How long have you been at the restaurant?
5 years at Le Manoir; 16 years in the industry.
What attracted you to become a sommelier?
The variety of flavour, the richness from a region alone, then the rest of the world. The face of the guest when they are caught in a moment of great pleasure that gives it all.
Where did you do your training?
First and higher certificate, wine road and wineriy visits – mainly in France, a bit in Italy, There are still many great wineries I’d love to visit.
What would you say were the essential skills required to be a sommelier?
Understanding the customer and placing oneself in his shoes. The ability to relax the guest as they tend to worry when they see the sommelier coming to discuss something which may appear to be a bit obscure to most of them. The wine list at Le Manoir is extensive so I love to guide our guests though wines that I think they may like to try.
What wines complement your personal favourite three course meal and why?
I don’t have a personal favourite 3 course meal, much as I don’t have a personal favourite wine.On the other hand, I always love to share a great meal with old friends while tasting new wines that have intersting qualities to savour.
What are your thoughts on the ‘Red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat and fish’ age-old debate?
A very old debate! Drink according to your preference while keeping an idea of the food match; some meals simply do not match with either white or red wine. There is no point in discussing people’s taste. One of my favourite food and wine matches at Le Manoir is sea bass with red wine sauce, star anis and langoustine, matched with Pinot Noir – a fruit driven and soft red wine. Lobster with a red pepper sauce and cardamon also goes beautifully with a light Pinot.
How does the choice of the right wines complement the different food courses served?
Very well indeed…
What’s the best part of your job?
Discovering wines in a good context with the producer or even while visiting the winery – and, even better, with a meal putting them in context.
And the worst?
I love my job. I just wish that I had more time to travel, discover and meet more wine makers; particularly small producers who have really interesting wines to taste.
What is the unusual wine that you have ever tasted and why?
Old Vouvray 1921 and 1947; they were quite marked by oxidation, but sappy, still very alive and citrussy – recently I tried Chateau Châlon 1949.
What is the most money that you’ve ever seen spent on a single bottle?
£1,000.00 Latache Romany Comte.
How many wines do you have?
At Le Manoir 1,100 different wines, 15,000 bottles.
How often do you find that customers complain about wine being corked and – in your opinion – how often do you think that they are right?
Customers rarely complain about corked wines, and in most cases it only means that they don’t like the wine so there is no need to argue and they should certainly not drink it as we would have failed by having them not enjoying their wine; it is meant to be part of a great moment!