Many people will be surprised to learn that Ireland has a rich history of involvement in the wine trade from the 16th century onwards. Until recently, the most significant connection was in Bordeaux; where Irish emigrants fleeing conflict at home settled in the 17th & 18th century and became involved in the wine trade. These early settlers became known as ‘The Wine Geese’ and were hugely influential with involvement in great estates such as Chateau’s Lynch-Bages, Leoville-Barton, and Kirwan.
There is now a new generation of Irish winemakers and I am excited by the quality of wines they are making. Over the last year, we have stocked wines from three wineries that just happen to have Irish winemakers at the helm. As each is making wines in different areas, I thought it would be interesting to focus on the wines they are making.
Sinead & Liam Cabot, Roka Winery, Western Slovenia
Since 2011 Sinead & Liam Cabot have been making wine in Western Slovenia. They have 1.5 hectares of vines and are making small quantities of high-quality wines using 3 varietals: Furmint, Blaufrankisch & Laski Riesling. Liam & Sinead are great believers in doing as little as possible to their wines. In their own words: ‘ The only process undertaken in the cellar is the addition of very minimal amounts of sulphite when required. No sedimentation, no inoculated yeasts, no temperature control, no acidity adjustments, no enzymes etc…No nothing.’ But theirs is not a careless, carefree approach to winemaking; it is surprisingly difficult to do nothing because it comes with risks. Their wines are characterised by a striking minerality and are very much ‘of the earth’. We stock the Furmint and Blaufrankisch and each is a testament to the skill of this Irish winemaking couple.
Roisín Curley is an Irish winemaker and micro-‐négociant who makes small-scale wines in Burgundy. She has a preference for organically grown fruit which she sources from small parcels of land that are grown and cared for by conscientious growers. Róisín’s winemaking philosophy has traditional influences and minimal intervention. She respects each batch of grapes individually and steers them through the production process with great care, producing elegant wines that express where they come from and who has nurtured them along the way. Burgundy is a huge wine region with many talented local producers, so it is a great achievement to get your wine to stand out which Roisin certainly does.
Simon Tyrrell & Charles Derain, Les Deux Cols, Rhone
I must confess an interest here as I have bought a share in Simon & Charles’ winery – Les Deux Cols. This is, however, a recent event and my admiration for their winemaking abilities precede this by many years. They try to follow a largely ‘natural’ winemaking processes with organic agriculture and minimal intervention in the winery. Their wines have clean, clear flavours that show a strong sense of terroir.