How did you become sommelier at The Small Holding?
I’d started my degree and was working at pubs, but wanted something a bit more hands-on with the wine side. I live on a farm as well, so when I heard about The Small Holding opening last year, it seemed like a perfect fit!
Where are you doing your degree?
I’m currently in my second year doing a wine business degree at Plumpton College. We do our WSETS, which are internationally recognised qualifications from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. We learn about different wines from all over the world, including all the viticulture and climate, as well as the business side of wine sales, and a whole module on food and wine, which is really helpful and relevant to The Small Holding.
Does your role there help with the course as well?
It works both ways, and I get to learn about lots of different wines, find new ones, and do pairings, so that I can present them to the tables and find out why they work with the food. The two help and complement each other beautifully.
Do you work closely with the kitchen team when matching the wine to the food?
When our chefs create a new dish, they’ll bring it out for me to taste, so that I can choose a wine to match. I much prefer the restaurant side of everything, and don’t like to be behind the bar for too long! I enjoy being at the tables, looking after the customers and talking to them about the wine.
What kinds of wines tend to work best?
It’s really mixed. We get people who want their Old World wines, and then we get others who are interested in trying the new things there are out there. I’m quite interested in natural wines; it’s a bit of a hard sell, depending on who your customer base is, but I think they’d work with the wine pairings we do.
Any personal favourite bottles?
The Kit’s Coty Chardonnay from Chapel Down’s Single Vineyard Collection. I spent quite a while not really liking English still wines very much, but they’ve improved in the last few years. You could put this Chardonnay in a line-up with any Burgundy, and be hard-pressed to find out where it’s from. Chapel Down really have made an outstanding wine.
Are you a fan of English wines generally now?
It’s such an exciting time to be a part of English winemaking, and it’s important to make sure that our wine list has something English on it. I like talking to people about wine, and want to be able to introduce them to something a little bit different; the English Bacchus we have has similar characteristics to a New Zealand Sauvignon, so it’s usually easy to sway people.
In what ways do you want to develop The Small Holding’s wine offering going forward?
I want our drinks to be the same as the food; we used to have a longer wine list, but I’d like to make it shorter, with some quality wines that have been carefully selected for a reason, and then focus on the pairings a bit more.
When you come to The Small Holding, you’re coming to eat local, real food. The menu is made from the finest seasonal, organic, locally-sourced and homegrown ingredients available at the time from our farm, and I want the wines to reflect that as well; showcasing the best of Kent and beyond from new and established producers adds to and heightens the whole experience. I’ve got quite a lot of free rein on which wines I select, and some of the dishes are then based around that, which is fantastic.
To enjoy a unique tasting menu complete with wine pairings at The Small Holding, you can book your table here. Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list below!
© WILL AND MATT DEVLIN