Mr. Miguel Crunia – Spain / UK-Scotland – Private Sommelier/Wine Distributor/Wine Writer (Interview No. 191)

May 1, 2024

Name: Mr. Miguel Crunia –

Miguel Crunia
Mr. Miguel Crunia

Nationality: Spain (Galicia) –

At the moment: UK-Scotland –

Fion Wines –

President – Spanish Sommelier Association in UK


Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry. Did you have any particular mentors? 

My link with the world of wine begins sentimentally since my grandfather was a wine merchant in my hometown (A Coruña, Galicia). I still remember running around big exhausted tonneau and pipes when I was a toddler meanwhile he bottled wine for his customers. Sadly, the business closed once he retired and I wasn’t old enough yet to inherit it. 

Professionally speaking, it was not until 2012 that I stepped into the world of wine when I was part of the team of a restaurant that held a Michelin Star back then (Number One, at the Balmoral Hotel). There I was able to course my WSET studies and undertake the first stages of my training as a sommelier. I didn’t hold much responsibility but I will always be grateful to Lawrence Jordan and Seoridh Fraser for letting me help them sporadically by offering wines from the sweet wine trolley or even giving them a hand explaining some of the wines within the pairing menu. As a result of that experience, I continued training in the world of sommeliers working at Divino Enoteca under the mentoring of legendary sommelier Silvio Praino. He changed how I perceived quality, involving me in tasting sessions where we discussed wine objectively. Also, thanks to him, I’ve learned how to build up a functional wine program and how to deal with suppliers. 

One of the hugest highlights of my career has been working at Fhior as a restaurant manager helping with sommelier duties. There I worked alongside Stuart Skea (head sommelier) who had put together a wine list that paid devotion to low intervention, with which I identify. He was responsible for me to learn the ethics of winemaking and to be a critic of the wines we tasted. Not because they fit an ethos or a given philosophy meant that the wine was good enough to be listed. Since then, I have understood low intervention as a healthy and ethical viticulture, that respects as much as possible inside of the winery all the previous work carried out in the vineyard, to obtain honest wines that speak of a place, a variety, and the respect of the winemaker for his own heritage. A bottled landscape. 

In 2021 I opened my own company, Fìon (which means wine in Scottish Gaelic), alongside my partner Vera Cebotari. Fìon is a wine merchant where we distribute artisan wines from emerging regions to both wholesale and private customers. Our forte is the organization of wine events, pop-ups partnering with local restaurants and wine bars, as well as private and corporate tastings. Also, we offer consultancy services for the hospitality business. As a highlight of this, Harpers Magazine included me within the top 25 Best Sommeliers in the UK 2023 (ranked number 14) for the work done at a local wine bar called Whiskers. Nowadays, I also write two blogs:  ‘Atlantic Sommelier‘ (in Spanish) and ‘Fìon’s Blog‘ (in English). Last but not least, I’m also writing a wine book focusing on terroir-driven wines in Galicia.

What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with those qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?

Under my understanding, a good sommelier has a duty towards the winemaker (defending their story, ethos, passion, and land), its guests (by offering the best quality wines at any given price range; and putting together a versatile and interesting wine list), its team (by mentoring, inspiring, and teaching the art of Sommellerie to help them develop as professionals), and its employer (making sure that not only the wine list is a good excuse for guests to come in but also that keeps a healthy GP for the success of the business). Summarizing: A sommelier is a storyteller who works selflessly to make others happy. 

Among the sommeliers who inspire me because they’re pure examples of storytelling are people like Giovanni Petitto (radiCibus, Edinburgh), Stuart Skea (Lyla, Edinburgh), Severine Sloboda (Made From Grapes, Glasgow), Juán Pérez (Vinoteca Jaleo, A Coruña), or David Villalón (Angelita, Madrid), just to give a few names.

What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e)? How to find a good position at home or abroad? Any further tips?

