We begin this month with news from the fine wine world.  Taylor Fladgate, which owns Taylors, Croft, Fonseca and other ports, has declared the 2017 as a vintage making this a rare two in a row as the 2016 was also declared.  The Symington family also declared both years (their first time ever going back-to-back) and it looks like 2017 will be ‘generally declared’, as both Noval and Ramos Pinto have also declared.

April in the wine world is all about Bordeaux En Primeur, when the world’s largest quality wine region tries to convince the rest of the world that they have made yet another outstanding vintage of the world’s most famous red wine.  For a few weeks in April the wine world heads to Bordeaux to taste the previous year’s vintage, wines while still in barrel and dense with tannins – most wines will not be bottled until at least Summer 2020. Every year the wisdom of judging half-made wine is questioned and yet every year En Primeur continues.

After heavy frost in 2017, which led to a very patchy vintage, the 2018s seem to be much more consistent thanks to the warm summer; and it looks like 2018 will slot in nicely beside other ‘excellent vintages’ such as 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016.  The 2018 vintage was not good for everyone however, so choose carefully. While 2018 is good on both Right and Left bank, localised hail in Pessac Léognan and heavy rains in Sauternes and organic caused problems and organic and biodynamic producers (e.g. Ch. Palmer and Pontet Canet) made tiny quantities due to onset of mildew thanks to a rainy mild Spring.  St Estephe and Paullac on the Left and Pomerol and St-Émilion on the Right fared best overall.

Back in Ireland, the Fidelity Beer Festival in the Mansion House (July 13th) has announced their line-up with a mix of Irish and International brewers such as Whiplash, Rascals, Yellobelly, North Brewing and Five Points (UK), To Øl and Mikkeller (Dk), and some brewers from Eastern Europe including Pühaste (Estonia) and Browar Stu Mostow from Poland.

The food festivals keep on coming and by the time you read this you will have missed the West Waterford Food Festival in Dungarvan (April 26th – 28th).  Post-festival there are still excellent reasons to visit Dungarvan – besides The Tannery, Dungarvan Brewing and the bar food in Merrys, you need to add Eunice Power’s new chipper called ‘ANDCHIPS’ (www.andchips.ie).  Using fish straight off the boat with properly made chips and sauces plus Ms. Power’s impeccable cooking talents it is a must-visit this summer – bless her there is even a spice bag option, with good quality chicken – unlike the cardboard versions that abound in Dublin.

Meanwhile in West Clare the Burren Slow Food Festival runs from May 10th – 12th, and is possibly the best one yet.  As usual the driving force behind it all is Birgitta Hedin-Curtin of Burren Smokehouse, who is celebrating 30 years in business this year.

The theme for 2019 is ‘Taste The Atlantic – Seaweed’ and the weekend begins on Friday with a day trip to Inis Oírr for a seafood feast.  On the Seaweed Theme Sally McKenna (author of the excellent seaweed cookbook ‘Extreme Greens’) will be on giving a demo on cooking with seaweed, and the excellent Sliabh Liag Distillery will be sampling their Dúlamán Gin which includes five seaweed botanicals.

Demo chefs will include Gareth Mullins of The Marker Hotel and current President of EuroToques and Taka Miyazaki of Michelin Star restaurant Ichigo Ichie.

Speaking of Michelin Stars, Danni Barry will be running a pop up restaurant on Saturday evening and a clutch of EuroToques chefs will be preparing a Sunday Buffet.

The Burren Smokehouse itself has had a bit of a re-vamp with larger capacity for their 30th birthday and a new visitors centre and shop will be launched soon.

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