Ireland isn’t known for its wine. To be fair, wine grapes don’t grow particularly well above the 51st parallel, where the whole of the Emerald Isle found, so even though a handful of Irish wineries and even vineyard exist, the country was literally nowhere to be found on a 2015 report from the Wine Institute listing the top 63 wine-producing countries in the world. But that hasn’t stopped Brendan Reddin and Trisha Kelly, the team behind BT Wines, from creating a unique, semi-indigenous Irish wine style all its own: Irish Peat Wine… and it tastes alarmingly good.
Irish Peat Wine – which is currently only available as a red, though a white variety is planned for launch this summer – begins its life as Pinot Noir grapes sourced from a small, family-run vineyard in Germany’s Rheinhessen region. Peat is locally sourced from the boglands of West Limerick on the Wild Atlantic Way. These two ingredients are then combined into a “harmonious marriage,” creating what BT Wines bills at the world’s first and currently only peat wine.
Reddin says the idea for this unusual product first came to him around 2012 when he was visiting family in the United States. “I realized how much they loved Irish whiskey, and peated whiskey,” he explains. “Personally, I'm not a big whisky drinker [but I’ve] always wanted to create my own wine, bring an ‘Irishness’ to wine if you like, and that's where I had the idea for Irish Peat Wine.”
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From there, he set out to make his vision a reality – not an easy task. The first bottles of Irish Peat Wine weren’t launched until July 2016. “A lot of research was involved in deciding on which grape variety we would use and also developing the most effective process,” he continued. “We tried a number of different varieties and processes before settling on Pinot Noir.”
At its core, the Pinot Noir is what makes his Irish Peat Wine so incredible. Shoving your nose in the glass, the peat is barely evident; instead, you’re greeted with bright red cherry and berry notes, the kind of aromas you’d expect from a quality Pinot. The tasting is similar: The peat only strikes around the edges and on the finish, balancing the tannins and leaving a delightful light smokiness. To put it in whisky terms, BT Wines isn’t going the Ardbeg route; peat is merely an accent. If “Peat Wine” wasn’t on the label, you might not even realize peat was added. Instead, you might just laud this wine as a beautiful, bold Pinot.
So clearly, nailing the peat level – and having the willingness to show some restraint with the peatiness of the world’s only peat wine – is one of the keys to BT Wines success.
Reddin said getting to that delicate balance took plenty of work. “We made the wine to our tastes, and believe me, we had many sleepless nights before finally deciding on the level/intensity of peat,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that we didn't lose the integrity of the wine. This is a good Pinot Noir first and foremost and the peat brings an extra element/dimension, one which we believe is unique, innovative and very enjoyable.”
Sadly, for now, you can’t readily find Irish Peat Wine in the United States unless you have it shipped from Ireland. (Though you’d likely find the wine worth the approximately $47 price tag, the shipping costs might make things a different story.) However, Reddin says he is actively looking to get this taste of Ireland into American hands. “We have had significant interest from the States,” he explains. “Just two weeks ago we were showcasing our wine at the Travel Classics International Conference in Montreal and the reaction to our wine has been extremely positive for which we are very grateful. It's been an exciting and stressful few years, so we are always delighted to see someone's face light up when they taste our wine.”