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Dale Dewsbury, Manager, Andrew Fairlie at The Gleneagles Hotel

Published:  23 July, 2008

What is your wine-buying strategy?

We have a very unusual business situation. Although we are completely independent, we lease the restaurant space from The Gleneagles Hotel and buy the majority of our wines through its main cellar. We are only charged for the wine as we sell it, so from a business perspective it's superb.

So you have virtually no overheads for your cellar?

Very, very few - just the wines that we pour by the glass, our spirit stock and a very small number of wines that we buy in through brokers or auctions.

How many wine suppliers do you deal with?

When we opened it was about 20, but that has now reduced to 16, with a core of half a dozen. We will only buy from people who are as passionate about wine as we are about what we do. A lot of wine suppliers still feel it is acceptable to look down their noses and talk to you as if you are a complete idiot. We buy more and more from Reid Wines and Villeneuve Wines because they talk about wine the way we talk about food. They are not just selling you their wine to make a profit, they want you and your guests to enjoy the wines the way they do.

How many people are involved in the wine service?

We have a restaurant team of nine people, including the sommelier, Gavin McCulloch, who has worked with me for about nine years in various roles. Of course, we had one of the top sommeliers in the country [Johnnie Walker] when we first opened.

Was it hard to replace him?

It is impossible to replace Johnnie as a character. He's a wee guy with a Glasgow accent, a great sense of humour and a phenomenal knowledge of wine. Replacing him within our organisation, however, wasn't as difficult. Although we miss him and his personality, the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, and there is now more of a committee approach to the wine list.

Has the list changed much?

Yes, because it had relied very much on what Johnnie put into it. For example, there were a lot of one-off quirky wines from maverick winemakers that he would champion. We are a little bit more conservative now. We sell an awful lot more French wine, for example - 40% more than we did previously.

Are you selling more of any particular region?

We sold absolutely no Alsace wines for the first two years, and now we sell more than most restaurants. The Rhne and Burgundy are also better represented. The wines that have disappeared are the ones that people had to be led to.

What about Champagne?

We sell a huge amount of Champagne by the glass. We have a Blanc de Blancs from Ren Beaudouin, Laurent-Perrier Ros, and also Krug Grande Cuve, which we introduced two months ago, at 25 a glass.

What has been the response to the Krug?

You wouldn't believe how much we have sold in the last month. It has absolutely stunned us. By the glass at that price it is really a loss leader, but it's a Champagne that we want to serve so we try to keep the price as sensible as we can. If anybody looks at the list and thinks it is better value to buy Krug by the glass, then they are right. It isn't a profit-driven thing.

Are you planning any changes to the list?

We're going to restructure the North American section. We have lots of North American guests and they get very excited when they see wines on the list that they can't get at home. South Africa also needs a bit of a shake-up, since it's pretty workman-like at the moment. And we are going to add some more Bordeaux that are currently drinking well but don't require that you remortgage the house.

You've been in the spotlight recently with the G8 summit. Did that put you under a lot of pressure?

Yes and no. The unknown elements were really the hardest parts. We were dealing with heads of state and a complete change to our daily routine. If you look at what we did purely from a catering point of view, it was probably easier than our usual evening service, but then you have to factor in who is sitting around that table and that you are surrounded by steel cordons and thousands of security personnel. We knew we were doing a meal for the Queen from about November last year, but when I walked into the room that evening and saw the Queen talking to George Bush, it put a whole new light on things. It took me about five minutes to stop shaking.

What about the wine that was served?

We advised on what would suit the menu, but the Foreign and Commonwealth offices and Buckingham Palace chose and supplied the wines. A couple of highlights were the 1960 Royal Vintage Port, which was superb, and 1962 Margaux. The Foreign Office also has cases of 1961 Margaux, but it was felt that it was too ostentatious for a summit discussing world poverty.

Yorkshire-born Dale Dewsbury followed the country-house route' to Gleneagles, including a stint as house butler'. In December 2000 he became food and beverage manager at Glasgow's One Devonshire Gardens, before leaving with head chef Andrew Fairlie for The Gleneagles Hotel. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2002 and was Scotland's Best Restaurant in The Good Food Guide 2005. Key suppliers: Inverarity Vaults, Justerini & Brooks, OW Loeb & Co, Reid Wines, T&W Wines, Villeneuve Wines, Whighams of Ayr (Corney & Barrow).

The Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire,

Scotland PH3 1NF

Tel: 01764 694 267