Uncorked: Melanie Brown

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Uncorked: Melanie Brown

Related tags: Melanie Brown, The Laundry, Wine, Sommelier, Uncorked

The founder of modern neighbourhood bistro and wine shop The Laundry in Brixton on why people are still missing a trick with New Zealand wine and why viticulturists are the industry's unsung heroes.

When did you first become interested in wine…
When Helen Masters (winemaker at Ata Rangi in New Zealand) presented me a glass of Ata Rangi Craighall chardonnay. I must have been in my early twenties and I didn't really 'understand' what wine was up until this point. But this particular wine was a party in my mouth - the smooth buttery texture, the opulent fruit character, polarised by the crisp acid structure and the creamy rich undertones. Honestly I can still remember the feeling.... 

Tell us about your wine list at The Laundry
It's pretty rock'n'roll. We like to think we can appease even the trickiest wine aficionados. Our list is concise and has varying degrees of wow factors - from your classic crisp lean and dry Marlborough sauvignon (produced by ME) or something like a light and fruity Italian red - and some stonkingly good value house pours (produced by our pals at Carte  Blanche Wines).  

Name your top three restaurant wine lists (excluding your own!)
I love the wine list at ROKA restaurants, Laura [Blanchett, head sommelier and wine buyer] is a legend at delivering such a carefully curated mix in a neat and accessible way. Then there’s 10 Cases (in Covent Garden), which is a wickedly humble spot where nothing will ever disappoint, and Mere (in Fitzrovia), because it’s always a pleasure seeing New Zealand have a firm focus.

Who do you most respect in the wine world?
The viticulturists of the world - these unsung heroes really don't get the praise they deserve. Without their astute detail and precision of land and environment there would be no wine world....

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Underpinned, fresh acidity, and long length.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
A New Press Sauvignon. It’s much like sancerre in its precise minerality but it delivers with fruit, style and varietal expression and is affordable. 

Old World or New World?
New World. It’s not really a question in my world. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
Dirty glasses. 

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why?
Neudorf, which is a little teeny producer from New Zealand that has seriously captivated the world with its chardonnay production. It is so close to Grand Cru Burgundy it is almost unimaginable

What question do you most get asked by customers?
What's your house wine? No, seriously it is. 

Which wine producing region/country is currently underrated at the moment and why?
I still believe New Zealand deserves far more credit beyond sauvignon than it receives. Try gruner or chardonnay or even dive into some Martinborough pinot... 

What is your ultimate food and drink match?
It’s a tad cliche, but could you ever pass up foie gras and sauternes? 
What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?
When you dive into the intricacies of pinot noir, there is a whole new world that unfolds. There’s a little cult producer located in North Canterbury in New Zealand who produces wines on some killer limestone. The winemaker is Theo Coles and he's playing with Müller-Thurgau on skins, made naturally and produced with a funky edge. This wine is certainly one to open your mind! 

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
Kusuda Pinot Noir 2012. Those who know, will know why.

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