Xavier Rousset

How long have you been at the restaurant?
Comptoir Café & Wine opened in April 2017.

What attracted you to become a sommelier?
A trip to a vineyard in France when I was only 16 years of age inspired me to become a sommelier.

Where did you do your training?
I trained for a few months in Paris and St Tropez, then Hotel du Vin in Bristol and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.

What would you say were the essential skills required to be a sommelier?
Being open-minded and curious is essential!

What wines complement your personal favourite three course meal and why?
There will be a glass of Champagne to start, red and white Burgundy, Barolo/Barbaresco and a Madeira to finish the meal.

What are your thoughts on the “Red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat and fish” age-old debate?
Yes, it’s an old debate, and so many other factors play a part: spiciness, sweetness in the sauce, the way the meat or fish has been cooked (fried, steamed, roasted and so on).

What’s the best part of your job?
I enjoy introducing customers to new grape varieties and wine.

And the worst?
I would say the hours, which can be long and gruelling.

What is the most unusual wine that you have ever tasted and why?
A few to be honest: Swedish ice wine, Peruvian, an old Champagne found in a shipwreck after 80 years under water.

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

How many wines do you have?
I have around 300 bottles in my own personal cellar, but at Comptoir we have over 2000 bottles (including around 100 different Champagnes).

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?
There is less and less corked wines nowadays and if a customer does spot it, they tend to be right in most cases.