MY PARTNER, Eileen Buckley, and I are from Limerick and we used to work for Eileen's father in his coffee business. We were looking to set up a business of our own and were familiar with The Wine Buff as customers of the Limerick branch so we made the leap and set up the first Dublin shop in June. It's a franchise and there are 18 shops around Ireland. Paddy O'Flynn, who set up The Wine Buff, is based in St Emilion and sources all the wines.
Each shop carries 130 wines and they are exclusive to us. The wines are from France, Spain, Italy and Hungary and are all from small, family-run vineyards. At the moment we don't carry any new world wines because they tend to be mass-produced and any wines that are available from small, family-run vineyards end up being prohibitively expensive. That may change in the future, of course . . . Paddy spent three months in Australia last year researching possibilities.
The shop is open on Sunday so it's a working day for us. We usually have a bit of a lie-in and then head to the shops for the papers and the makings of a leisurely breakfast before opening the shop at one. At the moment, though, I'm crewing on a yacht belonging to Bobby Kerr, one of the founders of Insomnia, for a six-week series of races out of the Royal Irish Yacht Club on Sunday mornings. There are 84 boats competing and we're out for three hours . . . I love to get out on the sea especially if it's a clear day with a good bit of wind.
Sunday is actually my favourite day of the week in the shop because although it's busy it's also very relaxed. Our customers are under less pressure than they might be during the week and they have more time for tasting and for a bit of a chat. A lot of customers are people who are out walking and just drop in. There are three wine shops in Glasthule/Sandycove . . . it's turning into the wine corner of Ireland! Each shop has a different angle and sells different wines so a lot of people visit all three shops . . . wine tourism, I suppose. We know all the wines that we stock fairly well ourselves so I wouldn't do much tasting myself . . .
we try and stay steady at work and do our tasting at home! Either that or taste and spit. As it's our first year in business, we don't really know what to expect in terms of the Christmas rush but at the moment we're doing a lot of corporate gifts and I expect it'll be more heavily retail once we move into December. At the Heavenly Gifts fair we're doing mainly gift packs and there'll be 20 or so wines for tasting.
Lunch is a sandwich from the Spar next door and if there's a match on during the afternoon, Eileen might let me slip off to Fitzgerald's pub across the road for a pint. Being from Limerick I have to make sure to catch all the Munster matches.
Sunday evening is our Saturday night because the shop is closed on Monday.
Unfortunately most of our friends have to work on Monday so it's not always easy to round people up for pints. If we do manage to organise a few people we might head for Kehoe's on South Anne Street or McCluskey's in Donnybrook, which is our local. Otherwise we sometimes have the bags already packed in the car and head down to Limerick to see our families as soon as we close the shop at seven. Either that or else just open a nice bottle at home in front of the TV.