Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine...
My involvement in wine came about by chance. As a cocktail bar manager I had good knowledge of spirits, cider and beer, but felt wine was a weakness, so I started on the WSET programme to learn more. My first wow moment was trying Jean Foillard’s Cote du Py Morgon at Plateau (in Brighton), the purity of flavour just blew me away.
Tell us about your wine list at Etch
The wine list at Etch is around 200 bins, with a focus on smaller producers with a commitment to sustainability. We champion some lesser known grape varieties and regions with numerous selections from Armenia, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Tenerife, and New York State. We’re also big on Sussex wines. Thanks to Coravin we offer around 40 wines by the glass at any one time, often showcasing some wines with age. For example, we currently have Contino’s 1982 Rioja Reserva, Kalin Cellar’s 2001 Semillon, and Domaine de Sobaline’s 1947 Rivesaltes all available by the glass.
Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
My most memorable disaster was slipping over on the restaurant floor whilst carrying a tray holding three glasses of red wine. I managed to adjust my footing mid fall to prevent the tray of glasses hitting me, however that diverted them towards one of our guests, wearing a cream jacket. He wasn’t thrilled about it. I replaced my shoes the next day.
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
Noble Rot in London has to be my favourite, an incredible selection at friendly prices with a by the glass list that sends shivers down my spine every time I visit. I’m also a big fan of the list at Trivet for its design and focus on countries and regions that we don’t see enough of in the UK, as well as Core by Clare Smyth for its stone cold classics.
Who do you most respect in the wine world?
There are a lot of people that I look up to for various reasons. Jancis Robinson and Rajat Parr have been long-time inspirations for me personally, for their writing and approaches to the wine world. I also have the utmost respect for any winemaker who is making wine true to their terroir in an honest manner. The craft and graft involved in their work is incredible.
What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?
I can still recall the first time I tasted Envinate’s Palo Blanco, a wine made from 100 year old Listán blanco vines (aka Palomino Fino) on the north side of Tenerife. The combination of intensity and saline freshness makes it dance across the palate like liquid electricity.
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Strawberries, minerality and masculine/feminine.
What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
Pedro Parra’s wines offer incredible value. His single vineyard ‘Monk’ Cinsault is an outstandingly fragrant and aromatic red that should be on the radar for anyone who is a fan of great Burgundy and Barolo. Clos Manou’s 2012 Medoc is a steal at £88, too.
What is your ultimate food and drink match?
A touch unconventional but it’s beer battered oysters with Marco de Bartoli’s Vecchio Samperi (essentially an unfortified marsala).
Old World or New World?
Right now New World excites me more. The best Old World Wines are becoming more and more unattainable price-wise, but you can still find wines in California, South Africa and Australia that drink like the Old World Classics, at a fraction of the price.
What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
Tiny wine glasses. Being served a sherry in a tiny tasting glass especially. Give it the proper glass it deserves.
Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why?
Probably Luis Perez in Jerez. The unfortified wines they are making at the moment are exceptional, and offer some really interesting food matching possibilities.
As a restaurant manager, what question do you most get asked by customers?
As a sommelier ‘what is your favourite wine?’ As a restaurant manager ‘Are you Steven Edwards?’ (the chef patron at Etch).
Which wine producing region or country is currently underrated at the moment and why?
Portugal and South Africa are both doing some amazing things at great prices. The wines of people like Crystallum, Mullineux, AA Badenhorst, Thorne & Daughters are bringing a new wave of excitement to South Africa. Winemakers like Luis Pato and Luis Seabra are making a myriad of stimulating wines across Portugal, and there’s also some great things coming out of Colares and Azores at the moment.
It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
I would probably be boring and pick a unicorn wine like a 1945 Romanée Conti by Domaine Romanée Conti. A wine I could never dream of tasting, from a historic year. Bring on the roast duck.