12 of London’s best female sommeliers and wine buyers

Laure Patry – Executive head sommelier – The Social Company

French-born Patry cut her teeth in the hospitality industry in the Loire. Studying catering, her teacher suggested she spend a year as a sommelier, so she did. “I took the challenge and fell in love with wine,” she says. Like many, she found the ability to turn a passion for wine into a job, that also allowed her to travel, meet the producers and relate their stories to customers, immensely appealing. Patry is a veteran of the London fine-dining scene, having worked for Gordon Ramsay for eight years, Claridge’s for two then Maze for six years before she joined Jason Atherton’s new venture in 2011.

By the age of 25, when Maze opened, she was in charge of the 14-strong team of sommeliers in a restaurant that was open seven days of the week, every day of the year. No mean feat. As such she’s picked up a thing or two about dealing with people. Contrary to the long-held belief that somms are just there to suggest, sip and spit wine, Patry knows a sommelier has to appraise their customer as much as the wine they might be suggesting. And also never discuss price, a lesson learned rather abruptly one evening at Claridge’s (see right-hand page).

She’s also been at the heart of a huge shift in tastes and explosion of styles and movements within wine itself. She is a firm believer in ‘natural wines’, in the sense of wines that are, “low intervention, that express the terroir and that are made without chemicals”. Patry notes that there is also interest from customers who are trying things like orange wines – at least by the glass. On the other hand, some of the more traditional styles are becoming a little less interesting in comparison.

“I am going less and less towards Bordeaux at the moment, and struggling with some of the prices of Burgundy,” she remarks. So what does she think can take its place? If you’re Patry, it’s very clear that Jura is being very under-used, with its Chardonnay and Poulsard providing value and variety to a list. Looking ahead to the next challenge, Patry is currently digging into the wide and varied world that is saké.

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