Sommelier of the Month - Michael Jenni

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Sommelier, Wine
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  • Name: Michael Jenni.
  • Date of birth: 16th October 1980.
  • Place of birth: Kuwait.
  • Eye colour: Brown
  • Nationality: Swiss

With a Swiss father and South Korean mother, Michael was raised in South Korea (though he also spent a several years in Singapore and Hong Kong) before travelling to study hotel management in Switzerland. He is conversant in German, Korean, French and English, a valuable quality he prides himself on working for the bustling hospitality business in London.

With a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry, Michael originally joined the D&D London family back in 2008 as sommelier at renowned restaurant Le Pont de la Tour following a year-long position as Head Sommelier and Assistant Manager for Richard Corrigan at Michelin-starred restaurant, Lindsay house. He completed his Advanced Sommelier Certificate at the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2010 and finished his First Year Study Programme at the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2012. In addition to his qualifications, Michael has accomplished a wealth of notable achievements within the industry: he worked at Le Gavroche under legendary maitre d', Silvano Geraldin, the year the restaurant was awarded 'Outstanding Front of House' at the Tio Pepe ITV London Restaurant Awards 2006; formed Michael Jenni Ltd investment service in 2010 for high net-worth individuals seeking diversification; was an operational consultant on the opening of Chakra in 2012 which was ranked one of the top eight Indian restaurants in the UK by Tatler that year; and most recently, he has won the Southern regional final of Moet UK Sommelier of the Year 2013.

In addition to the award-winning wine list at Orrery, Michael has already introduced a list of exciting wine pairings and wine flights to accompany each of head chef Igor's desserts, enhancing the eating pleasure of every dish. His extensive knowledge of wine and his experience within different areas of the restaurant industry reflects his passion for hospitality and for creating unique and stimulating wine pairings.

About our Restaurant

A bright and busy neighbourhood restaurant, serving French cuisine cooked to a high standard in an informal and relaxed environment. I manage a team of three Sommeliers with overall responsibility for the wine list and wine service.

Even though some of our wines do change from time to time, we always offer a well-rounded selection to cater for all budgets and tastes. I am particularly fond of pairings for desserts. We currently offer at least one pairing with each of our desserts, and with some desserts even a flight of two different types of wine that both complement the dish in a different way.

Michael'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 fond of eating and drinking, so I was naturally drawn to this career.

What do you think makes a great sommelier? Knowledge is important because it helps the Sommelier to understand the type of wine a customer is really after and to help guide them in the right direction. There's a little bit of skill involved in service; experience is probably the only way to really learn this properly. Most importantly a great Sommelier has the ability to adapt their approach for each table.

Describe your typical day at work. I normally check my emails before I leave the house. First thing at the restaurant I will usually crack on with mis-en-place and restocking the day-cellars. I might have a quick tasting with a supplier before lunch service. After lunch service I do a little admin work, sometimes a supplier might visit. I make sure the day-cellars are restocked and the dining room is ready for dinner. And then dinner service. Sometimes I will try to escape in the afternoon to attend a tasting in town.

How does pricing affect the wine advice you give diners? This is a crucial point. If one of our diners asks for a bottle below a certain price, we should respect this and make appropriate suggestions. We are lucky to have a well-stocked cellar and can cater for all budgets in a wide variety of styles.

Have customers become more knowledgeable about wine? Yes. The accessibility of information has definitely helped.

Who has been most influential in your career? I have been fortunate to have worked with many incredible colleagues, too many to list, but all of whom have shaped my career in one way or another. Then there are also organisations like the Court of Master Sommeliers, Institute of Masters of Wine and the WSET who have and continue to push me in a certain direction.

Describe a good sommelier's introduction or presentation of their list at a table. A Sommelier should have the ability to adapt their approach for each table.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you? I try to find a combination that enhances the food and the wine.

How often do you manage to touch base and re-taste your wines? I check the condition of all the bottles I open during service. Since we are a busy restaurant, I sometimes might put that little sample aside and come back to it when I have a minute to spare.

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines. One way is through trade tastings. Otherwise we buy a bit from broking lists which is fun but time consuming.

Selling wines by the glass. Your thoughts please. Wines by the glass are an important part of any wine list. With one or two exceptions maybe, the selection should complement the dishes on the menu.

What are you really thinking when a customer sends a perfectly good wine back? I'm trying to figure out what they didn't enjoy about the wine to make sure the second bottle is more of a success.

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently? Viognier might be in fashion at the moment. I think diners have been asking for reasonable mark-ups on wine lists. D&D, the group of restaurants Orrery belongs to, has long recognized this. We are excited about our Monday night cash-markups we are calling 'Love Wine, Love Orrery' which will hopefully start towards the end of November. Each week we will have a theme, and make a selection of truly great wines accessible. Follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date.

You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant? I would like to have Riesling and Pinot Noir, but would probably struggle with these varietals!

What's the key to developing staff to become well-trained to sell and serve wine? I believe that confidence is the key. My training sessions focus on helping staff to form their own opinions about our wines which they can then share with diners.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing? No.

And a most unusual food and wine pairing? Yes, there was once a sweet mushroom parfait at Viajante that we paired with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva or Kai Mayfair's Hot and Sour Soup with Meantime Porter.

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask? By being honest about their preferences and budget.

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

How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips? Jancis Robinson published a book called 'How to Taste' which could be helpful.

What's the one thing you love most about your job? The food and the wine.

Where do you see your future career path? Hopefully back in Asia one day.


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