Sommelier of the Month - Laurent Chaniac

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Sommelier, Wine
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  • Name: Laurent Chaniac
  • Date of birth: 8th June
  • Place of birth: Pithivers, France
  • Eye colour: Brown
  • Nationality: French

I started working in the world of wine when I began as a restaurant manager at the Stafford Hotel in St James, London. It was a boutique hotel which is part of the 'Small Luxury Hotels of the World' group. I was fortunate to have a master sommelier (Gino Nardella), a qualified wine maker and a viticulturist in my team. This is where I caught 'wine fever'! I learnt what great wines are about and what to expect when different grape varieties are grown in a different soils and climates. I also learnt that when it comes to the quality of a wine, I should never drop my standards regardless of cost. It is easy to find good wines that are expensive, however, it is a great thrill when you find something great on a tight budget.

I have compiled wine lists for The Black Truffle restaurant in Primrose Hill, Joel Robuchon in London and The Cinnamon Club in Westminster where I developed a special skill of pairing wines with spices. Compiling wine lists has helped me create a special relationship with many wine producers and key people in the industry.

For the last 8 years, I have judged the World Wine Decanter Awards, an incredibly exciting exercise. It's a great honour to be have been involved with the awards year-after-year.

I now work for the Cinnamon Club as a wine consultant.

The Cinnamon Club

Set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library, The Cinnamon Club is an institution in the world of Indian fine dining. The original modern Indian restaurant in London, The Cinnamon Club has a long history of serving innovative and creative Indian cuisine in a magnificently majestic setting.

Re-opening in 2015 following a major refurbishment, Executive Chef Vivek Singh and Head Chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair have developed a stunning new menu that combines The Cinnamon Club's signatures with new dishes and celebratory platters. A new chapter for the Club is about to be written.

"From day one, we wanted to show that wine can compliment spice. We also wanted to dispel the cliche that only beer and aromatic wines should be drunk when eating Indian cuisine. It has always been about pushing the boundaries of wine pairing and looking for that special chemistry between the dishes and the wine.

The restaurant can serve over 500 covers a day. A strong front of house team is trained to showcase the alchemy of spice and wine. The team consists of 4 sommeliers who regularly organise wine tastings where every member of staff is invited. We explain what makes the wine so special and how it pairs with our food.

Having the ability to put spices and wine together is an essential part of our hospitality which will hopefully make our guests remember and talk about us. It is also important to gain trust from our clients so we can guide them in their wine choice. The best restaurant is always the one in which you, the guest, are the best understood."

Laurent's wine and food pairings at The Cinnamon Club

Our wine list at The Cinnamon Club has over 300 wines to choose from. Yes, France dominates the high-end wines, but there are also many iconic wines from the rest of the world. The wine list has a price range from the mid £20 point to £10,000 per bottle.

In the quest for a great wine pairing, we decided at a very early stage to design dishes around the wine. We extract the core flavour of a wine and then look for spices that complement, contrast eventually achieve harmony and balance.

Starter: Spiced herring roe on toasted cumin brioche

2011 Ladoix, Domaine de La GalopiEre, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France

Discreet new oak, firm citrus over white fit and florals. The discreet new oak does not dominate the fruit. An initial firm attack of citrus is followed by white fruits. A very long and complex finish. The tight and restrained new oak is enhanced when combined with the toasty flavour of the brioche. The firm acidity of the wine is softened by the onion reduction and brings fruit to the front of palate. Firm citrus cuts through the creamy texture of the roe and creates balance..

Main Course: Clove smoked grouse breast, rustic tawa mince, and earthy black lentils

2008 Barolo, Dacapo, Piedmonte, Italy,

This dish is composed of 4 dumplings (all gluten free), peas, beetroot, sand carrot, and onion cooked in lime. The prawn consomme is vibrant with intense aromas of caramelised seafood, citrus and sea salt... bold as ever! Intense rich dark sherry fruits, sweet spices with fresh, firm ripe tannins. This a powerful wine. This concentrated is a recent vintage which delivers great freshness. There are dark cherries with firm and ripe tannins. A complex wine with a long and persistent finish. The strong flavour of the grouse is matched by the intense fruit. The intense fruit flavour nurtures the discreet heat of the dish. The rich wine texture sits perfectly with the creamy lentil garnish and matches the overall rich texture of the dish.

Main course: Roast loin of Oisin red deer with black stone flower and onion reduction

1986 Santenay, 1er les Gravieres, Paul Chapelle et ses Filles, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France

Matured, dry red, complex due to the age almost 30 years old. This is a fully matured red wine, the fruit is rich and on small black fruit, there are aromatic of leather, dry under woods floor, discreet sweet spices, very mineral, the tannins are soft but in balance with the wine. Very long finish and very complex. The complexity of the wine adds on the seasoning of the dish, those leather notes and sweet spices do combine with the rich onion sauce and act as a seasoning component. The gentle tannins cut through the richness of the sauce creating balance The minerals of the wine combine with the smoky notes from the tandoor making the wine more fruits forward.

Main course: Roast saddle of Romney Marsh lamb, corn sauce, pickled root vegetables, masala cashew nut

Madeira will balance the sweetness of the chocolate as it will cut through the bitterness. As the Madeira is aged, it will develop an oaky character and caramel flavours, and will match the truffle as well as the whisky syrup.

Laurent's Q&A

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 have always been interested in wine. I began to learn in detail about wine when working with master sommelier, Gino Nardella at The Stafford Hotel. The Stafford had a very substantial wine list with wines from all over the world.

What do you think makes a great sommelier?
Great sommeliers should be open minded and should know their wine list

Describe your typical day at work.
I normally meet wine producers or attend wine tastings in London, an integral part of how I choose future listings. I also spend time training our team of sommeliers and discussing wine with them.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
First, I determine the core flavour of the wine. I describe to our chefs about the concentration, texture, tannins and acidity of the wine. We then look at the texture of the dish and choose spices which will create contrast or balance. We then taste the wine on its own, taste the dish, try the wine again and then discuss the chemistry.

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
I look for wines that stand out and have a 'wow' factor. I then look at the cost and see if the selling price is a realistic or not.

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
Producers which excel in manning their soils and produce great grapes.

You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
Syrah and Riesling.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
Mustard and Pinot Noir.

And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Spiced herring roe on toasted cumin brioche paired with a 2011 Ladoix, Domaine de La GalopiEre, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy.

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
They should tell me what style of wine they usually drink and give me a budget.

Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with?
Barack Obama..

How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?

Blind tastings and 'guess the wine' games.

Where do you see your future career path?
A wine consultant.

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