When starting in wine, one could feel overwhelmed by the knowledge that is out there to be soaked in, so not letting the anxiety or the rush dominate oneself is crucial. For me, researching is essential. It’s important to know which are the restaurants with good respect for the service of wine and to know their ethos and who are part of the team of sommeliers. The former is crucial because, to learn and improve, it’s important that you see yourself fitting with the ethos of the place where you are going to spend a big part of your time, and the latter because mentoring is essential, and there’s no development without being properly trained. It’s great to find mentors who help you prep for your sommelier studies but also expose you to trade tastings and even teach you how to deal with suppliers. There’s no personal improvement without motivation to learn, so opening new bottles and dedicating time to study is mandatory. With time, once the basics are learned, I always recommend people to micro-specialize in a particular area in which they can become masters.


When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what, in your opinion, would be the best approach?

This is perhaps one of those moments when the sommelier’s engagement skills are taken into account as it’s important to catch both what’s the occasion and what’s the guest’s mood as both parameters will already give you a good indication of where to start. Does the customer know already what he’s looking for or do they feel adventurous and keen to get out of their comfort zone? Sometimes the trickiest part, especially if a sommelier is at the early stages of their career, is to identify how much a customer is willing to pay for a bottle of wine when asking for a recommendation. To navigate around that there’s nothing better than just giving the customer 2/3 options that could fit their request at different price ranges and see where he sets the bar. What is undoubtedly true is that an engaging conversation with the guest(s) is necessary as we do not mind readers and there’s nothing worse than just assuming things. If we want to gain a customer’s trust, fundamentally, we talk to them about their taste, and what they normally like to drink. At the same time, we need to identify if they’re celebrating something, in a business meeting, if they’re just catching up with friends, or having a good personal time. Let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, the same customer in very different situations, might want very different things to drink. 

What is your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well-known brands or are you considering new brands as well?  How do you decide?

Adequate glassware is essential in any venue that has a good wine program. I don’t understand sommeliers who put together a beautiful wine list to then serve their wines in awful glassware. Glassware can impact the way we perceive the harmony of a wine. I understand that brands like Zalto could be prohibitive for the financial health of some venues, but some brands actually could be considered mandatory at a starting point like Riedle or Spiegelau Definition. Also, it’s necessary to have a wide and diverse range of glassware as the character of each wine will ask for a different shape of glass to express its nature at its best. Decanters and aerators also need to fit under this criteria.   

What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?

To those customers for whom matching wine and food is an important part of their experience, my advice is always to let the sommelier team guide them. Talking to them and trying to find a common playground. A good sommelier team has tried a dish with different wines behind the scenes to find the best option (not necessarily just wine) that will enhance your gastro-adventure when experiencing a tasting menu or the ‘à la carte’ menu. If you don’t want that full immersion then just play the safe card of ‘enjoyability’. Sustaining a full meal with just one or two bottles (or glasses of wine) could be almost mission impossible due to the different nature of each of the courses on a menu. However, the in-house sommelier can show you different cuvées that could be a harmonious fit. Otherwise, just choose whatever style of wine you know you’ll enjoy because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. 

Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?

Even though this is a practice that is being abandoned in many restaurants, letting the guest be the one who assesses the quality of the wine, I reckon that it is still important that sommeliers taste every bottle that gets open in the restaurant, even the ones that are destined for wines in the ‘by the glass’ offer (setting the sommelier’s station with a handy spittoon would be a must). Bottles vary from one to another, and today many factors need to be assessed: reduction (can I get past it with a bit of aeration or did it cross a point of no return and the wine is no longer healthy?), brett (is it excessive and devours the character of the wine or, on the contrary, is there adding another layer of complexity?), mousiness, cork taint, oxidization, etc.  Also, it’s part of the process of a sommelier’s growth to experience how those labels perform with time (especially if the wines have been in the cellar for a little while).

Wine list:

What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on pricing wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?

