First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 14th April, 2018
Tommy Cullen of Jus de Vine in Portmarnock, Co Dublin: ‘I love the area, we have a great set of customers and I am very happy at it.’ Photograph: Aidan Crawley
The northside of Dublin is very well served with wine shops. This year one of the finest, Jus de Vine in Portmarnock, celebrated its 20th anniversary by winning the Noffla National Off-Licence of the Year title for the third time.
Tommy Cullen will be 77 years old this July, but has no intention of retiring. Cullen sold Kelly’s off-licence on the Malahide Road after 18 years, thinking he would retire. It didn’t last.
“I got bored and wanted something to do,” he says. His daughter Julie, recently returned from America, was looking to get back into the wine business. They approached Paul McKenna, who ran a small shop in Portmarnock, and the three formed a team. Today, they run one of the biggest – and best – independent off-licences, winning a wine specialist of the year award 10 times in 14 years.
All three love their work. “Dad had me working weekends polishing bottles from a very young age,” says Julie. “It is all I know and I love it. We get to know the story and to meet the people that are behind the wine.”
Tommy says: “I get to do what I want to do. I love the area, we have a great set of customers and I am very happy at it.”
McKenna also mentions their customers. “After nearly 30 years, I still enjoy going to work. This is a great community and we get nice people coming in.”
Green Man Wines in Terenure recently celebrated its third anniversary. David Gallagher and his wife Claire O’Boyle both worked in various wine shops before going it alone in 2015, although O’Boyle also works for a wine importer.
“We felt that there was an opportunity to offer a different style of wine in a different shopping environment. We had been to wine fairs in the south of France and tasted some stunning ’natural wines’, made with minimal intervention and different than anything available here. We visited Terroirs in London which serves natural wines alongside well-sourced food and were convinced this could work in Ireland. We wanted to offer something very different to the multiples.”
“The wine bar element was crucial; we have a space where you can enjoy wine at a reasonable price alongside some tasty food.”
They have space for wine-tasting evenings, vital for gaining customer loyalty and trust. “We want a shop that is fun, exciting and constantly evolving.”
The couple looked at the city centre but found that rents and rates were too high; and most suburbs were already well served. It was a customer in Fallon & Byrne, now a neighbour, Kevin Byrne of Mayfield Restaurant who first suggested Terenure. “It has a great community feel and we’ve been very much welcomed and now feel very much part of it. Our customer base is well-travelled, educated and enjoy their food and wine.”
Ciello Bianco 2016, Catarratto, Cantine Rallo, IGT Terre Siciliane
Organically grown and neither fined nor filtered. Vibrant and bright with juicy peaches and almonds, balanced nicely by lemon zest acidity, finishing dry. Before dinner, or with a wide variety of lighter seafood dishes or salads.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; Baggot St Wines, baggotstwines.ie; Clontarf Wines; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Blackrock Cellar, blackrockcellar.ie; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, dundalkwines.ie; Bradley’s Off-Licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie.
De Combel-La-Serre, Le pur fruit du Causse 2016, Cahors
Made from organically grown grapes with minimal sulphur at bottling. Forward and aromatic with pure, fresh, supple dark fruits and a dry finish.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; Donnybrook Fair, donnybrookfair.ie; Bradley’s Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie
Château Bauduc Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Bordeaux
Crisp, dry and refreshing, with subtle yellow fruits and apples. A great all-purpose wine to drink solo, with white fish, soft goat’s cheese or chicken salads.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; The Vintry, Rathgar, vintry.ie; Curious Wines, Cork, curiouswines.ie; Redmond’s, Ranelagh; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street, corkscrew.ie; Callan’s, Dundalk, callans.ie; Dwan’s, Ballycullen; Blackrock Cellar, blackrockcellar.ie; Martins Off-Licence, Clontarf, martinsofflicence.ie
Les Trois Terroirs 2015, Cairanne 2015, Domaine Boisson
Medium to full-bodied with ripe plum and cherry fruits and a savoury edge, balanced nicely by a refreshing streak of acidity. Serve with roast pork or pork chops.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Searson’s, Monkstown, searsons.ie; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry, thepartingglass.ie; Morton’s of Galway, mortonsofgalway.ie; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork, cinnamoncottage.ie