• Phylloxera

    Dying on the Vine : How Phylloxera Transformed Wine. By George Gale.

    University California Press; $ 39.95.

    Imagine sitting down with a glass of wine made from Clinton or Noah rather than Cabarnet Savignon or Chardonnay. This is less far-fetched than it sounds. As recently as 1963, France alone had more than 40,000 acres of such little known American grapes, patches of which are still planted in the Vendée and Cévennes.

    These varieties are a reminder of the battle against phylloxera, a small, root-munching aphid that did incalculable damage to the wine business in the last 35 years of the 19th century. What George Gale, a philosophy professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, calls “the worst of all known invasive species disasters” swept across the viticultural landscape like a biblical plague. It destroyed vineyards from Rioja to Rheingau, Stellenbosch to Sicily. With good reason Jules-Emile Planchon, the French botanist who helped to subdue the insect, dubbed it phylloxera vastarix.

    The story of phylloxera’s impact-it was shipped inadvertently on vine cuttings from its native United States to the Southern Rhone Valley-and the protracted race to find a cure has been told before, most notably by an entomologist named George Ordish, “The Great Wine Blight”, 1987 and a journalist Christy Campbell, “Phylloxera”, 2004.

    Gale brings fresh insights based on material from the archives of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie in Montpellier and the University of California Davis (uc Davis). Mr. Gale’s is an American perspective, incisive on the development of California’s wine industry and the differences between the country’s wild grape species: Vitis aestivalis, berlandieri, labrusca, riparia and rupestris.

    In Europe, Gale’s research is no less assiduous. His coverage of the war between the largely Parisian scientific establishment, which believed that phylloxera was the effect, rather than the cause, of the devastation, and the so-called Américainistes of Montpellier and Bordeaux, who believed the opposite, is commendably detailed. The squabbling between the two sides stretched on into the 1880’s, delaying the search for a solution.

    Various remedies were proposed: flooding, planting on sandy soils and the use of carbon disulphide (a flammable, toxic chemical that was costly as well as tricky to apply). Growers then tried planting lower-quality American grapes, including Clinton and Noah, before switching, finally, to grafted vines combining phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks with European scions. This is still the practise in most of the world’s vineyards today.

    The solution has already failed once. Depending on your point of view, Phylloxera redux, the aphid’s second, exclusively Californian coming, was an object lesson in Darwinian evolution or scientific stupidity. uc Davis recommended a rootstock called Axri during the West Coast planting boom of the 1970’s because it was “vigorous” and “productive”, despite warnings that it was unsafe. A mutated “biotype B” insect emerged in Napa Valley in 1980 and did an estimated $6 billion of damage before wide-scale uprooting, burning and replanting was completed in 1995. As in the 19th century, the devastation had a thin silver lining, allowing producers to plant better clones of higher-quality grapes, but that was scant consolation.

    And what of the future? Mr. Gale argues persuasively that the fight continues between this “ever-resourceful enemy” and “our closest plant friend, the grape”.

    There is no phylloxera (yet) in Chile or South Australia, but quarantine and constant vigilance are the price. What the French called la nouvelle maladie de la vigne (the new vine disease) back in the 1860’s remains a fearsome adversary.

  • In Praise of Wine

    In Praise of Wine

    For the praise of wine go to the world’s greatest literature. For its champions read down the roll of  poets of all lands and all ages from the Psalmists of ancient Israel to the most fervent of our twentieth and twenty first century versifiers. Since man first grew the grape and pressed it and allowed the juice to ferment, and first learned to give expression to his thoughts and feelings, Literature has been wedded to Wine. Indeed the relationship has been closer yet; Wine has been the mother of Literature. Does not Tom Moore tell his fellow-minstrels——–

    “If with water you fill up your glasses,

    You’ll never write anything wise;

    For wine’s the true horse of Parnassus,

    Which carries a bard to the skies!”

    And has not a greater poet than the Irish laureate sung in one of the most perfect odes in our language:

    “O for a draught of vintage! that had been

    Cool’d a long age in the deep delved earth,

    Tasting of the Flora and the country green,

    Dance and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!

    O for a beaker full of the warm South,

    Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

    And purple stained mouth;

    That I might drink and leave the world unseen,

    And with these fade away into the forest dim…….”

    Does not Dr. Saintsbury, scholar and connoisseur, state emphatically that “much of the best imaginative work in the world has been due to its influence,” and make the confession in his Notes from a Cellar-Book that “There is no money, among that which I spent since I begun to earn a living, of the expenditure of which I am least ashamed, or which gave me better value in return, than the price of the liquids chronicled in this cellar booklet…… They pleased my senses, cheered my spirits, and improved my moral and intellectual powers, besides enabling me to confer the same benefits on other people.”

    Which is pretty much old Omar’s view, according to Fitzgerald, in “The Rubaiyat”which

    is at once a monumental panegyric of wine and a complete though pagan philosophy of life:

    “I often wonder what the Vintners buy

    One half so precious as the Goods they sell”.

