Smoked Irish salmon on home-baked wheaten bread – sheer rustic simplicity – is the meal of choice nominated by Denis Broderick. And this from a man whose experience includes working with millionaires in private service and for the world’s biggest oil company. The latter I have gleaned from research, because Denis is modesty itself, describing himself only as “someone passionate about food and wine”.
A former president of the Hotel and Catering International Management Association, Denis is Wine & Food Development Consultant with Woodford Bourne in Northern Ireland (formerly Direct Wine Shipments Wholesale). He has been at the forefront of wine education in the region for almost 30 years; over 40 years in the hospitality industry. And yet he humbly sees his main role as “stimulating an interest in wine, accepting that learning is lifelong and down to the individual.” He tells me that his job involves “spreading the gospel” in an informative and fun manner to both hotel and restaurant staff as well as to the general public.
Although the last wine he opened with his Code38 was a Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf du Pape 2007, he says that all the wines he has opened with it have been exciting. “But”, he allows, “as in life, the first time had a special excitement! That was with a magnum of Domaine de Cristia 2006, opened during a presentation to the Northern Ireland Wine & Spirit Institute in December.”
Less easy for Denis is declaring a favourite wine. “My tastes are far too catholic”, he says. “That said, I favour fish when dining out and recently have found myself looking for an Albarino from Rias Baixas.” In fact, while choice of wine has for Denis always depended on “the location, occasion, mood, company, food – and wallet”, he has found himself lately leaning toward Spain as far as regions go. (For an enjoyable red he confesses to a “soft spot for Torres Mas La Plana… a great Cabernet Sauvignon in the quality:price ratio.”) As for whites – “if I had to get off the fence, I would plug for an aromatic variety – say Riesling or Gewurztraminer – with all styles from bone dry to luscious sweet.”
Denis tells me he has many memorable wine moments, but the recent leap-year date of February 29 brought back one in particular. He was with the late Johnny Hugel, in Riquewihr, on February 29, 1984. “After a drive through the vineyards on a very fresh morning we had, naturally, a great tasting of his wines: the tasting all the more memorable in the company of this great ambassador or Alsacian wines. Then came an unlisted sample at the end – a dip in to a cask of the magic 1983 vintage of Selection des Grains Nobles Riesling. One of those moments when you feel blessed.”
Back to that smoked salmon, however! Denis decides he would like to use the analogy of the condemned man being offered his last meal. The home-baked wheaten bread would be spread “with loads of butter as cholesterol would not be an issue”; there would be lemon and black pepper. And the wine Denis? “It would have to be a bottle of Hommage de Jean Hugel Gewurztraminer. And the bottle would be a magnum.” Maybe not so rustic after all, then… He tells me that wines from Hugel are available at Direct Wine Shipments, Belfast, as well as some of the independent wine off-licenses throughout Northern Ireland. Just in case we aren’t there, he assures us that Hugel is very widely distributed throughout the world. Regarding his Code38, Denis suspects it was love at first sight. “The feel of the Code38 is fantastic”, he says, “offering strong reassurance that all will be good. The fact that the experience to date confirms that expectation, I would imagine it should be a life-long love affair. Indeed, the only downside – if that is how it could be viewed – is the ongoing desire to keep using the equipment!”