“When I was younger, I wanted to be a fireman,” Christopher Lecoufle divulges. This reveal is a far cry from the sommelier career he leads today. The young sommelier has a wealth of experience far beyond his 22 years of age and has earned his place as head sommelier at Les 110 de Taillevent, London.
Wine competitions and an introduction to Antoine Pétrus led Christopher down a very different path, whereby the competitions made him hungry for more knowledge and opened up an opportunity to move from Normandy to Paris to work with Pétrus at Lasserre while studying.
Drawing inspiration from Pétrus was easy, for his talent and passion for his vocation are palpable. During this time Christopher visited Champagne with the sommelier team, and became commis sommelier at Lasserre. Training under Pétrus was key, and instilled in Christopher not simply wine knowledge, but how to be curious, how to be a good sommelier, and how merely to “be” in the restaurant. “The most important thing at my early age was him. He gave me, and taught me, almost everything,” says Christopher.
Arriving in London at Les 110 de Taillevent was the next step forward; he was asked three months prior to the restaurant’s opening in October 2015 to organize the wine cellar, and after six to eight months of working on the floor as a sommelier Christopher made the natural progression to head sommelier. “It’s very interesting because now I am part of everything, discovering everything, and doing everything with my team.”
Christopher demonstratively describes the by-the-glass wine list (the full list poetically comprises 1,100 references, “the Bible; my baby,” says Christopher), where the menu takes center stage. Then, categorized by price, four different styles of wine are paired to each dish, available by 70ml or 125ml, allowing guests to explore and discover different angles. This technique is less intimidating and perfect for the wine novice, with its variety of price points, too (under £8/$10.3USD, £14/$18USD, £20/$25.9USD, and over £20). As Les 110 gathers regular customers, Christopher ensures that there are 10-20 new wines on the by-the-glass list each month, hoping to surprise them with something different and exciting. Regulars may be “spoiled,” as Christopher may notify them in advance of a new wine to hit the by-the-glass list and offer a prelude tasting, which adds a personal touch. Some guests will visit the restaurant because they know it is the only venue in London to have a certain producer by-the-glass; these wines remain to provide structure to the list.
Christopher’s passion extends well beyond the knowledge and serving of wine; he craves to learn the story of what is in each bottle. “We know the wine from the moment we’re pouring it,” said Christopher, but the winemaker can tell its story prior to it reaching the table, a story that often stretches back many years. A future venture may lie in working a vintage with a winemaker overseas, probably Australia or New Zealand. William Downie has caught Christopher’s eye; “I like that he’s making Pinot Noir but from three different sub-regions: Gippsland, Mornington Peninsula, and the Yarra Valley. And they are really good.”
Les 110 de Taillevent draws on the legacy of the famous Paris restaurant Le Taillevent, which opened in 1946, and has been sourcing excellent wine for its guests ever since. Eight pages in Les 110 de Taillevent London are dedicated to white Burgundy, paying homage to Taillevent’s founders, who were from that region.
In 2017, Les 110 de Taillevent entered the World’s Best Wine Lists for the first time. “We are very excited to be entering the awards and are thrilled to be able to share with other wine enthusiasts the fantastic wine list we have at Les 110 de Taillevent,” commented Christopher. Hundreds of other global establishments, each sharing an affinity for fine wine, will have their results announced in June.
Although Christopher spent five years training as a fireman, from the age of 14, he learned not only how to handle a fire, but team-building skills and regimented life skills. “It was good because I was almost always moving—I had too much energy!” Those same skills are still invaluable today as he heads up the team at Les 110 de Taillevent.