2022 Gosset Matchmaker Finalists

GOSSET MATCHMAKERS is a competition, now in its seventh year, in which teams pair their best gastronomic hand with the finest of wines, competing for the coveted title of Gosset Matchmaker of the Year 2022.

The results are in, and the six teams below have made it through to the finals, which will take place at Le Cordon Bleu’s CORD restaurant on 20th September 2022.

  • Sotir Semini & Julien Deschamps from Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London
  • Tristan Wright & Jason Ramplin from The Dining Room at Chewton Glen 
  • Max van Sminia & Will Golden from Fenn Restaurant in Fulham, London
  • Nicholas Sharp & Sean Flatley from Roots, York
  • Arthur Ng & Murid Laly from Spry Wines, Edinburgh
  • Daniele Palomba & Stefano Cilia from Zuma, London

At the Gosset Matchmakers Final, the teams will be invited to prepare a dish to perfectly pair and highlight Gosset’s Grande Reserve champagne. Their second task will be to create a dish from a set of ingredients they will be given on the day, and this dish will be expected to match a different champagne, revealed on the day. 

Each team must demonstrate their ability to work together and show that they are able to deliver results under pressure.  They will present their dishes and wine pairings to a panel of expert judges, made up of some of the best master sommeliers, chefs and wine industry leaders.  The 2022 judging panel includes Matthieu Longuere MS from Le Cordon Bleu London, Odilon de Varine, Champagne Gosset Cellar Master⁠, Laetizia Keating, Head Chef at The Pem⁠, James Shaw, Head Sommelier at The Pem, and Guy Nightingale, Director at Louis Latour Agencies.

As well as being awarded the coveted title of ‘Gosset Matchmaker 2022’, the winners will visit Champagne Gosset for a money-can’t-buy experience including a blending workshop with cellar-master Odilon de Varine.

Why wines from Santorini are hot right now

Stefan Neumann attended The Sommelier Collective tasting of P.D.O. Santorini* wines at City Social. Here he gives us his top tips on the island, its wines and the best matches.

Sommelier Collective x Santorini wines

I could start this article by naming all the great producers of this wind-swept, sun-scorched, and utterly beautiful Greek island, but firstly we would need double the word count and secondly it doesn’t seem to be that fair.

Take the group of Marvel’s Avengers, they all have super-natural powers, and one isn’t better than the other, so regardless of whether you have Thor, Ironman or the Black Widow on your team, by simply buying and tasting wines from Santorini you are, like them, on the winning team.

The island of Santorini

The island & its influences

There are several factors influencing the island, so perhaps it is best to go back in time a little. Santorini currently has 1200ha of vines planted, which is down from 1500ha in 1997 and 4500ha at the beginning of the 20th century.

Wine on the island has been produced for thousands of years and historians still argue to this day about when vines were first planted. Over the centuries major volcanic eruptions, the latest in February 1950, have undeniably shaped the island’s topography. The combination of basalt, volcanic ash, sand and pumice stone is known as ‘Aspa’. The white, black and red beaches are just minutes apart by boat and offer a glimpse into the diversity of soils found on Santorini.

The strong winds are one man’s treasure another man’s burden. Yes, on the one hand it reduces risk of disease but on the other hand its destructive nature (especially in 2019) can cause more than just a headache.

The incredible number of hours spent in the vineyards alone is mind-boggling and the resulting yield even more. As low as 5hl/ha (2002) to an average of 25hl/ha results in wines with marvellous intensity and concentration. Unmatched not only in Greece but the world.

In a nutshell, all wines from Santorini are born by the earth’s giving and constructive nature, and an unbroken human will create something of unparalleled beauty.

Stefan Neumann

The perfect variety for the perfect place: Assyrtiko

Of 1900ha nationwide, a solid 1098ha are planted in Santorini, which means that every sixth bottle of Greek Assyrtiko is from Santorini which represents 90% of the total plantings on the island.