The principles I follow to craft my wine lists are the following: ethos, storytelling, sustainability, and rotation. The core of my wine lists and how I organize them depends on the ethos and philosophy of the venue I’m creating it for. I am a storyteller myself so I consider that storytelling should be the ‘forte’ behind the wine list. Thus, rather than focusing on describing each wine organoleptically to the guest, I put an effort into making them connect with the winemaker itself, the terroir, the vineyard, etc; describing in a couple of lines why a given cuvée is relevant within the list. What is also a fundamental pillar is to have an ever-evolving and rotating ‘by the glass’ selection as I want to allow guests to navigate their way through multiple regions and styles in one evening, thus building up a community guided by a strong sense of ‘wineloverism’. I understand that it’s truly important to showcase great expressive wines within the ‘by the glass’ section as it’s a venue’s cover letter that declares its intentions. I also count on Coravin to pour fine wines by the glass (keeps the offer interesting and helps with rotating the stock of those references that could be a bit stuck in the cellar). For this reason, my wine list changes weekly and, on occasions, daily, encouraging the team to bring something new from the cellar as soon as a wine is run dry.

I consider that this approach has a lot of advantages like the following:

  • Keep the interest of your customers,
  • Give access to more expensive wines by using Coravin,
  • Rotation of your stock in a more efficient way (also pouring wines that, otherwise, wouldn’t sell much),
  • Establishing a healthy relationship with our suppliers, 
  • Optimizing the wine list by finding pours that have proved popular so they make it into the list too,
  • Improve the staff knowledge by implementing a working system where they’ll always be exposed to learn a new wine (region, producer, style).

In restaurants, I work with the margin of my wines at 73%. Even though, I understand that I cannot have the most expensive references established at the same GP they would become prohibited. On my wine list ‘by the glass’ I incorporate wines that I buy between £9 and £16 ex VAT (because that is where I consider that the spectrum for expressiveness starts in the UK in most of the cases) so my GP is slightly higher on the wines below £13, having them in between a 75 to 85% GP.

How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?

By keeping a healthy relationship with my suppliers, attending wine fairs, and reading specialized wine blogs. We operate in an ‘always-evolving’ industry that demands us to be on top of our game to cope with new trends or patterns of consumption.  

How would a new vineyard get its wine noticed and what is the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?

I am normally aware of new wineries and projects because importers have introduced me to them or because I’ve done some research through magazines, blogs, or the social media of those colleagues whom I like following because I respect and admire their work. However, if a project catches my attention it is of vital importance that I taste the wines before listing them. That’s what it is going to be decisive at the end of the day. Quality always comes first. 

Favourite pick:

If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?

I’m from Galicia, thus a son of the Atlantic myself, so, despite having many indigenous varieties over there, I’d say Albariño because this grape is a far more complex reality than the one portrayed in some of the wine books around. I do believe that Albariño has everything to craft some of the greatest classical cuvées of the future. Albariño’s terpenic character, together with its natural acidity, its waxy mouthfeel, its iodine imprint, and its ability to translate in the mouthfeel the soil in which it grows (it is not the same an Albariño that grows over granite to those which do it on sand, clay, or schist) are key elements to give in return amazing terroir-driven wines when in the right hands.

Which top 3 types of wine (your faves would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?

As I’m on a crusade to highlight the aging potential that fine Galician wines have to become collectible material I’d mention the following ones:

  • Zarate, El Palomar, Rías Baixas, 2021
  • Quinta da Muradella, Gorvia, Monterrei, 2015 
  • Boas Vides, BraCal, Ribeiro, 2019

Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platforms?

I do like the content of people like Jamie Goode (Wine Anorak), Ferrán Centelles, Amaya Cervera and her collaborators at Spanish Wine Lover, Luís Gutierrez, and Santi Rivas (from Colectivo Decantado) as I do believe that they are colleagues who have mastered their craft but that also make wine accessible to both wine aficionados and wine professionals.  

Thank you Miguel

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