Sam Weatherill Restaurant Manager and Sommelier at Etch Restaurant in Hove

Tell us about when you first became interested in wine…

My involvement in wine was born by chance. As a cocktail bar manager, I had a good knowledge of spirits, cider and beer, but thought wine was a weakness, so I started the WSET program to learn more. My first mind blowing moment was trying Jean Foillard’s Côte du Py Morgon at Le Plateau (in Brighton), the purity of the flavor simply blew me away.

Tell us about your wine list at Etch

Etch’s wine list has around 200 bins, with an emphasis on small, sustainability-minded producers. We champion some lesser known varietals and regions with many selections from Armenia, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Tenerife and New York State. We also enjoy Sussex wines. Thanks to Coravin, we offer about forty wines by the glass at a time, often highlighting certain aging wines. For example, we currently have the 1982 Rioja Reserva from Contino, the 2001 Sémillon from Kalin Cellar and the 1947 Rivesaltes from Domaine de Sobaline, all available by the glass.

During your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?

My most memorable disaster was slipping on the restaurant floor carrying a tray containing three glasses of red wine. I managed to adjust my foot mid-fall to keep the tray of glasses from hitting me, but it diverted them to one of our guests, who was wearing a cream jacket. He wasn’t happy about it. I replaced my shoes the next day.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists

Noble Rot in London has to be my favourite, amazing selection at affordable prices with a list by the glass that sends shivers down my spine every time I visit. I’m also a big fan of Trivet’s roster for its design and focus on countries and regions we don’t see enough of in the UK, and Clare Smyth’s Core for its cold classics.

Who do you respect the most in the world of wine?

There are many people I admire for various reasons. Jancis Robinson and Rajat Parr have been personal inspirations for me for a long time, for their writings and their approaches to the world of wine. I also have the greatest respect for any winemaker who makes wine that is faithful to their terroir in an honest way. The craftsmanship and grafting involved in their work is amazing.

What is the most interesting wine you have ever encountered?

I still remember the first time I tasted Envinate’s Palo Blanco, a wine from centuries-old Listán blanco (aka Palomino Fino) vines on the north side of Tenerife. The combination of intensity and saline freshness makes it dance in the mouth like liquid electricity.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?

Strawberry, minerality and masculine/feminine.

What’s the best wine on your list right now?

Pedro Parra wines offer incredible value. His single-vineyard ‘Monk’ Cinsault is a remarkably fragrant and aromatic red that should be on any lover’s radar of great Burgundy and Barolo. Clos Manou’s 2012 Médoc is also a bargain at £88.

What is your ultimate food and drink pairing?

A touch unconventional, but it’s beer-battered oysters with Marco de Bartoli’s Vecchio Samperi (essentially an unfortified marsala).

Old World or New World?

Right now, New World excites me more. The best Old World wines are becoming increasingly inaccessible in terms of price, but you can still find wines in California, South Africa and Australia that drink like Old World classics, at a fraction price.

What does your pet hate about wine service at other restaurants?

Small wine glasses. To be served a sherry in a very small tasting glass especially. Give him the good drink he deserves.

Who is your favorite producer right now and why?

Probably Luis Perez in Jerez. The unfortified wines they are currently making are exceptional, and offer really interesting food/wine pairing possibilities.

As a restaurant manager, what is the question that customers ask you the most?

As a sommelier ‘what is your favorite wine?’ As restaurant manager “Are you Steven Edwards? (the head boss of Etch).

Which wine region or country is currently underestimated and why?

Portugal and South Africa both do amazing things at great prices. Wines from the likes of Crystallum, Mullineux, AA Badenhorst, Thorne & Daughters are bringing a new wave of excitement to South Africa. Winemakers like Luis Pato and Luis Seabra are crafting a myriad of stimulating wines across Portugal, and there are also great things coming out of Colares and the Azores right now.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?

I would probably be boring and pick a unicorn wine like a 1945 Romanée Conti from Domaine Romanée Conti. A wine that I would never have dreamed of tasting, from a historic year. Bring the roast duck.

About Vivian J. Smith

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