||Please tell us some background about yourself. How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
I grew up in the middle of vineyards (southern Rhone valley) and my father is a wine amateur and connoisseur.
What do you think makes a great sommelier?
Humility and acknowledging that everybody has got his own palate and taste.
Describe your typical day at work.
The day starts with checking that morning's deliveries, monitoring cost control and pricing and then I start preparing for lunch service - making sure the wines are in order, glasses set etc. In the afternoon I spend time tasting samples of wines, buying new wines and catching up on admin.
How does pricing affect the wine advice you give diners?
It does not, it all depends about the questions I am asked.
Have customers become more knowledgeable about wine?
Customers are becoming more and more interested in wine and therefore the level of knowledge has certainly increased.
Who has been most influential in your career?
Fred Brugue, Head Sommelier at Sketch London and Andrew Jefford the Wine & Spirit writer.
Describe a good sommelier's introduction or presentation of their list at a table.
You need to read your guests and not talk too much. I tend to give customers the time to read the list before going back to them and advising if necessary. If they have chosen something unusual I like to talk describe it to them. It is important to create a relaxed atmosphere and not appear arrogant.
When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
Food and wine complement each other in term of texture and flavours.
How often do you manage to touch base and re-taste your wines?
Any time I open a bottle for a guest...
Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
Determine the needs, get samples from suppliers and pick best quality for value.
Selling wines by the glass. Your thoughts please.
Eclectic regions, grape varieties and style of wine with few discoveries.
What are you really thinking when a customer sends a perfectly good wine back?
Maybe I did not understand what they really like...
What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
There is more interest and focus on small wineries who make wine with passion using native grape varieties, traditional methods and who respect the environment and terroir.
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
It depends which kind of terroir the island is... but if I had to pick 2 grapes it would be Chenin Blanc and Nebbiolo...
What's the key to developing staff to become well-trained to sell and serve wine?
Make them taste wine...
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
Comte cheese with Vin Jaune (Jura).
And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
We have a dish on our list that is piglet with pineapple and sage and we pair this with an 'orange wine' - The Observatory Chenin and Chardonnay, Swartland, South Africa 2006 - which has had plenty of skin contact and no fining. The piglet needs a white wine like this which is full flavoured and has high acidity to complement the sweetness of the pineapple.
How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
Simply show interest and ask any kind of question.
Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with?
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
Blind tasting is great.
What's the one thing you love most about your job?
I love surprising people and helping them open their minds to different types of wine.
Where do you see your future career path?
Making wine in the beautiful terroir of the Southern Rhone.