Undiscovered Wine Territory
Ireland is more known for alcoholic beverages of a different kind such as the production of Guinness and whiskey and if you are about to take the plunge and travel in Europe then Ireland is a great place for views, culture and food and drink.
The making of Meade
In terms of wine production when people talk about Irish wine they are usually talking about a drink which is unique to the country known as Meade. This drink is a mixture of white wine, honey and herbs and was originally believed to have first been made by Irish monks in secret.
Meade was popular and was served at feasts and events of all kinds, particularly weddings. Often the bride and groom were given special goblets to toast each other with and they were encouraged to drink it in large quantities often with intoxicating consequences.
It was folklore that Meade had powers of virility and fertility and even after the wedding the couple would be squirrelled away with quantities of the lethal liquor to celebrate their marriage. If a child was born after nine months it was the Meade that got the credit.
Still made today
Meade is still made today in Ireland by a company called Bunratty Mead and Liqueur in County Clare and so the wedding tradition continues albeit in more conservative quantities.
The same company is responsible for making another drink unique to Ireland commonly known as Moonshine, though the company calls it Potcheen.
Made from barley, malt, sugars, water and yeast it was originally distilled by Irish farmers. It has a very strong taste that becomes sweeter as it develops and is often used today in Irish coffee as well as being served at traditional celebrations.
Actual Irish wine
There is a very small vineyard in Ireland called Lusca and they are currently one of the only wine producing vineyards there.
They produce and carry out the entire wine-making process in Lusk – everything from picking to pressing to fermenting and bottling. All their wine is made from their own grapes and they use very simple traditional methods. Labelling and bottling is done by hand and the wine is allowed to clear naturally.
As wine operations go this one is quite humble and yet is producing some great wine in circumstances that wouldn’t normally be possible.
Reasons for low production
Some experts say that with global warming then Irish wine in the future could gather pace and become more popular as well as more feasible. Ireland is renowned for its wild weather and with large quantities of rain along with a generally cold climate the conditions just aren’t right for wine production in large, commercial quantities.
Another reason for Ireland’s apparent disinterest in wine production is that wine as a beverage is simply not in their heritage. Unlike neighbouring Britain the Romans did not invade Ireland so the introduction of vineyards and all that went with it did not occur there and as a consequence was not passed down.
Will it take off?
It is believed in some camps that wine production will eventually take off in Ireland as the country literally warms up as a result of global warming and climate change. It is however thought that it will be some time before the temperature reaches the desired 19 degrees Celsius consistently enough for vines to blossom and set fruit.
Down to the grape variety
One the other though David Llewellyn of Lusca is of a differing opinion. He believes that it is down to the individual variety of grape that determines whether or not it will succeed in Irish conditions.
He says: “Different types of grapes have different requirements – it very much depends on the variety. There are probably enough south-facing garden walls and house walls in Ireland to meet the whole country’s wine needs if they were all planted with vines.”
Eastern Europe influence
For instance there are grape varieties that will suit Ireland – there are those that are hardier to the changeable temperatures. These varieties tend to come from Asia and Eastern Europe.
The Lusca vineyard use a variety which was first produced in the former Czechoslovakia. This particular grape called Rondo matures early and ripens in the Irish sun, yet is resistant to the frost and harsh conditions.
Whilst wine making may not be rife in Ireland, it is certainly one to watch as the weather and the country warm to the possibility.
|Writer – Katrina Norman – is a freelance writer from England who covers both wine and travel for a number of journals.|