Uncorked: Katie Exton

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Katie Exton sommelier Lorne wine restaurant London Victoria

Related tags: Katie Exton, Lorne, Uncorked, Wine, Sommelier, London

The sommelier and restaurateur behind Victoria's Lorne on her list, 1928 Maury and wine's ability to trigger memories.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
I grew up in a family where my parents enjoyed wine, but it was very much ‘buy something from Oddbins to enjoy that weekend’. My dad took me to Vinopolis for my twentieth birthday and I was introduced to this world of wine that I knew nothing of and it just amazed me. I then asked Peter Hall at Breaky Bottom if I could do work experience on his vineyard in East Sussex. That was the start of my love affair with wine. 

Tell us about your wine list at Lorne
It’s a list of 250 or so wines that reflects what I like to drink and the places and people I’ve met in the last 15 years of working in wine and hospitality. It is also a list that reflects the ongoing discoveries and innovation that we see in wine all the time. It’s now a bit more collaborative as my colleague Alice (Doran) helps me with the wine list and buying. 

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
At Chez Bruce, we used to keep a decanter in an ice bucket, so we could decant white wine into it. The wine station was in this tiny corridor up from the kitchen pass and so you always had to move out of the way when food was coming.  I was opening a bottle of Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon (it’s etched on my brain), I wasn’t concentrating as I kept having to move out of the way for food and as I was half way through decanting this bottle it overflowed. I suddenly remembered I had already decanted another customer’s  Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos five minutes before into that decanter and had now mixed together and ruined two very expensive bottles of wine. 

Name your top three restaurant wine lists 
There are so many all over UK, but I live in London, so I’ll focus on that. Number one is Chez Bruce. Nigel (Platts-Martin) and Bruce (Poole) love wine, the wine list and appreciation of wine at the restaurant is brilliant, I feel very lucky to have been able to look after that list and to have bought wines for its future which are probably just being listed now. On an evening off, if I want a great bottle of wine, I normally head straight to The 10 Cases (in Covent Garden) or Andrew Edmunds Restaurant (in Soho), so they’re my joint second and third spot.

Who do you most respect in the wine world?
It has to be Jancis (Robinson). 

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across? 
We used to sell a 1928 Maury (a vin doux naturel from Roussillon in Southern France) by the glass at Chez Bruce around 2008. I remember many times tasting that wine and thinking about what life was like when it had been made, what had happened in the 80 years since, and how here I was drinking it now in SW17. It was a very humbling experience. And on top of that, it was incredibly tasty. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Oh gosh, I don’t know. Whatever they are I’m sure I use them all the time. Minerality is definitely out of fashion. I probably have more things I dislike reading in tasting notes rather than an awareness of overused terms. I think tasting notes should be helpful and not over the top, I don’t like wines being called sexy and even though I sometimes fall victim to this myself, I don’t like gender-related adjectives in tasting notes. 

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment
Lots of wines that I really love and want people to actually drink rather than just sit on the wine list are marked up with much lower margins, but we don’t to make a big thing about it. I like to think it’s a nice discovery for a wine lover and also a great ace to have up our sleeve when talking to people about wine. I recently had a bottle of 2016 Barbaresco Produttori del Barbaresco that we’re listing, and whilst it’s not a cheap wine, I think it’s one of the best value wines out there. 

What is your ultimate food and drink match?
Pata negra jamon and dry Amontillado. Just takes me to a very happy place every time.  

Old World or New World?
I think that division means even less than ever right now, global warming is creating very different environments all over the world. Knowledge and technique are the same all over the world and winemaking philosophies and styles cross country borders. So I’m not one or the other. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants? 
Warm red wine and rubbish glassware. 

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why? 
I absolutely love Littorai in California. Ted Lemon is a legend and his wines are unbelievably good. We did a tasting with him online recently and whilst I’ve found online tastings helpful over the last 18 months, none have been as good as meeting the winemakers in person. However for this tasting Ted had all his vineyards set up on Google Maps and he literally took us from one to the other, zooming in and out and doing these 360°tours of the vineyards looking at all the aspects and altitudes as we tasted the wines. It was so immersive and  informative and whilst tasting at Littorai on my sister’s 30th birthday is a career highlight, this was a pretty amazing alternative.  

As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers?  
‘What should I drink tonight?’. And, ‘what’s your favourite wine?’

Which wine producing region is currently underrated at the moment and why?
Not sure if they’re underrated but I personally want to get to know more about Oregon, I am always impressed by the quality of the wines when I get to try them and I feel there are still a lot of small producers who aren’t really known in the UK as yet. I’ve also been quite excited about the amount of Greek wines suppliers are bringing to the restaurant for us to try. Santorini wines have had a more established reputation for a while, but we tried some really fun wines from Crete recently. I’d never tried a 100% Adani wine and it was quite unique, it had this quite captivating fig leaf, sage and dried grass aroma that really transported me to my holidays on the island. 

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
One of the things I love about wine, is when I’m drinking a bottle it can bring back a memory of another time. 1997 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie was the first bottle of wine my boyfriend (now husband) bought me when I became a sommelier, every time I try a Rostaing Côte Rôtie it reminds me of when we drank that wine having just moved to London. So for my last bottle I’d choose 2002 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne. My husband and I drank it just after we’d got married in Puglia, we sat on the side of a dusty road and had just under an hour together before going back to the party and it was this lovely moment of calm and togetherness on that brilliant day. One of my dear friends Terry bought me that same wine to celebrate the arrival of our daughter Martha in 2019. So I’d drink that delicious bottle and it would remind me of my family and friends, great moments and great wines. 

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