Staying in: Irish Wines down Wicklow way

Couple use Irish fruit for their in-demand wine range

Brett and Pamela Stephenson of Wicklow Way  make fruit wines

Brett and Pamela Stephenson of Wicklow Way make fruit wines

 

It takes one hundred days of sunshine to ripen grapes. As we rarely get anything like a that in this country, we cannot produce wine. And yet, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands all do just that. England has a burgeoning wine industry, winning awards for its high quality sparkling wine. Even our nearest neighbour Wales has a dozen vineyards.

Based in Lusk, in north Co. Dublin, David Llewellyn has been producing his Lusca wine since 2005. As far as I know, this is the only commercially available Irish wine, the O’Callaghans of Longueville House having decided that cider and brandy was better suited to the Irish terroir. I admit I have been dismissive of David’s wines in the past, but a recent tasting featuring five vintages of Lusca prompted a change of mind. All of the Irish wine writers were impressed, if not shocked, by the quality of the wines, one scribe even comparing them to the red wines of the Loire – high praise indeed.

A different route has been taken by Brett and Pamela Stephenson of Wicklow Way Wines. They make fruit wines. “We both love Irish food and go out of our way to buy Irish,” says Pamela. “I am very supportive of the craft beer and whiskey business, but I don’t drink either. The only thing I like to drink is wine. There was nothing there that addressed my need, so I said why not make something Irish from the lovely local produce? It took three years to get it right. The first wine is Móinéir [Irish for meadow] a strawberry wine. Apparently it takes 150 strawberries to make one bottle.

“The reception has been brilliant,” says Brett. “We are thrilled how people are across all ages and gender like it. We thought it might be strawberries and ladies but it has transcended all that.”

There are plans for gooseberry wine (possibly with a bit of elderflower) which should appeal to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. I tasted a delicious blackberry and elderberry wine from the tank, as well as a lighter, fruitier blackberry and blueberry wine. They source most of their fruit from Pat Clarke in Lusk, although they are also working with Irish blackcurrants from Des Jeffares in Wexford. Brett has foraged elderflowers, elderberries and other fruits around Wicklow. “We want to use 100 per cent Irish fruit,” says Pamela. “It is a real challenge, but it is fun to make the wine and we want to do it this way.”

The process of making a fruit wine is very similar to ‘normal’ wine, and the winery looks just like a boutique winery anywhere in Europe or the New World. Already, Irish restaurants and retailers are queuing up to buy Móinéir, and abroad the latest client is Fortnum & Mason!

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