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The New Wine Geese

anges.JPGThe following is from a piece I write bi-monthly for the Brighton community newspaper the West Hill Whistler: Ireland is better known for whiskey and Guinness rather than wine, however the Irish Wine Geese have long played a small but not insignificant role in the French wine industry. How so? After the battle of the Boyne in 1690 around 10,000 catholic supporters of the defeated James 2nd were forced to leave Ireland in a hurry. Many of them ended up on the west coast of France and in particular the Bordeaux area. The farmers amongst them very quickly adapted their skill set to the needs of local agricuture..principally the grape. To this day Irish names have been passed down via many distinguished properties, the likes of Barton at Leoville-Barton and negociants Barton and Guestier, the Lynch family of Lynch Bages, and the famous Cognac house of Hennessey. The Bartons aledgedly still regard themselves as Irish and carry Irish passports. This week I took a party of Dubliners to visit a latter-day Wine Goose, an Irish owned and managed property in the Cotes du Ventoux.  Domaine des Anges is owned by Dublin businessman Gay McGuinness and the wine maker he has installed bares the unmistakably Irish name of Ciaran Rooney. Also from Dublin,  Ciaran  gained his oenology qualifications and cut his teeth, making wine in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. Today he manages an estate  of around 40 hectares at an altitude of 300 metres facing Mt. Ventoux.The appellation of Cotes du Ventoux was known for fairly mediocre cafe wines, mainly reds,  struggling in the shadow of their illustrious neighbour the Cotes du Rhone with its exceptional Crus such as Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas etc. Ciaran Rooney by contrast, along with a handful of other domaines, has produced some exceptional wines from this terroir. Benefiting from the altitude with cooler evenings the vines here are able to preserve more acidity and freshness than their counterparts on lower ground resulting in elegant wines with some real complexity. The range comprises a basic white from the typical Rhone mix of Clairette, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, and a red blend of Syrah/Grenache. There are also two premium cuvees named “L’Archange” , an 80% Syrah red and a 100% Roussanne. The latter is a gorgeous rich golden colour exploding with buttery apricot flavours…anyone who has tasted Beaucastel’s 100% Roussanne white Chateauneuf “Vieilles Vignes” (see ww.beaucastel.com ) will love this, and at a fraction of the price. The red L’Archange is bursting with smoky cassis and black cherry - it will please any fans of top notch Aussie shiraz and is perhaps the biggest giveaway in the range that Ciaran trained in a new world wine country. Well done the Irish wine geese! If Whistler readers want to sample how good these wines are,  check out the specialist merchant www.bigredwine.co.uk which carries the full range from £5.95 to £9.95 for the L’Archange. For more on the domaine go to www.domainedesanges.com

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