Wine Cellars – where dust in a hotel is often ignored, and subtly appreciated.
A world-class wine cellar should be one with history, imagination, and be a kaleidoscope of all things vinous–a library of wine, so to speak. It’s a span of grape varieties, regions, styles, and wines that tell a story or two to the most discerning guests of hotels, and to those who simply want exceptional quality. A wine list and cellar that shares similar values to the food of the hotel, whether that be a focus on organic practices, sustainability, or vegan-friendly, can also offer much admiration.
Fortunately in Ireland, many of our hotels here compete with the elite worldwide in having top wine cellars that can capture the imagination of those visiting. The sommeliers past and present have left and continue to leave an imprint of delight and vast excellence in their wine offering. Here are some of the hotel wine cellars in Ireland worth visiting today:
The K Club
Straffan, County Kildare
The K Club wine list and cellars, overseen by multi-award-winning chief sommelier Lisa O’ Doherty, are home to one of Ireland’s most vast wine collections brimming with quality labels and golden vintages throughout. The renowned ‘Wine Geese’ (wineries with an Irish connection/heritage) of Château Léoville Barton and Château Langoa Barton wines are aplenty in the cellars of the K Club. Founder of both wineries, Hugh Barton, was a previous resident of Straffan House on the grounds of the K Club in the late 1700s. Nowadays, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant ‘The Barton’, takes on this special family name. Many consider the ‘La Romanée-Conti 1990’ Pinot Noir, which The K Club offers for €60,000 per bottle, to be the greatest wine ever made. Tastings are also available in the hotel’s wine cellar, led by Lisa and her team, with set wine flights starting from €55pp.
Cong, County Mayo
They didn’t always use the 16th-century underground cellar you’ll find in Ashford Castle for wine. It was the old servant’s entrance and the coal cellar that was where the workers would come with their coal buckets to take up what they needed to heat the rooms of the castle. In 2015, the South African Tollman family, who had just purchased the hotel, commissioned vast renovations, transforming the underground space into a luxurious wine cellar, with comfortable dining and tasting rooms, and stone walls adorned with tasting racks holding very special wines from decades gone by. Paul Fogerty, Head Sommelier of Ashford Castle, and his team of five sommeliers now manage the 800+ wine selection in Ashford Castle. Private wine tastings are available from Paul and his team in the underground cellars with over 20 wine flight options to choose from, and prices begin from €70. The wines of Bouchard Finlayson, the winery owned by the Tollman family in South Africa, are also widely available, like the wonderfully decadent Galpin Peak Pinot Noir priced at €90. Those with big pockets can enjoy such wines as Château Lafite Rothschild 2000, priced at €4,500, or the highly prized Champagne, Krug ‘Clos d’Ambonnay 2000’, at €7,500 a bottle.
Adare, County Limerick
There’s no expense spared in Adare Manor, from the lavish furnishing in the hotel bedrooms to the very best quality ingredients used in their on-site one-star Michelin restaurant, The Oak Room. The cellars at Adare are no exception, revamped with the rest of the hotel in 2017, with some of the 750 wines available found only at the resort itself, owing to the exclusivity and rarity of some of those bottles listed. Jonathan Jønsson, resort Head Sommelier at Adare, oversees the list here. It has Ireland’s largest collection of Krug Champagne and also has an array of vintages from ‘wine geese’ royalty like Château Lynch Bages from Pauillac in Bordeaux, ranging from €430 a bottle (2010) to €2,200 a bottle (1945). Although not quite as elegant as Ashford Castles’s magnificent underground cellars, Adare Manors own cellar space is certainly impressive to visit if given the opportunity. Private wine tastings are available daily with their sommelier team.
Dunbrody Country House Hotel
Arthurstown, County Wexford
Perhaps not the first hotel that comes to mind when thinking of grand hotel cellars in Ireland, this wine offering from Dunbrody Country House Hotel in Wexford however represents one of the country’s finest. The hotel is owned by Catherine Dundon and her celebrity chef husband, Kevin (who has also made his wine available to purchase at the hotel). Recently undergoing a €2 million investment, the hotel has ensured the wine offering available is at the same high level as its surroundings. Championing an ethos through the wine program of only adding wines to their list that are ‘sustainably farmed, boasting organic, bio-dynamic and have vegetarian’ considerations, there is tremendous value and choice to be found here. A star of the list, Champagne Louis Roederer ‘Cristal Vintage 2008, priced at only €395, is a relative bargain to be found, with its typical retail price now circling €500.
The Twelve Hotel
Barna, County Galway
It’s not often that a hotel GM is also the hotel’s resident sommelier. However, Fergus O’Halloran of Twelve Hotel fits it all in throughout his busy day. O’Halloran has led the wine program for many years, and during his time at the hotel, the property has amassed a considerable trophy cabinet of wine awards, including the very prestigious ‘Best wine list in Ireland’ from the Georgina Campbell Awards. The hotel was also one of the first to champion the ‘Coravin’ wine preservation system, which allows guests to experience exceptional offerings available such as the Sassicaia 2003 and O’Dwyer Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 by the glass. O’Halloran hosts the weekly ‘Wine West Wednesdays’ at The Twelve, which has become highly popular with locals. This is a relaxed and informal wine-focused get-together.
While the above-mentioned carry much grandeur and success, I’m very fortunate personally in my part-time role as a group wine consultant with The Doyle Collection hotel collection to oversee the wine cellar development of their Irish properties here. The Westbury Hotel in Dublin prominently features wine geese, female winemakers, and the pinnacle of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. Elsewhere in The River Lee Hotel in Cork, each wine hand selected for our cellar and list is organic, sustainable, and vegan-friendly in style.
The Best Hotel Wine Cellars in Ireland
Philip Dunne is the group wine consultant for The Doyle Collection and the owner of Vinspire Wine and Spirit Academy. Vinspire Wine and Spirit Academy is a leading wine and spirit education provider that offers the world renowned WSET qualifications to drinks enthusiasts, and those employed in the hospitality and retail industry here in Ireland. For more information on the courses, please visit www.vinspireacademy.com.