1 June, 2021 @ 10:00 am – 6:00 pm UTC
ChaineGB annual Young Sommelier Awards Finals take place. Deadline to enter: 27 April, 2021. Click to find out more about this competition.
Chaine des Rotisseurs GB
We caught up with him during the second lockdown to talk Melbourne, the MS and his love of ‘hidden gems’ on the wine list.
I didn’t know! The judges couldn’t tell us. I only knew a week ago like everyone else! I opened some Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995 with my parter, but other than that I didn’t celebrate because everything was shut. I will do once everything opens up again. Maybe I should buy a magnum.
I think the tasting. They did a very hard one this year: Gruner and Albarino, Amarone and Zinfandel. They were quite similar styles. For me, lighter whites, like Albarino, Gruner, Pinot Grigio are the hardest to taste. Sometimes they can be very similar.
I was speaking to (Master Sommelier) Matteo Montone last year, and he said that the best way to taste wines is to do them side by side. If you struggle to recognise, say, a Gruner and an Albarino, tasting them next to each other makes it easier to spot the differences.
For me every grape has its own identity, but they can be linked to another one too most of the time. Blind tasting can open your mind a lot. It’s important to develop yourself. Definitely.
My grandparents and cousins were winemakers in Saumur-Champigny [in the Loire], and I used to go to the vineyards with my grandparents a lot as a child. Then when I was 16 I went to Beaune to study viticulture and vinification. But at that time I was much more about the marketing – the export and import of wine. I wasn’t at all thinking of becoming a sommelier.
I went to Australia to learn English and worked in bars and restaurants. I had a very good mentor at Woodland House in Melbourne, Gareth Burnett. He taught me a lot. I started to fall in love with sommelier life then. They wanted me to stay for three more years. But London and Europe is the big place to be to learn wine and to progress. I wanted to be a head sommelier, and there are a lot of Master Sommeliers in London who I could learn from.
At the Fat Duck. March 2017. I went there with only six months experience and [head sommelier] Isa Bal MS said he’d take me for three months on trial. ‘If you’re good enough you stay, if you’re not good enough, you leave.’ I ended up staying 18 months. From there I went to Moor Hall in Lancashire.
Yes. The Fat Duck was a very big team with a big wine programme. Moor Hall was totally different. It was two-star Michelin, in the countryside, and the wine list was very eclectic – a lot of little producers. That opened my mind a lot. I still had it in my mind that we’d only open big bottles – Bordeaux, Burgundy, USA – very pricy wines. But I discovered a lot of little gems from Eastern Europe, Slovenia, obscure regions.
It made me understand that wine isn’t only about big labels and expensive wines. And I’m trying to play with that now at 110 de Taillevent. Of course, the list is still 70% French, and I’ve got expensive Burgundy – we’re in Mayfair. But I’m also trying to find little gems – wines that are a bit more affordable – and interesting grape varieties from Portugal, Slovenia. I’m trying to showcase wines that people aren’t seeing that often.
By the glass is a very good tool to showcase wines from all round the world. When people know that you’re a good sommelier and they trust you, they are more open to trying these styles of wine.
I plan to stay at Taillevent to make my mark on the wine list, and to get the MS before I’m 30. And every sommelier wants to open his own business – either in London or France, maybe. Nothing fine dining. Just simple food, local products and a great wine list, promoting wines from my experience in London, Lancashire, Australia…