In Love with French Wines

Andrew O’ Gorman

Over the past 112 years Kelly’s Hotel , Rosslare in the South East of Ireland, now in the fourth generation of the same family states its ongoing success has been excellent service coupled with great value for the customer’s Euro. The owners are very proud of the staff, crediting them for the success of the hotel: “you can build a palace, but it is the staff who bring people back again” stated Mr. Kelly.

In the 1950’s they began the tradition of importing wine directly from France, when such delights as Corton Charlamange 1937, Chateau d’Yquem 1939, Chateau Latour 1935 and Chateau Haut Brion 1934 featured on the wine list at prices that can only draw a sigh of longing for days past from today’s customers. To this day they offer their guests the finest wines at fair prices with still a huge French influence.

In 2007 the Wine Spectator magazine nominated Clos des Papes 2005 as its number one “Wine of the World”. In a blind tasting of 15,000 wines from around the world, this relatively unknown label from the Rhone Valley came out on top. The Avril family has been making wine in the Chateauneuf du Pape region since the beginning of the 18th century. Vincent Avril , whose sister Isabelle is married to Bill Kelly has followed in his father’s footsteps  to become one of the leading young wine growers there. In fact Clos des Papes has steadily become one of the best domains in that region. Its 2005 and 2006 vintages are its best wine yet; displaying an enormous core of fruit and minerals, along with massive structure.

At a prestigious ceremony in New York in October,2008, Avril accepted the award from the senior editor of the Wine Spectator, James Molesworth. “The Clos des Papes 2005 is not just a powerful wine, it is full of finesse, balance and elegance, a true classic” said Molesworth as he presented the award. Recently at the hotel guests embarked on a tour of leading wine growers in France.Ben Leroux from Domaine Comte Armand in the heart of Burgundy and Charles Sichel from the famous Maison Sichel in Bordeaux took them through some excellent tastings of over 25 different wines, including Château Palmer, Chateau d’Angludet, Pommard Epeneaux, Meursault among others.

In Hospitality Ireland magazine  Bill Kelly gave the following views in the Sommelier survey when asked what wine trends have you observed recently. In Ireland, France has lost popularity over the years, but it’s definitely on the way back. We have seen a huge increase in demand for Burgundy over the past couple of years and I think , in terms of quality, the improvement in Burgundy wine making over the past ten years has been quiet phenomenal. A more recent phenomenon, in terms of offering value, is the Loire Valley. People know the big Loire wines, like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, but when you look in and around Vouvray, and delve into the heart of the Loire Valley, there is some fantastic value to be had there. There’s a bit of a return back from the New World wines, back to the more traditional countries.

In his predictions for the coming year he sees a huge swing back to Alsace, to Riesling especially. There are some incredible Rieslings out there that offer tremendous value for money. The best value-for-money wine on our wine list is probably a Burgundy.

The wine cellar at the Resort Hotel and Spa is spectacularly unique, with many wine treasures to be found, quiet a few of which are difficult to find elsewhere. Along with his brother-in-law Vincent Avril, Bill Kelly chooses 90% of the wines on the list directly imported from France and Italy. The reason for the reliance on French wines is simple: more than anyone else the French intend wine to accompany food and so they make their wine to compliment food and to be complimented by it, not to overpower it with big, strong aromas and jamilly fruity of heavy oaked flavours.

Despite the doom and gloom of this recession, Kellys started into the 2009/10 season with optimism and confidence. Throughout its history the hotel has come through many periods of economic crisis. The hotel puts its continued success down to looking after its best asset – the customer.

Kellys Resort Hotel, Rosslare, Co. Wexford - Aerial View.

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