Sommelier of the Month - Valentin Radosav

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Sommelier, Wine
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  • Name: Valentin Radosav
  • Date of birth: 31st December
  • Place of birth: Timisoara in Romania
  • Eye colour: Grey
  • Height: 187cm
  • Nationality: Romanian

Valentin Radosav is Head Sommelier at Gymkhana, the celebrated Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair, London. He is also the new 2017 Sud de France Sommelier of the Year and joins Tim Atkin MW and other Masters of Wine and leading buyers to judge the 2017 Top 100 best wines from the South of France. It is one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the UK and involves some 700 wines entered from 200 producers.

"I began my wine career when I was 25 in Wales, at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, a beautiful 4 star hotel. Then I moved to Birmingham where I was welcomed by Glynn Purnell and JB's fantastic team.

Whilst travelling, I learned Spanish in four months and spent a Summer working in Ibiza. From there I took a job on a cruise liner around Europe and the Caribbean. Meeting people from around the world was fascinating. Deciding to get involved more seriously in the wine industry, I came back to the UK in 2012, when I passed my Certified Exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and also level 3 WSET.

I returned to Purnell's in Birmingham, then a year later took an opportunity to work for Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where I was the Senior Sommelier for the top restaurant called Al Muntaha. In 2014 I moved to London to work at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, with its very passionate and professional team.

I have recently started at Gymkhana, and every day is fascinating. Sometimes working 13 hours a day doesn’t feel like work. It’s been a very intense few months, as I passed the first semester's exams for the WSET Diploma. Also, along with three friends, we won the Chilean Wine Bar War organized by Wines of Chile UK at Imbibe Live 2016. Two weeks later, I came second in the Bellavita UK Sommelier Competition. Then in October I won the Sud de France Sommelier Competition.

To relax, I swim or dance, and I’ve started to learn Hindi. I love travelling, and next I will go to the South of France as part of my Sud de France Sommelier prize, and to Chile, India and perhaps Portugal. I would also love to visit South Africa."

Gymkhana, London

Gymkhana is inspired by the Indian gymkhana clubs, where members of high society socialise and play sport. The restaurant is known for its classic and contemporary, boldly spiced Indian food. Gymkhana has retained a Michelin star since 2014 and became the first Indian restaurant to win the BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year award in 2014. It was named the UK’s Best Restaurant 2014 and the UK’s Best Indian Restaurant 2015 at the National Restaurant Awards. The Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay Maschler awarded it a full five stars, and The Times critic Giles Coren gave his first ever 10/10 for food.

Valentin's wine and food pairings

Tandoori Gobhi

Tandoori Gobhi served with Green Chilli Raita, it’s an amazing vegetarian dish, with the lovely crisp texture of cauliflower cooked in the traditional tandoori oven. I recommend:
2011 Le Soula Blanc, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. It is based on Macabeu, Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino and adds an array of flavours to the dish, like ripe apple and pear, nectarine, beeswax, almonds. It has a rich texture and zesty finish.
2015 Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine Beauvignac is also a top choice.
Wild Boar Vindaloo

Wild Boar Vindaloo is one of the hottest dishes you will ever try. It’s very hard to match, but not Mission Impossible. Try this Roussillon.
2013 Côté Montagne, Domaine de la Rectorie, Collioure, is a blend of Carignan/Grenache. It has ripe and fine grained tannins, notes of juicy black plums, cherries and sweet spices, with a long finish.
2012 Mas Jullien Etats D’Ame, Côteaux du Languedoc is a light style with round and juicy tannins.
Sofiyan Roe Deer Chop

Sofiyan Roe Deer Chop served with Kasundi Mooli (Indian Bengoli mustard and radish) is matched with a Mourvèdre from Saint Chinian.
2011 Clos de la Simonette, Mas Champart, Saint Chinian, a blend of Mourvèdre (65%), Grenache and Carignan. It has a wild berry character with herbs from the garrigue – the stunning wild countryside - complemented by juicy tannins.
Date & Fig Kheer Rice Pudding

To accompany this, or to enjoy on its own, we serve a great value wine from Agly Valley.
NV Maury Solera 1928, Cask No.933, Les Vignerons de Maury, Roussillon.

