At The Bar With Lucas Restaurants Head of Wine + Sommelier Loic Avril

French sommelier Loic Avril talks to The Write Drop about wines piquing his interest, a Victorian winery that stands out by a mile, and why tequila is his spirit of choice when he’s giving wine a rest.

As the Head of Wine at the Lucas Restaurants in Melbourne, Avril brings his wealth of experience and knowledge to their epic wine lists across all their iconic venues. Crowned World’s Best Young Sommelier in 2013 when he worked at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, Avril was always destined to work with wines given he grew up in the most historic wine regions of France.

MY CITY

I was born in the heart of the Loire Valley in the west of France, in the town of Tours. This region of Touraine is mostly dedicated to vine growing, producing some of the most outstanding Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes. The winemaking industry is really strongly tied to the food culture, then you’ve got these amazing castles and châteaux lining each bank of the river. So many diverse elements from the food, wine, river, landscapes, micro-climates and architecture. Travel from one side to the other and you’ll find so many different things. Melbourne is also cool climate and if I’m going to be in another city, this is a perfect fit. The cool influence of climate, the landscapes surrounding the city, it all brings me back.

FAVOURITE FOOD MEMORY

It would be all the memories of my travels through Japan — all the seafood dishes from the markets, to be exposed to this sort of thing in the same way as we are back in France is great, the open markets, the live seafood cooked in front of you. What really stood out was the precision and art of the Japanese food culture, the depth of flavours, encountering all these different seasonings. I loved enjoying all the local ramen made in these small market stalls. The son, the father, the mother, all behind the counter, working together with such precision in such a small space. Delivering this incredible top-quality food in such a short time — that was so impressive to me.

FAVOURITE BAR MEMORY

Above Board on Smith St – it’s such a fascinating bar. First and foremost, it’s a culinary-style bar experience – so like a bar that operates like a fine dining kitchen. As soon as you open the door, you feel transported into this world of experience. The bartenders are experienced and have a refinement to their craft, tailoring and curating sensational drinks. With all these different aspects, you always leave here with such a full and rounded memory — it hits all your senses.

WINE THAT DESCRIBES YOUR PERSONALITY

Chenin Blanc. It gets its characters from the energy and synergy of the acid, the balance of structure vs complexity. The way it’s carefully made to ensure the longer it ages, the better it becomes — even after it’s aged for a long time, it’s still a great experience in the glass. It offers something great at every point you taste it along the way.

BEST HANGOVER CURE

Oysters, freshly shucked and plain. The salty water is actually the perfect cure. It’s got this perfect balance and transports you straight to the seaside — what’s better than that? I discovered this cure a long time ago.

BEST INTERSTATE BAR

I love Cantina OK! in Sydney. Mezcal and tequila, the magic and talent here are exquisite, from the venue itself to the staff and how they’re delivering it. Even if you’re not a tequila fan, I‘d urge you to give it a go. Last time I was there I had an amazing cocktail, called Pepita.

FAVOURITE WINES

This must be the hardest question for a sommelier to answer. I mean, there are so many variables, so many things that dictate your enjoyment of something. However, with all the travel I’ve done so far, I can say I always really enjoy wines with the same similar acidity and vibrancy to a Chenin Blanc. Furmint from Hungary and Assyrtiko from Santorini are two that I’ll never say no to trying, and always enjoy.

FAVOURITE WINERY

As a French sommelier, I could say anything old-world, but if I had to pick an amazing Australian winery without going for the top iconic labels, it’d have to be something in Macedon or Beechworth. Sentio by Chris Catlow, who has a Beechworth heritage, bred and born in Australia, but with a sense of the old-world that’s brought to him by Burgundy.

BEST NEWCOMER

Tea. Outside of traditional uses, it can be used in cocktails, but also great to develop for non-alcoholic drinks. So many styles and suited to so many different cuisines, it’s the perfect vehicle for different kinds of enjoyment. As for the pairing experience, there are so many things you can do. It’s sort of similar to wine, in that there are so many different aspects, different forms. It’s not just for sipping at the end of a meal. From different brewing times, different water used, different altitude it’s picked at, where it’s from/terroir etc.

NEXT DESTINATION

Chile – because the wine is some of the finest in the world. It also has a food and beverage offering that’s really tied to and dictated by the sea, the mountains and that higher altitude. There are really clean, fresh wines to be found. It’s such a long country with different landscapes that vary so much, and they all have different influences. The wine culture also has this mix of old-world and new-world. The old French and Spanish influence have driven it for so long time, but then also this newer modern approach that’s been coming through more recently. It’s really producing some of the best quality wines in the world, in my opinion. Hopefully I’ll get there in the next five years.

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