Uncorked: Valentin Mouillard

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- Last updated on GMT

l'Enclume sommelier Valentin Mouillard

Related tags: Valentin Mouillard, Uncorked, L'Enclume, Sommelier, Wine

The head sommelier at Simon Rogan's flagship L'Enclume on being the grandson of a winemaker in Jura, Austrian natural winemaker Johannes Zillinger and why muscadet needs to be reappraised.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine...

To be honest I don’t really remember, I’m the grandson of winemaker in Jura so I suppose it’s always been in my DNA. From a young age I’ve been surrounded by good wine and food, I think my very first memory of falling in love with wine was at a wedding where I was helping my dad pouring a Champagne fountain. At that moment, I realised I wanted this to be my career. Then I grew up and discovered a Champagne pourer was a little too much of a niche. 

Tell us about your wine list at L’Enclume

The idea was to source wines from all over the word by listing only one reference per colour per winemaker. This makes it difficult sometimes to choose one cuvee over another but ultimately makes it more interesting for the guest. They don’t end up having to choose between 15 different cuvees or vintages.

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

Early on in my career - actually one of the first times I was given my own section to look after - I had to do a cheese flight but was running late. I was carrying my three bottles of wine and a bottle of Tondonia Lopez de Heredia Gran Reserva slipped out of my hand and ended up staining the white shoes of a guest.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists

Noble Rot, The Laughing Heart and Le 110 de Taillevent (all in London). 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 

The winemakers who are working hard and facing a difficult time with shifting climates, resulting in poor harvests. Without their tireless efforts, we would not be able to share our passion with the guests. Also, those who are trying to make this industry more accessible to those who might otherwise feel intimidated.

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

This is a very difficult one, there are so many options! There is perhaps one which has stuck in my mind, it’s the Numen - Gelber Muskateller from Johannes Zillinger 2016. My head sommelier and I had set the goal to try all​ 22 wines present at a tasting (around five minutes per table). When we arrived at table 18, already quite weary, we realised it was a Gelber Muskateller, a grape variety which I usually don’t pay much attention to. Obviously, we had to try it, which I would not have necessarily done in a regular tasting. It ended up being the best wine of the day for me. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes?

Minerality, fruitiness and earthiness. 

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

For me, on our menu there are quite a lot. From time to time, we’ll open a bottle and do a blind tasting, and I’ll ask my colleagues how much they think each wine is worth just according to taste. It’s a great exercise as you can find some unexpected gems. The latest one was the Aetnus from I Custodi, a beautiful wine made out of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 

This may come as a surprise but my choice here is actually a soft drink. We make a kombucha from Oolong coming from Taiwan and pair it with scallops. We stop the fermentation before the volatile acidity becomes too dominant. The delicate flavour of the peaches and lychees makes a stunning pairing with the fresh scallops.

Old World or New World?

Old World, as much as I love New World, I always come back to the Old World wines.

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

Serving white wine too cold.

Who is your favourite producer at the moment?

Johannes Zillinger (from Austria) because he manages to capture an energy and an expression in his wine which is outstanding. His cuvee “Numen” is very low intervention, unfiltered and without the addition of CO2 but manages to retain an amazing purity which is uncommon for so-called natural wines. 

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

What is your favourite wine? Or perhaps which wine would you choose if you could only drink one type?

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

Muscadet has a bad reputation from the 90s due to a quantity over quality mindset from producers. Now a lot of winemakers are pushing toward quality but people still think of it as a cheap, super-acidic wine. There some winemakers out there producing amazing wine that isn’t being recognised as it should be.

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

I would pair a Chateau-Chalon (a vin jaune) with some veal sweetbreads with morels and vin jaune. I would go back to my roots in Jura and choose this amazing dish which combines delicacy and intensity, as is emulated in the appellation which is still very much underrated in the common world of wine.

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