The Irish Connection in the South Downs.

Winemaker and Munster native Dermot Sugrue who grew up in Kilmallock Co. Limerick is the award-winning sparkling winemaker at Wiston Estate and Sugrue ‘Trouble with Dreams’ in Sussex / South Downs.

It was great to catch up once again with Dermot when we skyped him in during wine class at Ballymaloe Cookery School for a talk and tasting with the 12-week certificate cookery course students.

Dermot Sugrue’s winemaking experience has seen him work in Bordeaux, at Chateau l’Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol and Chateau Leoville-Barton, St Julien and also in Champagne for Jacquinot & Fils. Dermot was the winemaker at Nyetimer, before moving to establish Wiston sparkling wine where farmers Harry and Pip Goring dreamed of turning part of their estate into a top sparkling wine vineyard, its farmland straddling the chalky slopes of the South Downs. (We poured Wiston sparkling at the Litfest talk with wine writers Hugh Johnson & John Wilson in the Drinks Theatre at Ballymaloe)

Dermot Sugrue also has his own personal project from vineyards on the South Downs – the award winning Sugrue â€˜Trouble with Dreams’. Dermot’s late Grand-Uncle was Dr Brendan O’Regan, a legendary Irish visionary instrumental in so many things in his native Munster region including the world’s first duty free at Shannon Airport in 1947. He “firmly believed in following your dreams and never giving up on an idea”. Sugrue â€˜Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan’ was created by Dermot in honour of his late great Grand Uncle. (We proudly poured Sugrue cuvée ‘Dr Brendan O’Regan’ at the state dinner on the occasion of the visit to Cork of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the dinner in the Crawford Art Gallery Cork)

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 Achill̩e Alsace Рvia Skype

21st November 2019

Skype wine tasting!

We were delighted to recently welcome winemaker Pierre Dietrich of Achill̩e Alsace Рvia Skype Рfor 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  â€“ 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.

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”.

Eden Valley visitors

Suze Angas, and her parents Jan & John, of Hutton Vale Farm, Eden Valley, Barossa, South Australia visited us recently at Ballymaloe Cookery School – John & Jan and Suze are 6th & 7th generation respectively of the Angas family to farm at Hutton Vale Farm since 1843. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to welcome Suze back to Ballymaloe during the12-week certificate cookery course to talk to the students at Ballymaloe Cookery School during wine class.

Established in 1843, Hutton Vale Farm is located in the picturesque countryside on the North-Eastern hills of Eden Valley, Barossa, South Australia. Homeland to rolling hills and ‘big red gums’, some over 400 years old, with girths too big to wrap your arms around. The farm has produced a wide range of produce since its inception, from fresh and dried fruit, to tobacco, sheep, cattle and grapes. Even ostriches were farmed here 160 years ago for their feathers & leather. Each generation has adapted to the changes of life around them, working hard over the last 170 years to promote and enhance the natural environment of their family farm. Being respectful of the authority of Mother Nature, and aiming for the farm’s produce to capture what the soils and the seasons will allow, has always been at the heart of their philosophy.

Hutton Vale Farm wines are from dry grown old vines. Their ‘old’ block of Shiraz was planted in the 1960s with cuttings taken from the nearby famous Mount Edelstone vineyard (run by their neighbour the Henschke family) which was planted by John Angas’s Grandfather, over 50 years ago.

The Angas family and the Henschke family continue the tradition of multi-generational farming in the Barossa, promoting the region with events such as the Barossa Vintage Festival (of which they are the founding families) and  ‘The Barossa Camino’, a collaborative experience hosted by the Angas and Henschke families taking in the picturesque Mount Edelstone Vineyard, the beautiful landscape and vineyards of Hutton Vale Farm and the iconic Hill of Grace vineyard via a gentle guided walk, wine tasting and lunch.

As sixth and seventh generations of the Angas family they are mindful of their stewardship of Hutton Vale Farm.  Today they run a mixed farming business on the original farm holdings with produce grown in an ethical manner with its origins in healthy soil.

