In wine history Ireland’s ‘wild Geese’ – Catholic nobles who fled sectarian persecution to settle in Bordeaux and beyond in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries- are synonymous with the creation of today’s wine industry as we know it.
Two of the most important families that settled in Bordeaux were the Bartons and the Lynches of the highly regarded and expensive Chateau Leoville-Barton and Chateau Lynch-Bages.
Other vineyards in Bordeaux bearing Irish names, or of Irish origin, include: Phelan-Segur, Boyd-Cantenac Langoa-Barton, Kirwan, MacCarthy-Moula, Pontac-Lynch, Lynch-Moussas, Dillon and Clarke, Chateau Yquem, Ducru- Beaucaillou and Lascombes.
Other regions – including Spain, Italy, Germany, Chile, New Zealand – also felt the presence of the Irish ‘Wine Geese’.
In Australia the Clare Valley wine region takes its name from County Clare. Notable Irish ‘wine families’ there 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.
In the United States there’s the Barrett family of 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.
Two of Chile’s most well-known wine producers, Errazuriz and Undurragas, are directly descended from Irishman John McKenna.
In South Africa, Hamilton Russell was started by Irishman Tim Hamilton- Russell, whose parents emigrated there in the 1970s.
That noble ‘Wine Geese’ tradition is being continued– with pride, flourish and ambition – by London Irish businessman Edwin Doran.
In 1966 the then 22-year year old Edwin landed in Heathrow on Aer Lingus flight EI152 looking to make his fortune.
By 1974 he’d set up a sports travel business in Twickenham, building it up into one of the world’s biggest specialist operators.
In 2008 – some forty two years and three days later after emigrating to London and now aged 64 – he sold his company to Tui Travel plc “for more money than I thought I’d ever see”.
“I was 64, what would you do? Retire?” he asks.
He had recently been to South Africa to visit his friend since 1992, winemaker André Badenhorst, a Constantia wine route pioneer, in Simon’s Town.
The seed of an idea was sown.
In due course Doran and Badenhorst (self-proclaimed “two old buggers having fun”) entered into a 40-million South African Rand partnership to buy an estate in the Voor Paardeberg outside Paarl, bordering the Swartland and Doran Family Vineyards was born.
“There are three things they say you definitely should not do – buy a boat, a racehorse or a… vineyard,” says Edwin.
Not only did he scorn the advice to not buy a vineyard, he says, he went ahead and bought one “on the other side of the world, in another continent, 6,000-plus miles away, sight unseen, without even setting foot on the property beforehand.
“I had money to burn and I’ve been burning it ever since.
“The most stupid business decision I have ever made…yet, the most enjoyable,” he says with satisfaction and pride.
“We turned a cow milking shed into a cellar.
“I sold 84 bottles of the Grand Cru Classé Chateau Lafite Rothschild of various (21st century) vintages and bought 21 stainless steel tanks from 2,500 litres up to 10,000 litres,” he says.
What he doesn’t spell out is that a single bottle of that trophy wine commands prices of between £2,000 and £3,000.
He continues: “I’d known (acclaimed South African wine pioneer) Andre Badenhorst since 1992. He and I became partners.”
Te d d i n g t o n – b a s e d Doran travels to South Africa four times a year where Badenhorst manages the farm, its 50ha of vines, herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, Egyptian geese, blue cranes, chickens and a prized flock of Île-de-France sheep.
“We race the sheep in our Sheepstakes, which our guests really love. We run a book whenever we do this, and all the money goes to local charities (like the animal welfare group SPCA),” he says
“The vineyard was producing only entry level wine. When you’re competing with the mass multiples who were selling wine in the UK for £3.50, you’re not going to make money.
“We decided that premium wine was where we needed to be – we changed the policy in 2011.
“It was a pure red wine vineyard which also had to be changed.
“In 2012, we planted the white varietals – Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.
“Having plenty of plants left over, in 2013, we mixed all these three plants together and planted a bush vine vineyard, the first of its type locally.
“In 2014, we planted another red, Grenache Rouge.
“Unlike its white cousin from the Loire, Chenin, Cabernet Franc does not like the hot weather and its yields were too low. Also, there was some Merlot which had not been planted properly.
“We took up those vineyards and brought in 53 cattle to fatten for six months.
“The economics are such that that if you do that twice a year, you make more money that making 21,000 bottles of wine.
“It’s such a pleasure to be one of the Wine Geese.
“Our chef son, Tom, (who worked in Michelin-starred kitchens) joined me in the business last year.
“It’s a bit of a change of direction. His first job was as a professional rugby player with London Irish. He played four times for Ireland youth when he was 18 but we’re both passionate about food and wine.
“We run gourmet canapé and premium wine evenings in our house in Teddington and people tell us it is the best value night out locally.
“When social distancing has been reduced, we’ll start them again. Meantime we’ll continue with our highly successful Virtual Wine Tastings on Zoom.”
WIN SIX BOTTLES OF YOUR CHOICE FROM THE DORAN FAMILY VINTNERS’ PREMIUM WINE RANGE
The Irish World has partnered with Doran Family Vintners to offer 3 lucky readers the chance to win a selection of six bottles of Doran premium wines.
You can even select your own choice of wine from the Doran premium wine range.
For your chance to win this gorgeous prize, please visit Doran Vineyards website here to find the answers to the following questions:
- What country does Edwin come from?
- What seafood would you eat with the Doran Vineyards Chenin?
- The 93 point Georgia Maeve has three varietals. What are they? We’ll give you five possible right answers: Chardonnay/ Chenin/ Grenache Blanc/ Rousanne/ Sauvignon Blanc
- Which red wine was in the UK Wine Merchants Top 100?
Tie breaker: My favourite Doran Vineyards wine would be:
Send your answers with name, email address and mobile phone number to email@example.com with DORAN VINEYARDS WINE COMPETITION in the subject field. Closing date: 15 July.
Winner will be notified by phone and email. Usual Irish World competition rules apply.