Fionnuala Harkin

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If Fionnuala Harkin hadn't gotten lucky, she could very well have wound up as a politician.
She has the talk, and the calm demeanour, and the smarts, everything you need to convince the voter to give you their Number One. The problem is that she lacks the necessary cynicism, that sense of apartness which politicians don like a lizard skin.
It was always thus. More than two decades ago, when she was running her eponymous “Little Italian Restaurant” on Ashe Street in Clonakilty, West Cork, we wrote that “The dining room, with its appropriately well-worn feel, looks like the stage set of some amateur dramatic production, but there is nothing stagey about the friendliness and the good heart of the cooking.”
Friendliness. Good heart. Yes, that's about right.
But hang on a minute, we hear you saying. Isn't Fionnuala Harkin the legendary sales rep for Wines Direct, the brilliant bespoke wine company established by the late Paddy Keogh? And you're telling us she used to cook and run a little Italian place in Clonakilty?!
Indeed, but don't be surprised. Ms Harkin has that autodidactic quality that means she can run an Italian restaurant one day, and morph into a superlative wine seller the next. She goes for it. That's the surfer spirit in her.
The ardour that could have convinced the voter on the doorstep will today convince you that the José Pariente verdejo, or the Domaine de l'Hortus, is exactly the wine you need on your wine list, on your dinner table, at your wedding. Since 2006 Ms Harkin has brought her sense of enquiry to bear on the world of wine, and in a blog post from Burgundy she once explained that “We aim to bring to our customers a true taste of the hills and rocky outcrops from which these wines emerge.” But it was the qualifier to that sentence that spelt out the humility of the great wine merchant: “That we don't have to tend, prune, weed, harvest or make the wine; only to taste, to enjoy and to share. It is our great privilege”
To taste, to enjoy and to share: that's not just wine, that's philosophy.