First published in the Irish Times Saturday 18th March, 2017
A few years ago, I got in touch with wine distributors around the country and asked them to name a few of their favourite haunts, places where they could order a glass of decent wine. It didn’t seem a big ask, just half a dozen or more interesting wines served in a proper wine glass, but privately the majority expressed a deep frustration with their local offering. Things have changed for the better.
Many hotels continue to serve industrial quality Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and other standard names at exorbitant prices, but it seems that some pubs at least are starting to see the light, and are now serving a small rotating range of interesting wines at reasonable prices. The big move over the last few years has come from wine shops. A number of them now morph into wine bars in the early evening, or have a separate mini-wine bar attached. It is all about the wine and not the food, which is usually pretty basic (cold meats or cheese) and mark-ups are a fraction of those in a full-blown restaurant.
As well as having plenty of wines by the glass, many allow you to choose any wine from the shelves, adding a corkage fee of €5-€10. This makes it worthwhile buying a bottle of something really good. For the moment, most seem to be in the greater Dublin area, and include Grapevine in Dalkey, Green Man, Terenure, Baggot Street Wines, La Touche in Greystones, 64 Wine and Mitchell & Son in Glasthule, Whelehan’s in Loughlinstown and Fallon & Byrne on Exchequer Street. All of these are well worth trying out if you like wine.
My top 10 is regionally balanced. I haven’t been to every one of these, but I have fairly reliable spies in most corners of the country. Ely wine bars can claim to be daddy of them all, now celebrating 15 years of trading, offering a superb selection of 80 wines by the glass. They have now teamed up with 64 Wine in Glasthule; the outcome is awaited with interest.
Of the newer establishments in Dublin, Piglet, on Cows Lane in Temple Bar, is a wine bar or osteria. They offer a great range of wines by the glass, alongside some amazingly good food, and Green Man Wines in Terenure would be a regular haunt if I lived slightly nearer.
The place to go
Moving southwards, I hear great things about the wine selection in The Tannery wine bar in Dungarvan. L’Atitude51 is the place to go in Cork city. Lively and fun, there is always a great range of wines open. Likewise, The Black Pig in Kinsale. Galway has Cava Bodega and Martine’s but I love the fascinating wines offered by Sheridan’s Wine Bar– and of course the cheeses. Westport has the eclectic Gallery Wine Bar, although if you prefer a more traditional atmosphere, McGings offers five wines by the glass, alongside excellent pints and local beers. I have yet to make it to Hargadons in Sligo, but everyone tells me I should make the trip. In Belfast, Cave, part of the excellent Ox restaurant, is a lovely pared-down wine bar with an eclectic list of wines, and, as you might expect, some very nice nibbles too.
I have missed anyone out, feel free to send me an email.
The first readers to email/tweet me regarding omissions were fans of Stanley’s excellent wine bar & restaurant on Andrew Street in Dublin 2. It certainly has one of the best, most eclectic lists in the country, plus a great range of interesting sherry by the glass.