Uncorked: Alexandre Durand

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Alexandre Durand general manager Llama Inn London

Related tags Alexandre Durand Llama Inn Peruvian cuisine The Hoxton Uncorked

The general manager of Llama Inn London on Constantin Vellis, vintage Selosse and matching Saint Romain with roast chicken.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine...
I have been around wine since I was young. My parents are both wine enthusiasts and their bistrot in Fontainebleau (in France, where Durand grew up) has an extensive wine list. A bottle was always on the dinner table and I definitely got poured a few sips as a kid. Though it was not love at first sight I always found the focus put on wine, either at dinner parties at home, or in the restaurant, very cool. Things began to really click during a trip to Beaune with my parents. We tried some sensational wines in the cellars of the vignerons - I loved listening to them tell their stories. 

Tell us about your wine list at Llama Inn London
Llama’s list is currently just under the 100 references. We are listing wines promoting winemakers that care about their work and love what they do. We are always looking for sustainability in the vineyard and low intervention in the cellars, the list is full of small productions and so is evolving constantly. Although the restaurant serves Peruvian cuisine, the list is open for wines from all over the world, chosen based on what excites us and what we believe pairs with our food offering.

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters? 
Luckily nothing major! But I do remember almost breaking a chandelier opening one of my first bottle of champagne…

Name your top three restaurant wine lists 
Planque in Hackney is definitely at the top of this list. I’ve been lucky enough to see it from within whilst working there. Noble Rot’s list is also very impressive, especially its back vintages and the Coravin offering. The last one I would add is the list from Le Bistrot de la Madeleine in Lucinges in France. 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 
I don’t have a single idol per se, I get giddy chatting with or reading about folks who are absolutely bubbling over with passion for their craft.

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?  
I opened a bottle of Suertes del Marques Vidonia VP 2018 last year. It is from the Valle de la Orotava in Tenerife. Made from 100+ year old vine Listán Blanco from clay and sand, it is a love later to Burgundy. Absolutely stunning with that smokiness twist of the volcanic soils. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Mineral and crisp, though these are words I use myself. Guests will also often ask for something sweet, or not sweet - of course they don’t mean a dessert wine. It’s always a fun challenge to find the right wine using easy and non-professional vocabulary.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment? 
We just started listing Domaine Helicon which makes Chenin Blanc in Anjou. Constantin Vellis is one of the rising stars in the area and his wines easily challenge the top producers in the Loire and for a very reasonable price. 

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 
There are plenty of ideas, but if you are giving me a bottle of Saint Romain by Renaud Boyer alongside a roast chicken for a Sunday lunch, you will make my day. 

Old World or New World?
Definitively Old World. However, it looks like there is a trend in the New World of showcasing the fruit more and looking for freshness. I’m looking forward to seeing what is going to come up in the next few years. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants? 
Stuffy and stiff wine service is my main one. I believe wines at all prices are meant to be part of the celebration, not some sort of cult with a dragging opening ceremony. Dirty glassware and wrong wine temperature are also on that list. 

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why? 
I currently have a weakness for Pierre Gonon’s Saint Joseph. I finally opened some of his older vintages after waiting a few years and it was mind blowing. Just a perfect balance, fruit forward and such a length.  

As a general manager, what question do you most get asked by customers?  
“What is your favourite wine on the list?”, which is often followed by something like, “it must be French obviously!”

Which wine producing region or country is currently underrated at the moment? 
With Burgundy becoming so expensive, I will tend to go to the Loire and will easily find some of the most stunning wines at better value. But I am not the only one treading that path west so prices will creep up here too. Spain and Portugal offer great value from underrated regions. Dry Palominos from Jerez, the Mencias and Bastardos from Galicia, or the field blends from Lisboa have such potential.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
I will have to go Champagne in that scenario. A bottle of vintage Selosse at a dining table with the people I love. That producer is so special and I wish every Champagne lover to try it once in their life.

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