Uncorked: Kelvin McCabe

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kelvin McCabe sommelier Hackney Coterie

Related tags: Uncorked, Wine, Sommelier, Kelvin McCabe

The sommelier and co-owner of Hackney Coterie on his policy of working with smaller producers, esoteric varietals, and lesser-known regions and his love of Christophe Baron's The Bionic Frog.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine

My mum tells me that as a child in Spain I used to run around to the tables asking locals for sips of wine, so perhaps then! As far as I remember, I have always been intrigued. The first time I seriously considered it as a profession was when I met whisky legend Colin Dunn in the restaurant I was working at the time, Taman Gang in Park Lane. He came to do a training on Bowmore whisky and the way he spoke to us about the thing he loved really stuck with me. I attended more trainings and tastings for the restaurant and started to pick up a bit of a talent for it. Some of the winemakers we worked with suggested I take it all more seriously, and so I did. 

Tell us about your wine list at Hackney Coterie​  

It’s an approachable list with a focus on discovery. We work with smaller producers, esoteric varietals, and lesser-known regions, balanced with more familiar styles and fine wines. Most of the list is organic, biodynamic and minimal Intervention but I avoid the word ‘natural’. I build the list with our guests in mind, I want them to try something new and feel comfortable doing so. We also have a bottle shop for people to buy anything they enjoyed.  

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?

The bottom fell out of a bottle of a Chateau Figeac when I was presenting it to a table in Zuma, there was few seconds of shock between everyone, then a little chuckle of disbelief, I think the bottle might have got knocked in the cellar. It smelt delicious!. 

Name your top three restaurant wine lists

10 Cases, Cabotte and Authentique Epicerie.   

Who do you most respect in the wine world?  

Rajat Paar, Sashi Moorman, Mike Beanie, Dan Sims, Natasha Hughes, Brendan and Laura Carter, Ray Lethbridge, Roger Jones, Jason Yapp and Tom Ashworth, Jan Konetzki, Gearoid Devaney, Xavier Rousset, Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, Frederic Magnien, Jancis Robinson and Melanie Brown.  

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?  

So many choices to consider, one that comes to mind from drinking is a Magnum of La Prats I had a couple of Christmas’ ago, an old vine field blend, both red and white grapes, 100-350m altitude, with skin contact and no filtration. I served at white wine temperature in a Burgundy glass so it would warm slowly the table. Every taste had a different expression as the wine breathed and warmed; it started like a white wine, fresh, and fragrant then took the character of a skin contact wine with a gentle grip and notes of tea, before summer fruits of a rose into a light textured red. It was the perfect accompaniment to the roast cockerel and told its own story.  

What are the three most overused tasting notes? 

Dry, mineral and fresh.  

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment (and why)…  

Lirac ‘Pradau’, Maravilhas 2018.  A biodynamic wine from Southern Rhône with freshness, minerality and elegant texture that out punches its price bracket. 

What is your ultimate food and drink match?  

In the colder months, smoked pigeon with a Trousseau or aged Burgundy, and when its warmer I love saline mineral whites with fresh seafood and shellfish, like a Santorini Assyrtiko Gaia, Domaine Ott Blancs de Blanc from Provence, Ciu Ciu Verdicchio Arbinus, Txakoli Hondarrbia or Cassis Blanc Clos St Magdeleine.  

Old World or New World? 

New World that tastes like Old World.  

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?​  

As long as the service is friendly and attentive, I am happy. The only time I get frustrated is if the wine has a clear fault and I’m told ‘it’s the style’. 

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why?​  

I am loving Maxime Graillot’s wines, I was in awe of his dad’s wine starting out as a sommelier and now he makes his own Crozes Hermitage equinox and St Joseph, the Crozes Hermitage white is stunning. They also have a great project in Beaujolais Domaine de Fa, and is doing brilliant Collaborations. A new Heathcote Marsanne and Shiraz Changing winds just landed in the country that I have listed. There is an epic collaboration with Raul Perez the Encinas Bierzo. He is also doing the Nat Cool project with Dirk Niepoort an equal part blend of old vine Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, co-fermented in cement and finished in old foudre with no sulphur added. All the wines have an energy and purity of fruit, respecting the soils and sense of place they come from.  

As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers? ​  

"What does natural wine mean?"  

Which wine producing region/country is currently underrated at the moment? 

I think the new wave California wines that are coming through, cool climate styles of Sonoma and old vine vineyards of varietals like Valdique and Cinsault. I am not sure English wine is quite getting the recognition it deserves yet either.    

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?  

The Bionic Frog from Christophe Baron, an amazing biodynamic Syrah that uses whole bunch fermentation. It has ethereal tannins, a silky texture and a long finish. Each sip is a pleasure. The complexity of fine Northern Rhône and Bourgogne red combined.  

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