Known for its natural high acidity and sugar content, which can be rare in the world of grapes, its uniqueness really lies in the variety’s capacity to balance these two elements so perfectly.

It is precisely this balance and the grape’s ability to produce an array of different styles that makes it an absolute dream to partner with different cuisines. From unoaked to lees-aged and some oak-aged styles, it is nothing if not versatile and today you can even find amphora-aged wines. Regardless of the style Assyrtiko always carries its trademark freshness with an accompanying salinity and precision.

The native Nykteri varietal (meaning ‘product of the night’) makes big, bold and concentrated wines, often with a minimum of 13.5% abv and a minimum of three months oak ageing.

What other varieties are worth seeking out?

Mandilaria and Mavrotragano are some of the few red grape varieties found on the island. They are quite hard to find as they are only made by a handful of producers.

Aidani and Athiri are also minor players in terms of total plantings but have a vital role on the island. Aidani shines when vinified as a single varietal; Athiri is often used for the most precious and time-consuming style of all wine – Vinsanto.

God’s (Zeus) gift – Vinsanto

Vinsanto is made from sun-dried grapes (dried for 8 to 15 days) to concentrate sugars and total acidity (even more). This process, and the following oxidative ageing, yields wines so robust in nature yet so charming and luscious that time becomes secondary.

Often decades in the making, these liquid treasures are bound to no-one except good taste-buds and wine professionals seeking to explore perfect food and wine pairings.

Depending on the sweetness level and aromatic profile Vinsanto can comfortably be paired with honey and white chocolate desserts to nutty, coffee-infused or very chocolatey sweet treats. Personally, I find them so delicious on their own that all I need is a fireplace and a good book.

Just seafood, or more?

You assume correctly that Assyrtiko is delicious with seafood, of any kind, although I like to encourage looking a little bit beyond the horizon. Maybe it’s BBQ pork or slowly roasted chicken thighs, Assyrtiko is often a delightful accompanying partner.

Regardless of whether you are a global food trotter and like your ceviche from Peru, classic British fish & chips or an authentic Cantonese dim sum, this variety is a chameleon like no other.

What do I need to do to get the best out of my Assyrtiko?

Patience is a virtue, and by this I am not only referring to opening these wines when they are too young, but by giving them some tender loving care when serving them you will achieve great results.

Decanting is recommended as often the wines can have a reductive nature and larger glassware only helps to fully reveal their unadorned beauty.

My favourite expert comment!

Jancis Robinson was once asked what she would choose if she could drink wine from only one grape variety. Without a moment’s hesitation, she said: ‘Assyrtiko’.

Last, but not least, there is only one thing left to say: “Avengers assemble”… sorry “Assyrtiko assemble”.

*P.D.O. Santorini wines are required to be vinified from at least 85% Assyrtiko, with the remaining 15% from the white grapes, Athiri and Aidani.

The PDO requires that yields must not exceed 6.5 tons per hectare, however they rarely get above 3 tons.

The PDO also includes the naturally sweet wine, Vinsanto, which originated in Santorini, and is made from sundried grapes, a tradition followed since antiquity.

In addition, for naturally sweet wines only, small amounts of the white “xenologous” grapes Gaidouria, Katsano, White Muscat, Monemvasia, Platani, Potamisi and the pink skinned Roditis are also allowed.

Discovery Tasting: Alternatives to Burgundy

Stefan Neumann MS hosted a fascinating Discovery Tasting looking at wines from around the world that provide interesting alternatives for Burgundy, especially when some of the best might not be readily available.

To launch a series of virtual and live tastings, with Sommelier Collective Merchant Partner Fells, Stefan Neumann MS selected a range of 10 wines – chardonnays and pinot noirs – that offer valid and engaging alternatives to good burgundies. Picked from top Spanish, Italian, New Zealand, Tasmanian, Californian, Orgeon vineyards, the tasting provided a fascinating chance for our members to take a close look at quality wines from the Fells portfolio.

