Unfiltered: Lucy Ward, Wilder

Wine consultant, Lucy Ward, previously of Noble Rot and Dinner by Heston, is now responsible for the wines at London restaurant and bar Wilder, the first solo venture of British chef Richard McLellan. As head sommelier, Ward’s Old-World wine list focuses on organic and biodynamic drops from small producers to match the sustainable ethos of the restaurant. Ward also runs her own wine consultancy company called Vinum, which provides guidance on restaurant wine lists and private cellars.

How did you arrive at the position you are in today?

I have always loved flavours and balance, and I was lucky enough to work in many different countries and with a lot of interesting people that kept me wanting to learn and advance.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

For me, I like to find what people like, and then offer them more options. It’s a great opportunity to try regions and styles they otherwise wouldn’t.

What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?

I find one of the biggest misconceptions is that the only responsibility for a sommelier is only to serve wine on the floor. We should be helping out with every aspect of service.

What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?

A Provence rosé.

What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?

Opening a bottle of Krug, which wasn’t quite cold enough. It literally went everywhere! All over the customers and all over me. Luckily, they found it funny, but I was totally mortified.

If you could give your younger self advice when starting out, what would it be?

If you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up and then learn it as soon as you make your way home.

What bottle sparked your love of wine?

Montevertine ‘Pian de Campolo’ 2009. It is the entry-level wine from Montevertine, and it changed my outlook on wine.

Which customer habit annoys you the most?

To be honest, there aren’t that many habits that annoy me. But I think it would be not turning up for reservations and not cancelling.

Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?

My uncle, he’s one of the best chefs I know, and I have loved his cooking throughout my entire life.

What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?

It would be a Puligny-Montrachet and warm buttery popcorn.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?

Bandol, right next to the sea.

If you weren’t working in the restaurant industry, what would you be doing and why?

A Radio DJ – it has always been my dream. I love music and finding new music, I would do the late-night slot from 12-3 am.

Which wine do you find it impossible to get along with?

They’re not impossible to get along with, but I struggle with some whites from the Rhône Valley.

Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?

Pierce Brosnan. He has the nicest voice on the entire planet. I had the best time just listening to him order a Langhe Nebbiolo.

What makes you most proud to be working in London?

I love the diversity of cuisines that we have in London. Also, I think we deliver a unique style of service, which is relaxed but professional.

What’s on your wine bucket list?

A very old Valentini Trebbiano, any GC Raveneau and I would love to try some more vintages of Rayas.

Finally, what wine and paired plate would you pick from your list and why?

Salsify, barbecued potatoes, yeast and rock samphire. This is one of our starters and it has quite a few and complex flavours. The yeast emulsion is the dominant element in the dish and works fantastically well with the Les Marnes Blanches  – ‘En Quatre Vis’ Savagnin Jura France 2016 from Vine Trail, a topped-up style of Savagnin. With stewed apple flavours and lifted floral notes, this wine has enough weight to hold up to the intense flavours in this dish.

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