Posted on July 25th, 2012
So, Susan, you’re giving a talk on The Irish and wine?
Well, not exactly…. A Wine Goose Chase is a bit of a hybrid that’s never really been done before. It’s a one woman theatre show, about Ireland and wine from my point of view and as we go along we will be tasting some wines, but not in a traditional wine tasting format.
If I’ve done my job right at the end of an hour, people will leave thinking a little differently about things and have some fascinating stories to share with friends
Tell me about the 2,000 year history that the Irish have been involved in?
It’s quite a task to cover 2 millennia in an hour! I think there is a popular impression that Ireland’s wine history starts somewhere in the late 1970′s when Blue Nun and Mateus Rose made their ways to these shores, but surprisingly, Ireland’s wine history far pre-dates this.
The feasts of ancient Irish High Kings were known for their free flowing wine and with the rise of Christianity it was Irish monks that planted huge swathes of vineyards across Europe, a fact we forget when we just focus on the miserable monks cogging books in damp cells!
What about more recent times with Barton and his shower?
Ah the famous Wine Geese….well, the golden age for Ireland and wine was around the 1700′s when about 200 Irish families up and left and landed in Bordeaux. Their names can be seen to this day on well respected bottles, the Lynches, the Phelans, the MacCarthys and of course the Bartons who have been sending their children home to be educated in Ireland for over 300 years.
Not to forget the Hennessys in Cognac, who’s business has became one of the wealthiest and prized luxury brands in the world, not bad going for a guy from Ballymacmoy, Killavullen, Co. Cork!
Are there any more recent examples of Irish Wine Geese?
Yes lots, and not just in Europe. Irish wine makers made their way to the new world too, planting vineyards in North and South America and in Australia and New Zealand. Across the world there are Irish wine makers alive and well making their lively hoods growing grapes and making wine.
Caro Feely of Chateau Haut-Garrigue who recently visited Ballymaloe to show case her and her husband Sean’s wine is a good example of this.
What would make someone drop everything and go off and make wine in a foreign land instead of staying put and making cider or beer, why is wine different?
Ireland was quite an outward looking place back in the day. Even though we were and island, we were only a day or two sail from mainland Europe and we had a fine trade exporting our agricultural and dairy produce and importing lots of wine. So there was an established link between Ireland and wine making nations.
The Irish are just good at growing things and this ability to nurture crops was easily transferred to cultivating vines. Staying put to make cider and beer wasn’t a bad plan, but to be able to grow things in the sunshine and ship it back to waiting thirsty market made sense.
During the 1700′s Ireland was importing 4 times more wine the rest of the British Isles, and we were discerning drinkers, buying up most of Bordeaux’s premier cru’s so it wasn’t such an out-there thing to do.
Have we really made that much of a mark?
I know we don’t wander down supermarket aisle ignoring Australia, Chile and Spain searching for the Irish wine section! As anyone who can look out a window this summer will know, this little damp island doesn’t have a climate that makes growing grapes really possible, besides our soil is far too lovely and rich, but considering this major disadvantage, it is quite amazing the Irish have had any impact at all on the wine industry, let alone actual great success in this field over a sustained number of centuries… come see the play I’ll tell you more ;-)
Where did you get the grá for wine history?
Well, I’m still getting to grips with the history; dates just don’t like to stay in my head but I love stories. I think we have lost the stories of the people behind the bottles we pluck from our shelves; we get mesmerized by branding and the colour of the labels and the names of grapes and forget about the farmers in France or Chile who are worried if it rains too much or not at all.
To be honest, they are not that different from the farmers we know here. That’s why I wanted to make this show. I grew up in a pub in Kildare and my family have been publicans for as long as we can trace back. I started attending wine tastings about 15 years ago when I was in college.
I admit, initially it was because it was easier to get served at a wine tasting rather than the college bar, but talking to the wine makers and tasting and tasting I fell in love with it all. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many wonderful wine people and from my pub background I know most wine drinker don’t ever get that opportunity so I think it’s time I shared a bit!
Where did the idea for the show come from?
The show idea came from a tweet! I was asked if I knew somebody who knew about wine and could talk about it as Gaeilge and I just though, I don’t need to find someone, I can do that! I was contacted by Title Films who were making a series for TG4 called “Cé A Chónaig I Mo Theachsa?” a sort of “Who Do You Think You Are?” but for houses. They were doing a programme on Rice House in Dingle and the wanted someone to look into how the Rices made their fortune.
While I was down filming the episode I got chatting to Manchán Magan, he was working on a show for the 2011 ABSOLUT Fringe and he though the story would make a great theatre piece. I’d been looking for inspiration for some time, I trained in theatre but have been recently working in more arts project management and facilitation settings.
This was such a great opportunity to combine my wine work with my arts side, so I proposed the ideas to the Fringe for this year and they went for it. So now I’m working with the amazing director Gina Moxley and am looking forward to lots of rehearsals in the next few weeks! The TG4 show by the way has been picked up my NBC international and I believe they’re using bits from the show I was in to promote it across the world.
So tell me more about the show
I’m keeping the audience small so it retains an intimate feel and I’ve just heard yesterday they are expecting it to sell out as it’s selling well, so buy them quick so you’re not disappointed! I’ll be keeping people updated on facebook and twitter.
The venue is La Ruelle Wine Bar, Joshua Lane, just off Dawson St. and the show runs on September 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18th at 6:30 pm and Sept 15th at 5pm. Previews are September 9 and 10th at 5pm and 6:30pm respectively,
Tickets are available from www.fringefest.com at €14/ €12 (concession)/ €10 (previews)
The creative team behind “A Wine Goose Chase”
Writer and Performer: Susan Boyle holds a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies from Trinity College Dublin and an MA in Performance Studies from the University of London Royal Holloway and she is a University of California scholar. She grew up in Kildare town where the licensed trade is in her blood; her family have been publicans for at least 5 generations. She has been attending professional wine tasting for almost 15 years. She loves wine and talking to people about it.
Director: Gina Moxley is a performer, writer and director. She also grew up in a pub.