Uncorked: Seoridh Fraser

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

©Stephen Lister
©Stephen Lister

Related tags Seoridh Fraser Heron Scotland Edinburgh Sommelier Uncorked

The bar manager at Edinburgh’s Heron on why he refuses to use the word ‘interesting’ when talking about his wines.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
When I was a waiter at The Witchery Glen Montgomery - a good friend and one of the best somms in Scotland - gave me a glass of Fritz Haag QbA Riesling. It would’ve been an 2009 or something that we were pouring at the time. It smelt like the tree past the car park near the cricket pitch on the walk from my house to Tesco in Linlithgow. I had no idea wine could be this aromatically compelling and complex or that our olfactory senses are so intertwined with recall.

Tell us about your wine list at Heron
The list at Heron is, first and foremost, priced to drink (ideally at great liberty on behalf of our guests). All of us involved in the process of developing the wine programme here were  fed up of paying over the odds for wines that often failed to deliver, so we decided we would focus on what we want to drink and make sure that it wasn’t priced out of the reach of the people we want to share it with. 

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
I haven’t had too many but my partner Sara - who also works at Heron - once knocked a bottle off a table (with her backside) into a customer’s bag. Unfortunately her hands were full at the time and she and the guest maintained painful eye contact as a bottle of red noisily emptied itself into the guests handbag. I’m sure she won’t mind me recounting this. 

Name your top three restaurant wine lists 
This is a tough question. The wine list Nick Hildebrant put together for the Bentley Group in Sydney, for which I once worked, are all really well-conceived and fitted to each outlet and showcase classics from around the world, but make space for some really noval and unusual wines that are at the cutting edge of what is trending. Richie (Twentyman), our restaurant manager at Heron, worked all too briefly with Isa Bal at Trivet and in turn has put me on to their wine list. I’m very enamoured of Isa’s approach to wine and the chronological structure of their list. I loved working with the team at The Witchery and it is still a strong list to this day, of course. 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 
My aforementioned friends Glen and Richie. They have done more for me than most when it comes to learning and growth as a professional, amongst other things.

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?
Interesting is a word we have banned at Heron when it comes to describing wine. What does that mean, interesting? Loads of wines are ‘interesting’ in different ways. The £10 Malbec from Sainsbury’s was interesting because it had some pretty well defined fruit flavours and the structure you’d expect of a wine made from grapes grown at altitude in a hot climate. The £150 Burgundy was ‘interesting’ because it cost the same as three replacement bonnets (used, of course) for a Mini (I am in the process of buying a bonnet for a Mini). Being less facetious, the 2013 Brezanka by Rado Kojancic we used to pour here at the restaurant was interesting (please don’t tell Richie). Some of the 13 grapes in the blend were as yet unidentified and it probably had a touch of botrytis about it too, though it was bone dry and excitingly mineral with a lovely texture and well defined layers of flavour.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Interesting, fun and robust.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
By the bottle it would have to be the £35 2017 Borja Perez ‘Artifice’ Listan Negra from Tenerife. It is elegantly structured, shows refreshing acidity and fine, ripe tannins and comes home about light to medium bodied. The lower end of medium bodied, certainly. On the palate though, the wine is serious and savoury which gives it such a place at the table with myriad foods. It will never impinge upon a dish, but often adds to it and outwith the earthy, meaty quality of the palate there are some very pretty red and black fruit characters to savour.

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 
Old Champagne and steak is probably the pair which struck me the most, though Palo Cortado and pigeon on a white bean cassoulet is a strong contender. 

Old World or New World?
Our focus at the moment is the Old World - not because we want to exclude anywhere - but because it gives us direction when it comes to growing the programme, rather than taking a scattergun approach to the globe. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
Dirty glassware. Glasses that smell like wet dog or have lipstick marks on them yet are still making their way to tables is disappointing.

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why? 
I’m really taken with Jackie Blott at the moment, though I tend to find great pleasure in the Loire generally and will seek out the likes of Arnaud Lambert or Frederic Mabieu. We’re pouring Blott’s ‘Remus’ Mont-Louis by the glass at the moment and it’s a great example of his linear, slightly reductive style of Chenin. 

As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers?
“What’s this wine like?”

Which wine producing region/country is currently underrated at the moment and why?
I’d have to go back to the Loire. The region seems to sit in some kind of no-man’s-land between Burgundy and Bordeaux but when you delve a little deeper, there is so much to be enjoyed if you are fans of either region mentioned before and beyond that much more to be enjoyed for the Loire itself. 

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
I’d ask my partner what she fancies drinking. If this is my last meal, I’d hope she’s sharing it with me. If I know Sara, it would be expensive and sparkling and hopefully (under the circumstances) in a large format. 

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