Unfiltered: Frenk Trouw
The head sommelier of Restaurant Andrew Fairlie talks to Douglas Blyde about the best producers in the Netherlands, what to match with boudin blanc, and the possibility of Glendevon appellation contrôlée…
What is your vintage?
I was born in Rotterdam in 1991, a year from which I drank the stunning Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon on my birthday last September. Vintage Ports, too, are great from ‘91 though hard to come by.
Who, for you, are the best Dutch winemakers?
In the Netherlands, I’ve always enjoyed the wines from De Apostelhoeve who produce some very good sparkling wines and still Rieslings, while Wijnhoeve de Kleine Schorre is receiving a lot of attention these days. And outside the Netherlands, I’ve always been a great fan of the wines of Carel Voorhuis, made at Domaine d’Ardhuy, Burgundy. We list his stunning 2005 Clos de Vougeot in the restaurant.
Where did you work before Restaurant Andrew Fairlie?
I’ve worked in hospitality since I was 14, initially cleaning toilets in a hotel, later bartending at an Irish pub, then becoming sommelier alongside my studies at Restaurant Prei, Amsterdam. I moved to Scotland as part of an internship, working at The Strathearn before applying to Restaurant Andrew Fairlie in 2016. In less than a year I worked my way up from commis sommelier to assistant restaurant manager with a strong link to wine service and in May 2021 took on the role of head sommelier.
How does the setting of the restaurant, including abstract art, enhance the enjoyment of wine?
The beautiful art and slightly darker colour scheme brings mystique to the intimate atmosphere of the dining room which is tucked away in the Gleneagles Hotel. I think it stimulates the senses, greatly enhancing the joy of wine, food and good company.
Almost all our artwork is created by Archie Forrest, a dear friend of Chef Andrew. Some of the art has a food theme, such as the charcoals of kitchen utensils, but most important to us are the portraits of Andrew which keeps him very much with us. Rachel Dein, meanwhile, created a bespoke piece featuring vegetables, herbs and fruit from our secret garden cast into an artwork.
Describe your list?
Fairly classic, reaching 350 listings. There’s no need for us to have 1,000 bins: many guests here would either get lost or just give up because they are ready to start dinner and drink wine. We aim to list exceptional examples of appellations, producers and grape varieties to make it understandable. It is very important for me that what we list is in the right drinking window and doesn’t need hours to breathe before finally living up to its potential. We are an ambassade for Krug, which has a very special place in our hearts. We also have an extensive selection from Jacques Selosse, Quintarelli, and have Barbaresco from the 1970s and Bordeaux from the 1980s and 1990s.
Why don’t you stock English wines?
While there are some good wines made in England, I cannot always justify the price on them once compared to other wines on our list.
What has been a sublime wine match with head chef, Stephen McLaughlin’s chicken and truffle boudin blanc with watercress, and truffle sauce?
The soft, but rich texture of Viña Tondonia Reserva Bianco 2009 from Lopez de Heredia follows the texture of the boudin blanc beautifully, while its savoury, subtle oxidative and ripe character really lifts the truffle, meatiness of the chicken and the Madeira in the sauce. Perfect harmony and interaction.
How much of the current menu pays homage to the late, great Andrew Fairlie?
The whole menu is strongly inspired by his vision and style. Simple food, brilliantly done, with a focus on local produce and classic French technique. Stevie worked with Andrew for 25 years and you can very clearly see his inspiration. Our home smoked Scottish lobster is the big classic, but there is no dish that he wouldn’t have cooked.
What did Andrew enjoy drinking?
Deep, rich reds and mature Champagnes. In particular, Rioja, Bordeaux and vintage Krug. He also loved whisky. Ardbeg and Glenrothes were amongst his favourites.
What grape or style of wine could you happily do without?
I have never fully understood the big “Natural Wine” movement – people who are looking for “funky”, which in my experience denotes often poorly made or even faulty wine. I embrace the idea of orange wine, different techniques and low intervention, but when a wine smells like something decomposing, please don’t tell me it’s good!
What music do you play in the dining room?
Jazz and soul selected by Theo Forrest. It breaks the stigma of being a posh, stiff two-star and gets people in the right mood for a great night.
Tell us something surprising about yourself?
I avoid book studies because I can’t sit still for longer than five minutes! Instead, I learn by listening to people including winemakers, sommeliers and other industry professionals, dedicating my travels to wine producing areas, and of course by non-stop tasting.
What is the most interesting book you’ve read?
“Stalin’s Wine Cellar” which a guest brought me.
Do you ever get starstruck by your guests?
We’ve looked after some of the rich and famous and although it can be quite fun sometimes, the professional responsibility and relationship with diners always takes the upper hand.
What spirit are you particularly excited by?
Well-sherried, heavily peated whisky. We had a nice collection of whisky in the house I grew up in and I loved single malts from a young age. Moving to Scotland and tasting a dram at the very source was like a dream come true.
What is the most beautiful vineyard you have been to?
Drinking the wines from Klein Constantia in their vineyards up on the mountain, with a panoramic view over Cape Town and their vineyards. Truly breathtaking.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Here in Scotland of course! Glendevon appellation contrôlée.
Who should prospective sommeliers contact if they want to join your team?
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or via Instagram (@frenktrouw) for an informal chat. The consistent quality that runs through every member of our team is a strong and respectful work ethic.