Friday 20 September 2019

The wine buff: Australian Wine Geese

Way out west: The Margaret River area, south of Perth, is one of Australia's most successful wine regions
Way out west: The Margaret River area, south of Perth, is one of Australia's most successful wine regions
Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Anyone who is curious about the Irish Wine Geese will know that they didn't just travel to Bordeaux; they also made their way to the New World, and one of the countries that has a strong connection with Ireland is Australia. Over two million Australians identify themselves as having Irish ancestry and, in the last 10 years, over 24,000 Irish people have become Australian citizens.

In a clever tie-in, Indigenous Australia is coming to A Taste of West Cork this year, and during the celebration, which runs from September 6-15, a team of four Australian Aboriginal chefs will be visiting and cooking with Irish chefs; and specialty grocery store Fields of Skibbereen will be hosting a pop-up wine shop, with special offers and tastings of interesting Australian wines each day.

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Irish-Australians who have been making some of the country's greatest wine include two doctors, Dr John Kirk of Clonakilla - who was the first to plant vines in Canberra in the 1970s - and Dr Kevin Cullen, who, with his wife, Diana, planted Bordeaux varieties in the Margaret River area.

Descendants of Cork's Horgan family, Denis and Tricia, established Leeuwin Estate winery; Stephanie Toole, whom I met when she was visiting Ireland two years ago, is the amazing winemaker and owner behind Mount Horrocks Wines; and, earlier this month, Scott McWilliam - the sixth generation of winemakers in his family - was in town to reintroduce their McWilliam's and Mount Pleasant Wines to the Irish market.

There's a double Irish connection - Samuel McWilliams, who planted their first vines on the outskirts of Corowa in New South Wales in 1877, hails from Armagh; and the Mount Pleasant Estate, which the family bought in 1941, was founded by Maurice O'Shea. The eldest child of an Irish father and French mother, in 1914 he headed to France at the age of 17 when his father passed away. Staying there during World War I, he studied winemaking at the University of Montpellier and, when he returned in 1921, he persuaded his mother to buy a number of properties to plant as vineyards. One of these he named Mount Pleasant. Having introduced many new techniques, he is considered to be the father of modern Australian wine-making.

At the top end of the McWilliam's portfolio are the Mount Pleasant Wines, which you'll find in independent wine shops for around €28. Mount Pleasant Elizabeth, made from 100pc Semillon, has a focused citrus and lime quality that ages beautifully if you can bear to lay it down for a few years; and equally, the Mount Pleasant Philip Shiraz has a wonderful concentration of fruit.

The middle range, the JJ McWilliam wines, at €14.95, are well priced for the quality they offer. The Cabernet Merlot is fleshy with ripe plum flavours and the Shiraz is featured in today's line-up. At entry level is the €9.99 Inheritance range, with two fresh, crisp whites: a Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend and a Chardonnay, plus a fruity, easy-drinking Cabernet Merlot.


Enjoy a delicious glass of Henriot Champagne with Mount Juliet's summer afternoon tea of freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam, a selection of sandwiches - from delicate smoked salmon on homemade brioche to baked ham - plus a range of indulgent desserts and bite-sized cakes. Served either in the Michelin-starred Lady Helen Restaurant or on the lawn. Sundays, from 1pm to 5pm, €50 per person. Booking is essential - (056) 777 3000.

McWilliam's JJ McWilliam Shiraz


€14.95. 13.5pc, from McHugh's, Dublin; Daly's, Boyle; No. 21, Limerick; Morton's and Cappagh Stores, Galway; Carry Out Ferrybank, Waterford

Floral with blueberry, plum, cherry and spice on the nose, there's an intensity of fruit on the fresh, plummy palate and a gentle note of vanilla in the background.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2017


€34.99, 14.5pc, from 64 Wine, The Corkscrew, Mitchells,

When John Kirk started his winery near Canberra in 1971, he named it after the family farm where he grew up in Clare. Ripe, floral, with flavours of wild bramble, raspberry and white pepper.

Croser NV Sparkling

€22.95, reduced from €24.95, 13pc, from O'Briens and


From the cooler Adelaide Hills, this blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is one of the first Australian sparkling wines to be made using the Champagne method and has fresh citrus flavours.

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