“Why are we doing this tasting?”, asked Neumann at the beginning fo the session, “we saw prices going up and volumes going down in Burgundy and you have two option: you can either complain or you can look for alternatives. Whilst I was on the floor I started to do this: to look for wines that would give the burgundians a run for their money. We have wines in the tasting that start at 11 pounds up to 30 – so really showing excellent value.”

Having a Master Sommelier on hand with such experience leading the tasting meant that members were able to share their impressions and anecdotes about alternative wines and how to build them into a wine list, whilst discussing customer experiences when suggesting and selling wines during service. Neuman gave some top tips on how to introduce alternatives to Burgundy by including the use of anecdotes and historical references to engage the person looking to enjoy the wine.

Stefan Neumann MS -. giving Burgundy a run for its money with the wines from the Alternatives to Burgundy Discovery Tasting

Whilst I was on the floor I started to look for wines that would give the burgundians a run for their money. This selection showcases wines that will do that, starting at 11 pounds up to 30 – so really showing excellent value.

Stefan Neumann MS

THE WINES

Jean Leon 2019 Chardonnay

“Founded in 1963 by an Italian imigrant but owned by the Torres family in 1984. They have a unique approach to making Chardonnay – a cool climate, Spanish Chardonnay. The fruit for this wine come from a vineyard in the early 60s. They use large vessels for fermentation and spend 6 months on the fine lees. No denying it is froma warmer region but the height of the vineyard give it great acidity which comes through. Historically Chardonnay was brought to this region by Cistercian monks in the 13th/14th century who came from the Burgundy region.” Stefan Neumann MS

“South of Siena, Ricasoli has been in the region in the 12th century and have been exporting this wine to the UK anf Holland for 500 years. Alot of Chardonnay is planted in the area but the site for this wine is very specific. They are very passionate about the terroir and broken down all of the soil types Planted on the R3 clone and aged for 9 months in tonneaux, the older vintages have more oak than the more recent wines are much more balanced they increased the barrel size. They have 15 years of making this wine so they know what they are doing.” Stefan Neumann MS

Harry Cooper “great blast of acidity and lovely oak balance.”

Torricella 2019 Ricasoli
Wente 2020 Chardonnay

“Important name in California, established in 1883, in the Livermoore Valley. This wine has a cool strike – even in summer it is cold because of the wind and the fog – giving it great citrus acidity. This is Wente clone, named in 1912, and this the most widely used clone in California right now. Five months sur lie with a little battonage going on and it has 2% of Gerwuztraminer in the blend to give weight and oiliness to the wine. Aged in larger formal, nuetral American oak.” Stefan Neumann MS

Angelo Margheriti “Lovely creamy texture.”

Harry Cooper “Like a vanilla bomb. Great with nutty cheeses.”

“When you pour this you will find a very positive note of reduction which I personally love. Clone-wise we are at 95 and 16, classic Burgundy clones and this example comes from the Renwick vineyard, close to Blenheim. Pressed directly into the barrel with some battonage. 2020 was a good solid vintage to buy, naturally the yeild was quite low. Reminds me a lot of Burgundy – turbot would match wonderfully with this wine.” Stefan Neumann MS

Konstantinos Katridis “Delicious – lovely taste of toasted almonds.”

George Doyle “Favourite wine so far.”

Valerya Toteyva “This wine would match perfectly with Pad Thai.”

