Wicklow Naturally

Highlighting "sustainability, best practice, authenticity" and "the highest quality of food and drink products" County Wicklow has been unearthing its food and drink story through its ‘Wicklow Naturally’ campaign.


‘October Feast’ played its part in this, with over 100 Wicklow Naturally members offering tours/tastings with dining as a core part of the project last month.

One sunny Saturday recently Santina Kennedy of Meic Con Cloinne Tours led us on The Wicklow Beverage Tour, bringing guests to visit Wicklow Way Wines, the Wicklow Wolf Brewery and Powerscourt Distillery.


Wicklow Way Wines

Wicklow Way Wines makes wine from local fruit and these wines are on the menu in some of Ireland’s top restaurants including Chapter One, Adare Manor and Ashford Castle as well as the Pig’s Ear and Winding Stair. Retail outlets include Avoca and Fallon & Byrne.

Co-founded with Pamela Walsh, Winemaker Brett Stephenson hosts winery tours which include sampling the fruit of his labours with Irish artisan cheeses and chocolates.

Brett works three separate 500kg batches of all-Irish fruit – Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackcurrants – taking around four-and-a-half hours to fill one container with macerate at the company’s Mónéir Wines-branded facility in Newtownmountkennedy’s Enterprise Centre.

One 900 Litre tank of berry juice fills 1,250 70cl bottles.

Truly a passionate family enterprise, between maceration, fermentation, racking-off, bottling and labelling, Brett – with assistance from son Shane – can expect to allocate 18 to 20 hours to complete just the labelling of one batch – on his own takes him 40 hours.

” I want visitors to Ireland to taste Irish wine” he explains, “Creating our wines from Irish berries, though challenging, has been very rewarding and feels right to us.”

Using no water in the process the juice is pure – and this eco-friendly venture sees nothing go to waste.

Used wine filters progress onwards to become a mushroom bed in Brett’s back garden while the crushed fruit is assigned to compost.

The result of all this is three unique fruit wines.

Each bottle of WWW’s Móinéir flagship ABV 11% Irish Strawberry Wine contains 150 Irish Strawberries equivalent.

Launched at Bloom in June 2018, Móinéir 11% ABV Irish Blackberry Wine blends Irish Blackberries with Elderberries foraged around the Wicklow Mountains.

And thirdly ABV 10% Móinéir Raspberry Wine captures a “rare taste of the fleeting Irish Summer”.

For something Irish and a bit different for your customers, a Wicklow Way Wine could fit the bill. The winery opens for tours and tastings at the weekend.


Wicklow Wolf Brewery

Just a stone’s throw from Wicklow Way Wines, the Wicklow Wolf Brewery & Taproom is home to Wicklow Wolf’s flagship Elevation Pale Ale, responsible for 60% of sales.

Quincey Fennelly, Managing Director & Co-Founder (alongside Simon Lynch) explains that the brewery began in an old bakery in Bray in 2014. They’d just expanded into their new premises here when Covid-19 struck.

Pre-pandemic, half of Wicklow Wolf’s product sold into the on-trade. Having originally worked with C&C and United Beverages Quincey’s experience helped progress on-trade sales but the pandemic obliged him to switch channels to off-trade at the 17,000 square foot unit so currently 75% of its product is in canned format.

With 24 staff, during the course of an eight-hour day the brewery can manufacture some 1,000 cases of canned beer but due to demand a new machine has been ordered which can complete 15 pallets a day and fill about 500 30/50 litre kegs.

Wicklow Wolf brews up one 3,500 litre batch two or three times a day at the 35 hectolitre brewhouse and just launched its 13.5% ABV seasonal Barley Wine.

It produces two unfiltered unpasteurised editions a month, part of the brewery’s ‘Endangered Species’ line comprising “a series of small-batch, limited-edition crafted beers so rare that only a lucky few will get to experience them in the wild before they become extinct”.

Alongside this sits the Locavore Project with the simple objective of creating a beer from the hops grown on WW’s 10-acre hop farm in nearby Roundwood – the first Irish commercial hop farm in over 20 years. This grows 12 different hop varieties.

