calcareous clay terraces and with an excellent understanding of the sensitive use of oak in the winery, he is producing thoroughly modern and food-friendly Malbecs, marked out by their freshness, acidity and minerality.

    Lorenzo Marotti Campi’s family estate is situated near Morro d'Alba, an ancient village North of Jesi which is developed around it's castle walls rising above the hills facing the sea in the province of Ancona.

    Their vineyards are located in the centre of the DOC zone of the Lacrima di Morro d'Alba and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico. Here, for over a century, Lorenzo’s family have owned land, which over the years has been transformed into a wine-growing business with around 52 hectares of vines and a thoroughly modern winery.

    Lorenzo Marotti Campi amidst his vines.

    The De Alberto Winery is located an historic old farmhouse founded by the Dominicans in the 17th century, and as Impressive as that farmhouse is, it is the labyrinthine underground cellars that will take your breath away, these 350-year-old barrel vaults extend to more than 1km in length!

    The vineyards are at the heart of the Rueda DO, and working with the local Verdejo variety, the De Alberto team produce incredibly crisp, refreshing and elegant white wines.

    Bottles ageing in De Alberto's Ancient cellars

  • Break out the Bubbles this Mother’s Day!

    Not that we should need an excuse to spoil the Mothers in our lives, but Mother’s Day is a great reminder to do so.

    And of course, when it comes to wine, nothing says treat, quite like a bottle of bubbly.

    Regular readers will know that Just last week I was writing about Prosecco, so for today I will be focusing on traditional-method sparkling wines; two Champagnes and one very incredibly-classy Champagne look-a-like.

    Starting with that look-a-like, Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne (€18.95down from €20.95), is a 100% Chardonnay made in the exact same way as a Blanc de Blancs Champagne. With aromas of ripe apple and citrus, and a complex and creamy palate, this wine would make a delicious partner for eggs benedict, if you are treating your Mother to brunch.

    Now on to the Champagnes, first up is what I believe to be one of the most reliable yet often under-rated wines on the market. Wonderfully toasty and rich, with red apple and red berry fruit, Beaumont des Crayères Grande Réserve (€25.00 down from €36.95*), is a wine that seriously punches above its weight. This style of Champagne works with most white fish or shellfish dishes, for a twist though, I recommend trying it with some good quality Fish & Chips, believe me you will be in for a treat!

    *This offer is only available for purchase in-store.

    We have to push the budget out a bit for my last selection, but if you can manage it, you will be getting your hands on an astoundingly-good fine wine! Bollinger Special Cuvée Rosé (€65.00 down from €83.00), is complex and multi-layered with its red berry fruit complemented perfectly by the underlying toasty and nutty characters. The finish is crisp and fresh and slightly spicy, making this the perfect for fuller-flavoured seafood dishes such as lobster or even with mildly spiced Asian dishes like Seared Tuna Tataki.

  • Getting into the Spirit of Mothers Day

    Just in case you forgot, Mother’s Day is this Sunday the 26th of March. Yes, this Sunday! But don’t worry, there is plenty on offer in your local O’Briens to mark the occasion.

    We have something to suit everyone’s taste. So, forget about the bath set or novelty mug and get them something they will really enjoy. A bottle of fine spirits, and the time to relax and enjoy the gift, could be a great choice. It presents well and can be sipped and enjoyed for a long time after the day. And, of course, we have free gift wrapping in all our stores.

    So here are just a few picks from our offers this month across a range of spirits.

    Glendalough Distillery have taken the expertise, botanical knowledge and flavour design gained with their great seasonal range of gins and produced a new year-round release that captures the essence of the four seasons. The delicate balance of floral, fruit and spice notes in their Wild Botanical Gin (€33.00 down from €38.00) will keep any gin lover happy.

    New Irish gin from Glendalough Distillery

    For those whose taste run to vodka you can’t go wrong with the instantly recognisable Grey Goose (€50.00 down from €57.50). This superior French vodka is crisp, clean, and exceptionally smooth, making it a great base for a range of cocktails and long drinks.

    West Cork 10 year old (€32.00 down from €40.00) is perfect for those who prefer whiskey to clear spirits. Presenting caramel and spice notes while remaining fresh and approachable with crisp fruit and a soft body. This is a real a real crowd pleaser of an Irish whiskey.

