Wine not? What an Irish wine expert is sipping on (and hoarding) this spring
Lisa O’Doherty is chief sommelier at The K Club Hotel & Resort, Kildare (Ireland’s first AA 5-Red-star hotel) since 2003, where she acts as custodian and wine expert for the golf and spa resort’s impressive fine wine cellar as well as overseeing all wine purchasing, training of beverage staff and online recommendations to corporate clients. In 2017, Lisa attended the prestigious Champagne Academy in Rheims, France, where she became the second Irish person in 61 years to win the Academy’s Golden Magnum.
Lately I’ve been enjoying drinking Assyrtiko, which is indigenous to the Greek island of Santorini. It’s almost like Albarino but with a searing minerality and its wonderful with fish or lighter meat dishes. Gaia (who are Italian) produce a beautiful one too.
Related: City escaping to The K Club
This spring, I’ll be drinking lots of Albarino – it’s still my go-to home wine, and the one I would buy for other people too. It’s a real grown-up wine.
I’m looking forward to the new season lamb coming back on the menu and pairing it with St Emilion, but a really nice 2007 vintage which has that softness that comes from maturity – it’s something we just don’t do enough, is let wines age. Pinot Noir from New Zealand are gorgeous when people are coming out of drinking lot of winter reds and looking for lighter wines. And if we get another good summer, I’m looking forward to embracing rosé again.
Related: What’s the difference between biodynamic, organic, and natural wine?
The thing I love most about my job is meeting like-minded people. I’m at the K Club 16 years and four years before that in the Shelbourne – 20 years ago, people were terrified to talk to the sommelier, convinced they’d just try to sell you the most expensive wine on the list – but now there’s a real interest in wine and people want to chat about what they’re drinking and experiment with something new.
I also love that wine changes every year, with new vintages, new wine-makers, new vineyards and regions to discover, and so it’s always interesting.
I never thought I’d have a career in wine – I did my first wine course with my mum when I was in college, just as an extra-curricular thing.
My most memorable wine experience was attending (and winning!) the 2017 Champagne Academy in Rheims: tasting all those champagnes surrounded by the most beautiful Grand Marque chateau, it re-invigorated my love of champagne and my passion to make people realise that champagne is not just something for a toast but is a dinner wine too and should be treated like a Meursault or a good Burgundy – just watch your glassware, which should be wider than the typical champagne flute.
Related: Drinking wine with Aniar Restaurant’s sommelier
For me, the most exciting wine is being produced in organic and biodynamic vineyards; the South of France is the forerunner, but then they have the climate for it.
The best value wines today are coming from Spain, where you still get a real bang for your buck.
My dream cellar would contain old Bordeaux (lots of 2010 vintage, which I adore) and I would walk over broken glass for good white Burgundy so as much DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) as possible. And lots of quirky wines too, things like Assyrtiko, because wine shouldn’t taste the same. Oh and as much Krug and Charles Heidsieck as I can fit into the rest of it!