Wines of Ireland

Tasting


Wine
Philip Dunne

Ireland might be a world leader in the whiskey and stout industry, but is certainly not a country known for its wine production. Do we even produce wine on Irish soil, you ask? Well yes, of course – only in Ireland can we put our hand to almost anything and make a success of it! Amidst the vast array of Irish distilleries and microbreweries new and old, there exists an underground of serious wine producers, turning their agricultural talents towards producing some exceptionally delicious tipples.
Although only a handful of wineries operate in Ireland, we are in fact classified under the EU’s wine growing regions, joining other cool-climate countries, such as Germany (famous for white grape Riesling) and the UK (where sparkling wine is produced that rivals the best Champagne). Our Department of Agriculture has also yet to regulate Irish vineyards due to our small production level, which gives our domestic winemakers more freedom to experiment without the level of restrictions under which major wine-producing countries like France and Spain must operate.
Our oldest commercial vineyard, Thomas Walk Vineyard, was set up in the 1980s and is still in successful operation today in Kinsale, Co Cork. Thomas Walk, originally from Lower Franconia in Germany, grows mainly the robust, dark-skinned German origin grape Rondo in his private-to-the-public vineyard. The family-owned winery produces both a red wine and a rosé with his Rondo grape, with an emphasis on organic viticulture. With their first vintage of wine in 1989, this ‘veteran’ of Irish winemaking only continues to prosper. The wines of Thomas Walk are available through the website, www.thomaswalk-vineyard.com, at around €25 per bottle.
In Lusk, Co Dublin, you’ll find winemaker David Llewellyn, producer of Lusca (which means ‘cave’ in Irish). David also grows primarily red wine utilising the Rondo grape, along with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are grown controlled under cover. The wines are gentle with soft red fruit dominating, light acidity and subtle tannins. While production levels are quite low (between 350-500 bottles produced each year), the aim is to develop in the years ahead by producing over 1,000 bottles of each vintage to accommodate increasing demand. David’s wine is available at €43.99 per bottle – order through www.fruitandvine.com, where you’ll also find a list of stockists.
For something a little different, try Móinéir Irish strawberry wine, produced by Pamela Walsh and Brett Stephenson of Wicklow Way Wines (www.wicklowwaywines.ie). With 150 delicious small strawberries in each bottle, this vegan-friendly wine is spring and summer in a bottle. Bright red fruit, a perfect choreography for the palate, wonderfully sweet and charming. A fabulous wine with or without food to accompany, priced at a generous €21.99. You could also check out the Móinéir Blackberry Wine with Wild Elderberries, Just released in late October 2016. Sláinte!

> 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.