    Kerry Gold may be a household name when it comes to the dairy section of the supermarket but taking all that knowledge in dairy they have produced an excellent new premium Cream Liqueur (€19.00 down from €24.00). It is made with real chocolate and genuine Irish whiskey for a smooth, rich, and silky texture with rich chocolate flavour and subtle whiskey notes.

    Something for all tastes

  • Pick up a Prosecco.

    With 20% off our entire range of Proseccos as part of our Italian wine sale, there can be no better time to pop in to your local O’Briens store and pick up a bottle of Ireland’s favourite fizz or even to branch out and try something new as we also have a number of other Prosecco-style wines included in the line-up.

    Of course, I’m fully aware that the vast majority of Prosecco enjoyed in Ireland is simply sipped on its own as an aperitif, but like all sparkling wines, Prosecco can make for a good food-matching wine, so why not take advantage of the sale to try one of the pairings I have picked out below.

    To kick off my selection, I have gone with an organic Prosecco-style wine from the island of Sicily; Il Grillo Spumante (€15.56 down from €19.95) has fine, gentle bubbles and a fresh fruity nose with hints of citrus and floral notes. On the palate, the wine is very well balanced, gentle, and soft with a refreshing burst of acidity and wonderfully citrusy notes, so I think this would be a great choice to serve alongside a Seafood platter.

    Next up is another Prosecco-style wine, Mionetto Vivo Rosé (€15.16 down from €18.95), which is made with an unusual and exciting blend of grapes, this delicious sparkling Rosé is rich and frothy in style with vibrant raspberry and red cherry fruit and an intriguing underlying floral character. With all that red berry fruit character, I think the ideal way to serve this wine is to pop a couple of raspberries into each glass and match it up with a deliciously simple, yet sweet and fruity dessert such as Eton mess.

    Now on to the Proseccos Proper, my first choice is from the legendary, family-owned and run Veneto house of Guerrieri Rizzardi. With a vinous history stretching back to 1678, it’s fair to say the Guerrieri Rizzardi family are one of the most experienced anywhere in Italy. Current winemaker, Count Giuseppe Rizzardi is a man at the top of his game, his extremely-refined extra-dry Prosecco (€16.76 down from €20.95) shows the perfect balance of white peach and ripe pear fruit with a fine crisp backbone, which allows this wine to make a really interesting pairing with Sushi.

    One more Prosecco to finish the selection, Mionetto Treviso DOC (€17.56 down from €21.95), is a very classy Prosecco from one of the region’s leading producers, all their considerable expertise in creating Prosecco can easily be seen in this polished, excellent, fruit-driven wine with wonderfully pure pear and melon flavours. Thanks to its crisp and clean profile and long, dry, complex finish, this wine would work beautifully with a platter of Italian cured meats.

    Our sale continues right through Saint Patrick’s weekend and finishes up at 10.00 pm on Sunday the 19th.

  • A Right Pair

    This week I’m taking a look at Whiskey and craft beer pairing and for the week that’s in it sticking to all things Irish. Far from a whiskey chaser quickly washed down with a beer we are looking at beers and whiskeys that work well together and compliment both.

    The reason whiskey and beer pair so well is because, in essence, a whiskey is a beer that has been distilled, where the evaporation separates the alcohol from the other components. The aging in oak creates another layer of flavours and aromas in the whiskey with can pair beautifully with many craft beer styles.

    To create a good match you want to seek out flavours that work in harmony with each other or where the contrast works to heighten the experience and where sipping each in turn draws your attention to an element of the beer or whiskey. Firstly take a sip of the whiskey and let it sit on your tongue as the flavours envelop your mouth, swallow and appreciate the finish. Only then take a sip of the beer and see how the flavours interact with each other.

    Here are a few of my own matches, of course everyone’s palate differs but there is so much choice with Irish whiskey and craft beers there is something for everyone.

    Our exclusive limited release form Teelings

     

    Writers Tears Single Malt Red Head with Killarney Scarlet Pimpernel

    In general, you should probably stay away from IPAs where the bitterness overpowers the flavours of the whiskey, however, I find the orange fruit note that grows on the finish of the excellent Red Head melds with the orange pith bitterness of the Killarney Scarlet Pimpernel while its smooth finish draws you in for another sip of whiskey.

     

    Teeling Single Cask Amarone with Third Circle Red Ale

    For our own exclusive bottling from Teelings, we finished a 10 year old single malt in Italian Amarone wine barrels. This gives a berry and dried fruit character alongside marzipan and spice. This works beautifully with the red berry and toasted caramel of Third Circle’s Red Ale.