    And there we may leave the praise-the defence, if defence were needed in the golden language of immortal poetry. Our task is prosaic; the workaday, but very needful, task of attempting to explain wine, its nature, its production, the choice of it, its correct treatment and service. But while the approach to this big subject must be that of the practical person writing for practical people, we hope to view our subject not alone with the professional eye of the wine merchant and wine educator, but also with the becoming reverence of a wine lover.

    Knowledge of wine was once deemed an indispensable part of every gentleman’s education, as the due appreciation of its virtues was accounted one of the amenities of a cultured life. But this type of culture is not taken too seriously today. To the general public the wine list is more of a mystery than is even the most abstruse of French menus. Wherefore, it behoves her/him in whose keeping is this precious commodity to spread the knowledge of wine to the unenlightened. As the gardener studies his flowers so should the wine merchant, off licence staff, bartenders, restaurant staff, sommeliers, etc., study their wines, in order that the uninformed may turn to them for knowledge and advice on the subject. As the purchaser of a motor-car, you would not be much impressed if the salesperson confessed himself unable to tell you the make of the car, its capabilities in the matter of road performance, and explain the action of its mechanism. If knowledge of his commodity is necessary to the motor-car salesperson, how much more so is knowledge of wine necessary to those selling and serving it?

    The point has been put well by Mr. Andre L. Simon thus: “You cannot blame the public if they do not know what wine to drink; they all have something else to do, and although there are laypeople whose knowledge and appreciation of wine is remarkable, you must expect the public to be as ignorant about wines as they are about law or medicine. Hence it is up to you to diagnose, to advise and to prescribe when the same people who go to their doctors and lawyers, when in need of professional advice, shall come to you and ask you what is best for them to drink”. Mr. Simon was addressing an audience of students destined to become wine merchants in another era, but his counsel is equally applicable today.          Slainte. (Andrew O’ Gorman).

  • Jancis Robinson, MW

    Jancis Robinson stated that she is rather worried about the increasing tendency to treat 17.5cl as a standard glassful. It contains roughly twice as much alcohol as the standard unit that the medical profession is always berating us with.

    The British Government is set to allow measures smaller than the old standard wine glass measure, 12.5cl to be sold legally- will Ireland follow?

    “There are many ways to present an array of wines on a restaurant list. But I suspect for most diners who are less fixated by wine than me, the most sensible way to present a reasonably small collection is to list by colour and then upwards by price. Many people know far more about how much they want to spend than about where each wine comes from.”(Jancis Robinson).

  • UK Sommelier of the Year Award 2011

    The 2011 UK Sommelier of the Year Award was won by Frenchman Yohann Jousselin of The Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire.

    Runners up were Loic Avril, another Frenchman and Lukasz Kolodziejczyk from Poland and both of the Fat Duck Restaurant.

  • William Crozier

    William Crozier

    William Crozier was a Scottish- born artist, who was famous for his vivid landscapes died on the 12th July, 2011 had many connections with Ireland.

    His designs and paintings grace the labels of Kelly’s Resort Hotel, Rosslare, Co. Wexford house red, white and rose wines from the Rhone Valley. This commission took him to Chateauneuf-du-Pape to investigate the vineyard landscapes. On the back of the wine list which he painted he writes:

    “I like to think that we are all

    grand, all handsome or

    beautiful in

    our own way. Fair at being virtuous

    and attractive in our failings.

    But my fellow artists, who

    Produce wine and ‘the water of life;

    I regard as a cut above the rest of us

    Bacchus after all was a God”

    He did specially painted covers for various menus and the wine list for the Beaches Restaurant at Kelly’s Resort Hotel.

  • State Dinner/Jubilee

    State Dinner

    Hosted by

    The President of Ireland Mary McAleese

    &Dr. Martin McAleese

    in honour of

    Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I I

    &His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh



    Cured Salmon

    With Burren smoked salmon cream and lemon balm jelly,

    horseradish and wild watercress

    Kilkenny organic cold pressed rapeseed oil

    Rib of Slaney Valley Beef, ox cheek and tongue

    with smoked champ potato and fried spring cabbage,

    new season broad beans and carrots with pickled and wild garlic leaf

    Carrageen West Cork cream

    With Meath strawberries, fresh yoghurt mousse

    and soda bread sugar biscuits

    Irish apple balsamic vinegar meringue

    Irish Cheese Plate

    Tea and Coffee



    Cháteau de Fieuzal, 2005, Graves Pessac-Léognan

    Cháteau Lynch-Bages, 1998, Pauillac


    Exacutive Chef: Ross Lewis    Caterers : With Taste

    Held at Dublin Castle on the 18th May, 2011.

