Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
I started my career glamorously in a cash and carry in Calais just to do something different and spend a year deciding if I wanted to go to university. I loved learning about wine and found it endlessly fascinating so decided to divert into the hospitality industry and the rest, as they say, is history.
Describe your wine list at Hand Picked Hotels
My role is to evolve the wine offering at Hand Picked Hotels and create a passion for wine among our team members across the group. Each of our 21 hotels has individual and focused wine lists with several having dedicated wine tasting rooms. The core of the lists will revolve around our owners’ extensive and incredible wine collection with other varied and interesting wines in between.
Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
During my second ever shift as a sommelier, I dropped a bottle of 1978 Pedro Ximenez into the lap of a guest wearing a beige linen suit. I thought that might be my second and last shift.
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
The Greenhouse in London, The Vineyard in Berkshire and Eleven Madison Park in New York.
Who do you most respect in the wine world?
All the incredibly passionate sommeliers who work long hours, study on the side and often have to do multiple other jobs such as cellar manager, stock controller, educator, wine buyer and wine list formatter, plus any other jobs asked of them. They are all marvels and should be applauded and appreciated.
What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently?
An unusual blend of Chardonnay and Arneis by the Vallebelbo Cooperative from Piedmont and Alto Adige. Just great value and a lovely wine.
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
The term ‘focused’ is often used without context or clarification and ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ which means nothing technical or specific and is the wine equivalent of girls should wear pink and boys should wear blue.
What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
Saletta Giulia 2018 – a fabulous blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from our Hand Picked Hotels’ owners Villa Saletta estate in Tuscany. We put a low margin on the wine so it is accessible to all our guests.
What is your ultimate food and drink match?
I shall be terribly old school and say foie gras and Sauternes.
Old World or New World?
Argh! Can I say both? I so love old world wines but also the diversity and inventiveness that come with the freedom of the new world areas. Ideally a Sonoma Chardonnay followed by a Brunello di Montalcino.
What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
Removing the foil at the top and not below the lip drives me crazy. Teaching people to open a bottle correctly is so simple. Also, sommeliers who talk down to guests. As much as this is generally not the case these days it still does happen and you never know who you are talking to.
Who is your favourite producer right now?
Right now it’s between the Blank Bottle wines by Pieter Walser from South Africa or Château La Lagune from the Haut-Médoc as I’ve very much been enjoying drinking their wines lately, and they are excellent value for money.
As a head of wine what question do you most get asked by customers?
In my former life as a sommelier I was often asked if the wine was ‘dry’. A very sensible question. Wine is dry unless otherwise stated on the label due to the fermentation process when the sugar in the wine is consumed by the yeast and turned into alcohol and CO2.
Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment?
Greece – there is a larger variety of style than I think most people realise, from light and crisp to powerful full-bodied wines.
It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
A Romanée-Conti by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of more than 25 years of age – simply because it is one of the best wines in the world, and I can definitely not afford it.