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

Italian natural wine star

 Elena Pantaleoni and Nicholas Sciackitano of La Stoppa, and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, with Darina from April 2016, during Elena’s visit to the school.

We are joined recently in one of our wine classes, via Skype, by Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa.
La Stoppa is located in Emilia Romagna and the estate is run by Elena Pantaleoni, along with Giulio Armani, who both starred in the natural wine film ‘Natural Resistance’.

La Stoppa is a wonderful organically-tended estate surrounded by Elena’s home, a 14th century castle, where wild herbs grow freely between the rows of vines and no chemical fertilizers, weed killers or pesticides are ever applied.
Elena spoke to the students about growing and making wine naturally. She gave a tutored tasting of the following wines, via Skype, to the 12-week certificate cookery school students:
La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Grape varieties: Barbera and Bonarda

Trebbiolo Rosso is a natural wine made from the Barbera and Bonarda grape varieties. The nose is fresh with cherry and red berries mingling with wilder notes. Lively and juicy, the palate bursts with sweet/sour morello cherries and hints of spices. In all, it is a lovely, fresh, lively and fruit-driven wine which is best enjoyed with food.

La Stoppa Ageno, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Grape varieties: 60% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, 40% Ortrugo and Trebbiano
This is an ‘orange wine (orange / amber / skin contact wines, are white wines that are made like a red, i.e. with grape skin contact)
Ageno is made from 60% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, 40% Ortrugo and Trebbiano grown on clay/limestone soils in a very warm climate (Elena says that this part of Emilia can be hotter than Sicily during the summer). The juice and skins stay in contact for 30 days and fermentation takes place spontaneously with ambient yeasts. The resulting wine is matured for 12 months, half in stainless steel, the other half in used French oak barriques, with a further 2 years in bottle before release.
“Deep golden/amber in colour. On first pouring, bruised apple. With air, it becomes incredibly complex: candied orange peel and grapefruit, honey, smoke, nuts, and a herbal and Mediterranean character. The palate is medium full, bone dry, again very complex and intriguing. Candied fruit flavours on the sweeter end, yet somehow also savoury, nutty, umami characteristics. Very well balanced, with linear, mouthwatering acidity, a touch of palate-cleansing astringency and a lengthy finish”

La Stoppa Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Grape variety: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica.
100% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica. After a soft pressing in a horizontal press, the wine is fermented using indigenous yeasts in a closed, pressurized tank. The result is a lightly sparkling, semi-sweet wine with only 7% alcohol.
Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, is luscious and subtly sweet with a soft sparkle, the wine is made from the Malvasia di Candia grape variety. Peach, apple, floral, honeyed on the palate with floral, tangy fruits. Delicious with fruit desserts – or on its own!
Our thanks to Elena for an inspiring talk to the students. Further information on La Stoppa on their the website

Following on from this we continued the wine class along the theme of organic, biodynamic and natural wines and we were delighted to be joined by Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau (McKenna Guides Wine Person of the Year 2017). Pascal has been a guest wine lecturer at Ballymaloe Cookery School since 2006 and our thanks once again to Pascal for a fantastic class, and a tutored tasting of the following wines:

Meyer-Fonne Riesling ‘Katzenthal’, Alsace, France
For centuries, Alsace, the frontier province in northeastern France just across the Rhine from Germany, had been passed back and forth between the French and the Germans, depending on who had won the last battle. Felix Meyer has built a solid reputation in Alsace. Working extremely hard in the vineyard, keeping yields ridiculously low, the immense quality of the granitic soils of Katzenthal is reflected in every single of Felix wines. No other grower in the area produces wines with such precision, purity and expression of terroir. Riesling Katzenthal, grown on the granitic slopes surrounding the village is a very distinguished and racy wine. Pure, mineral nose with hints of citrus and ginger. Rich, ample and ripe on the palate with nectarine, orange peel and peachy character the lead to the finish is pristine and impeccably balanced by good acidity

Terre di Pietra, Valpolicella ‘Vigna del Peste’, Veneto, Italy
This farm is owned by Laura Albertini and family and situated in Marcellise in the hills east of Verona. Terre di Pietra is a reference to the particular varieties of stony soils. These vineyards of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara are over 40 years. Farming is organic – they started official conversion in 2011. All the work in the winery is done manually with respect for the grape variety and the terroir. Laura designs label composed of various bands of colour to denote the different types of rock which compose the subsoil underneath the vineyards. Red fruits such as cherries and juicy red plums with a hint of bitterness. The minerality of the estate’s limestone soil is evident in this wine and the finish tasty and fresh.

