Concannon Irish WhiskeyConcannon Gate
On the 11th October,2011 Oliver Murtagh, Vice President, Emmet Fitzgerald, Trustee, Anke Hartmann, Member and Andrew O’ Gorman, Secretary of The Irish Guild of Sommeliers met John Concannon, Fourth Generation Vintner  from the Concannon Winery, Livermore, California who was doing some filiming in connection with the Concannon Irish Whiskey at The Palace Bar, Fleet Street ,Dublin.
.4th Generation: John ConcannonBarrel Room
John Concannon
John is a descendant of James Concannon who was one of thousands of Irishmen who emigrated to the USA as part of the Irish 19th century diaspora. “Livermore Valley’s Concannon Vineyard prefers to tell its story with a handshake” and that is how the story of their whiskey was told at The Palace Bar after  introductions by Willie Aherne, third generation of the Aherne family at The Palace Bar.
The name Concannon as Gaeilge means “Wisdom without compromise”.
Concannon Irish whiskey is distilled and matured in collaboration with Cooley Distillery, Co. Louth. It is a blend of 100% Irish whiskey mellowed in Concannon Petite Sirah wine barrels for optimal flavour and complexity. “We mellow our whiskey in both small bourbon casks and our own family wine barrels for a minimum of 4 years.”
John Cashman, Global Brand Ambassador, Cooley Distillery was also present to oversee operations at The Palace Bar.
On the 23rd September,2011 Andrew O’ Gorman witnessed a large container of whiskey leaving the Cooley Distillery Plc, Riverstown, Dundalk, Co. Louth for the Concannon Winery , Livermore, California.
This whiskey will be bottled in December,2011 and launched in the USA in January,2012.
The whiskey was tasted by the 4 of us at The Palace Bar on 11th October,2011.
Labels of historical interest
Chateau Y’ Quem label
Chateau Y’ Quem label: used during prohibition years (1920 – 1940)
Prohibition wine label
Prohibition wine label (1920 – 1933)
Prohibition wine label
Prohibition wine label (1920 – 1933)
Muscat de Frontignan
Muscat de Frontignan: popular altar wine (1920 – 1933)
Concannon back label
Concannon back label (1920 – 1933)
Bottle neck label with federal bond stamp
Bottle neck label with federal bond stamp #616 (1920 – 1933)
Original Petite Sirah label
Original Petite Sirah label (1961)
California historical label: Concannon Riesling
California historical label: Concannon Riesling (1979)
America’s gift to Ireland by President Regan in 1984
America’s gift to Ireland by President Regan in 1984
Altar WineApproved Altar Wine

Wine is one of the two elements absolutely necessary for the sacrifice of the Eucharist. For valid and licit consecration vinum de vite, i.e. the pure juice of the grape naturally and properly fermented, is to be used. Wine made out of raisins, provided that from its colour and taste it may be judged to be pure, may be used (Collect. S. C. de Prop. Fide, n. 705). It may be white or red, weak or strong, sweet or dry. Since the validity of the Holy Sacrifice, and the lawfulness of its celebration, requires absolutely genuine wine, it becomes the serious obligation of the celebrant to procure only pure wines. And since wines are frequently so adulterated as to escape minute chemical analysis, it may be taken for granted that the safest way of procuring pure wine is to buy it not at second hand, but directly from a manufacturer who understands and conscientiously respects the great responsibility involved in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. If the wine is changed into vinegar, or is become putrid or corrupted, if it was pressed from grapes that were not fully ripe, or if it is mixed with such a quantity of water that it can hardly be called wine, its use is forbidden (Missale Rom., De Defectibus, tit, iv,1). If the wine begins to turn into vinegar, or to become putrid, or if the unfermented juice is pressed from the grape, it would be a grievous offence to use it, but it is considered valid matter (ibid., 2).To conserve weak and feeble wines, and in order to keep them from souring or spoiling during transportation, a small quantity of spirits of wine (grape brandy or alcohol) may be added, provided the following conditions are observed: 1. The added spirit must have been distilled from the grape (ex genimime vitis); 2. the quantity of alcohol added, together with that which the wine contained naturally after fermentation, must not exceed 18% of the whole; 3. the addition must be made during the process of fermentation ( S. Romana et Univ.Inquis, 5th August, 1896). Ref. Catholic Encyclopaedia.hostcmas.jpg (19865 bytes)

