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How I curated a wine list for Foxlow
Having had to come up with four wines for my curated wine list at Foxlow this month I’ve got newfound respect for anyone who puts together anything longer.
To fill you in - and in the interests of full disclosure - Foxlow is the latest opening from my son Will and his business partner Huw Gott who came up with the ingenious idea of inviting someone to pick four wines they enjoy as a special feature on the winelist each month.
The first came from the brilliant Sager & Wilde wine bar (Charlotte Sager-Wilde used to work for Will and Huw’s other group of restaurants, Hawksmoor), the second from the great Paul Draper of Ridge so I was in good company.
Picking just four wines is hugely difficult - it’s not just any four you fancy, there needs to be some balance in style, price and country of origin. That said I went for three reds (it is January, Foxlow is meaty) and one sparkling wine. The reds were French, Italian and Australian, the fizz (a sparkling Malvasia) also Italian as you can see below.
I had it easy. I was allowed the indulgence of picking wines that I liked and not having to worry about price points. (Challenge for restaurants: do you cynically list wines you can sell and which you know you can make a hefty margin on - burgundy being an obvious case in point - or do you try and encourage your customers to step out of their comfort zone?)
Off-the-wall wines need ‘hand selling’ as it’s known in the trade - i.e. a knowledgeable and enthusiastic server to present the wine. I was talking to a friend in the trade who had listed an exotically scented Chilean muscat (from De Martino) we both love but which simply wasn’t appealing to her customers. Going out on a limb is tough.
Anyway if you’re visiting Foxlow over the next four weeks do give one of these a try or Will will reckon I haven't done my job properly*. I hope you enjoy them.
QUARTICELLO MALVASIA CASARONCHI
Emilia Romagna, Italy
All meals benefit from an opening glass of fizz but who says it has to be champagne? This is my latest discovery, a lovely, fragrant sparkling Malvasia from Quarticello an organic producer in the Montevecchio Emilia region of Emilia Romagna. The kind of wine to make you feel it’s May not January.
DOMAINE DE CÉBÈNE FAUGÈRES LES BANCELS 2010
A bit of a sentimental choice this. We’ve had a holiday house on the border of the Faugères region of the Languedoc for some 20 years now so this sort of rich, warming full-bodied red feels like coming home. It’s mainly syrah with a little grenache and a hefty thwack of exotic mourvèdre, a grape that always makes me think of pomegranate molasses. (Ideal with the slow-smoked dishes especially the 10 hour beef shortrib.)
G.D. VAJRA LANGHE FREISA KYÉ 2010 Piedmont, Italy
A fascinating wine from, a family-run winery in Piedmont I visited back in November, Freisa was once the second or third most cultivated grape of the region and used to make vermouth but Vajra has employed it to produce this seductive barolo-like red with a delicious bitter cherry twist. Ideal for the pork pluma but you could easily drink it with the salmon or monkfish.
CASTAGNA GENESIS SYRAH 2009
Another syrah, this time from Oz. No, it’s probably not like any shiraz you’ve tasted. It comes from the Beechworth area of Victoria and is made by one of the country’s most exciting winemakers Julian Castagna who’s a bit of a hero of mine. Think Hermitage, think Australia’s iconic red Grange and you get the general drift. A big savoury beast (the Genesis, not Julian), shown off best by a steak.
* by the way I didn’t get paid for doing this in case you’re wondering. Just did it for the fun of it. (Which isn't to say I would do your wine list for free in case anyone else is wondering. This is family after all ....
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