Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
I had enjoyed wine for years, without investing too much time or thought into it, but a trip to Bordeaux in my mid twenties was my Damascene moment, bringing about a change of career after a visit to St Julien and Chateau Langoa Barton, tasting the difference between Leoville and Langoa Barton was enough, but this was followed by a visit to beautiful St Émilion and the massively contrasting style of Chateau Angelus. Having never tasted wines of this quality, I was bitten by the wine bug, and it started a process of learning and enquiry that goes on to this day!
Describe your wine list at Lyla
At Lyla we have a list of around 200 bins focused on Europe with a sprinkling of wines from the new world. We try to keep it interesting for the wine geek but accessible to every palate and budget with grand marque houses and a good selection of grower champagne. We look for wines with a sense of place, balance, purity freshness.
Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
Oxidised white Burgundies were impossible to avoid for about 10 years! Fortunately most wine merchants were understanding. My first week at a restaurant the head chef was dining and we started his night with a bottle of our own label Champagne - rather vigorous as I was yet to discover - as soon as I opened the cage the cork flew out, hit the ceiling and sprayed myself with champagne - a lot went in my ear I recall. Fortunately I took the brunt of it and he saw the funny side
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
The Palmerston in Edinburgh - an exceptional and exceptionally priced list - they have a notably wonderful Champagne selection and plenty of rare and old vintages for the wine geek to dive into, but the wine list is still accessible to one and all and they have a refreshingly democratic approach to margins which should be applauded. A refreshing addition to Edinburgh and Scotland’s dining scene. I cut my teeth as a sommelier at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh and they have a wonderful, deep cellar with mature vintages at very reasonable prices, thanks to a wine loving owner and an old fashioned way of doing things - buying wines and keeping them in bond, listing only when ready to drink. And Timberyard has a wine list that is a clear labour of love, with a huge breadth and depth, the product of a singular vision and passion.
Who do you most respect in the wine world?
Nick Brooks of Vine Trail for being years ahead of the curve and blazing a trail in the UK by importing outstanding small French domains and now Spanish and Italian estates, not following any trends but setting them.
What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently?
Bodegas Mengoba Estaladiña by Gregory Perez, thought to be a rare expression of a subtype of Bastardo (trousseau) that is simultaneously elegant and rustic
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Ones I am very guilty of using myself - tension, minerality, salinity.
What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
Ingrid Groiss, ‘Ried In Der Schablau’, Gruner Veltliner 2021. A single vineyard of Gruner, old vines, organic farming and holistic philosophy - tension, salinity and minerality!
What is your ultimate food and drink match?
Old fashioned Cote-Rotie - Gentaz-Dervieux or Jamet with roast leg of lamb.
Old World or New World?
Resolutely European with a sprinkling of South Africa.
What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
My pet hate is pretentious, unfriendly service and impenetrable, hard to decipher wine lists. If a sommelier struggles, how do most customers feel?
Who is your favourite producer right now?
Almost impossible to answer! I’ll plump for Bodegas Albamar and Xurxo (Capitan) Alba - pushing the boundaries of Albarino quality whilst making exquisite Galician reds.
What question do you most get asked by customers?
The most frequent question is what one wine would go with the whole tasting menu. The only wine that can do that is, obviously Champagne! Otherwise we advise guest to simply drink something that they love and don’t get hung up on finding the perfect pairing -we have a matched drink package for exactly that, but great wine always finds a way.
Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment?
The wines of North West Spain - Galicia, and by extension its neighbour Bierzo. There is a plethora of high quality indigenous varieties - Mencia and Albarino are well known, but Brancellao deserves a wider audience.
It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
1999 Dujac Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Gruenchers - weightless elegance and profundity.