It may have been a rough summer but at Meeting House Square, in Temple Bar, one fine autumn weekend, the citizens of Dublin got a chance to walk through a real live vineyard. Consisting of rows of 70 year old cabernet vines, it was brought to Dublin by McGuigan Wines of South Australia. As a marketing tool, this travelling vineyard is unique and fascinating for wine enthusiasts who, unlike the drinks trade, may never get the chance to go on a wine tour. It’s made its appearance in various corners of the world, complete with vineyard equipment and, perhaps more importantly, winemakers. Several members of the McGuigan family were on hand to answer winemaking questions put to them by the public and, of course, there was plenty of wine sampling.
For a winemaker who has helped make his company a top selling brand – it’s currently number two in Ireland – Neil McGuigan is remarkably eager to keep pushing out boundaries and constantly offer customers something different. At the moment, it’s semillon, with McGuigans offering a new Semillon Blanc label, aimed at seducing the pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc set. At the same time, McGuigan showed a traditional aged Hunter Valley Semillon 2005 which matches anything the region’s most famed makers have to offer. “We’ve got to keep bringing on new styles, new varieties, to maintain consumer interest and international credibility,” says McGuigan. “We’ve been trying our hands at marsanne, rousanne, montepulciano, gruner veltliner, we’ve even been experimenting with a whole new red variety, maestry, which we’ve been trialling in Sunraysia. I’d also like to see merlot production evolving so as to get more texture. It’s too easy for consumers to feel that wine’s got a bit commodified; I’d like to create more excitement and encourage drinkers to try more unusual styles.”
The challenge, he thinks, is doing that while continuing to hold Australia’s reputation for value, on the one hand, and management of classic varieties on the other. “But,” he adds, “what I always think is, if you make the right wine, business will move toward you and I like to feel not so much that I run a publicly listed wine company but a wine company that also happens to be listed. Wine is first, so as far as I am concerned – the business happens because of it.”
Tasting the range on the day, one of my favourites was Black Label Reserve Cabernet Tempranillo Barossa Valley 2010, sampled before I’d checked its identity. I thought at once that it resembled a good country wine from Spain and was both surprised, yet not surprised, to discover that it contained that country’s most venerable grape variety. It will be hitting Irish shelves very shortly and is very much one to look out for. The wines are imported into Ireland by Barry & Fitzwilliam.