The good people of Portmarnock seem to have it all – a wonderful links course, a velvet strand, a bird sanctuary, an enclave of shops, and best of all, a great wine shop – Jus de Vine – the Harrod’s of Portmarnock. On approach a large sign outside indicates that you are about to enter a store that has had recognition piled upon it in heaps: ‘Dublin Off-Licence of the Year 2010’ is just the latest in a string of accolades.
Inside, you are met with a smile, either from Tommy, Paul or Julie, or one of their well-trained staff. The temptation to describe it as an Aladdin’s Cave would be inaccurate, as the floor area and judicious lighting is far from cavernous. A veritable candy-store for adults, it has more of a Middle-Eastern bazaar feel, with wood shavings on the floor, and ‘islands’ of lavish temptations dotted around like a treasure trail.
Take for example a 50 case floor display of Bordeaux classed growths, all cradled in wooden Bordeaux cases, waiting for some loving owner to take them home. Sail on to the pupitre-shaped island of domaine Burgundies, with aged bottles of silky Burgundy from great producers, including an old favourite, Domaine Dujac. One of their most popular islands, according to Paul, is the one called ‘Some little gems’ which allows the owners to showcase their own personal favourites, which have been hand-selected through rigorous tasting trials. Here you will find Pauls’ favourite – Susterris 2008 – a Sauvignon/Semillon blend from northern Spain, priced at €18. “Sure where would you get it,” as they say in the west of Ireland.
Julie’s female intuition is evident in the well-thought out complementary items such as gift cards and flowers, as well as the vast window display which entices passers-by in on dark autumnal evenings on their way home from work. This is merely another string to her bow, for a bright creative young woman, who is highly regarded by wine trade professionals for her palate and commercial acumen. Tommy’s nonchalant manner belies a passion for Bordeaux and Burgundy (watch his cool blue eyes twinkle as he talks about either), which only slightly overshadows his other great grá, Alsace.
Like Harrod’s, you could be tempted to spend a lot of money here, as the wares are such fine quality and beautifully presented. But you don’t have to. As well as all these superb ‘pleasure islands’ you can come back to land with an infinite array of hand-picked gems from all around the world.
There are some fabulous wines offered, many of which are reduced in price, and for much less than the price of a round of drinks: Dom Rafael Vinho Tinto Alentejo at €14.99 (“Portugese – powerful, earthy, a little oak” Paul enthusiastically tells me), the stunningly good and flavoursome Zenato Valpolicella at €9.99 (normally €12.49), the excellent and much-favoured Pesquera Ribera del Duero from Alejandro Fernandez at €19.99 (a great wine deal, this is normally €23.99).
When you listen to Paul telling you where the wine comes from and how the wine was made, you realise that good wines by nature cannot be cheap. However, in buying wine from a well-informed shop like Jus de Vine, it is a bit like having a personal shopper. They do the work for you, so you know you will leave with a great selection.
My very first-ever wine course was in Jus de Vine, and while they no longer run wine courses, my respect and admiration for this outfit lingers on. Go for a walk this weekend on Portmarnock’s Velvet Strand and pick up a little gem from the twinkley-eyed man.