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Unfiltered: Paul Fogerty

The head sommelier at Ireland’s George V at Ashford Castle shares his fondness for Irish made global wines, details of the array of finely stocked trolleys operating in the historic dining room, and mistrust of artichokes…

What is your vintage? 

1968 – good for Port, Barolo and Brunello.

What is your motto? 

The glass is half full! All problems have a solution.

Who inspired you to enter the world of gastronomy? 

Gerry Galvin, of Drimcong House in Moycullen, County Galway, which is where I worked in 1995. He was a major influence on my love of wine and was the first to really get me interested to work in the world of wine and not just restaurants.

Describe your list at George V at Ashford Castle? 

It caters for all tastes, with classical collections including Domaine Dujac and Château Lynch-Bages as well as the interesting Wine Geese series which celebrates Irish winemakers abroad, including Róisín Curley in Burgundy. We also showcase bottles such as the Sangiovese led Hannibal from Bouchard Finlayson in South Africa, it being the winery of our owners, the Tollman family who founded the Red Carnation hotel collection of which we are part. We are very proud that the list is becoming increasingly organic, biodynamic and sustainable in line with our guests’ expectations.

What areas are you looking to expand? 

The bounty of wines from Spain, which is where I was born.

How does the historic, opulent setting including Waterford crystal chandeliers influence a guest’s enjoyment of wine? 

Ashford Castle seamlessly blends history with the wonderful friendliness of the staff and their great service. Guests appreciate this when dining in our beautiful restaurant. While our 300-year-old cellar is an epic setting for private tastings and dinners, meaning you can achieve the best of both a traditional restaurant and a unique experience.

What food and drinks trolleys are to be found in the dining room?

We have several, including one for locally-sourced home-cured salmon trolley, another for the côte de boeuf trolley upon which we also flambé beef cheeks, and a petits fours trolley. Drinks-wise, we feature a Champagne and sparkling trolley, and a digestif trolley. In the morning we have another operated by a juice sommelier offering freshly pressed juices and home-made smoothies as well as home-made kombucha, and of course, Champagne is also available.

What have been sublime matches betwixt wine and dishes by head chef, Philippe Farineau? 

Bouchard Finlayson’s Galpin Peak Pinot Noir with venison, and Cline Viognier with foie gras.

How do Ashford Castle’s “Wine Weekends” unfurl? 

Guests meet four winemakers in person over a two-day event, with a casual dinner, wine masterclass and tasting as well as a traditional gourmet dinner with a tasting menu. The wines are paired with each course, and guests got the added benefit of being around the winemakers for the whole weekend, interacting with them for a full experience. We combined the learning aspect with great food and wine and it certainly allows people to have much more enjoyment than a single dinner.

Credit: Jack Hardy

Given the heritage of the castle, which was once the home of the Guinness family, how would you rate your Guinness? 

I am partial to the odd pint, and ours is up there with the best!  You can’t beat sitting overlooking the lake with a good Guinness.

What is the hardest ingredient to pair with, in your opinion? 

Artichokes make wines taste sweeter than they are and so it is much more difficult to taste bitterness, acidity and saltiness so the balance of the wine is then not coming through.

What is your favourite film and book? 

“The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Oxford Companion to Wine”.

What music is played in the restaurant? 

We have a harpist and pianist on rotation.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be? 

The South of France, for the culture, food, wine and of course rugby.

Tell us something surprising about yourself? 

I am also a rugby referee.

What attribute should prospective team members have? 

A willingness to go the extra yard in looking after our guests and a hunger for knowledge.

Ashford Castle – Cong, County Mayo, F31 CA48, Ireland; +353 (0)94 954 6003;

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