Nautilus 2019 Chardonnay
Gran Moraine Chardonnay 2019

“Work more with whole clusters making this wine, you get a sense of it in the structure. 16.5 months in barrel, very specific, then they transfer to stainless steel to give grip and freshness from the cool climate there in Oregon. 8% new oak – so really more of a vessel that carries the wines than adds to it. If you look its on the same latitude as Burgundy which is why so many producers from there are investing in Oregon.” Stefan Neumann MS

“Hartford Court is owned by the Jackson Family, close to Santa Rosa and about 15 minutes from the Pacific Ocean. The Petaluma Gap really is a major factor in the production of great wines – very important for regulating the climate and making Pinot Noir work in the region. At Hartford, just on Pinot Noir they do 16 separate, different bottlings of their wines this example is from several differnet plots and the make up is not the same each year. 9.5 months in oak and 22% new oak, very precise and so open about what they do. Important to not ethat 92% of the fruit was picked before the wild fires so no worry about taint on the wines.” Stefan Neumann MS

Harry Cooper “Rich and juicy with great poise. Good with barbequed Lamb or pork.”

Hartford Court 2019 Pinot Noir
Dalrymple 2020 Pinot Noir

“Extreme wine producing region, established in 1987, looking straight over the Bass Straight. Tasmania has traditionally has been totally underated in terms of Pinot and Chardonnay production, where the wines were destined for sparkling wines, but now coming into its own. Dalrymple has been owned by Robert Hill Smithsince 2007. 11 months in oak and 24 months in oak. 2020 was a challenging vintage due to the rain. 28% less in terms of yeild because it was such a tough vintage. Great potential to age.” Stefan Neumann MS

“The winery was established in 1896, but the first vintage of this wine was 2018. 100% de-stemmed and handpicked, aged in a mixture of new and old oak for 11 months. Te Mata is famous for its top reds, especially wines like Bullnose. They are very specific about their sites and varietals. The inspiration for the name of this wne come from Dr. James Thompson at the Battle of Alma during the Crimean war. There are always very intriguing story behind the wines at Te Mata.” Stefan Neumann MS

Te Mata 2018 Alma
Torres, Marimar Estate 2013
Mas Cavallas

“Established by Marimar Torres, fourth generation of the family Spanish winemaking family, who was very brave to leave the family home in Cataluña to look for something different. A brave lady who have forged her own path in Sonoma, a cool climate area tyhat is strongly affected by fog and winds at the beginning of day. This estate is 2006 powered by solar panels, organically certified since 2006 and produce wines bio-dynamically and at the forefront of sustainability – from bees to bats to bobcats they are all about being close to nature. They believe the wines need to be aged and the wines are highly oaked in comparison to the other wines in this tasting.” Stefan Neumann MS

“Fresh, vibrant Pinot Noir made by Sam Neil one of the main protagonists in Jurassic Park, established in 1993 on the proceeds of the film – first vintage 1997. Two Paddocks own vineyards in the three major Otago Valley – Gisbton, Alexandra and Cromwell. This is the first wine where you will see the influence of 46% whole bunch press in the wine, perhaps in comparison to the other Pinots in this tasting.” Stefan Neumann MS

Two Paddocks 2018 Pinot Noir

This tasting was developed by The Sommelier Collective with Merchant Partner Fells.

Fells was established in 1858 and is one of the UK’s best-known suppliers to the quality on-trade. The company is best known as a fortified wine specialist since leading port producer, Symington Family Estates, acquired the importer in the 1970’s. However, the company has undergone many changes over the years with Torres, top Spanish producer, joining the portfolio in the early 90’s, followed by the Hill Smith family, owners of respected Australian wineries Yalumba, Pewsey Vale and Dalrymple, joining the company in 2018. These developments gave the company greater scale and an unrivalled position in the premium sector of the UK wine market.

Watch the video

Beatrice Bessi

‘This isn’t just a profession – it’s something I love…’

Chiltern Firehouse’s head sommelier Beatrice Bessi tells us about her varied career, studying while pregnant and the need to think long term

We feel slightly guilty about talking to Beatrice Bessi. The Chiltern Firehouse head sommelier is on her first extended time off for a year, and instead of chilling by the pool or catching up on her sleep, she’s talking to us. Still, she has a lot of super-interesting stuff to say and we’re very happy to listen!

