Meet Ireland’s Wine Champions – 18 Sommeliers to Watch
There is more than one way to become a sommelier. Some gradually progress into the role after a long career in hospitality, others know from day one (or two) they want to walk wine’s way and there are those who after working in completely different fields find their calling.
The wine world has a way of luring people with many different backgrounds and personalities, and the role of a sommelier is as versatile as there are somms, the only constants being an outstanding attention to detail and of course, a real passion for all things vino.
Ireland’s wine scene has drastically evolved from the Mateus Rosé fuelled days of the seventies, and sommeliers have become a more familiar sight, helping expand people’s palates one glass at the time, working long hours and training intensely to enhance diner’s enjoyment of their meal, and in a way, of their lives.
Below, some of the somms that are behind well thought out wine lists and award-wining vinous experiences. From veterans to raising stars, they all pour their hearts in what they do. Meet these 19 sommeliers to watch in Ireland…
Julie has won the Best Sommelier in Ireland Competition on four occasions (2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018). In 2016, she achieved third place at the Best Sommelier in the World competition, organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). She currently works in Michelin Star restaurant Chapter One, after three years in the also starred The Greennhouse. Besides that, Julie runs her own business Down2Wine and works as brand ambassador for selected premium wines.
Regarding her approach to work, she points out it is important to be “down to earth and humble” and adds that “wine communication with other staff members and customers” is key. “Sommeliers can have an intimidating image and attitude and this is something that I definitely want to avoid! I love sharing my passion and introducing people to new styles of wine when possible. Seeing customers genuinely enjoying a wine experience, whatever the wine and the price tag, makes me really happy!”
Philip has worked in the Irish hospitality industry since he was just 15 years old. Originally from Celbridge, Kildare, his begun his career at Castletown House and eventually moved to Bang Restaurant before becoming part of the multi award-wining team at Ashford Castle, where he started to work in 2015 and worked his way up to become Head Sommelier at the age of 25. Since March 2018, Philip works as Restaurant & Wine Director at Old Street Restaurant in Malahide.
“For me, wine doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated”, he mentions, and besides taking that approach in the restaurant, he aims to ” make wine approachable and enjoyable for everyone” a reason why he also dedicates some of his time to wine writing.
Martina has worked in the restaurant business for the last three decades and she started her wine studies with the Wine Developing Board in the eighties, when the Irish wine scene was starting to modernise. For most of her career, 21 years to be precise, Martina worked in Michelin star restaurant l’Ecrivain, where her knowledge of wine eventually translated in the position of sommelier.
Nowadays she works at Whelehans Wines, and she also does some wine consultancy. “If you love what you do you can do it with ease”, she says, noting that for her, “wine is not about just finding the best wine in the world, but about finding smaller producers doing something different.” Martina points out a project worth keeping an eye on: a wine school coming soon to Whelehans Wines.
Originally from London, James moved to Waterford as a child and returned to the UK where he worked as sommelier while he studied for his WSET Diploma. He also worked in Portugal for some time before coming back to Ireland in 2016, when he became the Head Sommelier at Patrick Guilbaud (Ireland’s only two Michelin Star restaurant).
Nowadays, James is the Head Sommelier at Glovers Alley, where he works with veteran Ed Joliffe (a colleague somm now turned Restaurant Manager). James has also helped curate wine list for other highly acclaimed restaurants including Dublin 8 favourites Bastible and Clanbrassil House.
Tomasz has worked with wine for more than a decade. Originally from Poland, he moved to Ireland in 2014 and since then he has worked as a sommelier in La Maison Restaurant, Marcel’s, Las Tapas de Lola and since 2018, at Shanahan’s on the Green, where he also performs as Assistant General Manager.
Tomasz achieved the second place in the 2018 Best Sommelier in Ireland Competition and is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Masters Sommeliers. He’s also on his final year of the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wine and Spirits.
Sandra studied hotel management in her native France and early in her career she realised that wine was the area she loved loved the most in hospitality. She decided to carry out a year-long apprenticeship at a local vineyard, Domaine Dhommé in Chalonnes Sur Loire and obtain a Sommelier diploma.
