Booze, glorious booze! Our local drinks industry is currently experiencing something of a renaissance. With the rise in local craft beers, small batch whiskey distillers and a burgeoning gin scene, it’s safe to say we’re becoming connoisseurs of all things alcoholic. One tipple that has so far eluded our producers is wine, largely due to our inclement climate.
Despite two amazing Italian wine trips under my belt, I never really appreciated the difference between a fine claret and a rustic vin de table, until I met the other half of DowntheHatchNI. Now we love nothing more than a good glass of Malbec to wind down on a Friday night after a busy week so, when the folks at Gap Wines invited us along to Belfast Castle for a wine tasting evening, I jumped at the chance!
In case you’re not familiar with Gap Wines, take a look at their site or better still, pay them a visit (they have sites on the Antrim Road in Belfast and Carrickfergus).
Belfast Castle was the perfect venue for a tasting. The weather was kind to us and standing on the sun-soaked terrace, overlooking Belfast Lough and the castle’s beautifully manicured gardens, a class of Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc in hand, we could easily have imagined being at an elegant French chateau or Tuscan villa.
Our host for the evening was Chilean wine producer Oscar Salas, who expertly guided us through Santa Rita 120’s new range of wines.
He began the evening by sharing a little of the company’s history. Originating from Chile, the range was named in honour of the 120 patriot soldiers who, in 1814 during the war for Chile’s independence, found refuge in Santa Rita’s hacienda after the battle of Rancagua. The cellars where they were hidden are still used for maturation of Santa Rita’s wines to this day. Match that, Jacob’s Creek!
Oscar’s passion to produce great quality wine was clear throughout the evening as he chatted enthusiastically about the production of each wine.
As something of a wine novice it was great to get a chat with Oscar about what makes a fine wine. For a video of our conversation, click here.
The dining portion of the event consisted of a two-course meal, which was the only disappointing aspect of a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The salad leaves were tired, wilted and watery and the thick sauce on the chicken supreme was rather gloopy. For such an exquisite location it is a shame the food did not match that high standard – though the meal was only a secondary concern – the Santa Rita wine was the undoubted focus of the evening.
In all we tried six of their wines including: Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. Each was thoroughly enjoyable, which was a surprise, as I’m very much a red wine girl.
My friend Maria (my companion for the evening) and I agreed our favourite was the medium-bodied fruity Cabernet Franc – native of the Loire region, but here made from Chilean grapes. The chardonnay was our pick of the whites (and has a quid off at the moment at Gap Wines).
We really enjoyed our evening and the opportunity to sample an array of Chilean wines. It’s not difficult to see why Santa Rita is the top seller from Santiago to San Pedro.
The new packaging of the white wine range also impressed us, as it cleverly included a plastic ice bucket to chill your wine when out of those beach BBQ’s on a summer evening.
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If reading this has whetted your appetite for a cultured night of wine tasting, as well plenty of craic, the next wine event organized by Gap Wines is in aid of NI Hospice on Friday 23rd June 2017 at Ormeau Golf Club (£12pp).
For more information go to http://www.gapwines.com/events