    Mary O’Callaghan M.A., Dip. WSET

    Mary O’ Callaghan, President The Irish Guild of Sommeliers

    Mary O’Callaghan, M.A.,Dip.W.S.E.T., Lecturer in Wine StudiesDublin Institute of Technology, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin and President of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers, had the honour of assisting at the recent State Banquet in honour of Queen Elizabeth in St.Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle featuring a menu devised and created by Ross Lewis of Chapter One restaurant. With Taste Catering had overall responsibility for the hugely successful banquet. In the days leading up to the historic event, Mary gave an intensive training course to all of the company’s sommeliers who were on duty on the night with particular emphasis on the wine to be served namely Chateau de Fieuzal,Graves Pessac-Leognan 2005, and Pauillac  Chateau Lynch Bages,1998. Both wines have a strong Irish connection. Mary also oversaw the wine service for the reception and the dinner on the night which included tasting all wines before service and decanting all the reds.
    The State Dinner in Dublin Castle was offered by The President of Ireland Mary McAleese and Dr. Martin McAleese in Honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh on Wednesday,18th May, 2011 at which a colleague and friend of mine Mike J. O’ Connor, MSc, BA,(Hons.) BB’s, Lecturer, DIT, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin was in charge of service at the top table where the Queen and her party were seated.    homepageNS.jpg Mike O’ Connor in centre of photograph.
    (A. O’ Gorman,18/5/11)

    £100,000 whisky served up to celebrate Diamond Jubilee

    It is 60 years (2012) since Queen Elizabeth came to the throne – and if you’re feeling particularly patriotic and flush, you can toast her reign with a £100,000 bottle of whisky.

    Jim Beveridge, master blender at John Walker & Sons with the Queen's decanter of Diamond Jubilee whisky today.

    Jim Beveridge, master blender at John Walker & Sons with the Queen’s decanter of Diamond Jubilee whisky today.

    Only 60 bottles of the Diamond Jubilee scotch, made by Johnnie Walker distiller Diageo, have been produced for sale, and are being offered to known collectors of rare and expensive whiskies.

    Another single bottle will be given to the Queen.

    The whisky is a blend of grain and malt whiskies all dating from 1952, and finished in casks made of oak from the Queen’s Sandringham estate.

    In case you don’t have £100,000 to spare and are wondering what it tastes like, the master blender for all Johnnie Walker whiskies, Jim Beveridge, said he is “surprised and delighted” by the way the Jubilee whisky has turned out.

    “With as whisky as old as 60 years, sometimes it can be a bit crusty and the flavours can be a bit subdued. But this one is very vibrant,” he said. “It has a fresh fruity flavour, and a finish which is smoky and also has anexotic fruit taste.”

  • Gerard Basset, OBE


    Hotel Terravina –  PRESS RELEASE

    World Champion Sommelier, Gerard Basset, has been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest authorities on wine, Basset is credited with changing perceptions of wine service worldwide, whilst training and mentoring a generation of young sommeliers.

    Hampshire-based Basset was born and raised in France, embarking on a career as a sommelier when he moved to the UK in the 1980s. He quickly established himself within the industry, winning a succession of awards and accolades both in the UK and internationally.

    He is the only individual ever to have completed the fiendishly challenging Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, and MBA (Wine) qualifications, and has represented Great Britain winning every major sommelier award.

    A co-founder of Hotel du Vin Group, Basset has simultaneously enjoyed business success. Today he runs the boutique wine hotel, TerraVina, in the New Forest with his wife, Nina.

    Speaking as the Birthday Honours were announced Basset said, “This is a great honour for me; to have my achievements recognised in this way gives me enormous pride. I am indebted to many within the industry for their support, but not least my family who have stood by me as I indulged my ambitions.”

    Congratulations are extended to Gerard and his family from The Irish Guild of Sommeliers.

    Andrew O’ Gorman, Secretary, The Irish Guild of Sommeliers was on the judging panel at the finals of the World Sommelier competition in Santiago, Chile  on the occasion of Gerard’s success at this competition in 2010.

    (AOG, June,2011)

  • Champagne 200

    200 –Year-Old Champagne

    A 200 year-old bottle of Champagne recovered from a Baltic shipwreck has fetched a record price at auction. The bottle identified as Veuve Clicquot-was part of a cache of 168 bottles found last summer (2010) in a wrecked schooner dating from 1825-30 in Finland’s Áland archipelago.

    It was sold to an anonymous bidder from Singapore for €30,000 by New York auction house Acker Merrall and Condit last Friday 24th June  in Mariehamn, the capital of the autonomous Áland archipelago between Finland and Sweden, near where the bottles were found.

    Acker said the same buyer paid €24,000 for another bottle of Champagne from the cache, from the now defunct Juglar house.

    Finnish Champagne expert Essi Avellan MW, editor if Fine Champagne magazine, who tasted some of the bottles when they were opened last November, said she was astonished by their freshness.

    ‘Both the wines were very much alive and remarkably fresh. As expected they were sweet in style, with a surprisingly bright golden colour and honeyed, toasty and farmyard aromatics.

    ‘The Juglar was more harmonious and complete, while Veuve Clicquot’s aroma was overwhelmingly pungent and smoky, but the palate retained a freshness and immense concentration.’

    While the auction house claims the price paid for the Veuve Clicquot is a record, this has not been independently confirmed.

    Acker has claimed previous records for rare Champagne: March 2009 it sold a bottle of 1928 Krugin Hong Kong for €15,900, and in 2008 two bottles of Dom Perignon Rosé 1959 were sold for €43,000, or about €27,600 each.

    According to the BBC, the Áland authorities want to turn the Champagne auction into an annual event to boost tourism. (AOG July,2011).