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Q&A with Laure Patry of Social Wine & Tapas

Ahead of the opening of Jason Atherton’s new wine mecca Social Wine and Tapas in Marylebone next week, we get the lowdown on the bar from Laure Patry, who will be running the show.

Laure and her team (l-r) head chef Frankie Van Loo, manager Karl Vickers and head sommelier Artur Aronov

So this place is your baby?

Indeed – I originally wanted to open a wine shop modelled on some of the amazing places I’ve seen in Paris, but Jason encouraged me to add a food offering. I’ve been with him for a decade and he knew he’d lose me if he didn’t give me the freedom to run my own venture. He’s clever, as it’s a great way to keep staff motivated and keen to stay in the group. I didn’t have to invest any money into it but will get a share of the profits once we’re in the black.

We know you’re going big on wine, exactly how big?

There will be 500 wines on offer both in the restaurant, at the bar and in the shop. I wanted to be able to sell every wine on our menu in the shop, so if customers love a bottle they can buy one to take home.

How much more expensive will the wines be in the restaurant compared to the shop?

I’m endeavouring to go low on the mark-ups, but given our central London location we can’t be super cheap. Some wines are double the price, others three times, there’s no strict formula to the way I’ve marked the wines up.

You’re from the Loire Valley, does the region get a lot of airtime on the menu?

I’ve had complete freedom with the list and of course I’ve given considerable space to the Loire as I’m keen to introduce people to wines from my home. The main theme of the list is that the majority of the wines come from small growers that take a minimum intervention approach to winemaking. As we’re a tapas bar there are a lot of Sherries on the menu, and Madeira too, which I love.

Will there be a lot of wines by the glass?

Yes! I’m using Coravin, which gives me a lot of flexibility. I’ll be offering five different wine flights that I’ll change regularly. One of the flights shows off different fortified wines, another is made up of three wines aged under flor including a Jura, another showcases Syrah from three different countries and the most expensive is a trio of Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage including Montrose.

What are the top wines in the cellar?

While I want to highlight small growers, there will be some people who come here to drink the classics and I want to be able to offer them that opportunity. I’ve managed to source a bottle of Latour 1989, Petrus 1993 and a magnum of Cheval Blanc 2000. I’d love to be able to offer a flight of the first growths.

You mentioned minimum intervention, are a lot of the wines on the list “natural”?

There are a lot of organic and biodynamic wines among the 500 bins, and some of them happen to be natural, but I didn’t want to lump them all together in one section as it might put some people off and I don’t want to be judged. I’ve put quite a few “orange” wines on the list, but refer to them as “skin contact” wines – those who are seeking them will know what they are. I haven’t picked them because they’re in fashion at the moment so I’m not making a noise about it.

What do you like about “natural” wines?

I’ve got ten zero sulphur wines on the list but you’d never know they were “natural” wines. I don’t like natural wines that taste like cider or a barnyard. When I drink a wine I want to taste a place; I want to feel like I’m right there in the vineyard. All of our natural wines are clean and well made.

Is the New World shown any love on the list?

Definitely – we have a strong section from California via Roberson and The Wine Treasury. There are also Oregon Pinots and wines from small Aussie producers like Lucy Margaux and Mac Forbes. The problem with a lot of the small producers is that they can’t give you a lot of wine – South Africa’s Eben Sadie was only able to give me three bottles of each of his single vineyard wines.

I hear all of your waiting staff are trained sommeliers?

Yes. I wanted to do something a little bit different with Social Wine and Tapas, and as far as I know this has never been done before. We’ve plucked a couple of sommeliers from other restaurants in the Jason Atherton group and have recruited others from restaurants like Le Pont de la Tour and Coya.

The team is mainly men at the moment but I’m keen to get more female sommeliers on board as I think the have a stronger work ethic and complain less than the boys do. I also think most people prefer to be served by women as male sommeliers, particularly French ones, can often appear arrogant and standoffish.

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