Uncorked: James Snowdon

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

James Snowdon co-owner The Palmerston Edinburgh on his wine list

Related tags James Snowdon The Palmerston Edinburgh Wine Uncorked

The co-owner of Edinburgh’s The Palmerston on Hunan’s Michael Peng, Galicia and David Leclapart's L’Alchimiste 2009.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
When I properly started in hospitality at Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh, I remember Romain Audrerie was given a sample of white wine (which turned out to be Ganevat ‘05 can’t remember the cuvee). I was working at reception and he came running through with a glass for Mars (Mairead Gleeson, now hotel director of The Pig) to taste he said “You won’t understand.” He was right, I didn’t. It blew my mind and I had no idea what it was or why. Looking back, working at Hotel du Vin got me hooked, I was with the company for 3.5 years and loved it - tasted some wild wines without really knowing what I was drinking. 

Describe your wine list at The Palmerston 
It’s me. The wine I want to drink (mostly - I’ve let others hold the reins from time-to-time. There are things I love at all price points with many bargains to have the lower down you get. We are Champagne-heavy for the size of the list (it was part of my hospitality upbringing).

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters? 
None that I can think of. 

Name your top three restaurant wine lists
Hunan in London, Pot d’Etain in France and Kaia Kaipe in Spain. 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 
Michael Peng. The greatest man in the trade. One of a kind. 

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently?
My latest obsession is Viognier. I went for a trip through the Rhône recently spending a lot of time in Condrieu which opened my mind to a region I thought just produced Müller Peach Corners. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes? 
Sexy, smashable, cloudy...  

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
Depends who’s asking. For me it will always be Champagne, as soon as you start venturing beyond £60 there’s very little mark-up on the wines. We’ve a good amount of regulars who take full advantage of this. I also buy from a few places which work with private cellars - a lot of single bottles of oddities or with bottle age that have a very low mark up.

Old World or New World?
Tout le monde... Why pick one when you can enjoy them all! 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants? 
Using ISO/those stumpy wine glasses and having a lengthy wine list. Nothing worse than ordering something high end and getting one of your gran’s goblets to drink it out of.

Who is your favourite producer right now? 
I’ve recently returned from travelling the Rhône (with Seamus Sharkey & John Seccomde (Thorne & Daughters) with various cameos from Zoo Cru) using the Rugby World Cup as an excuse to visit producers at their busiest time of the year. It’s a region I’d never dived into properly until that trip, two producers that blew me away that I knew nothing about prior to going - Vieille Julienne and Remy Neiro.

What question do you most get asked by customers?
“Have you tried all these wines?” and “who actually buys anything beyond house wines?” 

Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment? 

I’d agree with Stuart Skea on North West of Spain​ - I went to Galicia in January this year, the quality and diversity of wines is often dismissed. Albariño is taken for granted as cheap and drunk by the litres with plenty of ice while on holiday. We visited Xuxo at Albamar and Chico at Fulcro - two people who change the way I looked at Albariño and they’re only just scratching the surface, as you dive deeper into the region the quality you get from Adega Algeuria making pure expressions of merenzao and brancellao. That and visited some amazing wine bars which had wildly deep and very well priced lists both local and further afield - Malauva in Pontevedra was world class. 

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
David Leclapart L’Alchimiste 2009 (his last vintage of this cuvee, so a fitting way to end my days). It’s a very memorable bottle from one of the best wine line ups I’ve ever had and I’d eat it with (I know you didn’t ask this) a pile of Leandro Carreira’s tribute to the Gazela hot dog that he served at the bar during the Londrino days.

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