Wine Chats: Ian Fitzpatrick

This month DWT sat down to talk with Ian Fitzpatrick. Ian came into the wine world after working as a motoring journalist for four years. He is now the junior sommelier at the Carriage House in Adare Manor. Ian is one of my friends whom I met by chance. I was enjoying dinner with my friends at Piglet wine bar in Dublin and posted something on the Dublin Wine Trails Instagram about it. Ian saw it and came over to our table and introduced himself. We’ve all been friends ever since and regularly explore the Dublin wine scene together. He is one of the most enthusiastic wine people I know; he loves exploring different regions and grape varieties. One of his biggest wine loves is a ‘big dirty Shiraz’ (his words, not mine).

We all have a story of how we ended up working in the wine industry. How did you get into wine?

I’m the new kid on the block in the wine industry. I started training as a sommelier at Adare Manor in February 2018. Previously I worked in a small café in Howth called Il Panorama for four years. It specialises in Italian and Australian wine. So I suppose that’s how it all started.

I got serious about wine when I decided to take my new found passion to the next level and study for the WSET. My friend Patrick Santini, who is a winemaker, encouraged me to study wine and undertake the WSET courses. I have done Level 2 and am currently studying for Level 3. 

What do you find is the most interesting part of your job?

Definitely getting to meet all kinds of different people every day. Whether they are spending €30 on a bottle of wine or €300, I just love to chat to new people about wine.

 I love a customer’s reaction when they ask their server to speak to the sommelier and I rock up to the table; They’re quite surprised to see a clean shaven, baby-faced, 23 year old who probably knows less about wine than they do. However, I do know my wine list like the back of my hand so I tend to steer them in the right direction.  

What makes a good wine professional?

Confidence. Even if you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to admit it. I remember when I first started working at Adare Manor, if a customer asked for a particular bottle of wine, I sprinted down to ask the head sommelier in the Oak Room where the bottle was, what grape it was and if there was anything interesting I could tell the customer about that particular bottle. This allowed me to have conversations with customers as I was pouring and it was the best way to learn about wine.

What wines are you drinking at the moment?

 I change my mind so often! I’ve always been a fan of Beaujolais, these wines are so great. I recently attended a masterclass with Jamie Goode; it was then I realised how versatile and diverse this wine region is.

I’m also loving Valpolicella at the moment. As well as this, I’m trying to explore the world of natural wine. I recently tried the Craven Cinsault and really enjoyed it. I also loved Torbreck’s The Struie.

See? I’ve already moved through so many regions!

What’s your go-to region for consistently good/interesting wines?

I don’t really have a go-to region. I don’t tend to go for the same wine twice so change it up quite often. When I buy wine, I ask what the guys in the wine shop are drinking and base my decision on their recommendations.

Although, you can’t beat Alsace for interesting wines. I know it’s no secret but Alsace Rieslings are the sh*t!

If you had to pick favourite grape varieties – one white, one red, what would they be?

Riesling, for sure. I love how versatile it can be. Alsace creates a more mineral Riesling than one you might find in Rheinhessen, which can be more floral. Then you have Aussie Riesling, which is a completely different ball game altogether.

As for red, probably Shiraz. I love a big, "doirty" Shiraz from Australia. We have Paul Osikca's 2005 vintage on our list and it's definitely a hidden gem. I sometimes turn to Rhône Syrah. We have Alain Graillot's Crozes-Hermitage on our list and he's making some pretty special wines at the moment. In Rhone terms, he is also considered the new kid on the block!

 Have you tried any interesting bottles lately that you’d recommend?

Yeah, I bought a bottle of 2006 Chateau Musar a couple of months back. I was waiting for the right time to open it. That came about when one of my housemates came back from 2 weeks in Italy and another one of our friends was over from Portugal and we all had a rare day off together.

I let the wine breathe for about 2 hours and when I finally poured a glass, I fell for it. It was so cosy. Ripe Blackberries, toasty oak and lovely vanilla on the nose translated into a more herbaceous and fruity palate. I’d love to see how it develops over the next few years. What really made it was the company. It was the perfect setting, so simple.

 What would be your advice to someone who has just started appreciating wine or wants to work in the wine industry?

 Just go for it. Throughout college, I always had my eye on the motor and drinks industry. I wanted to go into the wine industry, but I thought it might be best going for a job related to my degree. But nine months later, I'm so glad I became a somm. I've learned so much by doing. I often take some quick tasting notes on wine when I'm drinking it, whether that be mentally or physically writing them.

Now I'm thinking wine 24/7. It might sound scary but it's not. In the journalism industry, there are a very few people who will give you solid advice. If you find these, hold onto them. But in the wine industry, they are very happy to see new comers on the scene. The wine trade is small and everyone knows each other but these connections are some of the best I've made.

Your favourite wine bar in Dublin or anywhere else…

Easy, Piglet. It holds a special place in my heart as it's the first wine bar that I properly got to know in Dublin. Patrick, whom I mentioned earlier, brought me there the first time we had a serious chat about me getting into wine.

There are new wine bars popping up all the time. There’s a new wine bar arriving in Limerick soon. It’s called Rift and is currently just serving coffee but keep your eyes on it, they'll be popping corks soon.