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Ireland designated wine-producing country
LONDON (CNN) -- Ireland has been officially designated a wine-producing country by the European Commission.
The news came as sales of Guinness dropped for the first time in the stout's 241-year history.
Ireland has only about 10 vineyards, mostly in the Cork area, and growers are still batting with the elements and peaty soil to produce less than 5,000 bottles a year.
The two main grapes which have proved successful in Ireland are Madeleine Angevine and Reichensteiner. Most of the wine produced is white though there is a small amount of red being produced from the Rondo grape.
Wine making as a 'hobby'
Most of the grapes are produced by growers as a "hobby" according to horticulturalist and vine researcher David Lewellyn from Dublin.
"None are in an ideally located area. They are being grown by enthusiasts who were already based in a certain area carrying out other business," he said.
"I personally think a properly planned vineyard would be far more productive and worthy of comparison with other European wines.
"Wine consumption in Ireland has rocketed, because it is fashionable and it is generally cheaper to drink these days though if you pay less than five punts ($8) it tends to be pretty plonky stuff."
Wine writer Stephen Skelton said the skill in growing wine successfully in a damp climate like that of Ireland was finding the correct varieties to grow.
He said the regulations set for getting official classification were very much influenced by the "major players" in European wine-production: France, Italy and Germany.
Lure of EU grant
Skelton said: "Having the EU classification means you can call your product a table wine and might mean you can ask for an EU grant."
But Lewellyn said for a small grower with just a couple of acres, having the classification may lead to other more heavily bureaucratic regulations and could end up being "more trouble than it is worth."
Ireland is the latest of what he calls "oddball" countries to get the wine-growing status. Denmark and Sweden joined the club last year, though other areas not so commonly associated with fine wines -- Britain, Belgium and Holland -- have enjoyed the production status for many years.
The Director of Ireland's Wine Development Board, David Dillon, said: "Production in Ireland is very small, though I do not want to seem flippant -- the quantities may be modest but the quality is excellent."
Spokeswoman for Guinness, Jean Doyle, said sales of the stout were down by three percent for the year. She said wine consumption was up and more people were entertaining at home. But though significant she said the drop was: "A blip we hope to reverse."
Wine Lovers' Page / Front Page
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