For anyone who loves fishing, pubs, Irish whiskey and music, anyway. But most of us would never think to make a connection between the Emerald Isle and wine… “You’d be wrong!” says young French sommelier Julie Dupouy, “Contrary to popular belief, the Irish do love their wine, and don’t just stick to beer”.
Having been educated at the prestigious Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Julie Dupouy has been working as a sommelier in Ireland since 2004. She currently oversees a list of over 450 wines at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin. We went to meet Ireland’s “Best Sommelier” 2009 and 2012, to find out a bit more aboutIreland’s secret love affair with wine.
In 2011, wine represented 26% of all alcoholic drinks sold in Ireland. The trend is slowly rising; how do you yourself view the Irish nation’s interest in wine?
I’ve seen interest grow, not only in wine consumption but also in people’s curiosity and interest in wine.Irelanddidn’t really have a wine culture to speak of – the Irish have never really kept up with the English in this respect – but now we’re seeing more and more interest developing in tasting clubs, wine courses and private tastings.
What role do French wines play at Fallon and Byrne?
French wines have always had, and always will have, a very good reputation. They sell well, although people still think of them as expensive. For years, everywhere I’ve worked, the top sellers have tended to be Sancerre, Chablis and Gigondas. At the moment, our problem here is that just as the wine culture is starting to blossom, the government seems determined to add tax after tax to this “luxury” product.
What is the attitude to French wines as compared to the New World?
As I mentioned, French wines are thought to be expensive. Unlike wines from other countries, they are seen as complex and highly sophisticated – quite a frightening concept for some! There are three types of customer: those who drink only French wines, those who are embarrassed that they know nothing about wine, and who drink New World wines because they feel a part of that culture; and finally there is the new breed of wine lover: enquiring, open-minded, and always ready for something new. This group, by and large, absolutely love French wines.
How important is grape variety for your customers?
Very important, in fact, as long as it’s a name they recognise. It often seems to be a relief for the customer to see a familiar name on the label: no need to ask for advice, no risk of appearing ignorant.
I don’t think that these two varietals mean very much at all here. On the other hand everyone has heard of Côtes du Rhône. It could be a Côtes du Rhône Villages or a Vacqueyras – but the minute people hear Côtes du Rhône, they immediately feel that they’re on familiar ground.
In France people are showing more and more interest in all the finer details of the wine: varietals, provenance, how it’s made, the history of the estate etc. What about in Ireland?
In general, people are beginning to want to know more. Organic, biodynamic and natural credentials, for example, are all good selling points.
What type of wine would best describe the Irish climate?
If we’re talking about weather, I would definitely say something that’s been watered down! But if by climate we mean hospitality and quality of life, I’d go for a wine that is warm and friendly…