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Expert Interview

7 Questions with Anne McHale

We caught up with Master of Wine Anne McHale who shared with us some of her insider tips and how she picks wine for restaurants' wine lists.

What made you go into the world of wine?

My dad’s a keen wine-lover and I got the bug from him! I didn’t think of it as a career, though – that part happened almost by accident. I studied French at university and ended up getting a job afterwards in a London-based French wine company that needed a French speaker. The rest, as they say, is history…

What is your favourite place to drink wine in London? Or, globally? 

Ooooh, that’s a hard one to answer! London is full of places with amazing wine lists, but if I’m completely honest, my favourite place to drink wine is at home. I’ve got a great collection and I love nothing more than trying out a new recipe and then scanning through my wine fridge to find the perfect pairing.

Who is someone you look up to in the industry?

It’s hard not to admire the great Jancis Robinson MW. She is such an informed, intelligent and knowledgeable Master of Wine and throughout her impressive career has consistently produced high quality wine writing, as well as inspired many others.

What is your top tip when buying wine?

When you’re new to wine and feel bewildered by the sheer choice out there, I would advise that you shop with a specialist wine merchant who can give you personalised advice. Much better to get an expert’s assistance than to stand bemusedly in front of the supermarket shelf and end up selecting whatever’s on offer or the prettiest label! Getting advice from a wine merchant, either online or in person, will encourage you to explore more unusual grape varieties and regions, which is where most of the fun lies. 

What advice would you give someone who is interested in working in the wine industry?

Get started on your WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) qualifications, and get some work experience on the shop floor or in a restaurant, selling and recommending wine.

Can you explain a little bit about the process a restaurant or hotel goes through to pick wine for their wine list?

 One of my roles is to advise restaurants and hotels on their wine lists, and I’ll always start by working out how many wines will go on the list, and the balance of styles we’re going for. Then we’ll work out the price points we want and which suppliers we’re going to use. That will be followed by a big tasting to narrow down the best options. I always make sure I go for a mix of recognisable origins and grape varieties combined with lesser-known ‘hidden gems’ so that guests can always discover something new. We also want to ensure that the wines chosen match the restaurant’s menu and cuisine, so quite often there’ll be some food tasting involved too. I have a terrible job, don’tI?!? 

What is your favourite wine?

That’s even harder to answer than my favourite place to drink wine! I genuinely don’t have a favourite; my preferences change according to the weather, my mood and what’s for dinner. But if I was trapped on a desert island and someone else was paying the bill, I’d probably go for a top-class white Burgundy from a vineyard like Le Montrachet. Those wines are hard to beat.

Anyone who's new to wine can sign up for Anne's free video series, Understanding Wine?

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