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Community Spotlight –Luke West-Whylie

By Wesley Emmott

Luke West-Whylie is the co-owner of the wine bar/ restaurant Peckham Cellars. He’s worked in the wine industry since 2015 and enjoys serving his community. Leading the front of house, he is a lover of wines with high acidity and vibrancy.

W: How did you get into wine?

L: Wine was not my first love. My first job in hospitality was in a whisky bar, then I got into gin for a bit so I was always more on the spirit side, I’d never really been near wine. I then went and opened a small independent restaurant in Deptford called Marcella. That was my first proper introduction to wine and I just fell in love with it. I did a lot of drinking, reading, talking to people who know far more about wine than I do and always having an open mind. What I love about wine is it’s such a varied world. There are lots of young winemakers doing interesting things, in traditional regions, there’s the revival of ancient grape varieties and there’s lots of new techniques and production methods being used. It’s a constantly evolving, exciting world to be in.

W: Who’s been your inspiration, either in your career or your personal life?

L: I think my mum’s probably my biggest inspiration. She was a single parent and she worked as a food and beverage manager, a job she loved that she sadly had to give up because of me. Food and drink have always been a big part of my life, my earliest memories are me and my mum in a kitchen cooking. I’ve always been that guy who’s enjoyed having dinner parties and having people over for food and drinks.

W: What’s your favourite wine?

L: Jean Foillard’s Morgon Côte du Py. This wine made me understand wine for the first time. To me, this has everything you want in it. It’s ripe fruit, it’s complex, it’s got a touch of minerality to it. The first time I tried this wine I almost was moved to tears. This guy’s one of my favourite producers in the world. I really love it and having gotten to taste so many vintages back to back, 2019’s actually my favourite vintage out the bottle.

W: Have you ever had anyone you would consider a mentor?

L: I’ve got two actually. My first-ever GM and my first-ever Assistant General Manager:  Jon Cotterill and Christopher Howe. When I was in hospitality for the fun and the drinking more than the serious work, they were the first people to sit me down and say “you are good at this and you could have a career in this if you wanted to but you need to knuckle down” and without that conversation when I was 20-21 I don’t think I would be here today.

W: What’s your favourite thing about the industry?

L: What I like is it’s a million different jobs. My job now is an amalgamation of working in the restaurant, doing some sommelier stuff in the evenings for the restaurant, marketing, digital, advertising and PR and all these things, it’s such a venn diagram. We’re lucky in Peckham, we serve an amazing community of people. Just getting to talk and show people new things, sharing that joy and passion and getting to see that on other people’s faces is the reason I stick at this. Having restaurants in various different places the clientele can sometimes be a bit tricky but here it’s like a real community of people, you see the same faces over and over again and I think that makes a massive difference in the vibe and atmosphere in the restaurant.

W: What’s the last book you’ve read or documentary you watched?

L: The last book I read about wine was the Amber Revolution which is a book about orange wine. It’s the last thing I really really enjoyed reading. I also read a lot of Jancis Robinson. I’m not the wine brain behind Peckham Cellars, my business partner Ben is the wine brain and he is someone who’s just super nerdy about wine. He is someone who is just an encyclopedia of knowledge about wine and every conversation you have you learn something new. You know, today he came to talk to me about how minerality is potentially just a function of moss rather than a tasting note in wine and went on this massive tirade about how minerality can’t actually be like a tasting note in wine and uh really fascinating. Lots of conversations with open minds I think is the best way to learn.

To find out more about Peckham Cellars, head over to their website.