Familia Ceechin Malbec Mendoza, Argentina
Located in Russell – Maipu, this 75-ha organic farm is owned and run by the Cecchin family since 1959. Strict adherence to organic methods in the vineyard, limited yields and minimal interventions in the winery result in very articulate wines that truly reflect their terroir and capture the essence of the fruit.
The Malbec, a grape that Argentina has successfully appropriated, is made without the addition of sulphites. The nose opens up with enticing, ripe plum, bruised red cherries, liquorice, dark chocolate and a delicate earthiness. These lovely fruit and seeds are also found on the ripe, well-balanced palate and the natural acidity hold this eminently drinkable wine perfectly.

Our thanks to Pascal Rossignol for another fantastic class to the students.

Spanish Sunshine in Shanagarry with John Wilson

Spanish Sunshine in Shanagarry with John Wilson

On a lovely spring morning, John Wilson brought some Spanish sunshine to the 12-week certificate students here at the cookery school in Shanagarry. John Wilson, one of Ireland best known wine writers, and wine correspondent to The Irish Times, introduced the students to the wine regions and wines of Spain, while also incorporating Spanish food, heritage and culture into the morning’s masterclass on Wines of Spain.

John gave a tutored tasting of the following wines:

Louro de Bolo 2015 Valdeorras, Rafael Palacios

La Iña Fino Lustau, Jerez

La Malkerida 2014 Utiel-Requena

Flor de Brezo Gregory Perez, Bierzo

La Bruja de Rozas 2015, Viños de Madrid, Sierra de Gredos, Commando G.

Rioja Reserva 2012, Marques de Murrieta

Ribera del Duero Cosecha 2014, Emilio Moro

Spanish Sunshine in Shanagarry with John Wilson

John Wilson is the Irish Times wine correspondent, John Wilson and has 20 years of practical experience in the wine trade under his belt. He is author of ‘Wilson on Wine 2015, 2016 and 2017 edition. 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. You can follow John on twitter at @wilsononwine and on his blog

The Wines of Spain masterclass by John Wilson to the 12 week certificate cookery students at Ballymaloe Cookery School was fantastic – the students really appreciated it and they felt like they were in Spain itself, learning all about Spanish wines and regions and also the food, places and people.

The Spanish wines showed very well under the East Cork sunshine!

Welcome back Alice!

We were delighted to recently have the opportunity to introduce New York based wine writer Alice Feiring to the 12 week cookery students, virtually –via Skype. We beamed Alice onto the big screen in the demo room live from New York for a very interactive talk and Q&A with the students.

Alice Feiring (who presented fantastic talks and tastings at Litfest’15 here at Ballymaloe) is an internationally known author and journalist who lives in New York and leads an international debate on wine made naturally. She has been the wine correspondent for Wall Street Journal Magazine and Time Magazine and now freelances for publications including the New York Times. Alice is a winner of both the James Beard and the Louis Roederer wine writing awards.

Alice gave an inspiring talk to the cookery school students about natural wine. By way of illustration during the talk, we showed Vino di Anno, a natural wine from Mt Etna, Sicily, made by Anna Martens & Eric Narioo in a Qvevri (Qvevri in Georgia were one of the first vessels ever to be used for wine fermentation, terracotta vessels, buried completely surrounded by the natural coolness of the earth, with just the top part barely above ground)

Alice also spoke about Georgian wine and Georgia in general, a subject near and dear to Alice’s heart and the subject of one of her books ‘For the Love of Wine, my odyssey through the world’s most ancient wine culture’, published March 2016, about the people, places, food, and natural wines of Georgia.

She is author of several books, including The Battle for Wine and Love: Or How I Saved the World From Parkerization and Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally. Translations of her books have been published in French, Spanish, Italian and Georgian. In 2012 she launched The Feiring Line, the only subscription-based natural wine newsletter where you can ke ep up to date on Alice’s writing
On Twitter: @alicefeiring

Our heartfelt thanks to Alice for her time and a wonderful talk which we and the students so very much appreciated.

Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, @lecaveau1, is a regular guest wine lecturer at the cookery school and last week gave a masterclass on organic, biodynamic and natural wines to the 12 week certificate students

Pascal, a passionate advocate of organic and biodynamic wines made naturally for many years, has been introducing natural wines to people here in Ireland for over the past decade. Le Caveau, ‘importer of wines sourced from quality-minded artisan vignerons whose wines are true to their origins and made as naturally as possible’ was started in 1999 and has been awarded multiple times, Best Fine Wine Merchant nationwide in Ireland.

Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau getting the wines ready for the class for the students

Pascal, originally from Gevry-Chambertin in Burgundy, primarily focused on Italy (with a final stopover in a wild vineyard in Colchugua, Chile – we do like to criss-cross the world of wine during our wine classes, mirroring the global representation of the students who come from all over the world to Shanagarry in East Cork).

Natural wine is broadly speaking a wine is made from hand harvested grapes grown in a biodynamically or organically farmed vineyard, fermentation occurs with indigenous (wild) yeast, no additives, no manipulation – basically little or no intervention in the winery, with minimal or no added sulphur, all resulting in a wine with more purity, vibrancy, vitality, drinkability, and personality. We also spoke to the students about sulphur. This turned into a fascinating discussion with the students as two are science graduates. Due to allergen labelling, ‘contains sulphites’ is written on the wine label. Even if no sulphur is added at any stage by the winemaker, there will be small amounts occurring naturally in wine as a result of the fermentation process. Natural wines are generally regarded as wines that have no sulphur added by the winemaker, or the bare minimum added depending on vintage and cuvée, and even then, the amount of sulphur added would certainly be very low compared to wines at the other end of the spectrum which would be wines produced in a heavily processed way on an industrial scale. Sulphur is a preservative and an anti-oxidant, and can be found in many other things, including for example in dried fruit, as can be seen in the case of apricots where one can buy sulphured, or un-sulphured apricots.

Pascal led the class on a tutored tasting of the following wines including an ‘orange’ wine and also a wine made in ‘Qveri’.

‘Orange wines’ / amber / skin contact wines, are white wines that are made like a red, i.e. with grape skin contact.

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

Our thanks once again to Pascal for another fantastic guest wine lecturer class to the 12week certificate students.

Line-ip of Italian wines for organic, biodynamic and natural wine class

Filippi Soave, Veneto, Italy 2014

Filippi’s organic vineyards are located in Castelcerino, in the highest part of Soave, in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Over the years, he’s incorporated some of the principles of biodynamic farming as well. 100% Garganega. As for the Soaves, while most top examples are often rich and honeyed, Filippi’s wines are some of the most structured and mineral-driven. The high elevation and volcanic and limestone soils certainly come through in the brightness and focus of the wines.

It was a hands on wine class!

Valpolicella, Monte dall’Ora, Veneto, Italy 2015

When Alesandra and Carlo Venturini first discovered Monte dall’Ora it was love at first sight. As children of farmers, they were excited and challenged by the hard work it was going to take to restore these ancient vineyards. Located in Castelroto, in the hills outside of Verona, the vineyards of Monte dall’Ora are planted on a base of limestone soil and form a natural amphitheatre facing southeast towards the city. In fact, portions of their vineyards are planted on ancient dry stone terraces called marogna, a design in which large stones form the exterior support structure and smaller stones form a spit of land in the interior. This brittle stone, in which fossils and petrified shells can be found, allows for excellent drainage and deep penetration of the vines.
The Venturinis are firm adherents to biodynamic principles. As such, they encourage the growth of biodiversity by planting herbs such as rosemary and lavender in the summer, whose fragrant blooms are attractive to bees; and sowing cereals in the winter, whose roots move and aerate the soil. In addition, Alessandra and Carlo have emphasised traditional and native grape varieties wherever possible to give originality and typical wines. All the wines are blends of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Oseleta. Fermentation is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts and extraction is gentle giving wines of gentle, cherry-fruited elegance.

Ciello Rosso, Nero d’Avola, Sicily, Italy 2015

Made from organic grapes Ciello Rosso Nero d’Avola has freshness and energy, dark red colour, hints of black plum, coffee and chocolate on the nose, pleasant spiciness in the mouth with smooth dark fruit flavours

The dynamic Vesco family took over the winery 10 years ago and have since revolutionised the viticultural practices and invested heavily in cutting edge technology for the winery and bottling line. Their organic vineyards are located high up in the hills above Alcamo. The wines are all certified organic and planted on south-east facing slopes on sandy soils 150 – 300m above sea level. The climate is clearly suited for producing the best quality grapes. The grapes tend to be picked earlier in the year than many of their neighbours which produces their customary bright, fresh style of wine. These wines are a million miles from the overripe styles made by many of their peers. Night harvesting and modern temperature controlled fermentations result in bright, fresh, modern wines. Inexpensive, but beautifully made and full of authenticity.

