Buyer profile – Harriet Kininmonth

What are your first memories of wine? 

I was very privileged to be surrounded by good wine growing up. Both my father and my grandfather enjoyed good wine, so it was at the dinner table throughout my youth. When I graduated, I studied languages and was planning to be a teacher. But I felt like wine was this great mystery, and I didn’t like not knowing, so I did a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) exam. It hit me like a train, and I completely fell in love. Wine is history, geography, people, storytelling, travel and adventure.  

And how did you start working in the industry? 

I worked in a restaurant and started doing their wine recommendations; I worked in The Sampler, one of the first Enomatic wine-tasting venues in London, where I learned loads, and I went out and did a wine harvest in Bergerac. But my first job was at [wine importer] Enotria, and they offered me a role that I accepted because I knew it would mean working with the buyers. 

One of the regions you’ll be looking after is Spain. What is it about the country that excites you so much? 

Spain was quite late to the party. It was oppressed for a long period of time under Franco’s regime, so it wasn’t really until the 1980s and 1990s that things started to change from making mass-produced wine. The past 15 years has been extraordinary in terms of what we’re seeing coming out of Spain. People have been finding these amazing parcels of old, abandoned bush vines that were just going into the local co-op beforehand but are now producing remarkable wines. So, it’s not necessarily about new things, it’s all about rediscovering old terroirs and the history of Spain.  

For a lot of people, Spain is Rioja and Cava and maybe entry-level wine, but the diversity of terroirs and grape varieties is phenomenal. Take the north-west – when I first started in wine, you were lucky if you saw Albariño on a wine list, and now you can find it in supermarkets. We’re also now seeing some fantastic reds from Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra – earthy, fresh and delicious slightly chilled. I love reds that offer a degree of freshness. 

And Rioja is unique – and when you start to move up the chain you discover some of the higher-altitude marginal-climate single-vineyard plots, almost ‘hands-off’ winemaking. Rioja these days is more about expressing the terroir and not lashings of oak which it once was, and it’s nice seeing that continue to evolve. 

You’ll be looking after sherry, too… 

I’m known in my local village as a sherry pusher! I’m really excited to be given sherry alongside Spain. I’ve got quite a savoury palate and sherry is so umami and exciting. One of my favourite memories was going to Sanlúcar de Barrameda and having fried garlic prawns with a glass of Manzanilla by the seaside and I’ll never forget that. I go to a lot of music festivals and my friends laugh, but I always bring sherry with me! Generally, amontillado and oloroso – you don’t have to drink it chilled, and unlike cider or beer, if you drink a few glasses you don’t have to go to the loo every five minutes, which is a pain at a music festival! 

You’ll also be buying Loire – a region that slips a little under the radar but has so much to offer. 

That’s why I’m so excited to be looking after the Loire – it’s a little bit of an underdog. Yes, you have stalwarts like Muscadet and Sancerre which are very important, but again, the diversity really pleases me because it’s not just a one-trick pony. It was the first region I ever looked after when I was an assistant buyer at Enotria. I was blown away – the Saumurs, for example. Cabernet franc is such an underrated grape variety. The wines have that freshness and earthiness – you really feel like you’re tasting the land. Red Sancerre is exceptional, too.  

Your other region is Beaujolais – have you bought that before? 

No, but I drink a lot of Beaujolais at home – my dad has been testing me on the 10 Crus for about 10 years now! Beaujolais is a new region for me to get stuck into, and it’s absolutely one of my favourites. 

Finally, what do you like to do when you’re not working? 

I’m a mum, so I do stuff with my daughter. We enjoy going on walks, going to the beach, going to concerts and festivals. I also love skiing – that’s my favourite holiday. I love cooking and entertaining. I cook Italian food the most – I make a lot of fresh pasta – and Thai and Vietnamese. I forage quite a lot, too, wild garlic and mushrooms, especially. Life’s about joy. We’re only here for a limited period of time, so if I can bring joy and create joy, that’s what I like to do with my free time. 

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