The George V Dining Room at Ashford Castle is a temple to fine dining and world-class wine, but guests at the hotel can also make the most of the extraordinary Ashford Castle Wine Cellar. Located below the Castle, the hotel has transformed what was once a coal bunker into a state-of-the-art wine cellar with three private spaces connected by original 16th century tunnels. Here, Head Sommelier, Pierre, gives us a tour and an insight into the seriously impressive wine list.
How long have you worked at Ashford Castle?
I have been working in Ashford Castle for two months now. I have to say I am completely amazed by the wine collection, the wine cellar itself and being part of the team at the George V Dining Room!”
What do you think makes the Wine Cellars such a unique venue?
The place is absolutely mind-blowing—there is no better place in Ireland to age wine. When I visited Ashford Castle for the first time, it was actually the wine cellar that made me want to work here! A huge amount of hard work has gone in to the cellar and it’s a magical please. For me, it’s like falling into the rabbit hole in Alice In Wonderland, but this one is full of wine.”
How does the state-of-the-art technology installed in the Cellars improve guests’ experience?
Building a wine cellar requires a few key aspects. No lights, no vibrations, high humidity and a constant temperature between 12°C and 18°C. The white wines and the red wines are separated in Ashford Castle and kept at different temperatures for maturing perfectly. Regarding humidity, we are a few feet away from the bridge and the river, so are naturally blessed with a good level.
Can you tell us more about the wine list that’s available in the Wine Cellars?
The list includes about 800 bins and has been awarded the two glasses accolade from the Wine Spectator. It includes a good variety of styles from American wines to bottles from Bordeaux, with amazing vintages from the 60’s and 80’s. We’re also lucky enough to have some amazing bottles from Mr Tollman’s private wine cellar. Not to mention some truly excellent vintage Hermitage from Chapoutier. The list of excitements is endless!”
How does the Wine Tasting Masterclass in the Wine Cellars work?
We begin in our private ‘garden’, and I provide some historic details about the cellar, walk them through the collection and pick out a few hidden gems or some more unexpected wines. We will discuss the Wine Geese, the term used to describe the many Irish families who become involved in winemaking all over the world, and finally we will enjoy some tasting! It could be wines from our sister vineyard Bouchard-Finlayson winery in South Africa with two flights, or a Super Tuscan tasting, where guests sample Tignanello, Summus by Banfi and Sassicaia side by side. For an extra special touch, we also offer the Ashford Castle Premier Reserve cellar tasting where you can discover legendary winemakers like Lynch-Bages, Petrus or Mouton-Rothschild.
What are some of your personal favourites from the list?
I have many! We have some lovely pinot noir from Givry and the Clos Salomon estate—it’s light and elegant with a very refreshing bouquet—as well as a couple of Rousseau’s, some Riesling from Wittman in Rheinhessen, Pouilly-Fuisse from Domaine Thibert and some more meaty Rioja Reserva from Pesquera. As a surprise, I really like the Zinfandel from Chateau Montelena.”
What are your top tips for wine tasting?
“Don’t stop being curious. Go to the vineyards to meet the people that make the wine and really experience the place where it is grown. There is wine for every moment and every occasion. Don’t wait to open your good bottles—it is wine, after all, and it needs to be opened and shared. Finally, stop thinking about the label and you can’t go wrong!”
Experience Pierre’s very special Wine Tasting Masterclass at Ashford Castle.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.