As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, many people wishing to celebrate with a drink think of a pint of Guinness, or maybe an Irish whiskey. But wine lovers can raise a patriotic glass of their preferred tipple too.
Many of us are be familiar with ‘the flight of the Wild Geese’, the term given to Irish military migrants of the 17th and 18th centuries. Well, there are also ‘Wine Geese’ – Irish families who emigrated abroad to different countries, immersing themselves in wine culture, setting up wineries and becoming involved in the commercial wine trade.
In the world wine capital of Bordeaux, France, the origins of the Wine Geese date back to 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne. Much of the defeated Catholic army was forced to migrate overseas. John Lynch from Galway who fled Ireland in 1691 became one of the first Irish Wine Geese abroad in Bordeaux, inheriting the now iconic Château Lynch-Bages winery in 1749 from his wife, Elizabeth. Its premium red wine, a staple of the Celtic Tiger politician and banker, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot primarily and will cost you at least €150 a bottle. (The Irish flag still today in Bordeaux, where today you’ll find 14 châteaux, ten streets and two wine communes all with Irish names.)
Fast forward to the present generation, and Ireland continues to have shining stars producing quality wine all over the globe. Simon Tyrell, the green isle’s most talented modern winemaker, cultivates Syrah and Grenache grapes among others in the Rhône region of France, to make his delightful Les Deux Cols wines. The Cuvée d’Alizé from Simon’s portfolio has incredible concentration and complexity with notes of juicy forest fruit, and it’s priced at a rather generous €16.95.
Closer to home, Limerick-born Dermot Sugrue of sparkling-wine grower Wiston Estate in West Sussex, England, is revolutionising the world of bubbly. Sugrue’s Blanc de Blanc cuvée (100 percent Chardonnay grapes), was recently selected by leading wine magazine Decanter as one of the top 5 sparkling wines of 2016, overtaking such household Champagne names as Bollinger and Moet & Chandon.
If you’re interested in exploring Ireland’s wine connections, I’d recommended ‘A Kingdom of Wine – A Celebration of Ireland’s Wine Geese’, by Ted Murphy. Also, if you find yourself in Kinsale, be sure to visit the fabulous Wine Geese museum based in Desmond Castle.
> philip dunne is Head Sommelier at Ashford Castle, Cong. Trained by the Court of Master Sommeliers, he is part of the team voted the Best Wine Experience in Ireland 2016 at the Restaurant Association Awards in Ireland.