John Wilson wine writer

John Wilson one of Ireland’s best known wine writers recently gave a wine talk and tasting to the 12-week certificate students on the wine regions and wines of Spain. John Wilson is the Irish Times wine & drinks correspondent and has 20 years of practical experience in the wine trade under his belt. He is author of the annual wine guide ‘Wilson on Wine – Wines to drink this year’.

His other wine writing including editing ‘The Wine Guide’ Ireland’s best ever selling wine book. Most of all as he says himself he likes a glass of decent wine!

‘Elgin, this is Shanagarry calling’. Skype wine tasting!

Wine talk and tasting – via Skype – with winemaker Kosie Van Der Merwe, Elgin Ridge Wines, Elgin, South Africa

Kosie spoke to the 12-week certificate students about organic and biodynamic work in the vineyard and making wine with minimal intervention in the winery. The students also enjoyed the tasting of Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc.

Irish owner Marion Smith (Marion’s family are originally from Co.Cavan, and Marion lived in Dublin before moving to London), explains why she wanted to farm organically: “Having sold our successful IT business in London we decided it was time to pursue a dream we had always nurtured: to make outstanding wines in small quantities that reflected our passion. We searched most of the wine growing regions in Europe, but eventually concluded the Elgin Valley in South Africa was the ideal place to realise this dream”Elgin Ridge also has Dexter cattle, the miniature cattle breed native to Ireland, along with Dorper sheep, Peking ducks and chickens.

Wine Tasting with Pierre Dietrich of Achillée Alsace – via Skype

21st November 2019

Skype wine tasting!

We were delighted to recently welcome winemaker Pierre Dietrich of Achillée Alsace – via Skype – for a wine talk & tasting to the 12week certificate cookery course students.

Earlier in the year we welcomed Pierre in person when he visited the cookery school and spoke to the students outside in the garden amphitheatre – some photos below.

The Dietrich family have farmed land in Alsace since 1600 and been growing grapes organically since 1999 and biodynamic since 2003.  Their winery is a straw bale building in the village of Scherwiller, halfway between Strasbourg and Colmar. Achillée is the name for yarrow, a plant used in biodynamic farming and one that grows abundantly on the Dietrich family’s vineyards.

Pierre spoke passionately about farming organically and biodynamically and we tasted some of his wines including Achillée Alsace white and Achillée Riesling.

John Wurdeman, Pheasant’s Tears, Georgia

17th May 2019

We were delighted to welcome John Wurdeman of Pheasant’s Tears, Georgia with Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau

John spoke to the 12 week certificate cookery course students about the amazing culture, heritage, food and wine of Georgia.

During the wine classes of the 12week certificate cookery course we tasted Pheasants Tears Rkatsiteli – fermented naturally for thirty days with wild yeasts in clay Georgian qvevri buried underground. A ‘skin contact’ / ‘amber’ / ‘orange’ wine – a white wine made in contact with its grape skins. “Golden amber in the glass with a nose of wild honey, but dry, and unexpectedly, full-bodied in the mouth with background notes of walnut and apricot” Le Caveau

Qvevri were the first vessels ever to be used for wine fermentation, with archaeological finds dating back to 6000 BC. Qvevri are clay vessels lined with beeswax and completely buried under the ground where the temperature stays even throughout the year, allowing the wines to ferment in the natural coolness of the earth. Pheasant’s Tears qvevri vary in age but some date back to the mid 19th century. The cellar is built in the vineyard itself to minimize the damage to the grapes in transportation, allowing harvesting and process before the heat of the day takes effect. In accordance with Georgian traditional winemaking methods, the ripest of stems are added to the grape skins, juice and pits, for both reds and whites. The maceration time depends on varietal and the size of the qvevri and varies between 3 weeks and 6 months.

Pheasant’s Tears estate vineyard plantings flow down the slopes of the eastern Georgian Kiziqi province overlooking the Alazani Valley and snow-capped Caucasus Mountains. The site itself is located near the village of Tibaani in the shadow of the 6th century monastery of St. Stephen. Winemaker Gela Patalashvili who grew up in a farming family learning from their grandparents and parents how to grow grapes and make wine in qvevri. Gela, along with John Wurdeman, are helping to preserve the traditional winemaking techniques that have made Georgia a home for viticulture since 6,000 BC. Pheasant’s Tears are also committed to seeking out rare indigenous varietals, of which Georgia has over 500 species of grape.

