Where to get a glass of decent wine
Instead of cracking open a dull and dusty quarter bottle, more and more restaurants and bars are offering interesting wines by the glass
Greenacres in Selskar, Wexford
Ely wine bar, Ely Place, Dublin 2
There was a time when we were delighted to come across a row of quarter bottles in a pub; it seemed to promise a glass of fresh and fruity wine, a welcome change from the vinegary old liquid that was frequently poured from a bottle opened weeks earlier. With time we realised that not all these quarter bottles were as fresh as they seemed (some have a very limited shelf-life) and frequently the wines were simply not very good. More and more restaurants and bars are starting to offer wines by the glass instead.
Thankfully it is slowly becoming easier to find a glass of something a little more interesting than the bog standard Pinot Grigio and Chilean Merlot when you don’t want to buy a full bottle of wine.
A good wine bar or café should be able to rotate a few less hackneyed names on a regular basis, giving regulars a welcome change while encouraging customers to experiment a little. By avoiding wastage they can keep prices reasonable and not punish their customers for ordering a glass.
In other countries, “somms” (or sommeliers) take pride in wooing customers onto new, more exciting, though not necessarily more expensive, wines. It doesn’t have to be a sommelier in a restaurant though; a bar, wine bar or café can, with a little effort, put together an interesting list of wines by the glass, giving customers a reason to return. With the well-publicised problems that many of our pubs currently face, it could make a real difference. Yet so many seem reluctant to take a risk.
Faced with the standard choice of a Pinot Grigio, Chilean Sauvignon or Chardonnay for white wines, and their equivalent in red, I increasingly find myself ordering a beer. In many pubs you will often find a greater range of beers than wine, and sometimes more interesting too. There is nothing inherently wrong with all of the above wines, but frequently they are bought on price rather than quality, and there are so many more interesting alternatives.
One or two wines of the week, available by the glass, can make such a difference. The technology now exists to keep wine fresh for a few days or more, so the risk seems minimal. If they can offer a full range of sherries by the glass in Ballylickey, then surely others can make a little more effort. Restaurants frequently offer a greater range, possibly because they also sell wine by the carafe, but these days many of us want to enjoy a glass of wine without food, or maybe with a little plate of nibbles. Below are 16 establishments around the country that make an extra effort to offer a decent range of wines by the glass without obliging you to order food. Some operate as restaurants as well, others are bars first and don’t really serve food.
I am sure there are many more, and would be delighted to hear from you if you have a local favourite.
L’Atitude 51, 1 Union Quay, Cork
A friendly atmospheric bar cum café cum restaurant serving 50 wines, most of them interesting and most available in a tasting sample, by the glass or half-carafe. Decent beers, nibbles, lunch and dinner are also offered.
Jacques, 23 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork
Jacques has been around for 30 years but only recently opened a more causal area, with separate entrance, offering a very tasty tapas menu alongside a short but very well-chosen list of wines by the glass, pichet or bottle.
Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey, Co Cork
Andrew Heath has a passion for sherry, and this one of the few places in Ireland where you can haul up and order a glass of chilled fino with a few choice nibbles. At the moment he has a full range of sherries by the glass. There is a wine shop and an ever-changing blackboard with some real gems at great prices. The range of wines by the glass is small but always interesting.
The Black Pig, Kinsale, Co Cork
Run by Gavin and Siobhán Ryan, late of Ely wine bar, the Black Pig has one of the most wonderful, changing, eclectic wine lists in the country, including many wines by the glass. Food is sourced from excellent local producers. Every town should have one.
Monk’s Lane, Timoleague, Co Cork
Monk’s Lane has a list of around 20 wines, all available in four different servings. All the well-known names are there, alongside a few more imaginative choices.
Greenacres, Selskar, Wexford
As befits one of the best wine importers in the country, Greenacres offers six white wines and six red by the glass, generally at €6-€7.50 a glass. The weekly specials also look like terrific value. There is also a wonderful wine shop if you need a carry-out.
Cava Bodega, 1 Middle Street Mews, Galway
Owned by JP McMahon and Drigín Gaffey, Cava Bodega offers an innovative selection of tapas and a comprehensive list of Spanish wines, beers and ciders, including a well-chosen selection by the glass.
Sheridans, Church Yard St, Galway
A truly tantalising range of wines (largely Italian) by the glass, to enjoy with Sheridan’s wonderful cheeses. A very pleasant place to while away an hour or two.
Neill’s Hill Brasserie, Upper Newtonards Road, Belfast
A good, constantly changing selection by the glass or bottle, cocktails, good coffee, all with or without food.
Deane’s Deli Vin Café, Bedford Street, Belfast
The casual side of the Deane’s empire, a café by day and wine bar at night with decent wine and lots of light plates of food to nibble on.
The Malton Hotel, Town Centre, Killarney, Co Kerry
The Killarney Wine Room in the Malton has an enomatic wine dispenser that not only keeps wine fresh for an extended period, but also allows you to try before you buy one of 16 different wines by the glass. Having tried them elsewhere I can assure you they are great fun to play with.