James Concannon and Divine Intervention. James Concannion was born in Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Galway in 1847. At the age of 17 James left Ireland for the USA and worked at various jobs throughout America. When he reached California he was interested to pursue a new venture. It was here that he discovered the Livermore Valley, with its unusual east-west orientation and rocky soil which was strikingly similar to the famous Rhone and Bordeaux winemaking areas of France. James enrolled in the University of California to learn everything he could about viticulture. After a few years of intense study and planning, James Concannon became the first Irish immigrant to make wine in America. He built a beautiful Victorian home for his growing family later that year, and stored his first wines in its cellar in 1884. In his lifetime, James travelled to France to learn about winemaking, to Mexico to introduce viticulture, and to Ireland five times.Altar Wine

They say timing is everything, but it also helps to have friends in high places. Prior to establishing his vineyard in Livermore, James lived in San Francisco’s Irish Mission District. He became good friends with Archbishop Alemany, a powerful figure in the Catholic Church and a man whose influence would help shape the future of the Concannon Vineyard. Archbishop Alemany suggested that James develop a line of sacramental wines for use in church services. It was a suggestion that proved to be a tremendous blessing.

When prohibition came into effect in the 1920’s Concannon continued producing a number of wine varieties, Savignon Blanc, Semillon, and a full range of Sacramental wines. Under special dispensation from Archbishop Alemany, Concannon Vineyard was among a few wineries legally permitted to continue operation during Prohibition       (1925 – 1933). Less fortunate vintners were forced to completely shut down.

After surviving Prohibition and the Great Depression, Joe passed away in 1965 and the next generation of Concannons continued to run the winery. Today, Concannon Vineyard is run by his grandson Jim and exports their wines to various countries.

John Concannon Fourth Generation is also very much involved in the running of the winery.

Over the past few years Church members evaluated the possibility to resume the old – time tradition of distributing the Holy Communion in two ways, with the Host and with the Wine. Such an imitative has aroused the interest on a limited but prestigious wine production.Concannon Bunch of Grapes

Cannon 924 of the Cannon Law provides that the wine used for church ceremonies, the wine so-called altar wine, should be “de gemine vitis et non corrumptum”, namely obtained from grape and uncorrupted. In practice, grape must be intact and nothing should be added to wine, and moreover any type of acidity is prohibited. This genuineness is guaranteed by some provisions under which priests should buy the wine from convents, other religious institutions, or from vine-growers and dealers authorised by the bishop.

An international seminar held in 2005 about altar wine revealed that one million litres of wine per year are used for the purpose. Such consumption however saw a remarkable fall, equal to about 20%. “the decrease affected above all Europe and in particular Italy”, Roberta Bava sys, a Piedmont producer specialising in altar wines. “This happened both because the number of celebrated masses has dropped and because priests pay less attention to the choice of wines for sacramental use with a growing tendency to use any type of wine”.

The bishops’ proposal could revive its production and market. In Italy Romagna plays a secondary role in this sector compared with, for example, Piedmont where in Cocconato d’Asti, a study group called “Il Vino sull’Altare (the wine on the altar) was set up in 1987 following an oenology booklet written by Don Bosco. Its purpose is to analyse and promote the production and consumption of wine used during church celebrations. A similar attempt was made in Romagna in 1993 during the February meeting of Tribunato di Romagna which in collaboration with Ente Tutela Vini Di Romagna, submitted a set of regulations suggesting that Albana di Romagna DOCG could be a particularly suitable wine for church celebrations. In fact Cannon Law neither specifies the grape variety nor the colour of the wine. In ancient times, the altar wine was mainly red to recall more effectively the blood of Christ mentioned by the liturgy. Later on, the Synod of Milan in 1565 established the preferential use of white wine because it stains less when it falls on the altar. Today priests usually choose a dry, semi-sweet and sometimes sweet white wine with an alcohol content of about 11% volume. The interest in this market does not lie in its economic value but rather in the prestige granted to those producers who could boast to be “Supplier of the parish of Newport or of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly”.

Lastly, this would be a way to acknowledge, through the product of an ancient variety how much the world of wine owes to the Church which safeguarded and spread the vine so that wine was always available for the Eucharist. Vineyards were preserved by the religious communities in the Upper Middle Ages when vine growing suffered a general degradation following the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Barbarian Invasions.Sacramental Wine

Written by Andrew O’ Gorman, Secretary of The Irish Guild of Sommeliers .

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