Desert Island Wines with Kat Fowler, Bordeaux Index Chief Operations Officer
8 March 2022
We sat down with Kat Fowler, Bordeaux Index Chief Operations Officer and cast her off to a desert island with only five wines of her choice. Discover which five she chose to take with her and why.
As Chief Operations Officer at Bordeaux Index if you did not have before, you have probably developed a passion for wine, when did this first start? Can you remember your first experience with wine?
I was lucky enough to marry into a family who are passionate about two things, the first is cars and the second is wine. The first time I had a real eureka moment with wine and understood how incredible a bottle could be, was about 20 years ago in the Highlands with my husband and a group of close friends and family. During the trip we had several exceptional dinners with wines to match and the wines were part and parcel of really memorable evenings. But the moment that struck a real chord with me wasn’t during one of the elaborate dinners. It happened when we were deep in the Highlands having loaded up the car with wood, pans, bacon and sausages. We all sat around eating bacon baps taking in the spectacular view and we opened a bottle of 1985 Sassicaia. It was then that I realised what all the fuss was about. The wine was so pure, it really stood out to me, incomparable to anything I had ever tasted before. For me, that was the pivotal moment that really changed my perspective on wine. I’m pleased to say the trip to the Highlands consequently turned into an annual event, with the same group of friends and we always make sure one lunch we head off into the great outdoors with a really beautiful bottle of wine………..and bacon baps, of course.
Say we cast you away to a wine region rather than a desert island, if you could choose one wine region to be stuck on which would it be and why?
I have been fortunate to travel around the world and most of the wines I have chosen are from quite far afield, but I would have to choose Tuscany because when I look back on my visits to Italy, I have had so many special moments there. Not only was it a Super Tuscan that was my first stand out moment with wine but when I finished school, I lived in Italy for three months learning Italian. Since then I have also been lucky enough to participate in a really incredible classic car race called the Mille Miglia which crosses 1000 miles from Brescia to Rome, going through many of the great cities of Italy including Tuscany. And when I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I took a Classic Dino Ferrari (for the petrol heads out there it was a 1973 246 GTS) and we road tripped around the country. We travelled for two weeks staying in beautiful hotels and sipping delicious wine. I have had so many special moments in Italy, it would have to be Tuscany!
How do you think you would you fare living on a desert island?
I would be in heaven! I live and work in Central London, I have two gorgeous teenage girls, two energetic dogs and a hyperactive husband so life is pretty full on. When I’m on holiday I like to get as far away from people as I can and the idea of a desert island is bliss. Back in 2017 my husband, kids and I spent three weeks exploring the Conflict Islands in Papua New Guinea. We were totally off grid. There were a couple of palm trees, a strip of white sand and it was magical. We caught fish using wooden dug out canoes, we built camp fires and had the most unforgettable few weeks. Take me back!
You are being cast away to a desert island and you are only allowed to take 5 bottles of your choice with you. We would like to know which 5 wines you have selected and why. This could be because they bring back fond and loving memories for you, it could mark a significant milestone in your life or it could simply be down to the incredible taste of a wine that you just can not bear the thought of never drinking again. We won’t be giving any more details as to the desert island, it is up to your imagination but it is important for you to know that it will be just you and your wines. It’s time to hear your choices and we are very excited to hear which special bottles you have selected to take with you.
Let’s start with bottle number 1, could you tell us which bottle you have chosen and why?
It would have to be the 1985 Sassicaia from the story I have already mentioned. The memory, the taste and the journey it has taken me on. Having worked in advertising for twenty one years, joining a wine company was a big move but it felt like a natural step for me. I was joining an industry that I really appreciated, didn’t know a huge amount about but I am always keen to learn.
If we could move on to number 2, what is your second choice?
The next bottle I have chosen is the Hambledon Première Cuvée. With a lot of help from Giles in the purchasing team, I have come to realise that my natural preference is for precision wines that are fresh and elegant. I am an accountant by profession so I guess my preference for precision makes sense! I spent over twenty years working in the world of advertising and I definitely buy into a compelling story and character, which is the reason behind this choice. I had the opportunity to speak to Ian Kellet, the wonderful founder of Hambledon vineyards, when he invited us to the immersive Van Gogh exhibition in the summer. Like me, Ian is a bit of a data geek and I could listen to him for hours. He has a forensic approach to Hambledon, creating something so beautiful with such thought and precision. Everything about the brand, the history, the people, the taste really resonated with me. It was such a memorable event, lockdown was just lifting and we were finally able to socialise again. This sparkling wine sticks in my mind not only due to the setting and moment in time but also because it was just so delicious. It has been my go-to sparkling wine ever since.
Tell us Kat which is your third choice and what memory does this bottle conjure up for you?
My next choice is a white wine. Since joining in 2019 my colleagues at Bordeaux Index have taken me under their collective wings and, Giles always pops up to say: You must try this, you must try that. One of those wines is the 2019 Palomar Zárate Albariño; it is absolutely delicious. The story behind it is equally amazing: the tiny plot of land, planted 175 years ago, survived the Pre-Phylloxera crisis and the half a hectare is still going today. This tiny plot produces 350 dozen wines, not only is it delicious, it is also a real talking point. When I have taken it for dinner, everyone has loved it, and I thoroughly enjoy drinking it almost as much as I enjoy talking about it. It is in our Merchant’s Collection and for me The Merchant’s Collection has been such a win. I often find since joining Bordeaux Index that people ask me to recommend a wine and I have full confidence in recommending anything from the collection. Every wine has been hand picked by our expert buyers because they perfectly represent the region they come from. They are all delicious and I have had nothing but great feedback. The Merchant’s Collection is my go to for any wine recommendation and I have 100% confidence it will be a winner.
Moving on to your penultimate drink to take on to the desert island you have been cast away on, which would be your bottle of choice?
Next up is my Rosé, again this choice comes back to my love of a story and a character. I love the Felton Road brand and Nigel Greening. I have been lucky enough to hear him talk twice and his passion and commitment to the brand is so compelling. He is entertaining, generous and spirited; one of the wine industry’s great characters. Giles (again!!) introduced me to the Felton Road Vin Gris in the first few months that I was working at Bordeaux Index. It is made in a different way to Provence Rosé, producing a rounder, more charismatic wine. Sadly I’ve recently found out they are no longer bottling the wine but are only selling it in New Zealand in cask format direct to restaurants but luckily for me I love the other wines from this producer. It is a great story, a great brand and a really delicious, worth travelling for, Rosé.
With four phenomenal wines already going with you, it is time for the grand finale tell us, what is the final wine that you would like to take with you?
When I joined Bordeaux Index my safe reds were mainly Bordeaux. I have to say, Californian wines have been a real eye opener for me. Jennifer Lamb from Herb Lamb in Napa Valley came to the office to do a wine tasting and she was wonderful. She talked about her wines as if they were children; all had different characteristics, some were perfect, some were rebellious and some were troublesome. But she knew they were going to mature into the most fantastic adults and for me, this was just the most perfect way to describe a wine range. I instantly understood the differences between each bottle. Sadly, Jennifer has retired now and leased the winery to another producer. I bought the last cases under her tenure and it really feels like I bought a slice of history.
This is probably the most difficult question of all, if you had to choose just one of these bottles which would it be and why?
Given I am going to be on a desert island I would have to take the Hambledon, the idea of sitting back watching the sun go down with a glass of sparkling wine is just perfect.