Which chef-supported wines are worth raising your glass to? | Wine

Which chef-supported wines are worth raising your glass to?  |  Wine

lIt has always amazed me that chefs who make their living making delicious food generally seem disinterested in what to drink with it. There are exceptions, of course – always have been. Mark Hix, Mitch Tonks and Rowley Leigh immediately come to mind, as does the team at St John – although that’s equally thanks to lavish co-owner Trevor Gulliver, who’s built a range of own-brand wines to suit any small merchant list, like the kitchen itself.

That said, there’s been a bit of a trend lately for chefs to release their own wines, either as an extension of their brand – who doesn’t love a little merch? – or in planting real vineyards, as Michael Caines has done in Devon and Robin Hutson (admittedly a restaurateur rather than a chef) at The Pig in the South Downs. Most are quite mainstream, although the Banks brothers in Yorkshire have made innovative use of cans, and Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein are both longstanding collaborations with Britain’s Chateau Bauduc in Bordeaux. Nuno Mendes, meanwhile, has just launched a range of wines with Portuguese producer Niepoort, and José Pizarro recently gave his name to a truly excellent cava (see today’s pick).

And with many lists now focused on natural wine, it seems crazier wines aren’t banned either. Jöro’s Luke French and his wife Stacey have bottled a Spanish wine they call F*ck 2020 (formerly known as F*ck Boris), which they sell from their new store in Sheffield, as well as online and in the restaurant. It is an exuberant natural wine that, according to French, goes with everything, including a flame-grilled Whopper.


Of course, you’ll pay more for a bottle of these chef-approved wines than for a standard bottle at Aldi or Lidl (more of which next week). For example, Caines’ recently released Trias Pinot Noir, while luxurious and delicious, has £110 on his wine list, but put that in the context of the investment involved in planting his 11-acre vineyard (about a quarter of a million pounds) and the time it takes for a bottle to even come to the table (at least three years for a still wine and five for a sparkling), you can see how they got to that figure.

With the Covid interruption, combined with recent pressures on fuel and food costs, restaurants need all the additional revenue streams they can think of right now, and customers are not unwilling, it seems, to support them. “People always ask us, ‘Where can I buy this wine?’ if they taste our combinations,” says Stacey French, who just opened the couple’s first brick and mortar store in the dining room of Cutlery Works in Sheffield. “A chef’s seal of approval works wonders in retail.”


Five wines approved by chefs


Banks Bros Pinot Gris £19.50 for 3 250ml cans (or £72 for 12), 12.5%. Rich, peachy pinot gris from Alsace. Pair with Southeast Asian salads.


Chateau Bauduc Rick Stein Sauvignon Blanc 2021 £12.50

Chateau Bauduc Rick Stein Sauvignon Blanc 2021 £12.50 (or £75 for 6 bottles),, 12%. Fresh, spicy sauvignon that goes well with fish (not surprising).


José Pizarro Brut Nature Gran Reserva £25

Jose Pizarro Brut Nature Gran Reserva £25, 11.5%. A seriously smart cava who is happy to do duty for champagne.


A bottle of Fuck 2020

House of Joro F*ck 2020 £19.50, 13.5%. Cheerful, exuberant red blend of garnacha and syrah made by the highly regarded Spanish natural winemaker Raul Perez.


Bottle Boulevard Napoleon

Boulevard Napoleon Le Pal Grenache Gris Hérault 2018 £30, or £32 Noble Green Wines (or £29 on a mix-six deal), 14.5%. Rich, luscious, full of white – mature, but with further aging potential. Drink with a pretty fatty pork chop of the type they would serve in St John.


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