Better known for its Guinness brewery tour by day and Jameson shots by night, Dublin, Ireland, doesn’t spring to mind as a wine destination. But a growing cadre of restaurants, bars and shops are dedicating themselves to fermented grapes.
According to Mick O’Connell, a Master of Wine and wine portfolio developer for importer Findlater & Co, the city’s wine landscape is a new phenomenon. It was born out of the movement toward food provenance and also from the financial crash a decade ago.
“Many businesses closed overnight, leaving a void on our high streets,” he says. “Inevitably, young creative restaurants and cafés popped up. Interestingly, many who left Ireland are returning with fresh ideas of wine culture and wine businesses. Now we have this fantastic offering with specialist importers bringing wines from all over the world.”
In a city relatively new to wine culture, the natural and low-intervention wine movement has gained momentum here. Bar Giuseppe, located in Central above Castle Market, is the brainchild of restaurateur Joe Macken. With a focus on natural, biodynamic and organic wines alongside a thoughtful selection of amaro, O’Connell calls the new spot a “game-changer.”
Loose Canon, in the Creative Quarter, has a similar point of view. It serves cheeseboards and charcuterie from Irish producers alongside bottles like Finca Parera, a biodynamic producer from Penedès, Spain.
It was founded by Brian O’Keeffe and Kevin Powell, the same team behind popular café Meet Me in the Morning. After he lived in the natural wine bar mecca of Paris, O’Keeffe says he found it impossible to find natural wines in Dublin.
“Loose Canon was, and still is, selfishly motivated,” he says. “It’s a place for us to enjoy the wines we know from our travels.”
Green Man Wines on Terenure, opened by David Gallagher and Claire O’Boyle Gallagher, represents the city’s flourishing breed of hybrid spaces: retail shop, restaurant and wine bar. “In late 2014, at the tail end of a deep recession in Ireland, the opportunity for a perfect space with decent rent came up,” says Claire. Selections lean toward the artisan category, with shelves stocked with natural producers alongside classics from Bordeaux and Rioja.
David, formerly of British fine wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd, also teaches classes. The restaurant just received huge applause from the Irish Times.
Similar to Green Man, Gerard Maguire’s 64 wines is also a hybrid. Maguire, a longtime collector and wine lover, offers classics plus quirky bottlings from natural labels.
“He has a fine wine room that would make any collector weep,” says O’Connell.
The shop opens at 9 am for breakfast before it switches to salads and other fare during the day. Instead of a Guinness in the morning, order a glass of Sherry alongside your eggs.
A full dinner menu serves everything from burgers, meat and cheeseboards by origin (Spain vs. Ireland) to nibbles like chicken liver pâté and dips.
Set inside a former telephone exchange building, Fallon & Byrne offers a wine shop, food hall and full-service restaurant with modern wine list. The ground floor market sells deli products. The interior of the French-Irish restaurant features hardwood floors, red banquettes and globe lights reminiscent of an old-fashioned bistro.
In the affluent suburb of Dalkey, Grapevine has refined the retail/wine bar concept. Owners Gabriel and Pamela Cooney seek out Old World wines. In particular, its Austrian, German and Eastern European selections shine.
On the ground floor, a small bar outfitted with leather stools lets patrons sample pours. Upstairs provides more space to relax over dishes of black pudding, and chorizo and chickpeas. Live musicians play occasionally, and events like the annual Champagne dinner sell out early.
One of the older wine-centric venues is Ely, with 16 years and two establishments in the city center. Erik and Michelle Robson, avid wine lovers, have grown its list to a robust 500 labels and 80 by-the-glass selections. Food is “pasture to plate,” much of it sourced from the owners’ organic family farm in County Clare.
Etto, a 32-seat restaurant and wine bar, has won a rash of awards, from best restaurant in Dublin by the Restaurants Association of Ireland to back-to-back Bib Gourmand nods from Michelin. Located on Merrion Row, its owners have embraced wine on tap, as Irish draft specialist WineLab supplies global options. Mediterranean plates pair with Western European wines and a notable stash of Sherry.
Tucked within a slender hideaway, the Benburb Street location of Fish Shop highlights the best seafood pulled from coastal waters. Kilary Fjord mussels, Connemara clams and of course, classic beer-battered fish and chips based on the catch of the day, round out the menu. The wine list surprises with its array of mineral-driven whites like Godello from Spain and light, fish-friendly reds like Beaujolais. It’s also open on Mondays, to boot.
Piglet, in Temple Bar, is run by Enrico Fantasia and Thibaud Harang, and focuses on European wines. This cute spot offers a tightly curated selection of bottles lined up neatly on the wall. Sip Sangiovese with Italian pasta dishes like cacio e pepe.
Named after a cast-iron pot from the 20th century, Bastible is a neighborhood bistro on Leonard’s Corner in Dublin 8. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, the short, seasonal menu changes almost daily. Ingredients like cod cheeks, lambs heart and monkfish are sourced from nearby purveyors, an ethos that carries over to the eclectic wine selection.
Forest & Marcy bills itself as a neighborhood wine room and kitchen. Small seasonal plates or a longer tasting menu by Ciaran Sweeney accompany an exciting lineup of wines. For example, there’s bubbles from Franciacorta and England, as well as new-wave labels Isole e Olena out of Chianti Classico and Matthiasson in California. Don’t miss the fermented potato bread with bacon and cabbage, an updated comfort food you wish you could snack on every night.
Occupying a lovely old building, Legal Eagle has taken the concept of “nose-to-tail” beyond the world of meat to include top-to-bottom vegetables. Roasted meats and smoked fish come piled high on traditional platters to be mopped up with Irish potato flatbreads. More than 200 wines cover the natural, organic and biodynamic camps, though producers who practice organics, but haven’t sought the government certification, have also earned placement.
It’s clear Dublin has developed a love affair with wine that’s only intensifying.
“I’ve been chatting with restaurant owners—everyone is talking about opening wine bars,” says Ivor Campbell, the manager of Etto and a current student of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Diploma program. “They see an opportunity due to the increase in consumer knowledge, along with the rise of the quality-driven millennials.”