IRISH WINE FROM AN IRISH VINEYARD
The idea of growing vines in Ireland sounds extreme, let me explain , the Prefatory in the Northern Hemisphere is around 50 degrees North , we are way beyond that, the question is can you grow grapes in Ireland for wine,? Yes is the answer, certainly weather plays a major part, as it does in most wine producing countries like, too much heat , not enough water , etc, we do not have these problems , on the contrary we have to much rain and wind and not enough heat or sun, so we have to adapt our Terroir and grape varieties to suit our ever changing climate. Our holding is free of pesticides, Herbicides and all manmade chemicals , so that must call us Organic, and yes, we are , but not registered , why are we not registered, well that is a story in a story .
We grow one hectare , that is approximately 3000 vines , the mix is White- Solaris, Bacchus, Seyval Blanc, Orion. Red- Rondo and Pinot Noir. Vines must be trained to grow in a certain fashion , as they are very vigorous, but no different to say our cider apple trees. We train them on wires in a double cane system , like holding your two arms out straight , that is the general idea without getting technical, this system keeps uniformity and controls the unwanted growth and creates a pattern for the sun to hit these precious berries at the optimum times of the year.
The Vineyard calendar.
Pruning starts in mid-December, and finishing up around the end of January, usually some new canes are selected from the previous vintage that might represent good fruiting buds, if you take 2019 all Bacchus canes were replaced , should have worked for 2020 but more about this on a different chapter.
Flowering begins in late April early May for the earlier varieties, Solaris and Rondo, it is a critical period as for the last two years, 2019/20 frost has practically wiped these varieties , in particular 2020, we tried everything fires around the vines etc, but caused major damage, this problem is not particular to us here in Ireland parts of Southern England and Northern France met the same faith, we did manage to save some this year, but it was going to be bumper crop for Solaris, the later varieties survived and flowered , but no need to tell you about the weather for 2020, rain wind practically for the rest of the Summer, this year; s crop is small , compared to 2018 when we had the most amazing harvest of all varieties, even Pinot noir was in abundance, alas every year has it’s good and bad stories.
So it is good to tell you about our recent vintages , when our first vines were planted in 2010 I expected overnight results, well clearly that never happened , the first real harvest was 2013, and yes we made wine , not very much , I think 30 litres and it started from there, we have made wine in most years 2015 was quite good for the red varieties , , 2016 was excellent for white and then our big breakthrough was 2018 , I was always amazed at wine Makers from established wine producing regions applauding certain years as the vintage of the century, well that is what we felt after the 2018 and we are still living on that boast today, why was it so good, it’s pretty straight forward, nothing extraordinary for the first couple of months that year, bud burst came quite early and flowering for the early varieties started in earnest the first week of May, as I spoke about frost earlier, this is our most worrying time, like this year 2020 two nights of bad frost wiped out the Solaris and to a lesser extent Rondo, but 2018 we managed to get through those couple of weeks without severe frost, and on they went, May and June were pleasant , warm with a little rain , and we hit a heatwave for the remainder of June/ July/ August and part of September, it got a little cooler towards the end of that month, the one thing In our favour the sugars had built up in some cases to make wine at 12.5% abv without having to chaptalize (add sugar) pretty amazing as some areas in France and Southern England could not achieve this in regular years, we harvested our white grapes late September , Solaris , Orion and Bacchus producing around 650 litres, for small vineyard this is beyond our wildest expectations, the red grapes we kept holding out with the harvest, I have learnt over the years of making mistakes that to pick to early is a big error, but a new problem arose in in early October, let me say we are animal/ bird lovers here, we respect these creatures as part of our eco system and how much they play a part for our environment, but what we did not expect was the annual arrival of the mountain thrush, not one or two , enough to wipe out the bulging sugary grapes in a few swoops, well we are not going to harm them , I was tempted , so we started to put up scarecrows and anything that would shine and glisten , basically anything that would move, we had a small amount of netting and that helped , watching and waiting was the name of the game for the next couple of weeks, a final sugar test in different parts of the vineyard showed unbelievable readings 80/85/90/95 , that is = to 13% abv, time for harvest, I rang my Friend Michael in Cork who had picked most years , but more hands was needed , I rang my friend Nuala in WIT and agreed to come out with a team of six to pick, sort and break the skins to release the juices and activate the natural yeast’s, two long days and 90% of the grapes were picked sorted and in tanks, close to 1000 litres , we left grapes on the skins for 12 days tuning the skins (cap) everyday , natural fermentation was in full swing after five days , three different type of presses would take place , 1. The free run juice was separated and removed to a separate barrel , 2. A gentle press removed to a separates barrel, 3. A firm press but not hard this was blended with number 2, nothing goes to waist the pulp was re fermented for our grape spirit , The good news is that this special red and white wine will be released before Christmas 2020. I hope you get a chance to taste our Irish wine from an Irish vineyard