Uncorked: Maddy Riches

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Maddy Riches co-owner of Brighton restaurant Dilsk on wine

Related tags Maddy Riches Dilsk Brighton & Hove Uncorked Wine

The co-founder of Brighton restaurant Dilsk on Piedmont-based winemaker Chiara Boschis, Pieropan’s La Rocca and the unusual structure of her wine list.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine 
When I was 18 my friend’s parents moved to France. I would go over in the summer and we would drink delicious local wine out of little tumblers with lunch and dinner. I remember thinking how amazing the food tasted washed down with a mouthful of wine. I have never looked back. 

Describe your wine list at Dilsk
When we were opening the restaurant, I was trying to think about what I liked and didn’t like about wine lists in other restaurants. I like clearly laid out lists, that don’t presume the customer knows loads about wine. I wanted a list that would be easy to navigate for the customer, for them to be able to make their own decisions easily. Our list is broken down into flavour profiles, five categories for whites and reds and a small rosé, orange, natural and honey wine section. The headings for each category, such as ‘Green’, ‘Citrus’ and Clean’ helps the customer chose wines based on what they enjoy. Not being pretentious is really important to me.

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters? 
I think I imagine disasters way more than they actually happen. Whenever anyone orders an expensive bottle I immediately see myself dropping it, or spilling it all over the very expensive silk garment of the customer. But in reality I don’t think I have ever done anything too bad aside from the odd dribble or a very lively bottle of fizz. 

Name your top three restaurant wine lists
That’s tough as I have a young family and a new business, so finding the time to eat outside of Brighton is rare these days. We went to Fourth and Church (in Hove) at the end of last year and they had a lovely list, with plenty of options by the glass, which I am a big fan of. We also have Wild Flor (also in Hove) up the road which also has an incredible list, again with plenty of choice by the glass. It’s been a while since I was there but outside of Brighton I would probably go to Brat. 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 
I enjoy hearing stories from winemakers set on reintroducing forgotten grapes, or groups of people working in co-operatives in order to achieve organic certification. I had a wine lunch once with Chiara Boschis, a Borolo winemaker and one of the Borolo Boys. She is a women so barley gets a mention in the history of Borolo, but she was set on getting Barolo back on the map in the 80s when everyone else was hotfooting it out to the more affluent areas. She is totally organic and is hoping to get all her neighbouring vineyards to the same point. Her dedication to her wine was something to really respect. But I know there are loads of others out there. I want to learn more about female wine makers and growers in South Africa as I feel like there is a lot of rising talent there too.

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently? 
Stefan Pratsch is a winemaker from Austria and has a great range, but his skin-contact Grüner Veltliner is amazing. With four days of skin fermentation, there is great body and fruit, but balanced with such a clean minerality it is a perfect pairing wine. It actually blew my mind when I tried it with our signature oyster dish, the richness of the Dilsk custard, but the salinity of the oyster were in enhanced in equal measure. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Delicious, yummy and complex. I use all of them and annoy myself. 

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
All our wines on the core list are sub £100 so I would consider them all pretty good value, but I would probably say the Sept Obiedeh, 2017 from Lebanon priced at £90. It’s a wine full of expression and beautifully balanced, if I was going to go with one bottle to take me through a tasting menu I would go for this.

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 
I’m a big fan of Thai food with a really floral wine, like a Moschofilero or a Feinherb Riesling. I normally don’t like my white wines very cold, but a really chilled one of these with a properly spicy Thai meal is a wonderful thing. 

Old World or New World?
Does it have to be a choice? I think there is great wine from every corner of the world. I guess if I had to choose then at the moment I am probably leaning more towards New World as there is so much exciting stuff going on. Having said that, I’m loving Greece and Macedonia at the moment too. And where does Sussex and the rest of the UK fall? 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants? 
Topping up. My husband and I like to make sure that we have equal amounts of wine, down to the last drop. If someone else tops us up, it puts us both on edge.

Who is your favourite producer right now? 
Adam Sabelli-Fraish is so interesting as a producer. He isn’t from California, but moved there with his wife only a few years ago. I feel like he gets where California can go with the grapes they grow so well, and is moving them away from what we were drinking in the 90s. There is an elegance and a storytelling to his wine that I really like.  

As a restaurant owner, what question do you most get asked by customers?​  
People often ask what my favourite wine on the wine flight is. I find that funny because they are pared with different dishes, so serve different purposes. Also ‘what would you recommend’, which is great, but often tricky as what I would recommend will not be to everyone’s taste

Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment?
I feel like California has such a bad reputation but is doing some really exciting things. I think rebuilding a damaged reputation from mass produced, rubbish wine is definitely harder than being a previously unheard of region. But there are so many amazing producers working hard to rebrand Californian wines, and I have tried some incredible stuff over the past 18 months so I think there is a lot to keep an eye on. 

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
Pieropan La Rocca, Soave Classico, 2010. I met my husband while working for Jamie Oliver and this wine was my favourite for the 12 years we were there. It isn’t anything really special but I loved it and still do. I think that is what wine should always be about, if you like it that’s okay no matter what it is. If it reminds you of good times it can be your most special wine, it doesn’t have to blow the bank or be something no one else has ever heard of. 

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