Champagnes & Sparkling wines for Christmas

Champagnes & Sparkling wines for Christmas by Ian Brosnan

The real sound of Christmas, for me, is not bells ringing or choirs singing, but the sound of corks popping.
All it takes is one, somewhere in the background to cause a little jolt of excitement, and maybe just a twinkle of mischief.
Because Christmas is a time for putting your worries to one side and celebrating what you’ve got.
We may not have as much to play with as before, but that shouldn’t mean that we can’t still have fun! With that in mind, here is a list of Champagnes and sparkling wines that not only represent great value for their price, but also deserve a place among your Christmas Season wines.

1.    Ca’ Morlin Prosecco Frizzante : Perfect for…… Parties
This is a perfect choice for entertaining of any kind. Not only is it everything a Prosecco should be- fresh, frothy and fruity- this is also frizzante. This means that is has a softer spritz or fizz than most sparklers, and as a result, attracts a lower rate of duty from our lovely government. So, the same producer will make both a Spumante (Sparkling) and a Frizzante (less sparkling) but the latter can cost up to €5 less in a shop. Don’t be put off by a screwcap on your Frizzante – just be prepared to drink up – the bubbles won’t last as long.
2.    Campos de Estrellas Cava: Perfect for …… Christmas morning
As we all know, over the course of the last decade, Champagne sales have significantly fallen and Prosecco sales have rocketed. All well and good, and to be expected. But for some reason, Cava seemed to miss out on the cheaper sparkling wine boom. This is a great pity, not only because there are some wonderful wines being made, but also because they are much closer in style to Champagne. Usually produced from native Spanish varieties such as      Xarel- lo and Paralada, although some include a little Chardonnay, Cava often displays some of the lovely biscuity, yeasty flavours found in great Champagne, alongside pear and apple fruit. It is also light enough to drink by itself, or, if you’re feeling indulgent, with breakfast.

3.    Bollinger Special Cuvee:  Perfect for ….. Christmas Dinner

One of the most famous names in Champagne, and with good reason. Bollinger have been doing things their way, and producing their distinct style of Champagne regardless of trends or fads. The blend is dominated by Pinot Noir, providing a structure and ‘vinous’ quality not often found in NV Champagnes. In fact, it is often described as being more “wine –like” than many of its peers. This is most certainly true when it comes to food. On its own, Bollinger is without question one of my favourite Champagnes, however, when paired well with food it becomes one of my all time favourite wines. It is especially wonderful with shellfish such as lobster and prawns, but also works with poultry and even some cheese.

4.    G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2012 : Perfect for……After dinner
One of my finds of the year, and, as a style of wine criminally undervalued.
Produced from the Moscato grape in Piedmonte, this is a lightly sparkling, lightly sweet dessert wine. Bursting with flavours of peach and apricot, and with a lively citrus twist, this is one of the most refreshing wines I can think of, and ideal for when you’ve eaten a little too much, but not yet ready to give up. It is also only 5.5% alcohol, so there is no excuse not to try it.
5.    Taittinger Nocturne “Sec” NV Champagne: Perfect for …. The rest of the night
Sec Champagnes have never really taken off in Ireland but that is all about to change.
Yes, “Sec “ means sweet, but these should not be thought of in the sense of traditional sweet wines. Taittinger are renowned for their delicate yet powerful Champagnes and this is no exception, with flavours of peach and white flowers, followed by a subtly sweet, but distinctively smooth and mellow finish. Designed, and perfect, for drinking long into the night!




ely wine tastings & courses…

Award winning sommelier Ian Brosnan will be teaching our 4 week wine appreciation course in January and February. Great for those who love wine and would love to learn more. We examine how wine is made, where it comes from, why we like it and why sometimes we don’t. ely provides a fun, fresh and sociable approach to wine tasting.
4 week wine appreciation course: (Tuesdays) €160
January: 15th, 22nd, 29th & 5th (Feb). 
Click here to pay for January course
February: 19th, 26th, 5th & 12th (March). Click here to pay for February course

The topics include:
– principle red grape varieties
– principle white grape varieties
– sparkling, dessert and fortified wines
– food and wine matching
– understanding labels

Each evening we will taste 6 wines with a retails value of €15 – €50, serve a supper dish to match the wines and provide full course notes. The course is held at ely bar & brasserie, IFSC on Tuesday evening from 7-9pm.

4 week wine appreciation course: (Tuesdays) €160
January: 15th, 22nd, 29th & 5th (Feb). 
Click here to pay for January course
February: 19th, 26th, 5th & 12th (March). Click here to pay for February course
For further details please contact or call  01 678 7867.

ely wines for summer #1

ely wines for the summer- drink something different this year!

