David Vareille

How long have you been at the restaurant?

I was part of the opening team 6 years ago.

What attracted you to become a sommelier?

I come from Chablis village in Burgundy, either you are learning to make wine or you are learning to sell it

Where did you do your training?

I started 25 years ago at restaurant school and then moved to sommelier school. Your training never stops so when I arrived in the UK 12 years ago I started my master sommelier course, worked in different places and had few fantastic mentors.

What would you say were the essential skills required to be a sommelier?

Being curious and having an almost unhealthy passion for pleasing people.

What wines complement your personal favourite three course meal and why?

A Chablis with my sea food for starter, a Musigny with my grilled fish, and a very old Pinot with my cheese.

What are your thoughts on the “Red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat and fish” age-old debate?

Back in restaurant school we learned that the main option for red with fish was made from the Gamay grape variety – from the Beaujolais region, to be precise. However a red Burgundy will work perfectly – the garnish and the sauce play a big part of the pairing, avoiding butter is a good start (much better with white wine). There are so many red wines around the globe that are light, high in acidity, and low in tannin which will work perfectly.

How does the choice of the right wines complement the different food courses served?

Wine can be seen in different ways – it can be a commodity and providing the main purpose of being an alcoholic beverage, or it can have more presence and enhance the meal experience for the guests. This is up to the guests, not me – I’m happy to go both way but of course prefer the second option.

What’s the best part of your job?

Travelling, tasting wines, meeting people with the same passion and being able to talk about it on a daily basis.

And the worst?

Paper work.

What is the unusual wine that you have ever tasted and why?

An orange wine few years ago. The reason why back then a white wine was fermented without skin contact and only red wines where. However the first orange win I had was from one of the best producers and really intrigued me. Not everyone’s cup of tea (or glass of wine) but for sure a pleasantly disturbing experience!

What is the most money that you’ve ever seen spent on a single bottle?

£350.

How many wines do you have?

Personally I collect wines since 1989, so I’ve got a pretty sizeable cellar. I drink some, trade others.

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?

Statistically, 3% of wine sealed with natural cork is tinted with TCA. I never argue with the guest; it doesn’t really matter if the guest is wrong, he clearly doesn’t like the wine so if I think the wine is right I invite the guest to choose something else and I try to identify what he doesn’t like about this wine to avoid a repetition and I will sell the bottle BTG. If the wine is corked I send it back to the supplier and everyone will have a lovely experience.