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Ashford Castle Paul Fogerty

Getting ready to choose your Christmas wines and don’t know your Riesling from your Chardonnay? Let Ashford Castle’s Head Sommelier Paul Fogerty help

From a succulent turkey dinner to a vegetarian feast, Paul has the perfect wine pairing to bring your meal to life this holiday season

According to Ashford Castle’s Head Sommelier, Paul Fogerty, the most important aspect of choosing a wine isn’t the price, the complexity or even the grape – it’s the enjoyment you’ll get from it.

While many of us often spend a little more than usual on our wines at Christmas, Paul says that there isn’t always a connection between the price of a bottle of wine and how much you’ll enjoy it. There are wines for everyone’s budget to enjoy this Christmas and New Year.

For the holiday season at Ashford Castle, Paul and his colleagues are finalising their wine choices, collaborating closely with Executive Head Chef, Liam Finnegan, to create fantastic wine pairings and superb recommendations for guests.

And if you don’t have a reservation at Ashford Castle this year, fear not, as Paul has put together the perfect wine pairings to add some magic to your festive fare.

Aperitif

If you want to start off the day in style, Paul says that Rosé Champagne is a great option as it really opens up the taste buds in readiness for all the delicious food to follow.

Paul serves: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. Elegant, refined and showing great finesse, this Rosé Champagne is bursting with aromas and flavours of red berry fruits: delicate and crisp on the palate, a great way to ready your palate for all the great food you are going to indulge in.

Bubbles

Christmas and New Year celebrations offer the perfect opportunity to crack open a bottle of Champagne and Paul’s recommendation is Perrier Jouët – Grand Brut. There are fabulous alternatives to Champagne however including any Crémant from the Alsace region. “In Ireland, Crémant seems to be the less popular sparkling wine variety, although it’s definitely my favourite”, says Paul. Crémant is similar to Champagne in terms of how it is made, but it’s less effervescent and usually, not as expensive. 

Prosecco is a popular alternative to Champagne and Paul suggests popping a Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Santa Margherita, Italy. Characteristics include lovely aromas of pineapple and peaches, along with delicate florals, lively bubbles and a crisp, dry, yet sweet finish on the palate.  Paul is also a big fan of some of the wonderful wines from Cava, Spain so when it comes to bubbles, there are plenty of options and price points to choose from.This year, he will crack open a bottle of sparkling English wine called “The Trouble with Dream 2017” from Sugrue south Downs, England. The wine is made by Dermot Sugrue, who is one of the “Modern Wine Geese” from Ireland and will be joining the hotel’s Wine Dinner series on the 3rd & 4th February 2023, celebrating modern day Irish wine makers.

Traditional turkey

For those opting for the traditional turkey roast, Paul recommends a Burgundy Pinot Noir or, for something really special from Ashford Castle’s sister property in South Africa, Bouchard Finlayson, Galpin Peak Pinot Noir.

A full-bodied Chardonnay is Paul’s choice for white wine drinkers.  “I never understood why Chardonnay fell out of favour for a time,” says Paul. “It’s an exceptional accompaniment to turkey and is delicious with side dishes such as bread sauce. Choose a wine with good complexity and an oaky richness, which really helps to bring out the flavours of the meat. If in doubt, speak to your local wine merchant or off licence and they’ll be happy to help you pick out something special for Christmas Day.”

Paul serves: Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir exuding all the finesse of a good Burgundy, but the fruit and finish of a New World wine.  It packs a wonderful dark cherry flavoured punch, lingers on the palate and its own classic ‘gamieness’ makes it the perfect pairing for the festive bird.

Seafood and fish

In addition to the more traditional fare, Ashford Castle will be offering guests wonderful seafood, fresh from local suppliers and fishermen in Connemara. Lobster, crab and shellfish bisque will all have a starring role on the Christmas menu and Paul’s pairings for seafood and fish dishes include:

  • Smoked Salmon: a lightly oaked aged Chardonnay
  • Oysters: one option only, Champagne such as Taittinger
  • Seafood cocktail: a dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc

Beef

For many, beef is part of the great Christmas day tradition. You don’t necessarily need a big red wine to bring out the flavours of the beef according to Paul who recommends the earthy characteristics of a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon or one of Italy’s finest – a silky Barolo.

Vegetarian

Executive Head Chef at Ashford Castle, Liam Finnegan and his team, have developed special vegetarian and vegan menus for guests that include fabulous options such as Beetroot, Carrot & Date Galette and French Truffle & Potato Risotto and featuring seasonal ingredients foraged on the 350-acre Ashford Estate. 

Paul serves: A Beaujolais Cru such as Morgon AC complements most earthy and mushroom dishes. Morgon AC offers aromas of stone fruit, with notes of violet and kirsch.  For warm, tomato-based dishes, Paul recommends Chianti from Tuscany, Italy which, depending on how long it has been aged, can evoke a sense of flowers and spices along with aromas of plums and raspberries.  The longer a Chianti spends in oak barrels, the more you will get a sense of leather and tobacco.

Dessert

Paul serves: Beaumes de Venise – a golden Muscat – is one of the great classic dessert wines and is widely available to purchase in wine merchants and off licenses across Ireland. 

Cheese

A Vintage Port or a Late Bottle Vintage Port is the usual pairing with cheeses, however Paul prefers a Neipoort 10-year-old Tawney Port. The wine is less intense and rich in taste in comparison. It has sweetness, nuttiness, citrus peel, and a great length of flavour that according to Paul is a better match for most cheese platters.


16th Century cellars

Paul Fogerty and his team curate the carefully selected wines that are stored in the 16th Century wine cellars buried deep beneath Ashford Castle and unearthed during the renovations of 2013.  The tunnels, formerly the old servant’s entrance to the castle, have been transformed and not only do hold some of the world’s most exclusive wines, but they offer three very special private spaces for wine tastings and private dining experiences.

Bouchard Finlayson

The world-renowned Bouchard Finlayson winery is located in the internationally acclaimed wine region of Walker Bay in the Western Cape. The winery is owned by the Tollman family of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection and collaboratively run by Victoria Tollman and Peter Finlayson. Bouchard Finlayson wines are available in Ireland exclusively at Ashford Castle and sister hotel, The Lodge at Ashford.

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