The Wine Geese: What You May Not Know About Ireland's Contribution to the World of Fine Wine

Today, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, and I am in Ireland visiting family. While Ireland is not known as a wine producing country I thought it fitting to post on Ireland’s contribution to the world of fine wine. While some of you may be familiar with Ireland’s famed ‘Wild Geese’ I wonder how many of you have ever heard of Ireland’s ‘Wine Geese’?

Firstly let me explain the ‘Wild Geese’. The flight of the Wild Geese actually refers to the exodus of Irish soldiers to France at the end of the 1600’s following the Willamite-Jacobite war. This war involved a conflict between the Catholic King James 11 and the Protestant King William of Orange, over who would rule Ireland, England and Scotland. King William won. Today the term “Wild Geese’ is more broadly used to define all Irish emigrant families who fled Ireland for various reasons in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries to join various continental European armies and fight in their wars.

The term ‘Wine Geese’ emerged later to describe these and more recent Irish emigrant families who became involved in the wine trade in various countries throughout the world. Many of these families played a very important role in the development of France’s wine industry, most notably in Bordeaux.

The Wine Geese in France
Two of the most important families that settled in Bordeaux were the Barton family and the Lynch family, who gave their names to such highly-regarded Chateaux as Ch. Leoville-Barton and Ch. Lynch-Bages respectively. Other notable Bordeaux Chateaux of Irish origin include Chateau Clark, Chateau Dillon Chateau Margaux, Chateau Phelan-Segur, Chateau Yquem and Chateau Kirwan to name but a few.

Similarly Irish families have made their mark in other European wine countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany, as well as further a field in Australia, Chile, New Zealand and the United States.

The Wine Geese in Australia
In Australia, the well-known Clare Valley wine region actually takes its name from County Clare in Ireland. Some notable Irish ‘wine families’ in Australia include the Barry family of the Jim Barry winery in South Australia, who makes one of Australia’s most famous Shiraz wines called ‘Armagh’, the O’Shea family of Mount Pleasant winery in New South Wales and the Horgan family of Leewin Estate in Western Australia.

The Wine Geese in the United States
In the United States, Irish families have been equally influential in the wine industry. Examples include the Barrett family of famed Chateau Montelana, the Concannon family of Concannon Vineyards, whose winery is reputed to be the oldest continuously operating winery in the United States as well Murphy-Goode, Mayacamas, Sequoia Grove and Thomas Fogarty.

The Wine Geese in Chile and South Africa
Two of Chile’s most well known wine producers Errazuriz and Undurragas are directly descended from Irishman John McKenna. And in South Africa, the well known producer Hamilton Russell, whose Chardonnay is among one of my favorites, was started by Irishman Tim Hamilton-Russell, whose parents emigrated to South Africa as recently as the1970’s.

So while today, many are drinking ‘green’ Guinness or enjoying some Irish whiskey, perhaps we should also raise a glass to the Irish wine families scattered across the globe.

• To find out more about the Irish Wine Geese families go to www.winegeese.ie

Until next week.

Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.

Related: Esporão: Exciting & Great Value Wines from Portugal

(Images: Courtesy of Concannon Vineyard and www.winegeese.ie)

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