Their approach to caring for their vineyards is simple, respecting mother nature to yield only what the landscape and seasons allow. While they were here with us at the cookery school, we proudly showed them our Irish vines, outside in the gardens and also the indoor vines in the glasshouse. Although the concept of having vines in a glasshouse is a novel approach for our Australian visitors! However they fully appreciated the challenges that the Irish climate presents to ripening grapes sufficiently. Their advice on viticulture was much appreciated and duly noted by us. Watch this space…

Part of the farm at Hiutton Vale Farm is used as a grass airfield with two runways at an elevation of approximately 1200ft. Hutton Vale Farm offers an amazing landscape for you to ‘Fly In Fly Out’. Further information on their website

The town of Angaston in the Barossa is named after a family ancestor John Fife Angas, who moved to the Barossa in 19th Century. The Barossa was mainly colonised by people from Silesia (part of Prussia back then) who in order to flee religious persecution, approached John Fife Angas and the community then moved together as a community to resettle in The Barossa in South Australia, with the support of John Fife Angas. Their heritage is still very much part of the Barossa to this day.

‘The Barossa’ is made up of The Barossa Valley & the higher altitude Eden Valley where Suze’s family farm and vineyard, Hutton Vale Farm is located. Thanks to Suze for a fantastic insight into the wine, food and culture of the Barossa.

A bunch of winemakers in the garden…

We are delighted to welcome a ‘bunch of winemakers’ to the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday 10th May, for truly special wine talk and tasting – outside in the garden. Winemakers travelled from wine estates in France and Italy in association with Le Caveau, including Elena Pantaleoni, and Francesca, of La Stoppa, Rivergaro, Emilia-Romagna, Italy; Theo from Foradori in Trentino, Italy;  Gulio from Ampelia, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy; Bertrand Ambroise of Maison Ambroise, Premeaux-Prissey, Cotes-de-Nuits, Burgundy, France; Nicolas Donne of Domaine Guy Allion, Touraine, Loire Valley, France; Guilhaume de Conti, of Tour des Gendres, Bergerac, South-West France and Thibaud Chaume of Domaine Chaume-Arnaud, Vinsobres, Rhône Valley, France.

We were fortunate with wonderful May sunshine to be able to have the wine class outside, in the timber amphitheatre in the gardens. A magical evening and our thanks & appreciation to all of the winemakers, who had travelled over, in association with Le Caveau.

Each of the winemakers spoke about their region, their wines and vineyards. All of whom have a focus on low intervention wines, organic, biodynamic and natural viticulture and winemaking. In turn, each of the winemakers gave a tutored tasting of one of their wines by way of illustration (and enjoyable tasting!).

Nicolas Donne of Domaine Guy Allion, Touraine, Loire Valley, France

Cédric and Dorothée Allion run their 30-ha estate with great care and passion. Members of Terra Vitis, their viticultural methods are resolutely organic and sustainable, while minimum intervention during winemaking ensure the wines are pure and offer a true expression of the terroir. The vineyards are mostly planted on slopes overlooking the Cher river, close to the beautiful Chateaux of Chenonceaux and Chambord.

Touraine Sauvignon, Loire Valley 2016

Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon character with a real mineral edge, the palate is full-flavoured with freshly squeezed lemon mingling with white fruit, pear and green apples ending with racy, fresh notes.

“This wine is produced under the Terra Vitis ethic that it is an approach based on reason, not faith. Cédric and Dorothée Allion`s small estate minimises strategic intervention in the vineyard and studiously avoids chemical additives. The results speak for themselves here – this is a super smart sauvignon blanc that is crisp to the point of steely sharpness, bursting with gooseberry, peanut and nettle notes. A clear and startlingly well priced competitor to New World sauvignon” Tomas Clancy, Sunday Business Post

Gulio of Ampelia, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy

Ampeleia (from the Greek word for ‘vine’) is owned by Elisabetta Foradori and Giovani Podini. It was founded with Elisabetta’s overarching vision of allowing the true nature of an area, its diversity, its grapes, land and culture to be expressed. The wildness of the southern Maremma, bounded by the Colle Metallifere and the sea were virgin territory, far removed from the glamour of Bolgheri and Montalcino. The estate is interspersed with chestnut and cork oak forests as well as Mediterranean scrub. 