Ger Buckley 5th Generation Master Cooper

Master Cooper Ger Buckley learned his trade directly from his father. His family have been making barrels for over 200 years and Ger himself is a 5th generation Master Cooper at Midleton Distillery here in East Cork. Ger Buckley is keeping this ancient craft alive and passing on the skills to the next generation.

We recently welcomed Ger Buckley, Master Cooper Midleton Distillery to Ballymaloe Cookery School for a talk & demo on the ancient craft of Cooperage, for the students of the 12week cookery course and Slow Food East Cork. Ger spoke about the origin of the craft dating back to Roman times and brought along a selection of the ancient tools still used to this very day. A fascinating line-up of cooperage tools – and not the usual line up of utensils normally seen on the cookery demo counter at the Ballymaloe Cookery School!

Ger also brought along a barrel which he dismantled and asked for volunteer from the class to show them how to re-assemble it  – so one of the 12-week students had a hands-on step by step ‘how to make a barrel’ from a Master Cooper. Ger Buckley explained that it was always one of the most highly regarded trades and crafts, but that the tradition of apprentices having a little of the char from the inside of the barrel on the face of the apprentice for their first barrel was continued to the surprise of the volunteer cookery student! All taken in good spirits. And we enjoyed a taste of ‘Cooper’s Croze’ Irish Whiskey, created and named in honour of Ger. Our thanks to Ger Buckley Master Cooper for a fascinating talk and demo which was really enjoyed and appreciated by all.

Wine class in the garden amphitheatre

We were delighted to recently welcome guest wine speaker and Master Sommelier Eleonara Infusa from organic Bodegas Menade in Rueda Spain – and with lovely May sunshine, we held the wine talk outside in the garden amphitheatre.
Eleonora who is a Master Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers Spain, introduced the region of Rueda and Bodegas Menade We tasted a number of wines and grape varieties including Rueda Verdejo, a natural ‘Nosso Verdejo’ made with no added sulphur and a Sauvignon Blanc. Bodegas Menade is a certified organic estate in Rueda, South of Valladolid. Hand-harvesting, wines made with natural yeasts and low yields resulting in pure and expressive wines – all of which which the students very much appreciated and enjoyed in the ‘wine class in the garden’.
Our thanks to Eleonora and it was lovely to welcome her in person to the cookery school – Eleonora has spoken to the students on previous courses when we Skype in guest wine speakers during wine class

Jancis Robinson MW and Nick Lander

Thanks to Jancis Robinson MW & Nick Lander for an inspirational talk to the students during the 12 week certificate cookery course wine class on a recent visit by Jancis & Nick to the cookery school.
Also thank you to Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau and Jules Verhaeghe of Château du Cèdre

Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau Kilkenny and Jules Verhaeghe of Château du Cèdre, Cahors, South West France provided a fantastic talk & tasting during wine class this week on organic, biodynamic and natural wines to the 12 week certificate cookery course students.

Beira wine region, Portugal

Maria and Rosie

Guest wine speakers at a recent wine class were two of the students on the January 2018 12 week certificate course

Rosie @reviving_food speaking about working in biodynamic vineyards and Maria @luadeacucar speaking about her family vineyard in the Beira region of Portugal and generations of winemaking & farming traditions in her family. Wonderful stories from both students inspiring their classmates.
#beira #portugal #wine #wineclass

Mary Dowey visit to the Ballymaloe Cookery School

We were delighted to welcome back Mary Dowey, who is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers and lecturers to the Cookery School recently. Mary spoke to the 12-week certificate cookery students about her life as a writer, how she started and what continues to inspire her.

“Mary is wine editor of The Gloss since 2006, with a monthly column in the print edition of the magazine and weekly recommendations on For the previous decade she was wine correspondent of The Irish Times. She is the only Irish writer to contribute regular articles to the internationally acclaimed British wine magazine Decanter. She has written three books about wine besides contributing to several others.

Mary has run many wine appreciation courses and other events including the highly successful Gloss Wine Dinner Series at Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, now in its tenth year. Enthusiastic about the whole world of wine, she has a particular weakness for finely crafted champagnes and sparkling wines – at any time of day”.