Oliver Christie

How long have you been at the restaurant?

Since 2011.

What attracted you to become a sommelier?

When I was younger and playing hide-and-seek with my siblings the wine cellar was always my go to place, everybody else was repelled by the dark, cold and damp surroundings but to me I always felt at home. Perhaps that had something to do with it!

Where did you do your training?

I am still training, you take your basics from wine school but then every time you have a glass in front of you, regardless of location you are learning and furthering your knowledge. . . . . could be worse!

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

Physically, it is a nose and a palette but also patience and the confidence to speak your mind and convey your opinion, an elbow on which to rest on while “training” also helps!

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

I always find it is nice to start with a glass of champagne while I read the menu, I am a slow reader! Perhaps an interesting Riesling to start because I think it is an incredible grape variety. Then perhaps something Syrah based form the Rhone Valley, I find the wines have a huge amount of character. Then something not too sweet with cheese, perhaps a madeira with a bit of age or if I am tempted by dessert I would look for something from the Loire Valley.

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

It is a general rule that working in the majority of cases but as with any generalisation there are exceptions to the rule (e.g. orange wines or German Pinot Noir to name a few). I think most importantly though you should drink what you like, it is not the sommelier who is eating the meal, we are here to advise not dictate.

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

For me a wine has the ability to enhance different aspect of the dish while complimenting and supporting the flavours that are on the plate. “The combination is greater than the sum of the component parts”

What’s the best part of your job?

I am never bored, there is always something to taste (or drink!) and like a good sommelier, wines are always evolving and changing. I have a hobby that I get paid for.

And the worst?

Dry January. . . . .every time a customer says it, I lose a little bit of my soul.

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

Alcohol free wine. . . .

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

£20,000 well spent and enjoyed in the same glass as Lemonade and ice cubes. . . . go figure!

How many wines do you have?

30,000 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?

Everything is tasted by the sommeliers before the customer tastes the wine, a corked wine will never reach the table and the customers glass, but every so often there is something in the wine that the customer is not expecting which can sometimes be mistakenly attributed to ‘corked’ wine. In which case I will find something else for the customer to enjoy with his or her meal.