At last you can visit an Irish brewery and buy its beer to take home
Another Round: Cellar-door sales should boost craft wine, beer and cider producers
Crafty: producers can now sell their beer, wine and cider directly to the public. Photograph: Hero/Getty
Visit Napa Valley, in California, or Hunter Valley, in Australia, and you will see gastrotourism, or maybe vinotourism, in action. Wineries prosper not through selling their wines to far-flung countries but through selling it directly to the public.
Most offer glasses, T-shirts, corkscrews and a host of other paraphernalia. The more ambitious have cafes, restaurants and even hotels. In most cellar-door operations you pay for your tasting, your tour of the winery, or both. In some regions tourism pulls in more money than wine production.
This being Ireland, we make things a little more complicated. Until recently producers could operate tours and then offer a free tasting – which, technically, is not selling alcohol. Legislation introduced earlier this year allows for the sale of alcohol at the cellar door, which should be a major boost for distilleries, breweries and cider mills. Already some are coming together to offer visitors the chance to visit all of the above in one day.
The legislation limits their opening hours to 10am-7pm. Health-and-safety regulations are rigorous, and applying for a licence could cost up to €10,000. But small producers will be able to sell directly to the public and to show visitors how they work. At the moment the courts are in recess, so no licences can be issued, but expect a number to come into operation this autumn.
Pamela Walsh of Wicklow Way Wines, which makes Móinéir Irish Raspberry Wine (€24.95-€28.95), as well as strawberry and blackberry versions, says its sales have jumped 20 per cent since it began offering tours. “We can show people the winemaking process; they can see that we are a genuine producer using Irish fruit to make a real fruit wine here in Wicklow. Half of our visitors are Irish, so they can then find our wine later too.”