You’ve been in hospitality a long time…

I started more than 20 years ago to earn money in secondary school, in Parma, [north-east Italy]. I started in bars and never stopped  – even when I was studying computer science at university. I just realized that I preferred hospitality.

So you didn’t begin in restaurants?

I was a bartender for 20 years between bars, night clubs and so on. After a while I realized I needed a way to show people this wasn’t just a profession I was doing for the moment but was something I loved – a career, and something I could grow up with. I began to think will I still be making cocktails at four in the morning when I’m 50 years old? So sommeliering became the best option. In some places I was a bartender, in others a sommelier, in others a waitress. It’s been a strength to work in so many different places, from bars to nightclubs to top restaurants, old school and modern.

You came relatively late to wine then…

I started to study as a somm 12 years ago. I wanted to know more – to have power in my hands and be 100% confident and comfortable; to be the person in charge of my career, my floor. I had my first courses while I was pregnant!

Beatrice has thrown herself into the search for wine expertise and knowledge

How did you end up in the UK?

I was working as a restaurant manager for the Alajmo family, who own a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants. One of my co-workers had just returned from London, working with Ronan Sayburn and he bombarded me with his ideas. I knew that Italy wasn’t enough for me and as soon as Ronan mentioned they were looking for a sommelier at 67 Pall Mall I applied for it. I moved to London in 2016.

Did that involve a step down?

I had been a senior supervisor in Italy, and I started as a junior sommelier at 67 Pall Mall. But it wasn’t a hard decision to make. I’d do it now if I thought the opportunity was worth it. I don’t have a lot of ego. If I can see a situation that gives me growth long-term I’d always change the position I am in for the sake of learning.

Lots of nice old-vine wines at 67!

I guess you learned plenty at 67 Pall Mall…

I was very lucky to taste the best wines in the world, the best vintages, unicorn wines. I learned how to deal with Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, winemakers, wine collectors.

Did you start the CMS qualifications?

I moved for this reason. I didn’t understand the full extent of what they offer. But once you’ve studied the Advanced, you want to try for the Master Sommelier. I wanted to be internationally certified, and it helped to be in that environment. The Best Sommelier of Greece, Best Sommelier of UK, Best Sommelier of South Africa – they were all [at 67 Pall Mall].

Any advice for people who are studying?

You need to be mentally balanced. You have a lot of pressure to manage the work hours and the studying. The MS is the hardest challenge of your life; the hardest exam in the world.

Decanting during the Practical paper in the Advanced exam…
A ‘well done’ from MSs Matt Wilkin (left) and Brian Julyan

What challenges did you face moving from 67 to head sommelier at Chiltern Firehouse?

The biggest challenge was to change your style of service, and make it your own, and make all the experience of 67 worth it and applicable in Chiltern. You make your own style. We’ve doubled the wine list to 800 references, and my assistant and I have the freedom to select the wines that we want, from small producers to classics to expensive to traditional. It’s very rewarding.

What changes did you make?

I found some gaps that I wanted to fill. Some regions weren’t represented how I wanted, some producers were missing and there were others I didn’t like. So slowly, slowly we adapted. Can we only have a big modern producer in Burgundy, or do we want wines in a different style  too – oxidative, new oak, old oak? I just went through the wine list and I wanted top iconic wines to be there – but different wines, less pricey. I didn’t try to massively increase the wine list. I just wanted to create something that would please everybody.

Any favourite regions or styles?

I love Burgundy and Piedmont. Our Burgundy list is three times bigger than before, while Piedmont has doubled. After that Australia and California are my strengths. I’d always be a big supporter of those regions – and Riesling is my favourite white wine, so I expanded Austria and Germany because of that.

Piemonte – one of Beatrice’s favourite wine regions. What’s not to like?

How do you balance being a mother with the hospitality hours?

I don’t know how I do it. Honestly! I’ve always been someone who does too many things at once, and being a mum it’s natural that you have to do lots of different things at the same time. But it’s a big challenge. If I sleep six hours a night I feel lucky, but it’s the only way for the moment.

