WLC recommends: Ely Wine Bar, Dublin

Douglas Blyde heads across the Irish Sea to visit Ely Wine Bar, located on Dublin’s Ely Place. While there, he hears how the Covid-19 pandemic forced wine manager Ian Brosnan to “drastically change the format” of the wine list, and discovers why the bar refuses to offer Torrontés. Taken from the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide, available to buy now.

 

Brosnan

“The wine list here is not just a five-star list: it vies with Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud as the best list in the whole of Ireland. It is a 29-page ode to the joys of wine,” wrote the late Business Post wine and spirit correspondent Tomas Clancy of Ely Wine Bar.

Although the list has undergone many changes since opening in 1999, it was the Covid-enforced closure that forced wine manager Ian Brosnan to sell a volume of fine wines through Ely’s wine store. “When we were finally able to reopen, we had to drastically change the format,” he recalls. Hence, rather than offering extensive selections in every region, he introduced deep dives into featured producers. “These change every couple of months and have included Brovia Barolo, Algueira in Ribeira Sacra, Jonathan Didier Pabiot in Pouilly-Fumé, Bindi from Macedon Ranges, Arpepe from Valtellina, Charles Heidsieck and Henschke.”

The list opens with the words: “Sustainability, quality and value are our guiding principles, and our only ethos is drinkability.” But don’t raise the term “natural” with Brosnan, which, he says, “implies if some wines are natural, then others are somehow ‘not natural’ which is just crap”. First and foremost, Brosnan demands wines which, after the first glass, “you’ll want to drink a second”. Of course, the charming setting helps, with “time passing differently” in the basement wine bar of this beautiful Georgian house, while the ground floor room has a grander feel, and is popular for small, city weddings.

Born in 1976, from which he has enjoyed, in recent years, a bottle of CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva, “which was ageing better than me”, the grappa-loving applied biology graduate describes his first love as microbiology – “viruses in particular – long before they became so popular”. He first joined Ely Wine Bar in 2001, left after a year, then re-joined a decade later in 2012, by which time Ely had become a three-strong restaurant collection. “In the decade since, we’ve closed one, opened another and added a retail and online dimension, as well as importing a select number of wineries exclusively.”

Dishes have become closer aligned to the Veneto, from where head chef Luca Rocco originates. “His seabass ceviche with pickled melon, pepper and parsley is a delight on its own, but really sings alongside a glass of Brovia’s Roero Arneis,” notes Brosnan, who will never playlist a Torrontés, which “doesn’t work with anything”.

Score: 93 Value: 95 Size: 93 Range: 93 Originality: 91 Experience: 93

Pick up your copy of the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide here.

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