Growing wine in Ireland… Why bother?

Ireland’s climate permits vine growing — just about. In a sense, the lush Irish climate is too good.

There is a widely-held misapprehension that the Irish climate is too cold for vines. We are half correct to associate grapevines with warm sunny climes. But in general, you could think of the heat here as being spread too evenly across the year. Through much of the wine-growing world you’ll see vineyards blanketed in snow and frost in winter, the cold-induced dormancy just part of the vine’s life cycle. It’s all just part of the continental climate patterns that grape vines love — generally cold wet winters followed by warm dry summers.

But on our perch out here on the Atlantic, our mild damp climate with relatively little seasonal variation makes ripening vitis vinifera quite a challenge. In 2009/2010 we’ve certainly had a taste of a continental-style winter, just as we did back in 1962/1963. But that doesn’t mean continental weather patterns are here to stay.

And there’s another aspect to all this. Unlike humans, a grapevine can respond well to a treat-them-mean-and-keep- them-keen regime. Vines perform best when they’re somewhat stressed by a lack of water — and there’s hardly much risk of that here in lush and leafy Ireland. Contrast that with the burgeoning southern English vineyards which benefit from the partial influence of the continental climate.

As if this weren’t enough, there’s the high cost of doing business in Ireland. Add in the punitive excise duty (by far Europe’s highest, despite the slight easing in the recent budget) and you’d wonder would it ever be worthwhile at any level, let alone commercial distribution.

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One Response

  1. […] short answer is “yes”. The longer answer is a more pinched, qualified affirmative. But the best answer of all to whether you could grow […]

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