In 2004 she moved to Ireland on a quest to improve her English and her journey took her to Cork where she did a year’s work placement at Hayfield Manor. After a brief return to France, she moved to Ireland for good and worked in Dromoland Castle and Castlemartyr Resort, returning to Hayfield Manor in 2011, where she now works as Resident Sommelier. Sandra also loves innovative wines and she is very interested in the advances in the production and in the New World.
Sean has worked in the restaurant business since his teenage years. Originally from Chicago, he has made Dublin his home for the last two decades, working for places such as the much remembered Thornton’s, and wine importer Grapecircus. He currently doubles as Sommelier/Bar Manager and Drinks Buyer for Elaine Murphy and Brian Montague’s restaurants The Legal Eagle, The Winding Stair, The Woollen Mills, The Yarn Pizza & Booze and The Washerwoman.
“The benefit to working with such diverse restaurants is that I often come across a wine that would not work in a particular place but totally suits another”, he says, adding that he also loves working with craft beer and cocktails. As for his ethos, Sean believes that wine is for everybody: “I detest wine elitism and snobbery. I believe that wine is the greatest expression of a land, a true connection between the work of man and soil. The best winemakers I’ve met always have calloused hands with dirt under their fingernails, they are first and foremost farmers.”
After almost a decade as Head Sommelier and Manager at Shanahans On The Green, Nisea joined The Shelbourne’s team and since 2011, she has been the Head Sommelier at this institution of Irish hospitality. She is responsible for all aspects of the wine program within the hotel, as well as for staff wine training and selling techniques. Since her arrival at The Shelbourne, she has focused on enhancing their wine offering to turn the five star hotel into a wine destination for both local customers and International clientele.
To do so, she has collaborated with prestigious wine houses such as Laurent Perrier to offer unique wine dinners. During her time at The Shelbourne, Nisea has earned multiple awards for her work and as she continues to grow her own knowledge and experience, wine lovers will also be rewarded with new and exciting wine experiences to remember.
Scott graduated from Culinary Arts in DIT and after a brief time in the kitchens, he began his sommeliering career. After travelling to Portugal for an internship at the luxurious Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, Scott had the opportunity to work as sommelier in Copenhagen’s only three Michelin starred restaurant Geranium.
He returned to his native Dublin in 2015 and worked in Ely Bar and Brasserie and Patrick Guilbaud before starting in his current role as Assistant Head Sommelier in Glovers Alley, where he worked alongside Head Sommelier James Brooke and Manager Ed Joliffe.
Ian’s interest in wine begun while he was studying Biology in college, and working part time in restaurants. He started to work at The DeVine Wine Shop in Castleknock in 1998 and in 2000, the opportunity to live and work in Sydney helped him increase both his knowledge and passion for wine. On his return he started working in Ely Wine Bar, and from 2002 to 2010, he took the role of Head Sommelier in Chapter One. In 2012 he returned to Ely, as Wine Manager.
Ian’s responsibilities include writing wine lists and buying for the group, training and education, running wine tastings and events and teaching courses. Besides, he has done some wine writing as well as lectures and he has also judged sommelier and wine competitions.
Arnaud studied at the Sommelier School Lycee Etienne Oehmichen, Chalon en Champagne. During this time (1995-1997), he did numerous stages at the 3 Michelin Star, Hotel Restaurant Les Crayeres at Reims under the supervision of Head Chef Gerard Boyer. After that he did a formation in Science Production & Study of Grapes at the Lycee Viticole de Beaune in Burgundy.
He left France and moved to Ireland and since 2004, Arnaud has been the Head Sommelier at Michelin Star One Pico Restaurant. Over the years, Arnaud continual development of the wine list can be seen by the unique array of wines and rare vintages and some of the best unknown producers. Arnaud wine service is professional and friendly and he has contributed in great measure to make One Pico not just a destination for food but for wine lovers.
Prior to joining Adare Manor as Head Sommelier in August 2017, Jurica was the Sommelier at Michelin Star restaurant The Greenhouse, and before that he worked as Sommelier Team Leader for the five star Cunard Cruise Line for Carnival UK.
Jurica’s deep knowledge of and passion for fine wine was a tremendous asset from the start for the team at Adare Manor, as he oversaw the expansion of their special wine collection and cellar, which currently holds over 650 exceptional wines. Earlier this year, Jurica, was one of only eight successful recipients (and the only Ireland-based) of the 2018 New Zealand Winegrowers International Sommelier Scholarship from Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.
