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Six Drinks for the Six Nations

Thighs pump, huge chests heave, pulses race and eyes goggle at the up and under. No, I am not talking about an evening at Stringfellows. The Six Nations is here and it is time to indulge in 'the gentleman's game' of dump tackling, eye gouging and head stamping.  Over the next few weeks the young, brave men that proudly pull on the shirts for their countries will lay bare their strengths and weaknesses, their flashes of brilliance and moments of human fallibility. To see us through these highs and the lows I offer six drinks to represent these six nations.

     To begin with Ireland, consistently producing some of the finest rugby players and drinkers in the world. Always one of the tournament favourites and this year is no different, despite the retirement of one of their finest players, Brian O'Driscoll. An inspiration on the pitch and conspicuous by his action man heroics, off the pitch BOD, as he is affectionately known, is renowned as a quiet and affable man which leads me nicely onto this fabulous sounding new whiskey, The Quiet Man, named in fact after a bartender named John Mulgrew. Produced in Derry, The Quiet Man is a blend of whiskies matured for eight years in first fill bourbon casks. Soaring notes of vanilla, pineapple and cedar wood infuse this splendid dram. The characteristics of old bourbon casks wrap everything up with a sweet, spicy hug. BOD may have gone but Ireland remain a force and there may well be one or two glasses of whisky being raised in Derry come the close of the championship.  

     The Welsh however, may have something to say about that. Represented here by Newport outfit Tiny Rebel Brewery and their Urban IPA. The Welsh have had their share of tiny rebels over the years. Players short in stature but gigantuan in wizardry and perhaps none more so than pocket dynamo Shane Williams, Wales' top ever try scorer. At 5.5% abv, Urban IPA from Tiny Rebel may appear diminutive enough but it knocks you sideways with a blast of hop induced citrus and spice aromas, plus great lashings of orange zest with subtly malty undertones. An IPA that punches well above its weight.

    The Gallic contingent is represented by a more obvious beast. A bottle of red wine and one sporting the somewhat hyperbolic name of The Wild, Wild Boar. Val de Garrigue's Cote de Ventoux 'Le Sanglier Fou' seems to fit perfectly with the now sadly retired monstrosity that is French number eight Sebastian Chabal. With his brutish porcine build, crazed eyes and ferocious gallops towards the enemy, Chabal is only two tusks away from the literal incarnation of a that feral piggy. The wine, on the other hand, despite its name, is a gentler affair. Certainly wild with its well-hung game and funk aromas but soft on the palate and with a pure fruit concentration that is the hallmark of the super wines from Val de Garrigue. 

    From a natural beast to a mystical one. From the hills of Northern Italy comes Luigi Baudana's 'Dragon.'. A lip-smacking blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Nascetta and Riesling. In your face aromatics with barrel-derived viscosity on the palate. This seems fun and deadly serious at the same time, just like Italy's own dragon the massive, hirsute prop Martin Castrogiovanni. He sadly missed last years world cup with injury. Twisted knee? Pulled hamstring? Broken Arm? No. Doctors discovered a tumour pressing on his sciatic nerve. It has been operated on and he his back playing for Italy in this six nations. Roar.

     Now, could there be a more aptly named drink to enjoy whilst watching massive blokes running full tilt into one another than 'Jackhammer' from the irrepressible Brewdog of Scotland. The country has had its fair share of jackhammers over the years; Telfer, Jeffrey, and more recently the likes of the belligerent Jim Hamilton and at 7.5% abv Brewdog's 'Jackhammer' doesn't take any prisoners. A colossal burst of grapefruit and pine resin pounds away at the senses as rich, caramel malt adds a backbone of pure granite. Tough, uncompromising, Scottish.

     So, to the last of the nations, England, and time to bring out the fizz. "The Trouble with Dreams" made at Wiston Estate by Dermot Sugrue is a class act. A blend of 55% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, partially fermented in old barriques. Apples and oatcakes, lemon cheesecake, plus a quite splendid apple blossom-like freshness. Explosive in flavour and rich complexity. A huge mouth hug of apples, blackcurrant, with a minty freshness and Granny Smith bite. Being a proud Englishman I naturally dream of a resounding Six Nations grand slam victory climaxing in a thumping eighty-nil defeat of France in Paris in the final round, to be celebrated with the uncorking of a bottle of this fabulous fizz. The Trouble with Dreams though, as put so poignantly by US alternative rock group The Eels,is  they don't come true.

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