Valentin's Q&A

How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?

Before I worked in wine, I was an electronics technician, involved in cables for cars. In my first job in wine, at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, the amazing team gave me huge support in developing my career. Ian the Restaurant Manager encouraged me to taste more. He gave me the first wine book I have ever read, Oz Clarke’s 'Let me tell you about wine'. I found it captivating. Among my first wines tasted, I remember an aged Leoville-Barton 1990, and an aged Lopez de Heredia Tondonia White from the ’70s – still one of my favourites.

What do you think makes a good sommelier?

You need to be passionate about wines and ask questions to discover guests’ preferences. Then find a wine to suit their palate and match the food. I always like to keep updated with new wines on the market and the upcoming wine regions. There’s skill in surprising customers with interesting choices – right now from France (Languedoc-Roussillon), Croatia, Chile, South Africa or Lebanon.

Describe your typical day at work.

There’s no average day with fixed hours. I like a dynamic and very passionate approach. When you love what you do, you don’t feel as if it’s work. Attending professional tastings is as enjoyable as a simple blind tasting with friends. I am involved in different courses with WSET (Diploma) and The Court of Master Sommeliers UK, which needs a lot of studying. I present training for my team, who are also studying at different levels of WSET. Plus, we are constantly looking for new wines.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?

Indian cuisine uses a lot of spices and herbs. All the dishes have a high level of complex flavours. I try to match wines with very well balanced ripe fruit and acidity, and structure or tannins for the reds.

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.

London is a very dynamic city for wine tastings; sometimes five in a day. I try to attend as many as I can, especially those where our suppliers are present. Also I keep updated with industry news by reading speciality magazines and online. Many friends are sommeliers, and we discuss wines we’ve tried recently. With the team here, we try wines together, sometimes blind, then decide which wines to list.

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?

There is a growing presence for wines from South of France, Portugal, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Chile, and boutique producers from Australia. With many winemakers, the focus is on quality. Right now, I’ve been tasting seven types of sake – I think it will be an adventurous and popular choice for our list.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?

24 month aged Parmesan with green olives, a small charcuterie plate and glass of Krug MV (if possible the old labels with flowers). Or blue cheese from Jura with Macvin du Jura.

What is the most unusual food and wine you know?

At Gymkhana, our Wild Boar Vindaloo is a hard one because of its hot spiciness. I recommend an Austrian Blaufränkisch Reserve Moric 2011. It has rich tannins but with a fine texture. There are hints of ripe black fruit and blueberry, with a savoury element on the finish. The wine embraces the food spices, and its 13.5% abv. doesn’t fight the spices.

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?

Everyone should ask recommendations and explore the wine list. Or a good idea is to choose the Gymkhana Tasting Menu with matching wines. I listen carefully to which wines each diner likes and their choice of dish. Gymkhana has a relaxed atmosphere, and I like guests feel at ease and comfortable when ordering wines.

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

The internet and You Tube are good sources for tips. I enjoyed learning from You Tube videos by Ronan Sayburns MS. He’s been a great influence. And recently I was given a present of a colouring book with wine maps. Very unusual!

Where do you see your future career path?

I love the program developed by The Court of Master Sommeliers, and I’d like to progress in this direction. My WSET Diploma studies cover aspects which get me thinking far beyond my job; I’m just finishing an essay on the transportation of bulk wine. I’m keen to help new sommeliers to develop in their careers too.

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

For white I’d choose Grüner Veltliner, one of my favourite grapes. It does well on loose soil. As for the red, a Carignan.

Who is the one person you’d most like to share a bottle of wine with?

With Kulpreet and the rest of my family.


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