Vino di Anna ‘Qveri’, Sicily, Italy

Anna Martens & Eric Narioo, Etna Biodynamic principles, natural wine. The vineyards are at altitude (760-900metres) and are farmed organically. The Vino di Anna wines are made on their small property without much intervention, using native yeasts and no additives, save for a little SO2 in some lots (normally nothing is added at all). A variety of vessels are used for fermentation, including Palmento, old barrels and a Georgian qvevri.
“Our second Qvevri wine made in a 2,000 litre Georgian Qvevri. Nerello Mascalese was hand harvested from our “Don Alfio” vineyard located at 900 metres above Rovitello. The fruit was 100% de-stemmed by hand into the Qvevri. Alcoholic fermentation lasted just over two weeks followed by malolactic fermentation. The Qvevri was then closed and the grapes were left to macerate until April 2014. The resultant wine was pressed and put in an old oak cask until bottling in September 2014. No SO2 was added. The wine was neither fined nor filtered prior to bottling. Floral and expressive in the nose, this wine has a fine, textural structure. Morello cherries are coupled with cherry blossom. The palate is taut, complex and long.” Anna Martens & Eric Narioo
“Anna Martens and her Etna wines are one of the most exciting discoveries I have made this year. I met Anna years ago when she had just left a cellar job at Tenuta dell’Ornellaia on the Tuscan coast and had a vague memory of her moving to Etna to work with Andrea Franchetti. But I didn’t know until recently that this petite Australian had started her own wine brand on the volcano. She runs a small vineyard with her husband Eric Narioo on the north face of Etna. Many of her head-trained vines reach 100 years of age and are planted up to 900 meters above sea level. She adopts a non-interventionists – philosophy with natural yeast, no fining or filtering, and little or no SO2. Her most exciting wine, Qvevri, is made in 2,000 liter Georgian clay vessels.”

Valli Unite Barbera, Piedmont, Italy

Valli Unite (‘United Valley’) started over thirty years ago, at a time when most young people left the land to seek work in the large cities of northern Italy. It was started by three young men from local farming families who were deeply attached to their land and traditional practices, who had a belief in organic farming and biodiversity as the way of the future and were committed to a way of life and farming that would be sustainable over the long term. Valli Unite now numbers four families and 25 people, each bringing their own strengths and talents: from vine-growing and wine-making; to cheesemaking; to animal husbandry and butchery; to a hospitality and a restaurant and shop selling their own produce. Their wines have vibrancy and sense of place.
“Barbera is plush and velvety, with a savoury, earthy, kirsch fruit character. Complex and multi-layered on the nose. Dry on the palate, with ripe black cherry and damson fruit. Well-balanced, satisfying, long finish, good grip, totally delicious”

La Stoppa ‘Ageno’, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Certified organic, natural La Stoppa is a 50-hectare property located in North-West Emilia-Romagna. Founded in the late 19th century by a wealthy lawyer named Gian-Marco Ageno, the estate is currently run by Elena Pantaleoni and head vignaiolo Giulio Armani. 32 hectares of vines are planted and the wines produced from La Stoppa are typically Emilia.
The soils consist of heavy clay, and the estate has been worked organically since the early 90’s (certified in 2008). Moving forward occasionally means taking a step back. A minimal intervention approach is taken in the cellar: the wines ferment off of their native yeasts and nothing is ever added or subtracted from the juice. Sulphur is never added during vinification, only in small doses at bottling. Because of the region’s warm climate, Giulio prefers long skin contact to extract as much as possible. Stainless steel, concrete and wooden tanks are used for fermentation and small and large oak barrels are used for aging.
Ageno is an ‘orange wine’ made from 60% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, 40% Ortrugo and Trebbiano grown on clay/limestone soils in a very warm climate (Elena Pantaleoni, owner says that this part of Emilia can be hotter than Sicily during the summer). The juice and skins stay in contact for 30 days and fermentation takes place spontaneously with ambient yeasts. The resulting wine is matured for 12 months, half in stainless steel, the other half in used French oak barriques, with a further 2 years in bottle before release.
Deep golden/amber in colour. On first pouring, bruised apple. With air, it becomes incredibly complex: candied orange peel and grapefruit, honey, smoke, nuts, and a herbal and Mediterranean character. The palate is medium full, bone dry, again very complex and intriguing. Candied fruit flavours on the sweeter end, yet somehow also savoury, nutty, umami characteristics. Very well balanced, with linear, mouthwatering acidity, a touch of palate-cleansing astringency and a lengthy finish.