With such wide experience, do you have a final take on the profession?

Being a sommelier and a manager and a wine buyer are three completely different things. Being a good sommelier doesn’t make you a good manager, and sometimes you have amazing managers who are not good sommeliers and vice versa. You have to keep practising and training yourself in all these roles.

Beatrice with her daughter. Juggling work and domestic responsibilities is still a challenge

A delicious way to discover the world

Q&A with Klearhos Kanellakis, Head Sommelier, Trivet

How did you become a sommelier?

While studying Mathematics back in Greece, I was working as a waiter in restaurants. In one of the restaurants where I worked, my Maître d’, mentor and one of my best friends decided to enrich me with wine knowledge.

He decided to enrol me for the WSET Level 1 course. I only found out the day before the beginning of the course, and so there was no way out. I was excited to learn about wine and at WSET School I met some very interesting wine personalities.

One of them was my teacher, the only Greek Master of Wine at that time; he taught me to love wine even more and inspired me to dive deeper into the subject. The more I learnt, the more I started considering wine as my career.

I started my career in wine in some of the best Greek restaurants. As I wanted to learn as much as I could, I did not hesitate when the opportunity to work in the UK arose.

What attracted you to wine?

Thanks to wine, I get to meet very interesting personalities. I have visited some beautiful wine regions and I learnt more about the history and culture of these places. And all this with just a glass of wine! I still believe that this is the most delicious way to discover the World.

What’s your wine nightmare?

I have had a terrible nightmare about the Champenois stopping their production of sparkling wine…..I went to my fridge and I had to reassure myself it was just a dream by pouring myself a glass of Champagne!

With regard to my guests, I don’t mind if people order a wine that doesn’t match with their courses, if they add ice to their glass or if they want to top up their glasses by themselves etc. It’s their choice the only thing I want is to be helpful so that they can enjoy their meal and their visit to our restaurant.

Tell us your favourite wine moment and why it’s so special?

A long time ago, I created a wine pairing for a special occasion for a super VIP guest. His whole family enjoyed the night and during his speech he thanked me personally for my contribution. I tried some unique wines that night and I felt so happy that I was part of a special evening for some lovely people.

Why do you think the Sommelier Collective is useful for your profession now?

I like the idea that it connects the sommelier community – it is a great forum where we can all benefit by exchanging knowledge and experience. I also like the fact that the Sommelier Collective will allow me to keep updated about the huge amount of wine events taking place around London in the future when things get back to normal.

Cross-selling: Sometimes Stories Can Trump Tradition.

By Sean Arthur, Food and Beverage Manager, Holland and Holland Shooting Grounds

Throughout my own career I have approached my guests with my 72 page wine list, been guided to the host of the table for the wine selection and been asked loud and proud “We need a good red for the mains, do you have any Bordeaux?” as if that is the most logical choice for any occasion.

Of course, why not?

But I have always been an advocate of expanding the guest’s repertoire of go-to styles. There are occasionally those more worldly guests that are aware quality wines exist outside of the obvious suspects, but I always felt they were too few and far between, especially when working in a classic fine dining atmosphere.

So how do we change this habit and broaden the horizons without compromising on selling “THAT” big bottle of high-earning 1er Grand Cru in favour of a mid-range Zin?

Now, I don’t mean we should over-stock ourselves or force sales upon people. But there’s definitely a case for showing a passion for other styles and broadening the mix of sales in the room each service.
For myself and my sommelier team this brought about a lot of discussion in the room, amongst the team and even across tables between guests. And with the diversity in sales my Junior Somms became much more confident.

Each time we were presented with the request for a robust French red – for this purpose lets suppose its right bank Bordeaux – I would bring up the selection and point out favourites, but before leaving the table for them to peruse and discuss I would flick forward to the Californians and give some comparatives.

