Irish-made wine, homegrown cider and a rare whiskey – perfect for St Patrick’s Day

John Wilson: Cockagee, from Co Dublin, Midleton, from Co Cork, and Wicklow Wolf Call of Juicy

This week, an Irish theme for St Patrick’s Day. It is possible that, one day, we may be able to produce wine here on a large-scale, commercial basis. My guess is it will be fizzy and expensive. Expensive because quality sparkling wine is not easy to make, and fizzy because the ideal grapes for sparkling wine are high in acidity and low in sugar, as are produced in cooler climates such as the UK.

The Lusca red wine featured here is made by David Llewellyn in Lusk, Co Dublin, from grapes grown under cover, as is his excellent sparkling wine, limited quantities of which are available for €60. He is so pleased with it, he will be switching most of his production to sparkling.

Llewellyn cautions against too much optimism with grapes grown outdoors though. “They have a significantly better climate in the south of England than we have here in Ireland. There are very few varieties that can reliably be grown [outdoors in Ireland] even in the warmest parts of this country.” He will continue to make a red wine from the Rondo grape variety, grown outdoors. “It can make very decent red wine in most years,” he says.

Mark Jenkinson and The Cider Mill in Co Meath featured in this column a few weeks ago. As well as his Cockagee, I also tried a bottle of his Pet Nat, a lightly sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Tankardstown House in Co Meath. It is not commercially available at the moment, but he hopes it may be at some stage in the future.


Wicklow Wolf has released the latest in its small batch Endangered Species series, Call of Juicy, just in time for St Patrick’s Day. It is a New England IPA dry hopped with Citra, Strata and Sultana hops. “Sultana is a relatively new hop and it is a hop, not a raisin,” says John Allen, master brewer. “It really pushes those pineapple and citrus flavours forward. Strata is one of my new favourite hops that brings a really nice tropical aroma with a hint of dankness that I think works really well. Citra is popular for its juicy, citrus character.”

Irish Distillers recently launched the latest edition of Midleton Very Rare. Usually this is released in late autumn, but due to consumer demand it has made some available now, while still keeping back an allocation for later in the year. This is the 38th edition of MRV and the first put together by Irish Distillers’ new master distiller, Kevin O’Gorman. Starting last July with hundreds of samples, he says he has put together a whiskey “with all the elegance and finesse that I wanted”.

Call of Juicy New England IPA
6.5%, €5 per 440ml can
As the name suggests, this is a very tasty, vibrant juicy beer with exuberant pineapple and citrus fruits. Available in limited quantities. 
From Online and from independent off-licences

Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider
5%, About €5 for a 37.5cl bottle, €10 for a 75cl bottle
Quite delicious rich textured orchard fruits, smooth and refreshing with a lovely long dry finish. Drink solo, with pork dishes or medium-firm cheeses.
From Joyce's Supermarket,; Nolan's, Dublin 3,; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork,; Martin's Off-Licence, Dublin 3,; Redmonds, Dublin 6;; select Supervalu including Trim, Navan and Mount Merrion; Fresh Outlets,; Molloy's Liquor Stores,; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,; Higgins, Clonskeagh,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock,

Lusca Cabernet Merlot 2016, Co Dublin
13%, €49
Maturing blackberry and redcurrant fruits, balanced by a good acidity and a dry finish. Try it with chicken or pork dishes. 
From David Llewellyn (087-2843879); Terroirs, Dublin 4,; Wines on the Green, Dublin 2,; Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne,; Le Caveau, Kilkenny,; Country Crest farm shop,; Dooks Fine Foods, Fethard,; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,; Searsons, Monkstown,

Midleton Very Rare 2021 Edition, Irish Whiskey
40% €180
Wonderfully smooth, lightly creamy and elegant with subtle apple and pear fruits overlaid with vanilla, dark chocolate and roast coffee. A very sophisticated complex whiskey. Enjoy solo, possibly with a drop of water. 
From Online and in off-licences