After nearly seven years in the UK, Orrery’s Julio Tauste is dreaming of attaining his CMS Advanced qualification
Brought up around Alicante, where his family had several restaurants, Julio grew up literally surrounded by hospitality, making the move to the UK in 2015, where he joined the D&D group. After several years at Launceston Place, he has been head sommelier at Orrery since just before Covid in 2020.
What experience did you acquire in Spain?
I always worked in the family restaurants, but in 2007 I decided to move on and became Food and Beverage manager at Huerto de Ivancos in Valencia. I then joined Akellare in San Sebastian in 2009. It’s a very well-known restaurant with a high-profile chef – three-star Michelin. It was high pressure – tiny details on every single matter. But that didn’t bother me. When you have the skill – it’s like riding a bike – you know what you are doing.
Why did you leave Spain to come to the UK?
After two years at Akellare, I joined Metro group – they are a big company supplying the on-trade with thousands of wines to restaurants all over Spain. I got my WSET Level 3 in 2015, and I realised that if I wanted to go further I had to move countries, because it wasn’t possible to do the Diploma there. The sommelier profession isn’t so well known in Spain.
Who did you work with at Launceston Place?
At various times Gareth Ferreira MS, Agustin Trapero and Piotr Pietras MS. It was an amazing team! I became head sommelier at Orrery in January 2020.
So you’ve stayed within D&D…
You need to be a bit loyal to the company. Then they trust you when it comes to buying a wine or doing a pairing. I think I’ve become more skilled at F&B as well.
In what way?
D&D have a big list of suppliers, and we work very closely with them. We need to be able to trust them – that when a wine is put on by the glass they’ll have stock, for instance. Particularly with Brexit when there are problems with the borders, we have to play a lot with the wine list, with things going out of stock.
What about personal development?
We’re very involved with training – with new educational materials, with competitions. It’s important to be always learning. I’ve got my CMS Advanced exam in June.
Which is the toughest bit?
The blind tasting! Always! The hardest one for me to spot is Sancerre because to me it’s close to Chablis. I often get them mixed up on the nose. But I think Chablis has more cleanness and slightly different flavours on the palate. That’s how I pick it. Spanish styles are the easiest for me – Albarino and Rioja.
Tell us about the list at Orrery.
We’re a French restaurant, so we need to focus on French appellations. We’re very big in Bordeaux and Burgundy, red and white.
Is it hard to sell alternatives?
Some guests do ask for different appellations than Bordeaux, so we have places like Marcillac or Pacherenc du Vic Bilh. And Cahors Malbec too is very good value wine. Full-bodied and rich, it does the same kind of job as cru classé Bordeaux, but much cheaper. They’re useful when people want to have two or three bottles of wine. We need to look after the guest.
How are you set for Burgundy, with the upcoming shortages?
We’re fine at the moment. They allowed a new appellation in 2017, Bourgogne Cote d’Or, which is pretty good value wine. Also places like Marsannay, Maranges and Rully red – these places are less well-known but are good value. We might not be able to get Vosne-Romanée without spending big money, but we should be able to find these.
Any substitutes from outside France?
Our customers are ok with Bordeaux-red substitutes – Napa, Australia, even Chile. For red Burgundy we have alternatives from Pisoni Estate (Sta Lucia Highlands), and Williams Selyem (Russian River) and Errazuriz or Montes from Chile. For white Burgundy, I’d look to Kumeu River (New Zealand), or Mayacamas on Mount Veeder in Napa.
Where, for you, are the most exciting wine regions?
Walker Bay in South Africa [above] – amazing Pinot Noirs. I also love Sherry. It’s very good value. Also Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blends. Whenever I recommend that the guests love it because they’re expecting a Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc [from New Zealand] and this is something different. It’s a great substitute for Bordeaux.
What do you think is the most important thing in hospitality?
To be humble. You always need to live for the guest. Guests in the UK are very high profile. You need to wake up, study and always be improving.
What do you do in your time off, Julio?
My son is 13 now, which is a difficult age, so the most important thing when I have free time is to spend it with him. We play football, handball and basketball.