For example, if the host’s eyes widened at the sight of a vertical of Léoville Barton from 1988 forwards then I would mention the new and exciting styles I added from Orin Swift. The prices would be comparable (maybe a bit cheaper) and I’d particularly point out the “Abstract” Cabernet Sauvignon, “Mercury head” Cabernet Sauvignon or “Papillon” listed as Bordeaux Blend.

Some customers might wonder about the lack of back-vintage variety, but I’d just tell them that that’s not Orin Swift’s ethos. They are about putting out well-made and explosive wines to be enjoyed when released. You can age them if you want, but… you know, drink it.
Rather than focusing on comparing grapes and terroir, it’s the story that gets me each time and is something I love presenting in the dining room.

Yes, of course the Old World have stories, but often I found the newer wineries’ stories to be more diverse and more relatable.
Orin Swift began when David Swift Finney bunked off Uni for a year to go drinking in Italy (I’m paraphrasing slightly). He fell in love with wine, and when he came back he trained at the Robert Mondavi Winery before eventually setting up his own venture.

As a story, that’s more fun than ‘handed down from aristocrat to aristocrat through the generations’.

Your guests come for the food and ambience, but they will forever remember that something new, or that wild story that led to their occasion being truly amazing. For me, it’s the exploration and the story that creates the stand-out experience. Wines like this can help to do that.

A few facts on Orin Swift to get you started

David Swift Finny inspired in Italy, trained at Robert Mondavi Wineries and founded his winery in 1998.

His Palermo is a good place to start.
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
ABV: 15.5%
Aging: 12 months, 39% new oak
Notes: Deep dark crimson colour, powerful aroma of currants, vanilla and cedar wood. Explodes onto the palate with powerful blackcurrant and dark cherry fruits, luscious and smooth.
Stockist: Enotria & Coe, £28-£35

Weird Can Be Wonderful.

At a time when everyone is looking at what they eat, where its from and how it’s made there is still quite a big gap in choosing what we drink. When you go to most retail sellers the shelves will be filled with co-operative productions, own-brand labels and recognisable names.

I admit I shamelessly enjoy the 19 Crimes range (don’t judge!) despite the headache the next day. But really I find the more artisanal low-interference wines more interesting – my sommelier team and I have really come to enjoy them.

So the question is, how do we get our guests to experience them and discover more upon each visit?

My view here is that we aren’t necessarily trying to convince everyone that this style of wine is the future, just to be brave enough to mix them in every now and then.

A big challenge I had when expanding the “natural wines” part of the list was that committing to a bottle was a bit tough for many people, especially given the ethos of some producers.

For example when away on holiday my number two decided to buy six wines from a producer in Austria, all low sulphur and unfiltered, one of which was amphora aged and bottled in ceramic. He meant well but my god it was awful.

In order to expand the view of our clientele we introduced two wine pairings. But we didn’t take the usual approach of offering four/six glasses or a normal/premium version. Instead we gave them a choice of Classics or Weird and Wonderful. This gave the guest the option of experimenting or playing safe. I expected most diners to play safe, but in fact it was about 60/40 in favour of weird.

There is, of course weird and WEIRD, and we kept it relatively tame. So no Jura wines or whacking on a flight of Gravner Breg Bianco (although it did feature once). Rather, we used the ethos of low maintenance production and intervention in wines that still expressed freshness and had some level of familiarity.

Success rate of the weird pairing was fairly high, if people were not getting it after the first/second wine I would always suggest we swapped to classic. After all, it’s their money.

But the majority of my patrons who experienced this selection of “healthy” alternative wines were surprised with the overall quality and diverse flavours as well as the fact they were still able to speak after eight wines in a row (I pour generously).

They even came to me at breakfast the next morning, surprised and delighted that their head was clear and pain free! Often the wines I used were natural yeast ferments and therefore low alcohol as well as low sulphur.