And now off to Chile, in South America…

Wild vineyard depicted on the label of this natural wine from Chile

‘The Wild Vineyard’, Villalobos, Carignan Reserva, Colchagua, Chile

The Villalobos family estate is located close to the village of Ranguili and is entitled to Colchagua Valley appellation of origin. The vineyard is essentially Carignan as far as anyone can ascertain, and was originally planted during the 1940’s and 50’s. Villalobos vines have never been treated; indeed, the vines have always grown wild and free from any chemical processes for sixty years amongst native Chilean flora such as maitenes, rose-hip, Culenes, pine trees, blackberry bushes etc. In fact, the mission is the constant quest to produce a wine characterised by its unique qualities and the special Carignan variety, which had almost disappeared from Chile and is rarely found in this particular region.
The wine cellar was founded in the sculpture workshop of Enrique Villalobos, in the Artists Valley located in the Colchagua Valley. “The art of sculpture and the art of wine-making are intrinsically linked in the creation process; that is, the modification and intervention of substances offered to us by nature, which the artist may turn into a unique and particular work of art.” Given this context the winegrowers wish to distance themselves from the traditional industrial monoculture. Their main goal is to produce wines which reflect the seasonal conditions and qualities of the terroir, taking advantage of the organic and wild characteristic of the aged vines. This unique terroir allows them to harvest grapes which give the wine an aroma that is perfectly harmonised with the Chilean countryside.
The philosophy of Villalobos is based on absolute respect for the environment where the grapes are grown.

Viticultural methods involve the use of draught horses and natural forms of herb control in order to keep the natural balance. Grapes are hand-harvested, since the vines grow amongst rose-hip, blackberry bushes and other native plants, which makes the harvest a logistical challenge to say the least!
Villalobos’ Carignan is neither filtered nor fined and nothing is added to the wine which is allowed to age slowly and naturally in French oak barrels. It is the colour of a dark rosé, there is no extraction or concentration, just clean, pretty lifted, almost graphite fruit supported by clean acids.

A note on natural wine…

In its simplest form, natural wine takes organic or biodynamic practices in the vineyard as its starting point and extends them into the winery in an attempt to reduce the total use of chemical inputs and manipulations throughout the entire production process. One of key differences is often the low or zero use of sulphur dioxide (SO2).

Natural wine is not an accredited or legally defined term but refers to a broad range of desirable practices both in the vineyard and the winery. These include
-the use of organic or biodynamic treatments to bring life to the soil,
-hand harvesting,
-no capitalisation (added sugar to raise potential alcohol)
-no added enzymes,
-the use of natural wild yeasts for fermentation,
-no added “flavourings” (tannin powder, oak chips, etc)
-no adjustments e.g. either adding acidity (acidification) or taking out acidity from the wine (de-acidification),
-low or zero use of sulphur dioxide at any stage of harvesting, fermenting, or bottling
-no or very light filtration and fining

There is also a recognisably “natural wine style” emerging, which for many is the chief allure of this category. At their best, natural wines display lightness and purity of fruit. They have higher levels of acidity, often combined with more restrained levels of alcohol. They often have little or no new oak influence. They can also be nutritious in the true sense of the word, being living products, they appeal to the stomach as well as the palate. This style of course may not be everybody’s cup of tea. The proof of the pudding will always be in the drinking and as the saying goes ‘the best bottle on the table is always the empty one’.

A word about labelling…

All wines contain some sulphites, so please be wary of wine labeled ‘sans sulphites’ or ‘sulphur free’, as this may have got lost in the translation of the label when what was meant was ‘no added sulphur’. (Different labelling rules do apply eg wines sold in the USA). Wines made or sold in the EU are labelled ‘contain sulphites’ In a recent article by Jancis Robinson MW she writes: ’Sulphite is a term that covers all form of sulphur, which is a natural by-product of fermentation so all wines contain a small amount of sulphites even if none added’

The word ‘naturalement’ or ‘naturally’ or any other similar words on the front or back label does not mean it’s a natural wine as natural wine is not a regulated term, so one does not usually expect to see it written on the front or back label of a natural wine.

