Julio Tauste

‘You need to wake up, study – and always be improving…’

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.

The three-star food at Akellare – ‘Tiny details matter’ says Julio. Pic: Kent Wang, Flickr

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.

Julio with some of the ‘amazing’ team at Launceston Place

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.

It’s really tough because you need to pass all three parts at the same time.

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.

Fine dining and elegance at Orrery…
… where Julio is head sommelier
Hoping for a busy terrace this summer

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.

Vineyards in the Hemel and Aarde Valley
And the dramatic coastline of Hermanus, Walker Bay – one of Julio’s favourite regions for Pinot

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.

Julio with partner Nuria. Making the most of family in his time off is important to him
Diana Rollan

‘Believe in your dreams and never give up…’

It’s a big move from a village in Spain to head of drinks at restaurant group D&D. Collective member Diana Rollan tells us how she did it

When we catch up with Diana, she is in the process of shifting over to a new procurement system. ‘A massive piece of work’ that has been occupying her for three months. Plenty of glamour still in the drinks world, it seems. Moreover, this, it turns out, is the second time she’s had to do it in her professional career.

This, perhaps, is the downside of being the head of beverage for D&D – one of the UK’s best restaurant groups. The upside is obvious: a position of real influence that allows her to shape the drinking habits of diners across the UK, across more than 30 venues.

How did you get into wine and hospitality?

By pure chance. I wasn’t interested in wine, and certainly didn’t think I could develop a career in it. At the age of 19 I moved from a small town in the middle of nowhere to study political science at university in Madrid. I got a job at a small restaurant with a really good wine list and the sommelier there was eager to share his knowledge with me. From there I joined another restaurant where I got the chance to do a sommelier course at a hospitality school.

At D&D Diana is responsible for a group that includes 100 Wardour St…
…and the Butler’s Wharf Chop House. Pic Justine Trickett

What was that like?

It was quite intensive – full time from nine to five for four months. You had to have experience in a restaurant beforehand – and a practical paper where you had to decant, serve guests, talk about a wine and spot mistakes on a wine list. This was when I realised that I wanted to make a career out of wine and lost my interest in studying politics!

What attracted you to it?

I liked the fact that wine was in constant motion. There was always something new. And I loved that you can share wine and knowledge with people and also be learning yourself.

From there were you back into hospitality?

No. I started work in one of the biggest wine shops in Europe, Lavinia in Madrid. They had tonnes of wines from Spain but also all around the world.  I was there six years, but I wanted to keep developing my career and gain an international qualification, which I didn’t have access to in Spain. I only moved back into hospitality when I decided to come to London.

When was that?

In 2007. I started as an Assistant Sommelier at La Trompette. I hardly spoke any English, and a Spanish friend, Bruno Murciano MS, lined me up with the sommelier there, Mathieu Longueure MS because he spoke Spanish. After eight months I joined Hakkasan.

Picking up Group Wine Lists of the year for Hakkasan in Imbibe’s Wine List of the Year competition

What was Hakkasan like?

It was so different. It was really busy, and it pushed boundaries. It really helped me to see wine in a different way. And when I first saw the wine list I fell in love with the approach that [head of wine] Christine Parkinson was taking. I thought ‘wow she’s a visionary – I want to be part of this and learn from it’. My wine knowledge increased a lot, but it also helped me to see wines in a non-classical way.

Most of my current base of knowledge is down to Hakkasan…

Did you get any formal qualifications while there?

I went through the Introductory Court of Master Sommelier and also all the WSET qualifications up to WSET Diploma. I’m also a WSET Certified Educator for Wine, Sake and Spirits up to Level 3. The Diploma was the hardest. It was very academic and in English. I had to invest a lots of hours of study after working late shifts at Hakkasan so I struggled for a period of time.

Could you move upwards as your knowledge increased?

In fact, I wasn’t fully confident of my skills. I remember the first time Christine [Parkinson] asked me whether I’d like to come to head office and help her for a few hours a few days a week I said no. She said ‘all of your colleagues are waiting for this opportunity – and you’re turning this down?’ I didn’t think I was ready. I lacked a lot of confidence.

With the team opening Hakkasan at Abu Dhabi

Did you get a second chance?

She waited a few months and tried again. There was an opening at Abu Dhabi, and I went there for a couple of months to help set up the restaurant. From there I joined Christine in head office, eventually becoming a wine buyer. But it’s a good example of the difference between the male and female attitude. Men would never think twice about their capabilities, but as a woman we tend to over-think. Are we good enough? Am I the right person? Over the years I’ve learned that you need to be confident, believe in yourself and go for it!

What’s your role at D&D?

I’m Head of Beverage. I oversee beer, wines, soft drinks, spirits water… you name it. With 34 venues and so much variety it’s hard to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. But we have to keep innovating and bringing in ranges that attract the customers.

The famous brunch at Quaglinos – also a venue where Diana chooses the core wine range

Do you do the wine list for each one?

No. We have a great team of sommeliers and they maintain their own wine lists. But I do work on the concept of new sites, create the first lists and then work with the head sommelier to ensure that the range is fitting for that venue. I’m also in charge of the core range: 25 wines, 20 sparkling wines, 70 spirits and 15 beers, plus soft drinks. I need to develop those relationships and agree the contracts. We just did a collaboration with [London winery] London Cru for our own Bacchus. It’s been aged in Burgundy barrels to give it a bit more texture – more gastronomic.

Any advice for young somms – particularly young women?

Believe in your dreams and do what you want. Whatever position you’re in, keep going and never give up. I learned over the years that hard work and persistence pay off. It isn’t easy. As a woman, the lack of flexibility in our industry and having to go against some cultural stereotypes don’t help us. But my other half has been incredibly supportive of me and my dream and I’m incredibly thankful.

At the end of the day, if you believe in yourself and your dreams your passion will pay off…

Family – and her partner’s support – have been crucial to Diana’s success