For peat’s sake — raise a glass

Two friends who love wine are bringing an Irish-ness to wine making, as KATE RYAN finds out when she catches up with Cork-based Brendan Reddin of BT Wines
For peat’s sake — raise a glass
Brendan Reddin of BT Wines

TWO years ago, lifelong friends and wine connoisseurs Brendan Reddin and Trisha Kelly launched BT Wines with a stunning Pinot Noir, with a twist.

Taking inspiration from the traditional wine craft of oaking, Brendan and Trish have utilised Irish peat to mature, mellow and develop a young, light wine into a well-rounded, complex, deeply ruby red wine.

The vineyards from where they source their grapes and create their wine are small family- owned estates located in the Rheinhessen and Pfalz regions of Germany.

These regions have a historical tie with Munster and would have been some of Ireland’s earliest beer and cider makers when they migrated to Ireland in the 18th century.

The decision to settle on using grapes grown in regions not usually synonymous with the punchy-flavoured Pinot wines most of us may be used to, was based on the harvested grapes’ earthy flavours, aromas, and ability to assimilate the qualities of good aul Irish turf from the boglands of west Limerick.

Brendan, who now lives in Cork city, says: “BT Wines are involved in the winemaking process the whole way through. We developed the unique concept of introducing Irish peat to the wine, decided on the grapes, the vineyard, the process and the ultimate final blend/infusion level of the peat and, finally, when bottling takes place.”

The pair are frequently crisscrossing European skies as they move between Ireland and Germany to keep an eye on their wine. It’s a finely tuned process but one that needs their constant attention — this is small batch winemaking where every drop is precious.

As Brendan explains: “The wine is produced in small quantities of only 500 bottles. The amount of peat used is sufficient to infuse and complement the Pinot Noir.”

The precise quantities and length of maturation is a closely guarded secret, not surprising considering the time invested in bringing their Irish Peated Wine to market!

From the first sip of their Irish Peated Pinot Noir, I was a fan. Utilising Irish peat in the maturation process is very clever indeed: an innovation for sure, but one that speaks to an understanding of the craft of making a great wine.

In the two years since, during which time the wine has had an airing on the Late Late Show and won over many a devoted wine drinker, Trish (a chef by profession) and Brendan have been working away raising the profile of their wine at home and abroad, as well as working on the latest addition to their collection: a Pinot Blanc launched in Cork last month.

“It’s a perfect complement to the red,” says Trisha, “and we really wanted to explore our idea with different grape varieties and develop a completely new experience with our Pinot Blanc.”

Although originally from west Limerick, in the last year Brendan has relocated himself to Cork city to work full time on getting BT Wines ship shape for the next chapter in the company’s ambitions for growth.

In 2018, BT Wines were accepted to the Enterprise Ireland ‘Accelerator Programme’, a government-backed scheme that helps to mentor SME businesses with serious ambitions to enter into the export market. For the duration of the Accelerator Programme, BT Wines are based at another Cork success story — Republic of Work on South Mall.

“We are creating our wines slowly and with care and hope to grow our business organically across Munster and Ireland over the coming months and years,” says Brendan.

“We are currently speaking with a couple of well-known proprietors in Cork and will hope to be on a select few wine lists before the summer, so please do keep an eye out for us.

“As a small business and having worked hard for a number of years to develop our wines, we really appreciate all support.”

Whereas the Pinot Noir enfolds the peaty notes within its lusciously deep ruby red embrace, allowing the imbiber just a hint of the distinctive peat smokiness, the Pinot Blanc is quite different in its presentation, aroma and taste. Just as the peat deepens the colour of an otherwise light Pinot Noir, so with the Pinot Blanc the peat intensifies its appearance to a glinting golden straw colour.

The Pinot Blanc has decent viscosity which may fool you into thinking this will be a bold, sweet wine, but it isn’t. There is sweetness, but the smoke reins it in, bringing the wine back into the centre ground.

Smoke is much more prevalent on the nose with the Pinot Blanc too, perfect for anyone like me who is enticed by the elemental and ethereal temptation of fire and smoke.

But it’s not all about the smoke. This wine has great mouth-feel thanks to its viscosity; acidity to balance out the sweetness and smoke and, just like its sibling, a long, lingering finish that keeps developing and maturing.

Just like the Pinot Noir, the Pinot Blanc is a complex wine, but that isn’t meant to put you off! Quite the opposite. This is a wine that is as equally suited for sipping contemplatively beside the fire in winter, or under the heat of the sun in summer. I’m sure it pairs wonderfully with some foods, but for me I would prefer to simply pour a glass and admire it all by itself. But if you do decide to pair with a nibble or two, take your time to make the decision — this wine demands only the very best of partners.

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