First published in the Irish Times Saturday 1st October, 2016
At some stage, every wine lover will have dreamed about owning a winery. Few have the nerve to take the plunge, which is probably a good thing. Growing grapes and making wine is not easy, and selling the finished product is often even more difficult.Liam and Sinéad Cabot have been working as wine importers, and sometimes retailers too, for the past 17 years. They distribute an excellent range of wines (see cabotandco.com) to retailers and restaurants around the country. In 2007 they bought a property in Slovenia, with 1.5 hectares of vines in the back garden. With the help of a neighbour, they took their first faltering steps in winemaking. “My dad had been working in Slovenia and we had visited a number of times. Reading about their vineyards and culture, it seemed to be a perfect location, close to some great winemaking regions,” says Liam. “I guess winemaking had always been at the back of our minds,” Sinéad adds. “We wanted to understand more and to get our hands dirty. It has been a massive learning process, but the hard work does actually pay off.”
The couple look after every aspect of production, from pruning the vines to hand-bottling 6,000 bottles of wine. “It is not a hobby or a pastime.” says Liam. “We are serious about it. This is a rural, agricultural community steeped in winemaking culture. “Our neighbours probably viewed us with a mixture of scepticism and curiosity. However, we weren’t afraid to take invaluable advice from them, nor to try new ideas and make mistakes.The physical aspect of the work is huge,” says Sinéad. “But we decided from the beginning that we wanted to do everything, learning as we went along. Experience helps build confidence to make the key decisions.
“With the 2015 whites, we sat and waited for a full week for natural fermentations to start – you won’t find any winemaking book telling you that! But it worked out really well.” They grow three local grape varieties, Sipon (Furmint), Laski Riesling and Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch). This month they release three wines from the excellent 2015 vintage and these represent their best to date. All are very good, and well worth seeking out.“‘We will never make more than around 6,000 bottles, so now we want to concentrate on improving quality every vintage. The 2015s are our best wines so far, a combination of a good growing season and the gradual changes we implemented in the vineyard.”
BOTTLES OF THE WEEK
Appetising clean white peaches, nice weight and a refreshing acidity.
Seductively aromatic with apricot fruits and a dry finish.
Stockists: Cabot and Co, Westport; No. 1 Pery Square, Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; 64 Wine, Glasthule
Delicious lively fresh raspberry and dark cherry fruits.
Stockists: Cabot and Co. Westport; No.1 Pery Square Limerick; Grapevine, Dalkey; Poppy Seed, Clarinbridge; McCambridges, Galway.