Ireland is well known for its production of whiskey, beer and gin. But did you know that there is also a little bit of wine being produced there? A micro-production certainly, but which nonetheless places the country on the world wine map. Follow us for a private tour of the Thomas Walk Estate, somewhere in the Cork area, in the heart of a tourist region of undeniable charm.
Thomas Walk Vineyard, it is above all a story off the beaten track, as we like them at Wine Explorers! The story of a meeting with a delightful man: Thomas Walk.
Of German origin, Thomas is a character full of energy, who decided, 35 years ago and contrary to all expectations, to make wine in Ireland. Thanks to him, the country is now on the world wine list, making Ireland our 82nd country explored.
Thomas Walk Vineyard is located in Kinsale, at the southern tip of the island, facing the sea.
"I have always loved wine and I am a man of challenges. Enduring the winemaker's cap in Ireland – a country that is dear to me – gives me a sincere pleasure", Thomas, who kindly invited us during the grape harvest, said.
A rare moment, to which only a handful of his friends are generally invited. The estate is not open to the public because it is located on the family property of Thomas, who loves its privacy.
We started the picking early in the morning. The weather was fresh in the vineyard, but the festive atmosphere warmed our hearts. With a surface area of barely one hectare, the land is divided into three plots, exclusively planted with Rondo (1), a red grape variety (a crossing of Zarya Severa and Saint-Laurent). The bunches were beautiful. We fully filled a dozen wheelbarrows.
Tasting Thomas' production was one of those rare and privileged moments of the Wine Explorers’ project, filled with good memories to be shared.
We did a vertical tasting(2) of the Ruby cuvée (the signature wine, aged in stainless steel and unfiltered), of the 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017 vintages. Light, fresh and juicy red wines, all made from the Rondo grape variety.
Wines with notes of black fruit, spices and tobacco, easy drinking and refreshing. "After many trials of varietals, I set my sights on Rondo. This variety is perfectly adapted to the rigorous conditions of the Irish climate and allows me to work in a biological way", Thomas said. A real feat, I must admit.
Another pleasant surprise, that we had the pleasure of enjoying during the closing dinner of the harvest, was that the wines of the estate paired very well with fish.
The delicious bar fillet cooked by Thomas for the occasion, topped with a sauce of fresh cream and capers, matched beautifully with the Ruby 2013 cuvée. A delight for our taste buds and a pure moment of happiness after a long day of work!
This very confidential garage wine – since Thomas produces only 4,000 bottles a year, all sold around the world via his German company – is definitely a wine of friends.
For once, we took the time to go sightseeing in the south of the island, just to discover a little more about the diversity of Irish culture. Below, we share our favorite spots with, so you can prepare your next getaway.
WHERE TO HAVE A DRINK ?
In Cork, the Franciscan Wells Brewery is a must-see micro-brewery for a beer after work. Cherry on the cake, enjoy the firewood pizzas prepared in the courtyard, a pint of I.P.A (3), white, blonde or dark beer in hand.
WHERE TO EAT ?
In Kinsale, the Bulman Bar is a must for its gourmet cuisine, as is the restaurant Dino's for its Fish & Chips. In Cork, you can enjoy a nice lunch at the English Market, or a chic dinner at Greens Restaurant.
WHERE TO SLEEP ?
In Kinsale, we recommend the Trident Hotel, with its view on the port. In Cork, The Montenotte Hotel, in the heights of the city, is a relaxing option.
And for gin lovers, we've found a rare gem: Bertha's Revenge Irish Milk Gin. A gin, did you say? Yes, but...this is a high-quality artisanal production, made from cow milk!
Normally, gin is a beverage made from ethyl alcohol: an alcohol made from grain (for the finest ones) reaching about 95% alcohol. However... "When we started our business, there was no grain available for the production of our gin: all the production in the country was used by the whiskey industry", Justin Green, co-founder of the Ballyvolane House Spirits distillery, said.
His meeting with Charles Maxwell, master blender at Tamise Distillery, was however a revelation: "Charles told us about the creation of whey alcohol, made from the cow milk around Cork".
A stable product, which combined with their own natural well water and a homemade botanical recipe (juniper, coriander, bitter orange, grapefruit, sweet orange, lemon, lime, licorice, angelica, cinnamon, cardamom, nail clove, cumin, almond and elderflower) gives a super elegant and rare gin, with a unique character (4). Absolutely awesome.
Thank you to Thomas Walk Vineyard, the Franciscan Wells Brewery and the Ballyvolane distillery for their warm welcome. Thank you to MCA Communication and to the Irish Toursim Office, for their invaluable help in organizing this trip. Finally, thank you to Aer Lingus for air transport (daily Paris-Cork flights to book here).
(1) The Rondo grape variety has genes belonging to the Vitis vinifera and Vitis amurensis species, this hybrid is very resistant to vine diseases and matures very well with little sunshine. It requires four to five times less treatment than traditional grape varieties.
(2) A vertical tasting is a tasting of the same wine (same cuvée) but different vintages. In contrast to a so-called horizontal tasting, where wines of the same appellation will be compared on a single vintage.
(3) I.P.A: acronym for India Pale Ale, a style of high fermentation beer, containing more hops than other ales.
(4) Ballyvolane House Spirits is the first distillery to use this process in Europe.
Did you know? 2 kg of botanicals are needed to make 100 liters of Gin.