Interview With A Sommelier – Philip Dunne

28th June 2023

Interview With A Sommelier Philip Dunne

The World of Wine is beautifully showcased by an army of talented Sommeliers, who help the consumer discover their next favourite bottle, understand the different regions and pair a delicious meal with the right Glass of Bubbly.

In this feature, I speak with a man who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Philip Dunne. Now let’s find out a bit about his life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“I’m originally from Kildare in Ireland, now based in Dublin. I started my wine career when I was 18 by completing the first few levels of WSET and working in a wine-focused restaurant in Dublin. When I was 23 I became the Head Sommelier of one of the world’s great hotels, Ashford Castle, in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. I was fortunate to win awards such as the ‘Best wine experience in Ireland’ and ‘Sommelier of the Year’ at our national restaurant awards while working there. Nowadays, I’m the group sommelier for the Doyle Collection group, a collection of Irish owned luxury hotels based in Ireland, the UK, and the USA. I’ve also recently started my own company, Vinspire Wine and Spirit Academy which is the first in Ireland to offer both the WSET wine courses and the new WSET spirit courses. I also specialise in wine and spirits education for the hospitality industry across Ireland.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“While studying a business degree in university and WSET courses simultaneously, I found I enjoyed much more my wine studies than business studies! Passionate business owners and mentors in my early career spurred me on through my late teens and early twenties to make this a career for myself.”

During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising Thing You’ve Learnt?

“That good wine doesn’t have to be expensive, and some very expensive wines aren’t worth anywhere near their price tag. It’s all a matter of opinion and subjective, however.”

How Often Do You Find Yourself Recommending English Sparkling Wine?

“English sparkling wine as we’ll have seen has ascended in popularity within the UK market over the last number of years. Within the Doyle Collection hotel group where I design wine lists for, it’s a privilege to be partnered with Rathfinny who makes exceptional sparkling wines in Sussex. Across our properties in the UK in 2022, we in fact sold as much English sparkling wine as we did Champagne in terms of volume, which is an incredible testament to the category’s growth and how our teams are supporting our local sparkling wine producers.”

In Your Professional Opinion, Out Of Champagne And Prosecco, Which Do You Think Does A Better Job With Complementing A Meal?

“It of course depends on the food (thinking about the sauces, purées, textures, etc.), and the style of the Prosecco or Champagne you are pairing against it. It’s important not to dismiss Prosecco as a ‘one trick pony’ of being only light, fruity, and fresh. Some more premium examples can be very complex. It must be said however I’d be more inclined to reach for a bottle of good quality Champagne than Prosecco though when pairing it with a meal!”

What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Sommeliers?

“Go and work a year or two at least in a world-class restaurant or hotel with a huge, diverse wine cellar – you’ll learn as much doing that than you’ll get from learning from any textbook. Taste, taste, taste. Study wine maps. Go to events and network. Be curious about wine – find out more about that grape variety, that producer, or that region.”

If You Sat Down For A Quiet Dinner, What Dish And Sparkling Wine Would You Choose To Enjoy Together?

“Something lovely from my favourite Champagne house, Charles Heidsieck with a dish involving white truffle.”

Thank you, Philip, for sharing your words, knowledge and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Philip Dunne. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.