In Conversation With: Jimmy Stephenson of Hector’s, London

In Conversation With: Jimmy Stephenson of Hector’s, London

As it turns out, the new kids on the block are anything but. We share a glass with Jimmy Stephenson, one half of the of the newly-opened Hector’s, to catch up on the team’s first few weeks of business

Talk us through the Hector’s philosophy. What makes you guys tick?

We love the idea of community. Wine making is usually a family business and Hectors is our family business. Hector is a family name for Jimmy, Anna’s brother works with us in the shop, our best friend Luca is a partner in the business and our family lovingly helped to put together the shop as you see it today. We want people to feel at home at Hector’s.

Can you tell us a little about De Beauvoir? How important is the concept of community to Hector’s?

De Beauvoir is brilliant, other than the obvious beautiful houses and greenery, there’s this real sense of village community there. People really live there and care about the area and they’ve been very supportive of us since we moved in. I [Jimmy] have a pub background and I love pubs that are full of locals and regulars – they’re the most important part of it all. I love the hospitality community too and it’d be great to be considered an industry hang out for sure – I can foresee heavy evenings digging through the cellar for rare gems already!

What’s your background? How did you get here?

I [Jimmy] worked at The Charles Lamb pub in Islington for a good 10 years growing up, learnt pretty much everything I know from that in terms of how to create a welcoming space and relaxed service, but always remaining serious about the quality of the product. Same for Hill & Szrok, where I was GM. Luca, the owner, is obsessed with having the best of the best, and it’s by far the best butchers in London because of it. He got me hooked on good wine when I first started there and after a trip to Burgundy a few years back, we started a wine programme of collecting and cellaring interesting bottles, that eventually out-grew Hill & Szrok’s cookshop, and became the starting blocks of Hector’s.

How do you go about selecting your wines? What are the most important elements you’re looking for?

Buying wine can be quite overwhelming so I think it’s nice to cover the bases of what people already know. So, I like to have all the classics, but try to find the best versions of them. We use a handful of amazing suppliers too and they do all the hard work really in terms of filtering out the rubbish. 

The term ‘natural’ is often a frustratingly vague term in the wine industry. What does it mean to you guys personally?

We’re not too bothered about it to be honest, it can be a helpful signifier for customers sometimes, so we can point towards orange wines and unfiltered reds, so it’s good in that sense. The majority of our wines would be considered ‘natural’, but we usually seek out stable wines without faults in them, with a few necessary exceptions where it’s warranted.

Why do you think so many people gravitate toward natural wines nowadays? What makes them stand out?

I think the proof is most definitely in the pudding. More often than not, you will find that the best winemakers are using ’natural’ techniques. Some take part in the movement whilst others don’t focus on it so much.

What advice would you give to people new to natural wine? Where should they start?

Natural wine only means wine that is made in a natural way, it doesn’t always mean funky or different tasting – it’s about being made well, so simply start by seeking out styles of wine that you already like by natural producers and take it from there.

How has the wine scene changed over the years? Do you feel like it’s opened up a little?

Absolutely, the great thing about natural wine is that it’s become trendy which essentially just means that more people are trying wines and more and more places are popping up. It’s exciting, wine shouldn’t be pretentious, or only for people who know loads about it. Wine is for drinking after all – it doesn’t need to be intellectualised. We hope that’s something we offer at Hector’s – good wines without the fuss.

Are there any producers, in particular, that you guys are excited about of late?

Avita in Calabria are making some really delicious wines that are perfect for the summer, they’ve been selling really nicely in the shop and whenever we have the Rosato or their orange wine on by the glass it always goes down a treat.

Catch more from the In Conversation With series now.

Credit to Will Halbert, Essential Journal.

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