Some of our best matchings from the ‘weird and wonderful’ wine flight

Don’t be feared of the weird. It shows that people can be encouraged to go outside their comfort zone if you make it easy for them.

Occhipinti SP68 Bianco, Sicily
Stockist: Les Caves de Pyrenne £12-£17
Served with a fresh crab dish.
Aromatic fresh and lively style.

Pheasants Tears Saperavi, Kakheti, Georgia
Stockist: Les Caves de Pyrenne £12-£15
Paired with venison during the season.
Bold flavours, leather, spice, mushroom earthy and autumnal but not overbearing.

Akashi-tai Ginjo Yuzushu Sake
Stockist: Wine Service £15-£20
Served with earl grey sorbet pre dessert.
Basically a lemon punch in the face, completely resets the palate before moving on. It woke people up pretty good too!

Five Tips To Great Studying While You Work

by Melania Battiston, Head Sommelier, Medlar

We all know how hard it is for hospitality professionals to find time outside of work to concentrate on their studies.

With the long hours, stress and pressure we face every day, it can be a real challenge to balance the two.

But during my time as a Sommelier I have developed – and fine-tuned – a few tricks to allow myself more time to include studies in my daily routine effectively. They could help you too if you’re studying for exams, competitions, or just want to learn more.

1 PLAN AHEAD – AND MAKE YOUR GOALS ACHIEVABLE

I always suggest to have your own agenda that guides you thorough the week. Every Sunday write down your study goals for the week to come. It doesn’t matter how many there are, you just have to make sure that they are achievable. So don’t be afraid to start small.

She’s making a list, checkin’ it twice

Then every night write a ‘to-do’ list for the day after. Divide your tasks into chunks of time and stick to them.

Why do this before going to bed? So your brain can process your easiest decisions (like what to have for breakfast or managing your schedule) during the night. This means you’re not expending useless willpower first thing in the morning when your brain is at its sharpest and should be concentrating on the most important decisions.

You want to make sure that studying doesn’t affect your real work; therefore the most practical tip here is to decide which days you’ll totally be focusing on your job and the days you will be adding studies as an extra. Try to recognise the time of the day where you’re at your most productive and then plan your study hours around that.

2 AVOID PROCRASTINATION

Ok, now that you have created your own weekly/daily schedule it’s time for some action! You’ll probably be studying only for a few hours a day; therefore you’ll need to act efficiently. Let’s get rid of the triggers that can distract you (phone, TV), have scheduled 5 minutes breaks every 25 minutes of work; and get yourself a reward every time you finish the session. It could be something as simple as “If I conclude this topic before going to work I’ll then have my favourite croissant at the coffee shop”. Again, structure is essential.

3 BUILD A COMMUNITY

It’s crucial to build up a community of like-minded people who can understand your journey, your difficulties and can cheer you on and encourage you to keep moving toward your goals and not to give up. Studying during a full-time job is hard, so you’ll need good support! Share experiences, learn from others and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

4 HAVE A REST DAY

Use your day off as a real day off. You’ve earned it and you need it. So spend it wisely by relaxing, nourishing your mind and your body. Exercise, meditation, listening to music and socialising are all good. But it’s good to try self-affirmation, too: saying positive things to yourself in front of a mirror for 5-10 minutes.

Not tasting – but necessary all the same

Things not to do on your day off: stay up late, watch screens all day, check work emails or jump onto social media as soon as you wake up.
You don’t need to feel guilty about having down-time, since your brain will work anyway in the background without you even realising it. It’s called diffuse mode and allows your brain to solve problems or make connections without you even trying.

5 KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED

There will be times when you feel tired, down and even demotivated. So keep reminding yourself why you are studying for this exam/competition/qualification. Visualise yourself achieving your goals and look back at all you have accomplished.

Imagine scenarios where you are succeeding (like acing a job interview or winning a competition), and be as detailed as possible – try to recreate the exact scenario in your mind, with sounds, smells and colours. Think big!