About Time You Met: The Founders of VinotecaBy Angelica Malin
Pouring great wines in welcoming, informal bars since 2005, Vinoteca is the place to go for wine and food, friends and conversation. We sit down with founders Charlie and Brett to talk sparkling reds, brunch and 2017 plans:
So, guys, when did you first get into wine?
Charlie: I was working as a beer salesman in my early 20s and we were sat down by a wine educator to help us get more wine into the pubs and working men’s clubs we were selling to. I was hooked and studied and worked with wines from then on. Meeting Brett 15 years later helped bring everything I’d done come into focus, and through our shared dreams of starting something new, the idea for Vinoteca came about.
Brett: Very similar to Charlie, whilst working in hotels in New Zealand I hung out with the wine buyer who inspired me with his laid back, enthusiastic and passionate approach to fine wine. An example of this was when we had Krug Champagne with fish and chips, which is how we work at Vinoteca.
What’s your first memory of wine?
Charlie: Helping a school friend serve wine to his parents and their friends at a posh party, and trying a ‘one for them, one for me’ approach. I threw up on the white carpet in his parent’s bedroom and passed out. We were 12. My experiences since then have been overwhelmingly more positive.
Brett: Marque Vue’ or as we use to call it at school ‘Marque Spew’. It was a shockingly highly acidic fizzy wine that would put most aspiring young wine drinkers off wine. Not me though!
Do you cook? What’s your go-to dish?
Charlie: Yes. A pan-fried aged rump steak with homemade chips, English mustard and greens.
Brett: I love to cook with my wife. One of our favourite dishes at the moment is char grilled quail with cinnamon and pomegranate molasses, which goes superbly with the 2014 Sparkling Red from Camel Valley in Cornwall.
What do you look for in a restaurant?
Charlie: Originality, honesty, accessibility and value. And really good food. And a wine list where someone has made an effort.
Brett: Relaxed, informative service with a well thought out menu and an entertaining wine list that is good value.
Why do you think wine bars have become so popular recently, more than cocktail bars?
Charlie: Well, if they have, it’s because wine has become so much more approachable. Many of the barriers that used to be there have been dropped, allowing anyone to be curious and find exciting wines that aren’t just for a special occasion.
Brett: The key is that wine bars have also become much more engaging and better at creating a great fun atmosphere where the stories of wine are discussed and drunk with no pretension. Our aim when we started out 10 years ago at Vinoteca was to make it possible for anyone to find out about wine without feeling intimidated. Unfortunately this still needs to distill down to some parts of the wine trade, but we are getting there.
What country for wine excites you at the moment? What’s a recent discovery?
Charlie: I am loving what’s happening in South Australia – young producers making wines with restraint rather than power and over-ripeness, and from lesser known grape varieties such as Nero d’Avola and Vermentino.
Brett: Greece for me is fascinating, from the sunny island wines of Santorini to the almost snow-capped wines of the Northern Peloponnėse. Loving the 2015 Muscat Sec, Tetramythos – it has this intense floral rose petal scent with a joyous blast of orange, peach and a zing of lemon. It’s naturally yeast fermented and unfiltered to give you those big full-on flavours.
Where do you source the produce for the food at Vinoteca?
Charlie: We use suppliers that we know can give us the quality and seasonality that we look for. Examples are Ben’s Fish who bring in super-fresh fish from their day boats off Mersea island and the waters around the Essex coast, lambs free to roam and graze in the Elwy Valley in Wales from Daphne’s Lamb, and the best and freshest fruit and vegetables from Rushton’s, based in New Covent Garden Market.
Brett: I can’t really add much more, but what a lot of people may not know is that we have five very talented chefs using all these great suppliers and their ingredients to create their own modern British menus at each of our sites – they even bake their own bread, every day.
Favourite coffee spot in London:
Charlie: My kitchen at home!
Favourite brunch in London:
Charlie: Royal China in Canary Wharf for dim sum.
Brett: Brew in Chiswick. They do great Turkish folded eggs.
Favourite date spot in London:
Charlie: Genesis Cinema in Mile End
Brett: Cecconi’s for Negronis at the bar
Favourite park in London:
Charlie: Victoria Park
Brett: Richmond Park
What’s next for the Vinoteca brand?
Charlie: The City! We’ll be opening in the Autumn in Bloomberg’s amazing new headquarters, opposite Canon Street station.
Brett: And a new Rodney and the Horse beer in collaboration with Mark Haisma and Beak Brewery. Think beer matured in old Viognier barrels.
Vinoteca has locations in Kings Cross, Soho, Chiswick, Marylebone and Farringdon. For more information and to book, see Vinoteca’s website here.