Meet the Innovators – entrepreneurial people, doing what they love.
A chat with Neighbourhood Wines co-owner, Mick O’Connell.
We met up with Mick at his shop at Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 4, to have a chat about his business which celebrates a one year anniversary this year. We spoke to Mick about his journey into the wine trade, how his switch into retail is going, desert island bottles and a whole lot more.
Neighbourhood Wine opened its doors back in November 2020, and since then has gone on to open at two more locations. One in Dun Laoghaire and one in Bray. Stocking over 500 different wines, the original location is housed in a former pub on Leeson Street in South Dublin. The interior has a great feel to it, with old wooden floors, paired back walls and even a full size bar towards the back. It’s the kind of place you go for the specific purpose of buying some wine, but once you're inside, you can’t help but browse the substantial record collection or the craft beer offering or maybe the selection of beautiful glassware, from the likes of Austrian brands Grassl or Riedel. Thankfully, with such a selection of wine, help is never far away if you find yourself wondering what to choose. There is a very extensive French selection, with sections dedicated to areas such as Burgundy, Rhone or Bordeaux, but the selection of wine from around the world is equally impressive.
Chatting with Mick, it's clear he loves wine. Starting in the drinks industry pretty much straight out of school, he went on to hone his skill in the wine industry, spending time in London before coming back to Ireland and working with one of the bigger importers in the country. From our conversation, I get the feeling Mick has a soft spot for France. He clearly appreciates all wine, but from the way he speaks about Burgundy in particular, you can tell he very much enjoys this type of wine.
I asked Mick about Irish growers at the moment and if there are any to note. One in particular came to mind that he was aware of, which is David Llewellyn, based in Lusk in North County Dublin. He’s producing a wine at the moment called 'Lusca', which according to Mick, is very good. There are however, other Irish people who are producing great wine at the moment, just not in Ireland. Apart from Mick's own brand, 'Garnacha Not Guerra' (translated to Garnacha Not War) which comes from Sardinia, and is easily recognizable in the shop from its green waxed top, he’s keen to mention the great things that Roisin Curley from Co. Mayo is doing in Burgundy, and Simon Tyrrell is doing, also in France.
We went on to speak about finding great wine around the city, and interestingly enough, he manages to break this into two different categories. For a more casual, but nonetheless fantastic experience, he mentions Fish Shop on Benburb Street in Dublin 7, and Etto and Uno Mas, both in Dublin 2, as having great wine lists to accompany their great food and overall dining experience. For a different experience, he talks passionately about the time and effort that restaurants such as Chapter One in Dublin 1 and Restaurant Patrick Guibaud, put into their wine selection, noting that there are wines in both restaurants, that the restaurant will sit on and not offer for sale, until the time is just right, to experience the wine at its best.
It’s no surprise that food is important to any wine lover, but for Mick, I get the feeling that the wine comes first, especially when he mentions that it would be quite normal for him to choose the wine before choosing the food when in a restaurant. He tells me that for him, the food doesn’t have to be fancy. Any ham & cheese toasted sandwich can be uplifted by a lovely Burgundy or his go to, Cotes du Boeuf, will be very happy with something like a Nebbiolo, but to keep it even more simple, a salty piece of Stilton cheese and a good Port is hard to beat.
There are some great things happening in Neighbourhood Wine during the coming winter months, with tastings and evenings happening through the calendar, but why wait until then. Your next midweek treat is there waiting for you.
It’s coming up to midday, and the shop is already getting busy, so we’ll have to leave it there.