Uncorked: Martina Marini

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Martina Marini founder and sommelier Rolling Grapes

Related tags Martina Marini Rolling Grapes Wine Uncorked Sommelier

The founder and sommelier at Holloway wine bar Rolling Grapes on Isabelle Legeron, Savoie’s Domaine Bruno Lupin and why Sherry still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
Despite being Italian, I arrived fashionably late to the world of wine appreciation. The turning point for me was when I was 22, back then my passion was cocktails, however I went for dinner with my mum when she was visiting me in London and we ordered a Primitivo from Manduria, and it paired perfectly with the meal. It was at this point that I knew I should expand my horizons and learn a lot more about wine.

Describe your wine list at Rolling Grapes
The list gravitates towards wines that align with my preferences, particularly those crafted by organic or biodynamic producers. The selection process is guided by a commitment to purity and cleanliness. The list is a testament to diversity, incorporating wines hailing from different countries and a variety of styles. This selection mirrors my appreciation for the richness that the world of wine has to offer. 

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
There are a few to choose from but one that comes to mind involves a broken cork. Assigned the task of uncorking a line-up of distinguished bottles for a gathering held by a former boss of mine for a group of wine connoisseurs, the highlight was a 2009 Chevalier-Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive, entrusted to my care. The atmosphere brimmed with excitement as the corkscrew made its descent into the bottle, only to meet an unexpected resistance. In the blink of an eye, the cork fractured. A quiet hush filled the room as I carefully rescued the broken cork and ultimately saved the wine. The room let out a shared breath of relief, and after those challenging 15 minutes, the old wine not only made it through but left me with a memorable story.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists in London 
There are lots of great wine lists in London but my top three which align with what I love to drink are The Remedy Wine Bar, Sager+Wilde and Planque. 

Who do you most respect in the wine world?
There are a lot of people I respect in the wine world but two in particular. Isabelle Legeron who is a Master of Wine and founded RAW WINE, which is the UK’s largest artisan wine fair dedicated to low intervention wines. She inspired me and showed what women in the wine world could achieve. The second is Eric Narioo from Vino di Anna winery and founder of Les Caves de Pyrene. He is a great wine maker and was a pioneer for importing natural wine into the UK and I have been lucky enough to learn a lot from him whilst working for Les Caves de Pyrene.

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently?
One wine I have particular been interested in is the 100% Altesse variety from Domaine Bruno Lupin within the Roussette de Savoie Frangy AOC, the flavours are reminiscent of pear, gingerbread, spice and honey with a touch of hazelnut, very typical in Altesse variety. The mouthfeel is soft, mellow but with a strong acidity to balance everything off. Also, the price point is great for the quality of the wine.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
I notice there are certain common phrases people use to describe flavours, and right now, it feels like words like ‘mineral’, ‘juicy’, and especially ‘funky’ are used a bit too much.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
A 2015 vintage of dry Tokaji from Bott winemaker in Hungary. Single vineyard, old vines of Furmint from a vintage producing wines with good balance and suitable for long aging. Even after eight years the wine is still very fresh and has lots to say. 

What is your ultimate food and drink match?
A Syrah from the Northern Rhone and a cheeseburger with truffle chips. 

Old World or New World?
Old World. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
Being served wines at the wrong temperature. Too often I find myself ordering a red that is too hot and it ruins the wine as it will taste much more like alcohol and the sugars will be disproportionately present.

Who is your favourite producer right now? 
Not an easy question, but I do love wines from Abruzzo, especially Trebbiano, and Emidio Pepe is probably my favourite producer. I appreciate his foresight in consistently staying ahead of the curve, opting to limit the use of excessive technology in the winemaking process long before many other producers followed suit. The aging process, particularly for his Trebbiano, skillfully captures the essence of the terroir. 

As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers?
Besides the obvious, like ‘what pairs well with this?’, I get a lot of questions about natural wines. These include ‘do they contain sulphites?’, ‘what’s the difference between organic and biodynamic?’ and ‘will I still get a hangover?’. 

Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment?
I think Andalusia is one of the most underappreciated wine regions, especially Jerez where Sherry is produced. I think Sherry is a wine style often overlooked and underrated. Even among wine enthusiasts, it faces misconceptions regarding its taste (such as being perceived as too sweet), the recommended serving method (often associated with small, old-fashioned glasses), and its strength (with some mistakenly assuming that, being fortified, it must be as potent as a spirit). Me and my colleague Nacho love it so much we often organise a Sherry crawl in London!

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world... what is it and why?
It’s going to be Champagne! And at the moment I really like what Benjamin Choppin from Maison Maurice Choppin is doing. Nestled in Damery, just a few kilometres from Épernay, Maison Choppin has been working the terroirs of the Marne Valley for more than seven generations. All his base wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts in oak barrels and  the liqueur de tirage is made from their own wines and French sugar cane. His wines have great nerve, chalky energy and length. 

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