Just awarded its first Michelin Star, Roger and Sue Jones' The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in Wiltshire is also known for its extensive wine list. The 900-bin list, ranging in price from £18 to £900, is Roger's, but since he can't cook and serve wine he kindly lets Sue supervise wine service. I took him away from the stove to talk me through his list.
? What makes the list so special.
Value, aged vintages of Rare New World Wines, vertical years of great wines… the best selection of quality wines by the glass in the UK. And each entry has its own write up, written by me.
? You change the list daily, is this a chore for a working chef?
We can update it in an instant… I do it myself at the same time as I print the daily changing menu.
? What is the point of a big list?
As the saying goes, it is not the size, it's what you do with it. Merely having six pages of first growth Bordeaux is no good if you are not going to sell the wines. We want to see wines moving, and we are happy with the majority of the listings.
? Does the list have to be comprehensive?
Our list is far from comprehensive, we have little top Bordeaux, and much of our aged Burgundy has been depleted by happy punters over the last 12 months. Germany is not well represented by us, but Ernie Loosen is working with us to improve that with some aged wines from his cellars.
? How do you work out margins?
Simple answer – we don't! The important thing is to buy well, we only buy from the direct importer, never a middleman, we fight for the lowest price, and on the whole we expect Agency Prices. We buy in bulk, pay on time and look after our suppliers. We also import directly.
? You're proud of your low mark-ups.
What does your accountant say?
? What do customers say?
Most keep quiet – thinking that we have made a mistake, but they certainly buy lots of wine from us.
? Tell me about the By The Glass offer. How do you avoid wastage?
We use Le Verre de Vin preservation system, which creates a vacuum in still wine and puts a layer of C02 on champagne. It is a very small system that sits smartly under the bar. Wine and Champagne stays fresh for 21 days.
Promoting by the glass is great publicity, and last year we got plenty of press for selling Penfold's Grange 1997 by the glass (£30), Krug 1995 Vintage (£21.00), The Octavius Old Vine Barossa (£14.00), Cloudy Bay SB (£5.00).