Sommelier's Diary

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Carol Emmas interviews Peter Horton, wine consultant at Smiths of Smithfield and The Luxe in London, about his month.

I oversee the wine buying and training at both restaurants. We’re now into month three with The Luxe and we’ve got together a new list that focuses on wines from the Americas, particularly Chile and Argentina. They represent really good value and always over deliver on price. Wine making has really improved in the last five years with the help of flying winemakers, new techniques.

We can get some really great wines to sell in the £18-£27 wine bracket, for example the Nimbus Merlot 07, Casablanca (£27.00) and Cefiro Pinot Noir 07 (£23.75).

We thought we’d better make a bit of an effort with wines from North America, but it was a bit more of a challenge to get wines to sell in that price bracket as Californian wines are terribly expensive and the cheaper wines are just awful.

But we came up with two great ones from Washington which are the Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah 07 and Kung-Fu Riesling 07. Great names.

October and November showed the average spend to be a little lower than usual, but it’s creeping back up again as we all have cheaper mortgages.

People haven’t been going overboard on their expense accounts and lunchtime has seen a move towards wines by the glass and small carafes rather than by the bottle. But the City lot have been well behaved for the last nine months and now they’re saying, “to hell with it – let’s have another glass”.

We don’t have one sommelier at either of the restaurants. I prefer all staff to be trained (in wine) and we do so on a weekly basis. Last month we tasted all the wines against all the dishes and we got very different opinions - I prefer that to just the opinion of one person.

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