‘Un Litro’, by Ampelia, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy 2016

Grape varieties: Alicante (Grenache), Carignan and Alicante Bousche

‘Un Litro’ is a true expression of the wild Mediterranean terroir of the Maremma. It is a peasant wine in the best sense of the word: a joyous, infinitely drinkable blend of Alicante (Grenache), Carignan and Alicante Bouschet which grow so well in this hot, southerly corner of Tuscany. It spends 6 months in cement tanks. Unfined, unfiltered, no added SO2. (Total SO2: 41 mg/l) Balsamic character on the nose, wild herbs and spices hints. Well defined on the palate, clear-cut and neat. Contrasting finish with pleasantly bitter notes of cherries and wild strawberries.

Bertrand Ambroise of Maison Ambroise, Premeaux-Prissey, Cotes-de-Nuits, Burgundy, France

Bertrand Ambroise, and his son Francois and daughter Ludivine operate on 21 hectares and purchase grapes from another 3. Their vineyards were converted to organic viticulture and they received their certification in 2013. From manually harvested grapes, neither filtered nor fined, the wines are classic Burgundy with distinct terroir-influenced personalities. 

Cotes de Nuits Villages, by Maison Ambroise, Burgundy 2015

Grape variety: Pinot Noir

Cotes de Nuits Villages is beautifully expressive and lush, with ripe red fruits, earth and a touch of  creamy oak. It is dry and medium bodied, perfect balanced, with ripe juicy fruit. Oak on back palate with will further soften with age. Long finish.

Theo of Foradori, Trentino, Italy

The mountain ranges that make up the Dolomites, a World Heritage Site, are found between the Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions and delineate a landscape of extraordinary beauty. Elisabetta Foradori’s grandfather bought the estate, based in Mezzolombardo, in 1929, a mere ten years after Italy’s annexation of the province from the defunct Austro-Hungarian empire meant that the traditional markets for the local wines had disappeared. At first, the wine was sold to local co-operatives, but Elisabetta’s father began bottle and sell their own production. His life was cut tragically short by cancer when Elisabetta was just eleven years old. Nine years later, she had graduated in viticulture and oenology and had taken over the reigns of the estate, albeit more out of a sense of duty than passion. Teroldego from the Rotaliano plain had been singled out for its quality since at least the 14th century, but the prevailing philosophy, post-WW2, was to squeeze maximum yields through clonal selection and an industrial approach to production. She decided to dedicate her work to renewing  Teroldego and planted as many cuttings as she could. 

Teroldego plunges its roots deep into the limestone, granitic and porphyritic rocks of the Campo Rotaliano, a small plain embedded between steep rock faces in Trentino (Northern Italy). It is the intense expression of its land, of its people, of the Dolomites. By 2002, Foradori had garnered international recognition for her work and visionary approach. However, always changing and evolving, she decided to convert the estate to biodynamic viticulture. Seeing the change in the quality and drinkability of her wines, she applied for and received organic and biodynamic certification in 2009. The vineyards cover 28 hectares – 75% of Teroldego, 15% of Manzoni Bianco, 5% of Nosiola and 5% of Pinot Grigio

Foradori ‘Morei’, Trentino, Italy 2015

Grape variety: Teroldego

‘Morei’ again from local dialect, translates as ‘moro’/’scuro’. The Teroldego here plunges its roots deep in the stones and sand of the soil carried by the river Noce giving rise to deeply coloured wines with a dense and mineral texture. Eight months on the skins in clay amphorae

‘Morei is very fresh, pure and linear with pure red cherry fruit and lovely fine-grained structure. Elegant, direct and pure.’ Wine writer, Jamie Goode


Guilhaume de Conti, of Tour des Gendres, Bergerac, South-West France 2014

Viticulture is biodynamic, the soil is nourished with seaweed and silica treatments to encourage microbial activity. Yields are low, 5 to 6 bunches per vine, manual picking and selection of ripe and healthy grapes is essential; on the top cuvées there are several ‘tries’ in the vineyard, and the wine will only be released if it reaches the highest of standards. The blends will also change according to the physiological ripeness of the grapes

Gloire de Mon Pere, Chateau Tour des Gendres, Bergerac, South-West France

Grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc.