     

    Powers 3 Swallow Release with Franciscan Well Friar Weisse

    This classically styled single pot still whiskey throws out some wonderfully delicate orange peel and sweet spices that are such a great match for the banana, citrus and clove of the Franciscan Well Friar Weisse, creating a host of intermingled flavours.

     

    Irishman 12 year old with 9 White Deer Stag Saor Stout

    This is a classic combination. The Irishman is matured exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels which lend a rich sweet vanilla character throughout the taste, before finishing with fudge and dark chocolate. This is picked up by the Madagascan vanilla and cacao nibs used in brewing this soft smooth stout.

     

    Connemara Peated Malt with 12 Acres Single Malt Lager

    Here I’ve gone for contrast where the full-bodied peat whiskey is lifted by the delicate Kolsch style beer with the whiskeys smoky character persisting to the delicate spicy hop finish on the beer.

     

    You will find these whiskeys on offer in our Irish Whiskey Sale and we also have an offer of 6 for the price of 5 across our Irish Craft Beer Sale. Of course, if you would like to experiment with your pairings we have lots to choose from for a great St Patricks Day and beyond.

    Enjoy a sensible St Patricks Day with an Irish craft beer and Irish whiskey

  • A taste of ‘la Dolce Vita’

     

    Our Italian wine and Prosecco sale starts this Thursday, so I was inspired to have a look at matching some Italian wines with some classic Italian dishes.

    Italy probably produces the most diverse range of grape varieties and wine-styles of any country, but if there is one thing which unifies all these wines, it is a common vision among winemakers to primarily produce wines which offer great food-matches with the local cuisine.

    Of course, Italy has a hugely varied range of regional cuisines and a good rule of thumb is that ‘if it grows together, it goes together’, or in other words, Italian food and wine culture have evolved together over the centuries, so regional foods usually work best with wines from the same region.

    All this being said, when most of us think of Italian cuisine, Pasta is the first thing that comes to mind, so that will be the focus of my recommendations.

    For my first choice, I have gone with a Pinot Grigio, now I know this might not appear to be the obvious place to start, given that most Pinot Grigios are best described as being simple, light wines for easy-drinking.

    A strong contender to be Ireland's favourite pasta dish; Spaghetti Carbonara.

    But I implore to put those pre-conceptions aside to consider San Osvaldo Pinot Grigio (€11.95 down from €14.95), which is from vineyards in the historic Lison-Pramaggiore area just west of Venice, this is a delicious and richly-concentrated take on Pinot Grigio, ripe pear and golden apple flavours are kept in perfect balance with the crisp cool finish, making this wine a great match for the classic Spaghetti Carbonara.

    The exquisite Linguine alle Vongole.

    Moving away from the rich egg and cheese based sauce above, I simply must include my own favourite recipe, Linguine alle Vongole, this incredibly fresh-flavoured dish calls for a crisp white with more delicate flavours, the wine I have chosen is a benchmark Gavi (€15.15 down from €18.95), from leading winemaker, Matteo Ascheri, it is floral and fresh in fruit profile and perfect balance remains between acidity and fruit.

    Italy’s red wines often have relatively higher levels acidity, which allows them to work well with the tomatoes which are such a feature so many pasta dishes.

    Perfect with Sangiovese-based reds, just make sure your Arrabiata sauce isn't too angry!

    Tuscany’s Sangiovese grape is for exceptionally well-suited to tomato based sauces, San Felice Chianti Classicio (€14.35 down from €17.95), embodies all that is good about Italy’s most famous wine: Intense black cherry fruit balanced by classic Chianti freshness this is just wine to pair with Penne all'Arrabbiata.

    Proper Tagliatelle al Ragù; so much more than just a posh Spag-Bol !

    Proper Tagliatelle al Ragù is a gutsy dish and as such will need a richly-flavoured, smooth-textured wine to stand up to it, I would be thinking of a Valpolicella Ripasso, and in particular of Bertani’s Tenute Novare (€15.95 down from €20.95), silk-smooth thanks to nine months ageing in oak, this is richer and fuller than many Ripassos, with delicious dark cherry and raisin fruit.

    Our sale continues right through Saint Patrick’s weekend and finishes up at 10.00 pm on Sunday the 19th so there can be no excuse not to visit there your local O’Briens store and pick up a couple of bottles, nor to dig out those Italian recipe books and get cooking.

    Buon Appetito!

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