Released once a year after the farm’s hop harvest, Wicklow Wolf Locavore has seen four different interpretations by Head Brewer Peter Reynier.

From Irish blonde and farmhouse ales to dry Irish stouts, the brewery champions Wicklow’s terroir through the ingredients used in its brews. It also caters for coeliacs via its Arcadia brand, a glute-free lager hybrid of Helles and Vienna hops.

Export market

While 90% of Wicklow Wolf’s product sells to the domestic market, the brewery also exports to Italy and France (its biggest export markets), the Netherlands and Switzerland. At present it’s finalising plans to export to the United Arab Emirates.

Although cans – a more eco-friendly container for beer – are a growing trend worldwide, France has yet to accept canned beers so the French export still consists of bottled product. The brewery retains a small bottling line for this purpose.

Quincey reveals too that plans are afoot to make the Newstownmountkennedy brewery the first solar-powered brewery in the country. And despite Covid-19, business has been such that Quincey is already contemplating the bittersweet prospect of running out of space in the not-too-distant future.


Powerscourt Distillery

Last stop of the day in the Garden County, Powerscourt Distillery – home of Fercullen Irish Whiskey. Formerly the hub of all farming activity on the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, the distillery is faithfully restoring and extending the Old Mill House there.

Three custom-designed copper pot stills form the new distillery’s centrepiece. Powerscourt ferments some 12,000 litres of wort for three to five days to produce an 8-9% alcohol ‘wash’. This produces 1,200 litres of spirits – enough to fill six casks per day.

Known in native Gaelic tongue as “FeraCulann” or Fercullen, Powerscourt’s oldest Fercullen whiskeys were made by its current Master Distiller Noel Sweeney many years ago when he worked for Cooley as its Master Distiller.

As it now stands the distillery is ‘scaleable’ with the potential to produce one million litres a year as global demand for Irish whiskey continues to increase.

Again, local provenance plays an important part in the distilling operation with most of its malt barley coming from Quinns of Baltinglass down the road while 20% of it is grown just 200 metres away on the Powerscourt Estate itself.

Powerscourt remains one of only four Irish distilleries with an on-site warehouse.

Here can be seen the casks that form part of Powerscourt’s Cask Programme, open to investors, comprising a small exclusive selection of personalised casks – 397 of them – containing the first whiskey to be distilled at Powerscourt by Noel.

For example Powerscourt’s ’88 Club’ comprises casks owned by a group of Chinese investors who came to hear of the distillery via Fercullen’s Chinese importers and distributors and knew a canny investment when they saw one.

The tour of the distillery culminates in a tasting of whiskies paired with mostly local Wicklow Foods.

In the sumptuous surroundings of the Waterfall Room a 10 Year-Old Single Grain, one of the very few Single Grain whiskeys ever released, is paired with Wicklow Bán Cheese from Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese and covered in Powerscourt Blossom Honey from Olly’s Honey.

An Eight Year-Old Fercullen blended whiskey is paired with Fennel Salami from The Wooded Pig near Tara in County Meath while the 46% ABV 16 Year-Old Fercullen Bourbon barrel matured Single Malt is paired with Barbequed Trout, Paté and Caviar from Goatsbridge Trout in County Kilkenny.

An 18 Year-Old Fercullen, with an ABV of 40%, is paired with the Mount Leinster Cheddar from Coolattin Cheddar aged for 18 months.

Finally, the limited-edition ‘Five Elements’ Series comprises a 20 Year-Old Single Malt, some 1,500 bottles of which are already out in the trade, paired with Whiskey Truffles from The Chocolate Garden of Ireland.

Recently launched, the Estate Series comprises a selection of different years – nine, 10 and 11 Year-Old Single Grains – all of which have been sitting in Amarone casks of which the first in the trilogy is the ‘Mill House’.

This Limited Edition release begins with the Limited Edition ‘Mill House’, the first of its Estate Series trilogy.

By now the sun has long gone, but the spirit of the Waterfall Room leaves us with the prospect of a delightful stroll back to Enniskerry village through the Powerscourt Estate with its panoramic views of the rolling Wicklow hills.

After such a day we might be forgiven if we do a bit of rolling ourselves along the way….

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