Natalia Ribbe, founder of the Barletta Margate restaurant on wine

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Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine

I have always been around wine with my father’s job as a hotel manager. But I took no note of it until I moved to Vienna at 18 to start college. One of my dad’s best friends had a wine bar / restaurant in Am Graben called Fino, and I worked there a few shifts a week while in college. It was the first time I discovered Gruner Vetliner and Riesling, how to taste good and the importance of glassware. But I think it was my first job in New York at David Bouley’s Danube where I started to learn about wine and take an interest in what I was consuming.

Tell us about your wine list at Barletta at Turner Contemporary

Barletta’s wine list covers the Mediterranean and surrounding regions. I don’t want to limit myself to Mediterranean wines alone, especially with my affinity for wines from Austria and Hungary, but it has become a great sketch to build from. I also really think about the value and the price. I know I’m happy to spend a little more on a wine, but our guests come from all over and I don’t want them to shy away from a great wine because of the price. So I try to make the list as inclusive as possible. Something for orange wine fanatics and also for gallery enthusiasts looking for something easy and accessible on both their palette and their wallet. I tend to list as many female wine producers as possible which was not intended, I always seem to fall in love with the stories behind wine produced by women.

During your career, have you experienced any wine-related disasters? for example. drop off an expensive bottle / order a case of oxidized Burgundy etc.

I refer to this story often because it was the most mortifying for me, but also a rookie mistake. I was 21 and I worked at the Circus in the Bloomberg building. I worked in the bar and took care of a large group of drinkers including Sirio Maccioni, the boss himself. He looked like everything you imagine, a big beefy Italian mafioso guy, in a striped suit and a bespoke colorful tie, all topped off with flashes of gold jewelry. The guy had a lot of charisma and could the boy work in a room. He was sitting in the center of the bar, and here I am with four glasses of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, just watching them swing across the set as if gravity is never going to disturb this moment. A nudge and the four glasses flew off, spilling all over Sirio. He stood up as if emerging from a wave of champagne, cursing in Italian. He turned around and saw my tearful face and I quickly ran back. There was no escaping him, the back of the restaurant was lined with old family photos and everywhere I looked I was faced with my champagne disaster staring me in the face. I will never forget him. This is one of the first lessons I teach my team; how to carry a flute tray.

Name your three best restaurant wine lists

I will keep it local because we are so lucky to have amazing places here in Thanet with great wine lists and it just keeps getting better. Plus, this is where I spend most of my drinking time. Dory’s – sort of a seafood bar / wine bar – is my favorite place in Margate. Lee (Coad) and the team have a great wine blend for every occasion and focus on English producers. Not a restaurant, but Little Swift has an amazing selection. Charlotte has transformed what was once a beer-focused bottle shop into the Margate Wine Shop. I know when I get there she will have one of my favorites or something new to try. And I have a real soft spot for the Whitstable Oyster Company. My list of choices for all classics. No new wave hipster stuff there, it’s just good ol ‘old world classics.

Who do you respect the most in the wine world?

I have very close relationships with the people who sell me wine and they are the ones I respect the most. My friend Jo Draper from Jascots is a legend. And I don’t make it easy for him. I love tasting with Fernando d’Otros Vinos, he fascinates me about wine and really falls in love with the winemakers which makes selling wine so easy. And Rupert in Uncharted is the most fun. I feel like I’m talking to my friend about wine and always know I’m in good hands with what he suggests. These three have always given me confidence in the world of wine.

What is the most interesting wine you have ever come across?

Right now, I’m obsessed with Vins et Poulailles, which produces a wine called Putes Feministes which translates directly to “feminist whores”. It is made by a group of women with backgrounds spanning a variety of industries but led by Fleur Godart. This wine interests me not only because of its intention to bring out the misogynistic side of the wine industry, but it is also absolutely delicious. Bright orange, slightly floral, very easy to forget how many glasses or bottles you have had. It is my favorite wine to sell and I have managed to convince so many people to taste it and they end up falling in love with it as much as I do.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?

Dry, acidic and mineral.

What’s the best wine on your list right now (and why) …
I think the Marterey Chardonnay (from Languedoc Roussillon) I have on drinks like Burgundy on a budget and it’s £ 55 for a bottle. Fidora’s Prosecco Frizzante Col Fondo is also a cloudy little appetizer so sophisticated for the dreaded P word. It’s simply stunning and £ 7 a glass.

What is your final match between food and drink?

Give me fish and chips with a funky orange wine any day (extra curry sauce please). I also like to have a Riesling with Thai, Japanese or Chinese food. We recently sat around our kitchen table making baskets and baskets of dumplings, drinking Newcomer Wines’ Melsheimer Riesling. It was paradise.

Old World or New World?

Impossible to answer. Both worlds are great in their own way.

What does your pet hate about serving wine at other restaurants?

Poor wine service. I like the splendor of presenting the bottle and opening it elegantly. I once saw someone in a famous London restaurant open a bottle between their legs. It was like nails on a painting to me. Also, if a sommelier or the person selling the wine is a bit snobbish and intimidating, it always cracks my feathers.

Who is your favorite producer at the moment and why?

Constantina Sotelo in Rias Bixas. She looks like a warrior. I have only tasted two of his wines so far, Rosalia and Misturas, but to me they are what I imagine the moody sea would taste. And being by the sea, I always want to conjure up that salty goodness in a glass. Each sip of his wines transports me to float in the ocean, to sunbathe, to listen to the waves undulating. It was the wine that really transported me to my happiness.

As a restaurateur, what question do customers ask you most often?

How is business going? I like to think that our locals and regulars are really invested in us, especially since we are in a small community that really cares about their local restaurants. So people often ask me how we do as a business. As the wine “person” in our restaurant, our guests often ask me for pairing suggestions – which is my favorite. I’ve handpicked all the wines on the list and I love being able to suggest what I know that will go perfectly with their oxtail stew or Sunday roast.

Which wine region / country is currently underestimated and why?

I think Hungary is not enough in the limelight. Of course, we all know Tokaj, but there are some great wineries and wineries in Balaton. I also started having Greek wines on the menu last summer, and after our vacation there this year, I can’t wait to find out more.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?

Since this is my last meal, I want to remember the happiest moment of my life. And Christmas is my favorite time of year. I don’t always come back to the States for the holidays, but it’s our family tradition on Christmas Day to drink champagne, usually a rose. So I was going to look for a Ruinart Rose, half a dozen oysters and Frank Sinatra playing in the background.


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