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New Ritz Livre du Vin lists orange wines

The Ritz is now serving orange wine by the glass following a major update of its 800-reference Livre du Vin, the hotel’s head sommelier Giovanni Ferlito has announced.

The new Ritz Livre du Vin, including 150 new references, was unveiled in the hotel's opulent William Kent room (Photo: Ritz)
The new Ritz Livre du Vin, including 150 new references, was unveiled in the hotel’s opulent William Kent Room (Photo: The Ritz)

The iconic London hotel, which this year celebrates its 110th anniversary, has added 150 new wines to its illustrious list. These include five orange wines, two of which are available by the glass. The wines are a 2007 Iago Bitarishvili Chinuri from Georgia, and three wines from Friuli: a 2008 Radikon Jakot, a 2010 Dario Princic Ribolla Gialla and a 2011 Zidarich Vitovska. Both the Chinuri and the Ribolla Gialla will be available by the glass.

The new list also places a strong emphasis on indigenous varieties, with lesser known wines from regions including Languedoc, Jura, Corsica, Etna, Georgia, Slovakia and Santorini all included. A selection of 46 wines have been made available by the glass, including 16 wines which will be available using the Coravin system.

While the Ritz has long been associated with its traditional approach to wine, with its many impressive verticals of Premier Cru Classé Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy, its move to include orange, or extended skin contact, wines represents a step into the wine list avant-garde. Ferlito’s keen emphasis on indigenous varieties, meanwhile, has given the list a strong sense of diversity.

Unveiling the new list at a press tasting in the Renaissance-style splendour of the Ritz’s William Kent Room, Ferlito explained that the it was important to fill geographical gaps.

“When I came to the Ritz one and a half years ago I was so excited about the wine list. It was great, but it was very classic. So we had very nice verticals of all the big châteaux – Château Latour, Mouton, Lafite, Margaux; and in Burgundy the same, but we were missing other important regions – for example, Languedoc-Roussillon, or Corsica or the southern parts of Italy, some parts of Portugal; New World regions as well – Washington, Oregon…

“So this is why I started to speak with my managers and said: we really need to try to add some new stuff.”

Ferlito explained that while the Ritz management was “open-minded” about adding new wines, the process of updating the Livre du Vin was an arduous one, which first involved drafting a list to include all the geographical areas not included or under-represented on the original list.

Ritz head sommelier Giovanni Ferlito says English wine drinkers tend to be more open-minded than their French or Italian counterparts (Photo: The Ritz)
Ritz head sommelier Giovanni Ferlito says English wine drinkers tend to be more open-minded than their French or Italian counterparts (Photo: The Ritz)

“It was a long process,” he said. “I had to go through a couple of wine committee meetings. Where you have the head sommelier, the food and beverage director, the purchasing manager, the cost control manager – everyone is in there.

“When I did my first wine committee meeting I brought my wine list with me. And when they started to look at me like I was crazy, that I was saying ‘We need 200 wines’, I said, ‘Just a moment: let me show you’.

“When they actually realised on paper in front of them that we were missing all these very important wines, then they started to trust me. They started to say, okay, maybe yes, we should have those wines on the list.”

In pursuit of terroir

Originally from Etna in Sicily, Ferlito explained that the emphasis placed on indigenous varieties gave customers the best opportunity of being able to experience the taste of a wine’s terroir.

“I want to give my philosophy to my wines,” he said. “And I think from my selection everyone can easily understand that I like diversity and I like indigenous grapes. I think that this is where you actually try the terroir, you actually try something unique.

“In my opinion, there is no point to try Chardonnay from Sicily – even though there are many producers doing Chardonnay and they are good wines, in my opinion it is better to have the Carricante from Etna, which is a grape that you can only find there.

“Same, for example, with the orange wine from Georgia. In Georgia, there are some producers that do international grapes, but Chinuri is only from there.

“So for instance in the wine list we were missing Jura. I said, okay, from the Jura we need to have Arbois, because that is something unique; or when I was doing Marche, in Italy, I said we need to have Lacrima, which you can find only there. And this is how I work out my selection.”

An open mind

Asked whether the Ritz’s clientele was ready to experience such unconventional wines as Georgian orange wines, Ferlito said that he had been impressed by both the knowledge and open-mindedness about wine among English people.

“When I arrived in this country I was actually very impressed by the general knowledge in wines by English people compared to Italians, compared to French. Italians only know Italian wines. If you’re Sicilian, you only drink Sicilian wines.

“In France it is the same. They only know about French wines. If they are in Burgundy they are only drinking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. If you bring them a bottle of Bordeaux they will say, ‘I am not drinking that!’.

“In England it is different, not being a [major] wine producing country, people are so open-minded.

“I think here you really have the opportunity to let the people discover new things. Everyone has a favourite wine, but if you’re willing to try something new, when you arrive at the table and you say, ‘Okay, what do you recommend?’ – this is for me the best guest I can have. This is when I can share my passion and I can really let you discover something new. This is why I want to have so many different wines.

“I think my drive is the enthusiasm I have when I let people discover new thing and share my knowledge and then start a conversation. And I think orange wine is one of the most incredible stories to tell people.”

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