Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
I have two older sisters, they were drinking a lot earlier than I was and through them I became really interested in food and wine. But it really started once I started working at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (in the US); surrounded by people astronomically more intelligent and experienced than I was, I started to realise just how big the world of wine is. I was lucky to work at a restaurant where education was a big part of the culture so I learned a lot and got to taste a lot.
Describe your wine list at Higher Ground
It’s a really just a reflection of my own taste, my relationships with winemakers and the select couple of importers we deal with. I want the wine list to showcase people who are committed to making wine in its purest form, those who are farming in a way that’s sustainable and regenerative and do as little manipulation as possible in the wine cellar. We want to highlight winemakers who are making wine reflective of their region, their terroir and themselves. We have a French and continental European-focused wine list with a really broad selection with wines from lesser known regions and every shade of colour. I pay really close attention to wines made to the highest quality which fit with the style of food Joe (Otway) is cooking.
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
Timberyard in Edinburgh, Noma in Copenhagen and Villa Más in Catalonia.
Who do you most respect in the wine world?
Fred Grappe from Dynamic Vines, one of the importers we work with. His attention to detail, his belief in his winemakers and his care for the storage of the wines is arguably the best in the world. I’m very lucky to work with someone who you know has stored so many vintages and wines in perfect condition and are readily available. Any time I get to spend with Fred is very special and I’ve learned so much tasting with him.
What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently?
Fernando Angulo in Andalucía, making natural style Sherry wines, as well as oxidative sparkling wines; unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. He’s been making wine for a while now, doing lots of crazy stuff, but thanks to Tutto Wines his wines are now in the UK.
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Mineral driven, textured and juicy.
What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
Probably a wine called PurPur Spätburgunder from Andi Mann; we’re selling it in the restaurant for £53. It’s a Burgundy style Pinot Noir from Rheinhessen in Germany. You‘re getting top quality Pinot Noir, amazing fruit from volcanic soils- It’s as good as any Pinot coming out of Burgundy right now, but at half the price.
What is your ultimate food and drink match?
Vin Jaune and Comte cheese. Preferably from Domaine de la Tournelle.
Old World or New World?
What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
When you go to a place that’s wine focused and they don’t have a list, or let you look at their selection. I really enjoy having people pick wine for me, but it takes a few times to gain that sort of trust, I rarely have it the first time I walk into a place, so it can be annoying if there isn’t anything to look at. Our wine room is glass and is a huge feature of the restaurant. The styles of wine I work with are often times wines people are unfamiliar with and can be misleading because their styles aren’t reflective of their traditional counterparts so communication with the guests is super important. But with both of our venues we’ve taken the opportunity to allow people to look at the wines as well as discuss with the team.
Who is your favourite producer right now?
Axel Prüfer. I visited him in 2019 and had an incredible experience at his winery in the Languedoc. I’ve loved his wines for a very long time and considering it’s summer right now, his wines are always perfect for the warmer months. Light, easy drinking reds that are best drank nice and cold.
As a co-founder at Higher Ground, what question do you most get asked by customers?
Which wine is my favourite.
Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment
Georgia. I don’t think it’s necessarily underrated but it’s still not fully appreciated. It has such a deep history and culture of making wine, there is so much to learn and understand from their wines. They are also amazing food wines, definitely a taste that is different to what most people drink, but with an open mind, there are endless opportunities to explore and enjoy.
It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
Canta Mañana, 2016. Hopefully it’s summertime on my last day. 2016 was the first vintage I tasted of the wine and it blew my mind. Alain Castex, the winemaker, passed away this year - so it would be great to share a bottle on my last day and cheers with him on my way out.