This month we’re talking about Natural Wine so we sat down with Katie Seward to chat about natural vino. Originally from Cork, Katie’s interest in wine was sparked by her parents. While at college, she was working at Meades 126 in Cork City when she decided to drop out and move to France to learn more about wine and hospitality. A few years later, she moved back to Ireland and started working at Chapter One.
It was later, while she was working between Forest Avenue and Forest & Marcy that she developed a love for natural wine. She says it was around this time that two of her friends Brian and Kevin of Meet Me in the Morning had started holding natural wine evenings at the café. She went along to one of the evenings and offered to work if they held more natural wine events. A few months later, Brian and Kevin opened Loose Canon (a natural wine and cheese bar on Drury Street, Dublin 2) and Katie joined the team.
She has since moved to London to join her boyfriend who moved there in May. Katie now works at Mãos a 16 seater communal dining space in Shoreditch run by Nuno Mendes “It’s amazing, totally different to anything I’ve seen before, each evening turns into a sort of dinner party.“
We all have a story of how we ended up working in the wine industry. When and how did you get into wine?
My folks have always been into wine. We were really lucky as kids and got brought to some really interesting places and allowed taste some great things. I definitely wouldn’t be working in wine now if it wasn’t for that exposure to restaurants as a kid. I started working in the Ivory Tower in Cork during college and then Meades 126 which is when I decided that this was what I wanted to do full time so I dropped out of college and moved to France to learn more.
What do you find is the most interesting part of your job?
Definitely the people you meet. Everywhere I’ve worked I’ve gotten to work alongside and serve some really interesting people, many of whom you keep as really good friends.
What makes a good wine professional?
For me, a good wine professional totally focuses on the person’s experience. You can guide someone without forcing your tastes on them, you need to be there as a resource of information whether that person wants to drop serious money, try something completely out there that they’ve never had before or even just pick up a bottle to have in front of the TV. Good wine professionals make wine approachable to people and not this niche thing that you need a tastevin around your neck and a massive budget to get into.
How would you describe natural wines to someone who has never tried them before? Which bottle would you recommend to them to get them started?
Natural wine is wine that hasn’t been messed around with. You’re getting a natural, clean product that’s not full of chemicals and has had its essence stripped away. Anything from minimal intervention right up to biodynamic. Some of my favourites for introducing people to natural wine are Alexandre Bain from the Loire, Kràsna Horà from the Czech Republic and Andrew Nielsen of Le Grappin.
What wines are you drinking at the moment?
I’m fairly spoilt for choice at the moment when it comes to drinking wine having just moved to London. I recently spent an amazing few days with Findlater & Co in Burgenland in Austria where I fell in love with Michael Wenzel’s wines - they’re all beautiful but I’m particularly attached to his Wild and Free Gelber Muskateller, I’ve also been drinking a lot of Frank Cornelissen’s Susucaru as we can’t get it in Dublin yet but is fairly easy to find here. Some Gut Oggau whenever I can - without a doubt my favorite winemakers. Christian Tschida’s rosé is great, Partida Creus, Domaine de la Tournelle...the list is endless!
What’s your go-to region for consistently good, interesting wines?
It changes every few weeks! I really fell in love with Austrian wine recently having gotten to visit Burgenland, I love Northern Spain also but for me the most interesting region at the moment are coming from Auvergne and parts of the Rhône, great produces like Daniel Sage, Patrick Bouju, Vincent Marie and Aurelien Lefort are making fascinating wines that I love.
What is your favourite food and wine combination?
I don’t have one, certain wines I love with certain foods, but I’ve definitely moved away from the “pairing” idea. When we eat out I generally order the wine while David orders what we eat, I don’t think there are any set rules you should follow which is something I’ve always said to guests - just have what you like.
As you already mentioned, you recently moved to London. How are you finding the move so far?
I’ve been in London for a few weeks now and love it. I’ve always loved the city and the food and wine scene here, we have endless wine shops and bars here, absolutely spoilt for choice. The wine list at Mãos is definitely one of the most interesting I’ve ever worked with, minimal intervention wines from some fantastic producers. My manager Alex Casey came to Mãos from Sager and Wilde and is one of the most passionate wine people I’ve ever met, I’m learning loads with him. We serve a fifteen-course meal so don’t do a set pairing but change the glass list every evening; serving a champagne, pet nat, three whites, two reds, a pink, an orange, a sake and two sweet. I’m going to take the opportunity to sit my WSET diploma here next year, there’s so much more available in London with it being a bigger city.
Your favourite wine bars in Dublin, London or anywhere else in the world..
My favourite wine bar in the world is without a doubt Septime Cave in Paris, they’re some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met with an insane list of wines.
Here in London I love P Franco, the Laughing Heart and Noble Rot. In Dublin I'm slightly biased but Loose Canon. I absolutely love Greenman Wines in Terenure - David is one of those people who really, really loves wine; Fish Shop was one of the first places in the city to serve a completely natural list by the glass and Piglet is also a really great spot.