Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
Being the 5th generation of the family working in the restaurant business, I was exposed to the food and beverage industry at a very young age. Fun fact, I remember climbing onto a chair to serve beers at the bar. I was no more than 10 years old.
When studying Hospitality, the more I learned about wine, the more I wanted to know. An internship in England gave me the chance to learn about wines from all over the world so I decided to return to the UK after my studies.
The first job as a commis sommelier, I quickly moved to sommelier and assistant head sommelier with the help of a few important people from the industry who guided me through my path, career, and finally all the exams.
Passed in 2015 my Master Sommelier Diploma and then came to HK to be part of Black Sheep Restaurants Group where I now lead a team of 14 sommeliers over 30 venues.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
I admire many of them and the list will be too long. From critics, producers, sommeliers, etc.
I actually think attitude and passion are more important than skills. You can develop your skills but hardly change the person you are
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
Home AND abroad. The more experience a sommelier will acquire during his/her career will help in the future. Not only developing their skills but everything around it. From building an international network, understanding different markets, speaking different languages, and adapting to new environments such as countries and culture…
I will usually suggest any sommelier to move away from their home. And then, why not come back home with all their assets?
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
First, read the guest. Understand his background, nationality…Then engage in a conversation to visualize what they usually drink, like, or what they want at that specific moment. Listen to them and give them the best recommendation and experience.
What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well-known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
We actually work with many types of glasses and brands throughout the whole company.
They need to fit the concept of the restaurant, its standards. I like to have the right glasses for the right wine but it also needs to be cost-effective. Breakage is an enormous cost in a restaurant if you don’t pay attention to it.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
You can opt for a classic and safe choice. But nothing is better than choosing a type of wine that you know and love and then trying it with the food so you can have an idea for your next pairing.
As for the Restaurant, good relationships and tastings between the Food Department and the Wine Department always make good pairing on the plate.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Yes, of course. We are talking about tasting not pouring ourselves a glass of wine.
Sommeliers want the best experience for their guests. Serving a faulty bottle can be a huge problem.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
I think a wine list needs to be easy to understand and read for the guests to be confident when ordering wines. It needs to correspond to the restaurant concept by its size, prices, and references. We always search for the best value for money within their categories. Then pricing will also be determined by the quality level of service. The ‘markup’ in a corner pub will be different from a restaurant with a team of 10 sommeliers respecting high standards of service and using expensive glassware…
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I always read wine magazines, websites and I chose to receive news and content from the wine industry. You must stay alert as many things happen on a daily basis. But that’s what makes our industry so interesting!
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
A personal email or message on any social media would be a good example but I understand that it would be too complicated for an estate to privately message the whole industry.
Otherwise through the importer that shares the philosophy of the estate is a way to reach out.
Also, I personally like to taste all the wines we list.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Maybe a Chenin Blanc. As Chenin that can be vinified in many different ways (dry, sweet, sparkling,..), I usually adapt myself to all situations.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
A vin jaune or Chateau Chalon from Jura is definitely my number one. I really love wines made with this typical aging.
Champagne to follow. It goes anytime and with every mood
And then, a Barolo or Barbaresco. I love their structure and it takes time to understand them
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platforms?
Yes, there are many of them and I use them all, such as GuildSomm, Wine Spectator, Decanter, Wine Folly, Wine searcher, Redsip, Jancis Robinson, Drink Business, Vinous,…