Elena Serban: Matching wine with Swiss cuisine at Heritage restaurant

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

21 October 2019

It’s not everyday a Swiss-themed restaurant with a serious wine list opens its doors – at least outside of Switzerland. So we were intrigued when Heritage launched earlier this year in London’s Soho.

Canadian-born chef Aarik Persaud is in charge of the menu, while the wine programme is run by former senior somm at Hakkasan Elena Serban. We caught up with her to uncover the challenges of complementing Swiss cuisine while crafting a wine list with personality.

Can you sum up Heritage restaurant?

Heritage is exciting, innovative and stylish. We combine sophisticated Swiss cuisine, interactive dining, an extensive drinks list and the highest standard of service to create a unique experience for [our] guests.

What is Swiss cuisine and what wine pairs well with it?

There is rich fondue with truffle, raclette, or crispy rösti through to seafood and chateaubriand charbonnade.

Riesling is my favourite pairing – its acidity is a key element as to why it pairs so well with Swiss cuisine.

Tell us about your wine list

[Currently] there are a total of 170 bins, including 15 sparkling wines mainly champagne along with cava, prosecco and a sparkling Shiraz from Australia. I’ve featured only three rosés in the autumn list, one from Baden in Germany and two from Provence, all available by the glass. Then we also have 12 white and red wines by the glass.

By the bottle, there are more white wines than reds and a solid selection of sweet wines, six of which are available by Coravin. I did want to include a small selection of sakés, but I found that it does not pair well with [Swiss] food.

How did you approach the process of compiling the wine list?

I joined Heritage on 21 May 2019 and by 7 June [it] needed the wine list ready for the website. I dedicated a lot of time to researching wines, meeting suppliers, dealing with account forms and setting up systems… At times I did feel that I was getting behind, however things are now getting much better.

The new autumn list went live on 1 September, and I already have a selection of magnums and jeroboams for the Christmas period. I’m also working on a few exclusive wines and preparing a slightly different layout for the wine list for the spring.

Is there much Swiss wine on your list?

In total we have 17 wines from Switzerland, mostly from the Valais Region. [We’ve got wine from] Jean-René Germanier, from Ticino’s Paolo Basso, Syrah de Sion by Simon Meyer and a few small allocations from Christophe Abbet, Gantenbein and Thomas Studach.

Do your guests know much about Swiss wine?

A number of guests struggle to believe that Switzerland even produces any wine, [but selling Swiss wine to them] is honestly the best part of my job. I always introduce myself, the wine list and allow them to taste some wines that I would choose – the guests love it. When I present the bottle to the guests, they take pictures.

Have you visited any Swiss wineries yourself?

I had an incredible trip in July to Geneva, Montreaux and Lousanne visiting Lavaux – [where the terraced vineyards are] Unesco World Heritage site – and other villages in Vaud. There were vineyards everywhere, and fantastic wines from Domaine du Daley.

Finally, what are your favourite wines?

I’m very fond of champagne, Manzanilla [sherry] and Riesling, predominantly from Nahe and Rheinhessen. Then I love old Bordeaux, Nebbiolo and Mavrotragano. 

Wines such as Fendant from Valais by Cave Jean Rene Germanier and Humagne Rouge or Pinot Noir, [which we both do] by the glass are fantastic wines. [Also] wines by Mathis Bastian from Luxembourg and Château Béla Riesling from Slovakia – most of the guests do not expect that these wines will taste as good as they do.

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