Uncorked: Chloe Hicks

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Chloe Hicks wine manager Hawksmoor Manchester

Related tags Chloe Hicks Manchester Hawksmoor Wine Sommelier Uncorked

The wine manager at Hawksmoor Manchester on banning the word ‘juice’, California’s Paul Lato and her restaurant's now legendary 'Le Pin incident'.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
Hawksmoor offered me the opportunity to study WSET Level 2 as a bartender, I liked wine but knew very little other than that. As soon as I started leaning it was like “oh ok, I love this; give me everything”. I asked so many questions, I drove the class insane.

Describe your wine list at Hawksmoor Manchester
We’ve built a wine list which allows a lot of people to drink the kind of wine they like. In Manchester, there are two definite types of wine list; those who sit more towards the classical end of the spectrum and then the natural wine fans. We have incredible examples of both here. At Hawksmoor we have a lot going on wine wise. On Mondays, our corkage is £5 which makes the restaurant so much more accessible, from a spending point of view but also for the serious wine heads who want to open really special bottles and know that the food, setting and glassware will match up to it. I love the range of my job - I love opening a bottle of Campo Viejo for a guest who brought that along with them to dinner and then I move to the next table and crack open a bottle of Lafite. 

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
I was there for the big one - the widely reported Le Pin incident. As wine manager at the time; it was a great day to be off work. I had to head straight in to console a very stressed team member with direct instructions from the boss to take her a treat to cheer her up. I’ve cocked up myself too. Once, I got super excited to see Opus One available to order. I jumped in and spent quite a lot of money on six bottles of it. They turned out to be half bottles. Not my finest hour.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists 
They're all in and around Manchester. Higher Ground: the service, recommendations, personality of the team. Proper, honest hospitality, and really different recommendations. Another Hand: a very small list but so carefully thought through. Everything complements the food perfectly. Covino in Chester: because I mentioned to the waiter how I felt at the time when discussing the wine choices. She made me the most perfect recommendation - insane skills managing to match wine not only to my food but also my mood.

Who do you most respect in the wine world?
One of the most refreshing conversations with anyone I’ve had in years was with Christian Tschia. We went to his incredible winery in Austria and he just had a lightness about it, he’s dedicated his whole life to making his wines but he can have a laugh about the whole thing. It feels like he is is the game for the same reasons as we are in the restaurants. He just wants people to enjoy it. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Mineral and flabby (the latter is revolting, it makes me think of unrendered fat or a raw ribeye. Also, can we please stop referring to wine as ‘juice’?

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
The wines from Paul Lato (based in California), so little comes into the UK, it’s all on an allocation basis and we’re lucky to get a reasonable chunk from the brilliant Tiger Vines. For that kind of exclusivity I’d expect to be paying a lot more than we’re charging for it. We’ve got his wines on the list starting at around the £150 mark. 

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 
Oaked Chardonnay and pretzels.

Old World or New World?
Why choose? I love that not only can you celebrate each style but more than ever those lines are being blurred; new world producers are looking at traditional methods and guidelines while old world producers are looking at newer developments in winemaking. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
When I ask for a recommendation and they completely disregard the price point I’ve suggested.

Who is your favourite producer right now?
Ernst Storm. I just got in the new vintage of his Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and everything from his entry level wines to his single vineyard vintage Pinot - everything is of exceptional quality. Balanced and a beautiful example of Californian wine.

As a Hawksmoor Manchester, what question do you most get asked by customers?
“Can I have a glass of wine please” and “OMG is this really your job”. 

Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment?
Austria. In the UK, in terms of the mass market, people are scared of trying to pronounce words like Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch but the spectrum of value is incredible. 

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
ABC Santa Barbara County Chardonnay; all day, every day. I’ve got something of an emotional connection to it. It was the the first white wine that I drank that made me sit back and think, “okay wow. I didn’t know wine could be like that”.

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