Falanghina – Italy
by ely sommelier Ian Brosnan

This ancient grape is from the Irpinian hills in Campagne, the region around Naples..It is pronounced “falangeena”, with a hard “g” – and it is a perfect summer wine, light enough for lunch, fresh enough to drink in the garden and tangy enough to sip with food.

Naturally, given its origin, it works well with tomato-heavy Neapolitan dishes: spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, garlic and herbs; or tomatoes baked with marjoram, parsley and breadcrumbs.

But it’s equally good with fish, too: scallops fried until they just begin to caramelise,fresh, squid with lemon juice squeezed over it, blackened on the barbecue and tangled up with rocket, chargrilled seabass with capers, parsley and lemon….

As a wine, it manages to combine defined flavour- often orange peel- with a remarkable freshness that singles it out as a perfect all-rounder. Falanghina is becoming increasingly widely available in both restaurants and good wine shops.

Now all we need is the summer!

Ian Brosnan

Try for yourself.. Vesevo Beneventano Falanghina 2011 is available by the glass in all three ely restaurants.

The world’s biggest wine fair – Vinitaly 2012

The world’s biggest wine fair took place again in March 2012 in Verona, and just to get a feel of the sheer size of the event, I’ve included a few facts and figures.

Almost 160,000 visitors from 110 countries attended over 4 days. 4,200 exhibitors presented 20,000 wines in a convention space that covers 95,000 sq metres (that’s 24 acres!).

Visiting a wine fair like this requires preparation as 4 days won’t even get you half way around. And one must be clinical in planning, first deciding which regions to look at, followed by which wineries to visit, and, finally how much time to allocate to each. As a plan, it works in theory.

The reality however is very different. First of all, this is Italy, and things work at an Italian pace, so having plans and schedules can often just result in frustration. When you get a sense of the actual size of the place, you realize that your schedule can’t possibly work, and then you arrive at a stand to find it teeming with tasters. Finally, when you are surrounded by so many beautiful wines it’s very easy to have your head turned!

I was fortunate to have two experienced guides in Ben and Mauro. Both from Liberty wines, importers of some of the finest Italian wines on the Irish market, and both on a first name basis with every winemaker we met. Mauro, being a specialist in Italian wines, speaks the language fluently and I cannot overemphasise how much this helps!

It’s always difficult to taste wines first thing in the morning, so choosing the first visit is probably the most important decision of the day. We started with Livio Felluga. A family run winery in Colli Orientali in north eastern Italy, they produce white, red and sweet wines. Of an 8 wine tasting that included the flagship white, and multi award-winning Terre Alte, my personal favourite was the Friulano- a local variety full of delicate golden apple and floral flavours, with a fresh, crisp finish. It proved a great way to start the day! We focused on whites for the morning, and came across some really interesting and surprising wines. The 2011 Lugana from Cà dei Frati had just been bottled but was already showing like a little stunner, precise apple and pear flavours with an intense minerality. The 2010 is on the market already, and gives a good idea of how the 2011 will develop with some time in bottle.

Vinitaly Verona - Italy 2012Next up was Vie di Romans. Using both native and international varieties, they produce of some of the finest white wines I’ve tasted in Italy. Both the ‘Dessimis’ Pinot Grigio, and the ‘Piere’ Sauvignon Blanc are wonderful examples of the elegant complexity that can be achieved with these grapes in the right hands.

The big surprise for me, and certainly one of my finds of the trip was Villa Bucci. From an unassuming stand, the modest and humble Mr Bucci was showing just 2 whites and one red. Both whites were Verdicchio Classico, one Superiore, one Riserva. The Superiore was superb, lovely purity and balance. The Riserva was a revelation- from 40 year old vines, aged in large oak barrels; it was nutty, smoky intense, with a wonderfully silky texture and incredible ability to age. As if to prove the point, he opened the 2000, and the 1988. The 2000 was comparable to the finest aged Burgundies, and the 1988- at 24years old- was surely at its peak but retained a freshness to balance the richness of its years.

We ended the evening with a visit and tasting at Bellavista. To just call it a sparkling wine from Franciacorta would be to do these wines a great injustice. Meticulously crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of the highest quality, fermented in both old oak and steel, and with the 2nd fermentation in bottle, these wines compare to champagne of the highest quality, yet retain a unique and distinct personality. The Cuvee Brut, vintage Gran Cuvee Brut and Gran Cuvee Saten Blanc de Blanc are amongst the most elegant and balanced sparkling wines produced anywhere. That, coming from a committed Champagne lover, is saying something.

%d bloggers like this: