The story of how Ireland’s oldest winemaking family came to win its way into a global brand.
In the late 1970s, the family of a couple of farmers from Donegal was working in a vineyard in Limerick when they were approached by a company called Wines from the Vineyard.
Wines was looking to expand their holdings in Europe and Ireland.
“It was a real opportunity,” says Mark, “They had just come off the back of their best-selling book The Wine Hunter and wanted to get involved in the wine business,” he recalls.
“The Irish wine industry is a very small part of the world.”
“We were pretty happy to be involved and to make the journey with them,” says Richard.
The company, which had already developed a reputation as a wine maker, asked the Irish family if they would produce some of their wines in their farmhouse.
But they didn’t quite know what to do with them.
“We had to make a decision.
We could take them with us or we could go the farm,” says Roger.
“We didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
We decided that we were going to go the vineyards, so we put the grapes out on the vine and we made sure the grapes were good.”
The next step in the family’s development was to develop the wine.
It was only with the help of a local farmer that the family was able to develop a small line of sparkling wines.
By 1978, the Wines brothers had created a winning style of red wine that was known as the “red wines of Donegal” The name comes from a nod to the area’s history, where the family had been growing grapes since 1780.
Roger says they started by selecting a lot of good, old-fashioned red grapes, but also picking up some good varieties from abroad, as well as a few varieties from the area.
And as they made their first foray into the global wine market, they began to learn about the new wines from the press and the press learned from them.
They also learnt that the wines from Donega were often less expensive than the wines of the nearby region.
So, in 1978, after a number of years of trying, the brothers launched the first bottling of their new wine in Donegal.
What they got was something called the red wines of Derry, which has a name meaning “The Derry of Donega”.
The first bottle was sold out within weeks and the rest of the reds of Donegagrew soon followed.
At the time, Donegal’s wine industry was dominated by the local producers who were doing well.
There was no international presence and, with the industry struggling, the red wine of Donegar was an obvious choice.
Fast forward more than 30 years and the family has taken another step.
Today, there are over 40 wineries in Donegawh, many of which have moved to other regions and regions have taken notice.
When asked how much their wine is sold for, the Mark brothers said that it was in the range of €50,000-€80,000.
This year, they’re planning to produce a second bottle.
We were very lucky,” says Steve.
With the success of their first wine, the first red wines are now being produced on a larger scale in Ireland.”
There is a lot to do and the next project will be an Irish wine,” he says.
With the success of their first wine, the first red wines are now being produced on a larger scale in Ireland.