Elliott Ashton-Konig manager of The Fordwich Arms restaurant in Kent

When did you first become interested in wine?
It was after tasting Au Bon Climats entry-level pinot noir that I immediately became a fan. It made me want to try more of Jim Clendenen’s wines, but also to understand why he tasted that way and pushed me to explore different styles of wine that I had never tried before.

Tell us about your wine list at Fordwich Arms
Fordwich’s list has just over 300 bins and is an eclectic mix of New and Old World wines, with Armenian, Georgian and Lebanese wines all making an appearance. Our New World selection is something I find particularly strong. It has been grown organically over the years, probably because these are the wines we drink a lot more of. We pride ourselves on having “something for everyone”; I want the list to be accessible, but I also want the focus to be on offering interesting wines from smaller producers that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Kent or even London.

During your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
Not exactly a disaster, but ordering 12 bottles of Anchor Hills orange albarino was definitely optimistic of me. Even with orange/natural wine having its day, it is an esoteric wine that required hand selling. It’s fair to say they hung around the basement for a while.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists
Noble Rot – I’m always envious of his selections by the glass – The Clove Club & Hunan.

Who do you respect the most in the world of wine?
It would probably be Rajat Parr. It sounds cliche, but watching the Somm series definitely pushed me further into the world of wine and inspired me to pick up CMS [Court of Master Sommeliers] Classes. Then, after tasting his wines, it sparked an interest and made me dive deeper into California wines.

What is the most interesting wine you have ever encountered?
Visiting Viuva Gomes in Colares was a very interesting experience, it is a unique place. Being the westernmost wine region in Europe, with sandy soils, they had not been affected by phylloxera. The wines are made from Ramisco and Malvazia de Colares. These are wines with a real sense of terroir.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Mineral, racy and funky.

What’s the best wine on your list right now?
We try to keep prices affordable, so I’d like to think there’s a lot of value to be had. However, a few of my favorites would be the white and pink by R.Lopez de Heredia. The so-called “unicorn” wines are exceptional wines, the white is oxidative and nutty, while the rosé is serious and surprisingly worthy of aging.

What is your ultimate food and drink pairing?
Fizz and fish & chips. Opt for a Blanc de blanc champagne (like Pierre Peters) or a very fresh style of English sparkling wine like Westwell Pelegrim.

Old World or New World?
New world.

What does your pet hate about wine service at other restaurants?
Mulled red wine.

Who is your favorite producer at the moment and why?
It must be Timo Mayer, his wines are certain I must always have on the list. Timo specializes in whole bunch fermentation, which gives all of its wines an amazing purity – they are fresh and extremely drinkable. It’s best known for its single-vineyard Pinot Noir, but its Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely worth seeking out. I haven’t yet served Timo’s wines to someone who doesn’t like them!

As a sommelier, what is the question that customers ask you the most?
What is your favorite wine?

Which wine region/country is currently underestimated?
German wines still don’t get the recognition they deserve. Although their Rieslings are loved by sommeliers, there is still a misconception that the majority of them are too sweet. Eva Fricke is one of my favorite producers, I love using her Rieslings on our wine pairings to challenge our guests’ preconceptions and hopefully change their minds. Some of the Spatburgunders I’ve tasted are also excellent, especially from producers such as Bernard Huber and Meyer-Nakel.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is that?
It would most likely be a Krug bottle that is of some age. I would choose a very good vintage like 1996. There are of course many other wines you could choose from, but as this is your last bottle, I think champagne is a good way to go.

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