© Barry McCall 2014
© Matteo Tuniz 2014
Below are the answers to frequently asked questions about Terroirs. If you are looking for an answer, it’s likely you’ll find it here.
When did you open Terroirs?
Terroirs has been trading in Dublin since November 1994.
Who owns Terroirs?
Terroirs is owned by Seán and Françoise Gilley. Terroirs is an Irish owned company.
What did Seán and Françoise Gilley do before opening Terroirs?
From the age of 18, Seán, a Dubliner, worked part time in a local Off-Licence business before succumbing to what he describes as the ‘pure fascination’ of the business. “Wine is such a living product” Seán says, “It is pure excitement, the way it changes all the time, that's what really got me.” But he was well and truly bitten by the bug after experiencing the harvest in Bordeaux in 1985. Seán also graduated from London’s famous Wine Trust, where he gained a diploma with distinction.
After over a decade working as an Off-Licence manager, and with a knowledge fired with passion and an affection for business, Seán decided it was time to start up his own venture: "I wanted to move away from a full off-licence and create a boutique shop selling only the very best".
Françoise, from Saumur in the Loire Valley, had an interest in wine from a very young age. At 10 she was already in charge of her father’s amazing vaulted cellar – she knew where all the wines were placed. At the family table, she was regularly asked to smell and taste the wine before anybody else did. She travelled to local wine fairs with her winemaker uncle.
After completing a Master in International Business at Fontainebleau, Françoise was offered, a two year position in Public Relation at Clos du Val winery in Napa Valley, where in 1992 she worked alongside Bernard Portet, the then winemaker and co-founder of Clos Du Val. (Bernard Portet is considered one of the forefathers of the Napa Valley wine industry.) Prior to going to Clos du Val, Françoise came to Ireland to work six months for a Dublin based wine importer. He introduced her to all his clients, one of whom was Seán!
On returning from California in early 1994, Seán and Françoise began to plan Terroirs.
Why did you open Terroirs?
We both had a boundless passion and enthusiasm for good wines. We both have had the same approach to food and wine – we are quality-obsessed.
Back in 1994 our ambition was to open a wine shop that also sold a pretty comprehensive range of speciality French foods as well as an extensive range of wine accessories and wine gifts. In the mid 90’s it was a real challenge to open a wine only shop as all shops in Ireland were Off-Licences selling beers and spirits. We wanted to create a unique environment for true wine lovers.
Since the opening of Terroirs our goal has never changed nor has our search for benchmarks wines, accessories, food and gifts, which run throughout the shop.
Why did you call your shop Terroirs?
Terroir is an all embracing French word, commonly used in France and more and more commonly, used around the world.
The terroir is the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including, factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.
We felt that calling our shop Terroirs would refer to the many vineyards and areas of the world producing an array of wines with distinctive and unique personalities and tastes.
“The very French notion of terroir looks at all the natural conditions which influence the biology of the vinestock and thus the composition of the grape itself. The terroir is the coming together of the climate, the soil and the landscape. It is the combination of an infinite number of factors: temperature by night and day, rainfall distribution, hours of sunlight, slope and drainage, to name but a few. All these factors react with each other to form, in each part of the vineyard, what French winegrowers call a terroir." Bruno Prats, former owner and winemaker of Château Cos d'Estournel in Médoc.
How do you describe your shop, Terroirs?
“Terroirs is really a boutique wine shop, and in a city with many great places to buy wine, that style has meant that Terroirs has remained distinct, different and, as such, always delightful. Neither fashion, nor age can alter it, thank heavens.” wrote Sally and John McKenna in their Irish Food Guide.
We wished to achieve an intimate shopping outlet positively screaming with style and elegance. And it is with the assistance of award wining Dublin architect, Des McMahon that we have created a timeless aesthetic in our store. Mc Mahon’s love for wine and enthusiastic professionalism, were essential – he united classicism and sobriety where one can browse around.
As there is no equivalent word in the English language for 'Terroirs', there is no equivalent shop in the whole of Ireland.
What is Terroirs philosophy?
Terroirs philosophy is to stay always relevant, always surprising, always enterprising, always meticulous, and to stay as focused as ever, without forgetting a total commitment to perfection in everything we sell.
Proud to be a niche wine merchant, Terroirs selection of wine is very personal to both of us. Many wines have a distinctive story to tell – that of grower champagne, organic or bio-dynamic viticulture or just being from passionate artisans making great tasting wines that are different!
These artisan producer wines are often unavailable in Ireland but we import directly and hence ensure quality and distinction at highly competitive prices. This is the excellence of everything, which we source with careful discrimination – wines, foods, accessories, gifts – that makes Terroirs very special. At Terroirs, everything represents a treat; from the everyday bottle of wine to the crystal decanter or from the jam to the rare bottle. There is nothing on the shelves that isn’t less than covetable.
Terroirs’s pride is to offer an efficient and attentive personal service with style.
Terroirs - Two decades on
When in 1994, newly married Seán & Françoise Gilley decided to open their own wine shop in Donnybrook Dublin 4, their youth protected them from realising the immense challenge ahead of them. They couldn’t have known that the next twenty years would be tumultuous for Ireland with a great economic boom followed by a crushing recession!
In the mid 90’s it was a real challenge to open a “wine-only” shop in the largely Off-Licence culture of Ireland. The Gilleys with their quality driven passion for good wine and food wanted to create a special environment for true wine lovers. They sensed a gap and therefore an opportunity to create an outlet that did not exist in Dublin at the time: a stylish shop where the very best of wines were available with the finest speciality foods, wine accessories and gifts.
The young couple bravely but cautiously opened Terroirs in mid-November 1994. Dubliners and wine lovers from across the country adapted to this new experience of shopping in a distinctive and aesthetic space with a relaxing ambience. (They were enticed from outside by the delectable window displays still designed by Françoise)
For Seán & Françoise Gilley, opening their own shop - their own business - was not just a ‘passage in their lives’. They saw it (and still see it) as their profession, their vocation, their dream come true. They continue to show total commitment to the highest business standards.
Provenance is extremely important to them and they like to hold that “if you care about what you eat then you must care about what you drink.” They have developed strong ties with small, caring and meticulous wine producers, mostly from France over the years. Fine wine sales ever on the increase, are supervised by Seán with his wealth of oenophile knowledge. The Gilleys continue to offer everyday best value quality in addition to a range of sumptuous and rare fine wines, all courteously presented. As a husband and wife team, Seán & Françoise have always taken pride in what they do. Through the highs and lows of the Irish economy they have recognized how to adapt to the demands of their clients including online business. However they have carefully ensured that their ‘Terroirs philosophy’ remains intact.
In twenty years, Seán and Françoise Gilley are justifiably proud of their achievements due to their combined knowledge, their determination, their enterprising flair, their optimism, their impeccable and friendly service and finally their savoir-faire and integrity. Seán & Françoise Gilley’s dream and aspiration was to serve wine lovers well. That this has been realised is shown by their loyal client base and steady increase in new customers. Terroirs has become a legend and is sparkling like a fine Champagne. It is hoped that it will continue to age as well as its finest vintages.
© Matteo Tuniz 2014
© Matteo Tuniz 2014