Named after Van Morrison’s album Avalon Sunset, Sheerin Wilde’s Donnybrook restaurant – Avalon – aims to provide customers with high quality pairings of wine and food. Having several regionally themed tastings a year, Sheerin, a sommelier by profession, works with the chef Alex to create a menu that has carefully selected wines that work with each course to give customers an all-round taste experience.

Wine is an undeniable force to be reckoned with in the food industry and with this in mind we spoke to Sheerin about how food and wine work together, what the market is currently like and what suppliers they use. How does Avalon create dishes to pair with wines? What is the process like?
Sheerin Wilde: When Alex and I sit down to create a dish, we start with the ethos of our menu: clean, fresh, flavours, removing as much salt and butter as possible, and using the Asian style flavours such as garlic, ginger, chili, lime, and lemongrass. We build our dishes and menu from there. As the sommelier, it is my job to select the wine to accompany food (never the other way around).

What are your thoughts on the wines available from Wines Direct as well as your opinion on Irish wine consumption – are our tastes broadening?
Wines Direct are leading the way when it comes to the breath and depth of wines in their portfolio. I think they are the best in Ireland. There service is second to none, and always 100% reliable. I love working with the crew there, which I have been doing for over 15 years now.

Should duty on wine be lowered?
In relation to taxation, it is outrageous the amount of VAT we have to pay on wine in this country. Customers returning from holidays are shocked by the price of the wines they have been enjoying in Spain or France for half the price. However, as a result the VAT issue has become a very public debate, which in turn, has made the public more understanding of the pricing of wine in restaurants.

What does Avalon offer that is unique?
What is unique about Avalon is that it is return to dining, where time is taken over the food and wine, and it is an ‘occasion’. It has become so commonplace for people to just eat out now, and the enjoyment of dining seems to have disappeared! There has been a move towards ‘cheap and cheerful’ and the customer rating an eaterie simply on price. How many times have we heard, ‘it’s good and cheap’! I want to bring back dining in the traditional sense of the word; and with a handful of other restaurants, am in the minority in this respect.

Does Avalon offer tastings on a regular basis?
We do about six different themed tastings each year, such as France, Italy and Spain. We have plans to do something quite different in 2018, which promises to be very exciting!

What criteria do you have for choosing wines?  What in your opinion makes a good wine?
I choose wines that best show the A.C. and search as many wineries as I can to find a wine that epitomises the essence of that appellation. I also try to represent as many appellations as I can, to give the customer the best and most comprehensive selection for them to choose from. And when I have found what I am looking for, I will buy an excellent vintage. Finding a great wine is always a wonderful feeling, but drinking that same great wine in an excellent vintage is sublime.

Can you give some examples of exciting pairings between meals and wines?
Great pairings can really make an evening for a diner. Of course, there are classic pairings such as Bordeaux with beef, Burgundy with game, and so on. But the exciting pairings come from working very closely with our chef. Alex and I will know what will work on the plate, but may alter the garnish to enhance the experience. We have found that pickling works very well with Riesling, counteracting and challenging on the palate. This is not new, they have used similar pairings in Alsace and Germany for a long time, but not everyone is aware of this, and it is great to see reactions of the customers when they taste the food and wine together!

What regions offer the best wines, in your opinion?
This is impossible to answer without going all Francophile! Each region has some fantastic wines. It is entirely up to the consumer to deem what is the best. I don’t have a favourite, and nor should I as a sommelier. The best wine? Moment, mood, and company make the best wines.

Who are your suppliers?
To ensure I have the best selection possible for my customers, I work with about 14 or 15 distributors. Wines Direct, Grace Campbell, Grapecircus, Nomad wines, Mason wines, Vinos Tito, Moores wines, Tyrrells wines, Morgans and Nicholson wines to name just a few. A lot of these suppliers specialise; for example Grapecircus specialises in Italian wines. These suppliers are collectively, the best importers in Ireland.

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