Demystifying your Glass
Starting out with the desire to recreate the service style and atmosphere of busy speak easy cocktail bars, Michael Sager moulded his experience of being sommelier at Milk and Honey and passion for natural and fine wines to create Sager + Wilde on Hackney Road back in 2013.
Since its opening, the Sager + Wilde brand has since grown in size and success and has welcomed a sister venue located on Paradise Row in Bethnal Green, along with a number of industry recognitions, including featuring as part of the Top Wine Lists of the World by The World of Fine Wines. Living for a time in San Francisco where his understanding for wine and the wine scene developed, Sager searched to demystify. Noting a general shift in focus from classic grape varieties and expensive regions to natural wines and local producers, Sager + Wilde has created an ethos which easily makes it, and as a result London, home to some of the best wines available in the world. We spoke with founder Michael Sager to find out what is next on the cards.
Sager + Wilde has evolved since you first started out and you have now two venues in London. What is next on the cards, do you see yourself opening other places? At this point I am fully concentrated on making these two places the best they can be and I want to keep on engaging with the global wine, food and cocktail community.
Sager + Wilde has two bars located in East London – one in Hackney and one on Paradise Row in Bethnal Green – how do you divide your time between venues? I work at Paradise Row in the daytime and then host for two nights a week. I live upstairs above our venue on Hackney Road and stop in there twice a day, working once a week behind the bar too – so I don’t get rusty!
What are your views on the London wine scene? Do you feel that American and new world varieties are popular and understood or is this still new ground? I genuinely love the London wine scene because it is very balanced in terms of its offering and diversity, far more so than in New York, Paris or Copenhagen.
Does your job allow you to travel regularly to tastings? Ha! Well no one is paying for me to go unlike sommeliers at big restaurants or hotels. Then again, whenever I choose to go, I can go. I wouldn’t trade that freedom for anything in the world. I love travelling, it’s the very essence needed to succeed in the global wine community.
I won’t rest until I have my own Mezcal Importing business, showing people how amazing that stuff is. It’s the only spirit to have Terroir the way wine does. That’s what’s next.
How do you source suppliers? I don’t. I come across wine that I want and then I find the supplier who has the wine. Again, travelling is a quintessential part of this.
What is your take on the natural wine movement; do you think this is the future of wine production? I love it because of its honest approach. I dislike the turning of a blind eye to faulty wines and the dogmatic approach of some sommeliers. Altogether it (natural wine) is the best thing that has happened to wine. More people drink natural wine now which is what we should all aspire to achieve. So hail the natural wine movement!
Do you still think this is a heavily male orientated industry? Too much so! I have always striven to have women running my places; there are no better noses than those of women. They also have the emotional intelligence needed to succeed in this business.
Aside from Sager + Wilde venues, where would you recommend drinking in London or New York and across the US? In London I like Noble Rot, Brawn and The Remedy. In New York it has to be The Four Horsemen in Brooklyn.
News story, what is next? I won’t rest until I have my own Mezcal Importing business, showing people how amazing that stuff is. It’s the only spirit to have Terroir the way wine does. That’s what’s next.
Imagery courtesy of Sager + Wilde. From top: Michael Sager; Sager + Wilde on Paradise Row, Bethnal Green; Sager + Wilde, Hackney
January 19th 2017