The man on a mission to make great wines accessible for all speaks with Food&Wine about summer trends, star winemakers, and a tasting event you won't want to miss
"Wine is made for good times with good people," says the founder of the wine subscription club WineSpark Eamon FitzGerald. A former head of wine for the UK’s Naked Wines company, FitzGerald has travelled the world hunting down the world’s best independent wineries and befriending stellar winemakers along the way. Now he’s bringing that know-how to an Irish audience through WineSpark, and will be joining Food&Wine for a very special summer wine tasting at the Westbury Hotel next Friday May 20. Find out what he knows about good wine, and how to attend our delicious tasting evening by reading on for our interview with the founder of the wine subscription club WineSpark Eamon FitzGerald.…
What is the greatest misconception people have about enjoying wine?
The biggest misconception out there is that the more you spend on wine, the better quality you get. I’ve been lucky to visit every wine region on earth and the most any wine should cost to make – when you include the cost of grapes, processing, barrels, and packaging – is around €25. Yet ‘the best’ wines sell for hundreds, sometimes thousands a bottle. My motivation behind WineSpark is to work with the best winemakers to make these amazing wines affordable and accessible.
It's Sunday, it's sunny, and we have a lot of charcuterie to get through. What are we drinking, and why?
The trick to food and wine matching is to try to copy what the locals have been doing for centuries. For example: goat's cheese with Sancerre, prawns with Albarino, lamb with Rioja and so on. In this case, I’d go with a nice Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Back in February, I visited Domaine Nicolas in the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, and after a big tasting they treated me to a traditional Burgundian working lunch, which comprised an enormous spread of terrines, cheeses, charcuterie and bread. They cracked open a bottle of their estate red and it was heavenly!
Which wine regions and makers are you most excited about this summer?
I was at a big wine fair in Barcelona in April on a mission to discover new producers. While there I came across an amazing crop of young, up-and-coming winemakers, with fierce passion and hunger to succeed. Wines from people like Berta Valganon in Rioja, Ana Carazo in Ribera del Duero, and Cesar Marquez in Bierzo are currently on their way to Ireland, and are genuinely exciting. There’s so much great stuff coming out of Spain right now.
Any wine trends we should be name-dropping?
One thing we are seeing is a lot of Riesling being drunk right now. It’s always been a grape that we wine nerds in the industry love, but it struggles to get any wider traction. We have some great (dry) examples from Australia, Germany and Alsace at the moment, and we’re delighted to see it taking off.
How can the novice wine fan build up their knowledge, without hitting the books?
Going to a tasting is a great start. All the importers and wine merchants are holding tastings at the moment – you’ll get to taste a wide range of wines that you might not normally try, and you might even meet some real winemakers. From there you might want to go deeper and do a wine course. Your local quality wine shop might do one of these, or check out virtualvineyards.ie run by the brilliant Brigid O’Hora.
You're bringing two of Europe's best winemakers to Dublin for a Food&Wine X WineSpark tasting event on Friday May 20. What can guests expect on the evening?
I can’t wait for this! Guests can expect to drink some great summer wines and learn about them from the winemakers themselves. Federico Cerelli is one of Italy’s most respected winemakers - having previously made the iconic wines Tignanello and Solaia when he worked for Antinori. He’s now making his own range of wines exclusively for WineSpark, called I Filari. And Iria Otero comes from Galicia in northwest Spain where she makes an authentic, soulful Albarino that all of the Irish wine critics have raved in the past year. She’s great company and I’m honoured to share her wine with Irish wine drinkers.
Which wines are you most looking forward to checking out that evening?
I’ll give you two. The first is a light summer red called Teixugo from Iria that she showed me at the wine fair in Barcelona. It’s from the native Caiño Tinto and Sousón grapes, and I reckon would be delicious served chilled in the garden on a hot summer’s day. The second is Federico’s I Filari Toscana Rosso. It’s a Cabernet Franc from the Suvereto region, which is right next door to Bolgheri, where all the famous Super Tuscans come from. Federico uses every trick from the luxury winemaking book to craft this sensational red, and it would go down a storm with anything good off the barbecue this summer.
Want to meet the founder of the wine subscription club WineSpark Eamon FitzGerald and two of his favourite winemakers in person? Limited tickets for the Food&Wine X WineSpark summer wine tasting event at The Westbury are available here.
For more on Eamon’s work see www.winespark.com.