Gloire de mon Père – The nose is intense and powerful – black fruit, dark chocolate, anisee with flowery notes. Generous and ripe on the palate, the layers of sweet, juicy fruit are supported by a firm but balanced tannic structure.

Thibaud Chaume, of Domaine Chaume-Arnaud, Rhône Valley, France

Domaine Chaume-Arnaud biodynamic vineyards are planted on slopes and terraces around the picturesque villages of Vinsobres and Saint-Maurice, near Nyons.  The altitude, between 200 to 450m, and the cool wind from the nearby Alps (the Pontias) keep the temperature lower than the neighbouring villages and contribute to the natural freshness and complexity of the wines. Harvest in done by hand and yields are kept very low.   

The Chaume-Arnaud Côtes du Rhone is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, dark-coloured, it has a rich and velvety character. Very inviting nose, sweetly fruited, with gamey/meaty hints. Gorgeously ripe and juicy cherry, plum and cream on the palate with discreet spices. Fine tannins and acidity on the finish hold and balance this brilliant wine very well.

Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, Rivergaro, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

La Stoppa is located in the Colli Piacentini in north-west EmiliaRomagna. Founded in the late 19th century by Gian-Marco Ageno, the estate was bought by Elena Pantaleoni’s father in 1973. At the time, the estate focused on producing international style wines. Elena inherited the estate in 1991 and by 1996, she and head vignaiolo Giulio Armani began to execute the vision they had for the future of the estate. They replanted Barbera and Bornada, as well as a small amount of Malvasia Candia, Ortrugo and Trebianno, all of which were much more suited to the hot climate and heavy clay soils of the Colli Piacentini. 

The vines were worked organically from the early 90s and La Stoppa received organic certification in 2008. Elena, in typical humble fashion, describes herself as ‘la custode de la vigne’, merely a guardian, until she in her turn passes the estate to the next generation. Her low-key, but powerful conviction is that her responsibility is to farm and make wine in as sustainable, non-interventionist and authentic a way as possible. The wines qualify for Colli Piacentini DOC, but are bottled as Emilia IGT because she feels that the rules of the DOC do not allow the authenticity of the terroir to speak. Her stances on the necessity of truly artisan (as opposed to industrial) production, the use of indigenous grape varieties, yeasts and minimal intervention in the cantina have made her a leading voice for devotees of natural, artisanal wine. She featured in Jonathon Nossiter’s 2015 documentary ‘Natural Resistance’. 

La Stoppa ‘Malvasia Dolce Frizzante’, Emilia-Romagna, Italy 2015

Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, is luscious and subtely sweet with a soft sparkle, the wine is made from Malvasia di Candia grape variety. Single fermentation via the Charmat Method. Honeyed on the palate with floral, tangy fruits. Light, frothy, off-dry. White peach, lightly floral, simple, but delicious purity. Ideal as an aperitif, although Italians would drink this more as a light dessert wine with fruit desserts. It is a ‘mosto parzialemente fermentato’ wine. The method is to pick the aromatic Malvasia grapes quickly and do a very gentle pressing. The juice or ‘mosto’ partially fermented with the fermentation stopped by reducing the temperature. This results in a low alcohol, semi-sparkling, gently sweet wine.

Master Cooper – Ger Buckley

We recently welcomed Ger Buckley, Master Cooper at Midleton Distillery to Ballymaloe Cookery School for a talk & demo on the ancient craft of Cooperage to the 12-week cookery students during wine class. 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 (see picture attached) and not the usual line up of cookery utensils normally seen on the cookery demo counter at the Cookery School. 

Ger also brought along a barrel which he dismantled and asked for volunteer from the class to show them how to 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. Our wine classes cover a very broad range indeed.

Ger Buckley explained that cooperage was always one of the most highly regarded trades and crafts. 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 our volunteer cookery student!All taken in good spirits. And all in a days work, putting a barrel together – it’s not something everyone can put of their list of achievements…

Our thanks to Ger for a fascinating talk and demo which the students really enjoyed and appreciated. 

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. Ger Buckley is keeping this ancient craft alive, and passing on the skills to the next generation, which you can see in the local distillery here, in Midleton Distillery here in East Cork