Bio on a label in most European labels, means Organic (and not Biodynamic)


Slice of Ham and a Glass of Wine…

I told the students the week before that they were in for a treat at the following wine class… “a slice of ham and glass of wine”, knowing just how good it was going to be, but wanting the students to discover this for themselves. @ColmMcCan


We were delighted to welcome John Wilson, wine writer, The Irish Times to the Cookery School on Wednesday 25th October 2016, for a talk & tutored tasting on Wines of Spain.

John Wilson at the cookery school

Irish Times wine correspondent, John Wilson has 20 years of practical experience in the wine trade under his belt. He is author of ‘Wilson on Wine 2015, 2016 and his just published 2017 edition. His other wine writing including editing ‘The Wine Guide’, Ireland’s best ever selling wine book. Most of all, as he say himself, he likes a glass of decent wine. You can follow John on twitter at @wilsononwine and on his blog


John was a wonderful guide, taking us on a journey through the wine regions and grape varieties of Spain, culture, heritage and of course food – especially food and wine matching.


And to back up all the theory, we had a practical too – with a line-up of wines to taste:

  • Rías Baixas 2015, Bodegas Fefiñanes
  • El Bolo Godello 2015, Valdeorras, Rafael Palacios
  • El Castro de Valtuillé, Bierzo Joven 2014, Bodegas Valtuillé
  • Adnos Bobal 2012, Valencia, Alta Expresión
  • Lopez Herederia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva 2004
  • Matarromera Crianza 2012, Ribera del Duero
  • La Iña Fino, Bodegas Lustau, Jerez


Spain truly came to East Cork with when John was joined by Mario Hiraldo Regalado, Iberico Ham master carver, who gave a masterclass talk & demo to the students.  The Iberico Ham, expertly carved by Mario, paired perfectly with the Fino Sherry introduced by John. As Darina told the students, it is one of the most delicious pairings. The students could see for themselves why Iberico Ham is often described as one of the most extraordinary gourmet products in the world. ‘The Iberico black pig’s ancient breed, chemical-free diet, free range rearing in the Dehesa, a network of pasturelands dotted with holm and cork oak in South-West Spain followed by 2 years curing, resulting in what is often described as ‘the most prized meats’. This was a real treat very much appreciated by the cookery students


Over the course of his 17-year career, Mario Hiraldo Regalado has evolved into a master of all things Ibérico. In fact, his official title is Master Carver and Ham Controller. He has become an ambassador of that technique and tradition, teaching all over the world. His passion and profession have landed him squarely in the grand traditions of Spanish Jamón, with posts as Master Carver for Turismo Andaluz S.A. and D.O.P. Jamón de Huelva, respectively. You can follow Mario on twitter at @mariohiraldo


Our thanks to Counsellor Javier Moral Escudero, Embassy of Spain, and Sara and Esther and all in the Economic and Commercial Office of the Embassy of Spain in Dublin for all their help in organising this fantastic visit. @SpainFoodWineIE


What a truly delicious and memorable morning for the students!


Wines of Croatia at Ballymaloe Cookery School

We were delighted to introduce to the students on the 12-week certificate course, one of the up and coming wine regions, and wines, available in Ireland at present. And of course to mark Croatia’s entry to the EU.

Wines of Croatia
Wines of Croatia

Malvasia Vina Laguna

Malvasia is grown by Agrolaguna – Croatia’s largest wine maker.
Bruno Dokic, the lead wine maker describes his Malvazija (Croatian spelling) as reminding him of a balmy summer’s day – it’s about 32c and he’s sitting on a boat moored in the Adriatic just off Porec (pronounced Porec) – the town where most of his vineyards are planted.
Summer in a glass just about describes this wonderfully sunny wine – straw coloured with a fresh, zingy twist on the palate. That summer colour comes from the yellow soil on which the vines are grown.

Croatian wines at Ballymaloe Cookery School
Croatian wines at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Teran Vina Laguna
Bruno Dokic – Vina Laguna’s lead wine maker – describes his Teran as a cosy winters evening in front of a roaring fire.
Even though Croatia enjoys one of the best climates in all of Europe, it can get very cold on winter evenings.
A plate of the local stew, the fabulous Croatian crusty bread and a glass of Vina Laguna Teran are a perfect combination.
Teran is robust but still quite light in style, ruby red in colour with a hint of tartness that’s a bit different to the norm and the peppery touch gives it a nice kick.

Vina Laguna wines at Ballymaloe Cookery School
Vina Laguna wines at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Contact details:
Liliane Scully
Tel: 018215025/0862580983