After studying his BA in Economics and Social Studies, Joey obtained a degree in International Business Studies and Hotel Management. He began his career as a barman, working in the pub trade at the well known Doheny and Nesbitts. He first learned of his great love for wine on a placement in the main dining room of the Gleneagles Hotel and soon moved to the wine world for good. He has worked in prestigious fine dining establishments including Thorton’s Restaurant and Chapter One, as well as in luxury Napa Valley resort Calistoga.
He started at Patrick Guilbaud in 2017, and became the Head Sommelier of the double Michelin shortly after. In this role, he has proven to be one hundred percent focused on the satisfaction of the guest. His passion for wine is apparent with total openness and without arrogance.
A passion for wine runs in Ann-Marie’s family and she remembers fondly her grandfather’s appreciation for German wines. After working Peploe’s Wine Bistro on Stephen’s Green, she realised wine was her professional calling and proceeded to obtain her WSET certificates.
In 2014, she began to work in The Excheque Wine Bar in Ranelagh as Assistant Manager and Sommelier, and she was promoted to Manager two years later. “I’m relaxed on the floor; I don’t want to ‘up-sell’ anyone into something they’re not interested in but I do love to show people to something new that they really like”, she comments, noting that she’s constantly rotating the selection of wines by the glass to offer people the chance to try many different options.
Marcin move from his native Poland to Ireland over ten years ago and has lived and worked both in Galway and Dublin. His studies include Nutrition Technology and Hospitality, and besides wine, he has also dedicated himself to the pursue of great coffee. Nowadays he combines his two liquid passions at Legit Coffee Co, a laid-back café in which he works as head barista but also organises pop-up private wine dinners, often with off the beaten track topics and a casual atmosphere.
“I’m not a person who will talk about the theory of wine production, I’m more a guy who love to concentrate on aroma and taste and how to match the wine with food”, he mentions, and he adds that at his pop-ups, he has the advantage to be both chef and sommelier, which allows him to be absolutely happy with the pairings, “I love planing the whole evening from the scratch.”
Ian studied Hospitality and Business at IT Tralee. Originally from Co. Clare, he took a work placement at Dromoland Castle during his college years and since then, he’s been part of the hotel’s family for the last 17 years, working a number of positions, often in the area of wine and drinks.
“My approach to being a Sommelier is a more laid-back style and is work with the guest at their level of knowledge and be considerate to their needs”, he says, pointing out that communication is important to find a wine that has a stronger connection with the guest, “If someone wants a great bottle of wine I will try to match but also to evoke a memory from a trip or family memory from their past.”
Originally from Stradbally in Co laois Ireland, Gerard completed his BSc in Food Technology at Dit cathal Brugha St and realised that he had an interest in wine. While his career started in retail, he had the opportunity to work as cellar hand in Margaux Bordeaux, which he considers and eye-opening experience. Gerard went on to enroll in L’ecole Superior de Montpellier, where he completed a master in Viticulture and Oenology, and then worked a season making wine at La Vierge Winery, in Hemel en Aarde, South Africa.
Upon returning to Ireland in 2014, Gerard worked as Sommelier in Ashford Castle and shortly after took on the position of Head Sommelier at Dromoland Castle, “under the inspirational leadership of Mark Nolan”, he points out. Following on from Dromoland, and after a short break, Gerard let us know he’s “re-entering the wine trade and will be signing a contract with as of yet undisclosable hotel in Dublin.” As for his approach to work, he aims “to be as ruthless a possible in purchasing wine so that you get wine you have absolute confidence in. This in conjunction with creating a price ladder from good value to the sky’s the limit allows me to find wines to match every customer’s desires.”
Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Attila lived and worked in Sydney and he was a sommelier on a German cruise ship before moving to Dublin in 2008. He holds a Masters Degree of Economics of Tourism and Hotel Management and is preparing for the final exam of his WSET Diploma this summer.
He has worked as sommelier in Chatham Brasserie and The Guinea Pig Restaurant in Dalkey, and as General Manager at Olesya’s Wine Bar and more recently, in Fishbone Grill & Bar. Attila is also a Council Member of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers. He has left his current position very recently to take a short break from work to prepare for his exam. “My style depends on venue and occasion but I prefer the laid-back style, chatting with customers and training my staff for the same way”, he mentions.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.