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Why the 1990s were good for wine in Ireland

John Wilson: It’s worth celebrating the elder lemons among Irish wine experts

The year 1999 must have been a prosperous one in Ireland, for today I feature three wine businesses that began life 25 years ago, plus one celebrating a 30th birthday.

Ely was the brainchild of Michelle and Erik Robson, arguably the first genuine wine bar in Dublin, and they opened in 1999. There have been expansions and contractions since then, but currently they run the original wine bar and restaurant in Ely Place, as well as a shop/cafe/restaurant/wine bar in Maynooth. They also import a range of wines directly, which are available online.

The eldest of the group, Terroirs opened its doors 30 years ago, in 1994. It is a bespoke wine shop founded and run by Seán and Françoise Gilley. Most of the wines are imported directly, along with an impeccably chosen range of gourmet foods and wine accessories. Not all the wines are expensive, although they have a comprehensive range of the finest wines. As well as the shop in Donnybrook, they have a website and deliver nationwide.

Frenchman Pascal Rossignol arrived in Ireland to work as a sommelier. He opened his Kilkenny wine shop in 1999. He always stocks an impressive range of French wines, with Burgundy a particular strength, but along the route he has become the leading importer of natural/low-intervention wines. These he supplies to wine shops and restaurants all around the country. His wines are also available by mail order and from his Le Caveau shop in Kilkenny.


Pam and Gay Cooney of Grapevine in Dalkey are also celebrating their 25th anniversary. They have always been based in Dalkey but moved to their current substantial premises on the main street in 2016. It is a restaurant and wine shop, with a well-chosen range of wines, mainly European, some of which they import directly themselves.

Rocher de la République Rouge 2022, Pays d’Oc Organic

13.5%, €16.95

Medium-bodied with fresh blackcurrant and red cherries. No real tannins, so good on its own or with cold meats, cheese, olives, nuts etc.

From Ballymaloe pop up; Lilith, D7; Martins, D3; Le Caveau, Kilkenny.

Mas Compayre Calibre 12, 2020, IGP Aveyron, Organic

13%, €19.50

Delicious savoury supple, elegant juicy dark cherry fruits. Great value for money and perfect with firm cheeses, charcuterie and white meats.

From Terroirs, Donnybrook,

Château Magdeleine Bouhou 2020, Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux, No added Sulphur

14.5%, €25

Supple and rounded with sleek dark fruits and a soft smooth finish. Full-bodied and very moreish. Try it with grilled or roast red meats and firm cheeses.

From Grapevine, Dalkey; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey.

Ar.Pe.Pe. Il Pettirosso 1999, Terrazze Retiche di Sondro

13%, €95

A superb wine from a very fine producer; supremely elegant, delicate with complex savoury, earthy plum and red cherry fruits and lightly drying tannins on the finish. Gorgeous wine.

From Ely, Maynooth,