Josh Lachkovic launched The Wine List in August 2019. A monthly subscription service delivering wine to customers across the UK, each delivery includes a red and white, with accompanying tasting notes. With an ambition to make the world of wine less intimidating, we talk to Josh about where to find his favourite grapes and which wine regions he’s most keen to explore next (when permitted, of course).
Tell us about The Wine List. What’s your ambition for the company?
A few years ago, I studied wine with a course provided by the Wine & Sprit Education Trust. It’s typically a trade-level course that more and more consumers take up these days. It’s formal: classroom-focused, revision around the classwork, and an exam at the end. Lots of memorising regions, and grapes. The knowledge is great, but the way you learn there just isn’t suitable for someone who wants to enjoy wine as a hobby.
Wine is the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink, but less than 0.1% of people ever study it. People often don’t feel confident in how they choose wines. I remember heading into a wine merchant when I was younger, looking at price first, and being a bit embarrassed when asked what I enjoyed (‘The Co-op Cotes-du-Rhone’ I thought but that felt basic).
Wine List exists to end that feeling. We want to empower every amateur wine enthusiast so they have the confidence to explore wines from around the world, have an understanding of why wine tastes the way it does, and have fun at the same time. We’re not a wine course you revise for, but we aim to push you out your comfort zone and learn where previously you only drank before. There are six million wine drinkers in the UK who want to learn more, and we’re setting our sights squarely on serving them.
How do you select the wines you choose for your subscription box each month?
We look for wines that are characteristic in some way. Because we’re helping people learn, the wines need to reveal something wine-y. That could be a particular display of fruit, or style, or winemaking process. Our wines are typically lesser-known grapes, regions or styles.
Sometimes people ask us if they can only have reds because they don’t like white. And then a month later, we surprise them with a pinot grigio, which they love, because they’ve only ever had one (bland, poorly made) style of pinot grigio before.
Tell us about your all-time favourite wines—where are they from, and what is it about how they’re made, that contributes to their taste?
I love Burgundy. It’s a massive region in central France with a few top-level styles, and then hundreds of subtle variations from place to place. And I’m not talking about hundreds of miles apart either. Take a village like Puligny-Montrachet. There are four grand crus (the very best sites), and 19 premier crus (the second best). Each one of those sites will produce slight variations on those wines – and they are often barely separated by a wall.
Can you recommend three wines we can try, to help with some at-home escapism whilst we can’t travel?
Red wine from Mount Etna. These are exceptional, incredible value and are so different from almost all Italian red you’ll drink. They are light, floral, and slightly herbaceous.
Pet nat from anywhere (although Tillingham in Sussex and Davenport in Kent have particularly good ones). This is what the French call méthode ancestrale—the style of making sparking wine before Champagne came along. These wines will change your perception a bit of what wine can be. These are endlessly drinkable and just good fun.
Canary Islands whites. Again, a much lesser-known region. But these are so fresh and mineral and totally transport you in the most marvellous way.
Wine and travel are closely linked. How has travel influenced you? Do you build winery visits into every holiday?
Yes, pretty much! We’ll be starting to import our own wines soon, and the first vineyards will all be those that we’ve visited at some point in the past. Like food, wine is another way to help you learn about a place. Understand what the local wine tastes are, what food the locals drink those wines with, and then find the newer winemakers who are doing wines in their own styles. That all reveals a lot about a place, and gives me endless inspiration.
Have you had any wine tasting highlights you can tell us about from your travels?
Wherever you are, there’s a joy in discovering a lesser-known style. We were in the Dordogne last Autumn. The Dordogne is right next to Bordeaux, and the climates and terroir are similar, so a lot of the reds you get are these big reds, lots of tannins, driven by leathery, earthy notes, with a back-pinning of blackcurrant. They are nice wines.
But then you find a winemaker doing things differently. We found red which felt ultra light in comparison; there was no leatheriness. It was just clean and fresh, with really high acidity in the wines. And it was like being woken back up. The contrast is always lovely.
When we’re free to travel, which wine region around the world are you most keen to visit, where you haven’t yet been?
There are far too many to choose from! But a top-three list might be: Tenerife, Oregon, and Central Otago, in New Zealand.
Where in the world are you happiest?
The Luberon in Provence. I’m a huge Elizabeth David fan, and ever since reading French Provincial Cooking when I was younger, I became obsessed with this corner of the world. Driving with the windows down, the smell of lavender and thyme scenting the air, and the sun dappled streets. It’s perfect. As for a tip, have a picnic at the top of the hill in the village of Saignon, overlooking the valley—you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in a new destination?
Probably find a local bar and sit outside with a glass of something. Take in the local area, and get an understanding of the pace of life. It helps me acclimatise. Then I find something to eat, preferably somewhere with no menu and not an English speaker in sight.
Favourite European city break?
Porto or Budapest. Porto has this wonderfully relaxed vibe and I could sit by the river all day. In Budapest, I felt like there was something exciting going on in every direction. Loads of places to explore – and then of course there’s the Gellart Spa, the most famous Art Nouveau thermal baths in the city, which are the perfect place to start the day.
What’s the most unusual thing you pack in your hand luggage?
If it’s a holiday where we’re getting a house to stay rather than a hotel, then I’ll often take at least one cookbook with me. Reading through some local cuisine in advance on the plane helps me adjust pretty quickly.
What do you never travel without?
Notebooks. To jot everything down from food, stories, and of course wine tasting notes.
Quick fire questions
Podcast or paperback?
Podcast for work, paperback for play
Train or plane?
Cut it fine or leave plenty of time?
Plenty of time.
Sightseeing or sun lounger?
Early start or slowly but surely?
Plan every detail or wing it on arrival?
Pack heavy or pack light?