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Sommelier of the Month - Guillaume Mahaut

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Sommelier, Wine
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  • Name: Guillaume Mahaut
  • Nationality: French

"When I arrived in the UK from France I started working in a night club and pub as a bartender. After a short spell back in France for the winter season, I came back to the UK and worked with Malmaison, Hotel du Vin where I contributed to the opening of their first pub/boutique hotel the Fox & Anchor.

After this I joined ETM as a Bar Manager and quickly worked my way up to assisting the wine buyer. When he left the Group to set up his own company, I stepped into his shoes and am now Group Wine Buyer and Trainer.

I am a regular contributor at press tastings and round tables for Imbibe, Harper’s, Drink Business and Restaurant Magazine.

In my leisure time I am a keen photographer, taking the time to stop, breathe and observe the world around you is vital when you work in such a fast paced industry. I have a real passion for archery which I get out to do during the summer months, it takes huge focus and is a massive point of frustration when I miss the target but it’s a great way to switch off. And, for the last 3 years, spending as much time as possible with my son."

The Jugged Hare

The Jugged Hare takes its name from a famous 18th century recipe by Hannah Glasse, the UK’s first and foremost domestic goddess. With a focus on seasonal British dishes prepared using traditional cooking methods including spit roast and charcoal grill, we have fast become the authority on game.

A huge amount of care has gone into The Jugged Hare’s wine list. The usual ‘safe’ choices have been bypassed in favour of boutique wines from small independent vineyards. All have been chosen with the menu in mind, ensuring their intensity and structure stands up and complements the food. Stock is deliberately kept in small quantities to allow The Jugged Hare to update the list regularly and in tandem with the menu. Available by the glass, carafe and bottle with a select number by the magnum, white highlights include a full bodied golden 2010 Simcic, Goriska Brda, Solvenia 2010 and a 2007 Moorooduc Estate, McIntyre, Mornington Pennisula, Australia. Reds lean to the wines of the Rhone and South East France with a fruity Domaine Guillaume Gros, Niño Loco, Côte du Luberon, VdP, de la Mediterranée 2009 and a full-bodied 2005 Château Pradeaux Bandol.

A bespoke ‘Wine by the Glass’ dispenser will offer a rotating range of ten fine wines such as a 1999 Vosne Romanée, 1er Cru Montagne, Bruno Clavelier and 1990 Château Cos d’Estournel, 2eme Classé, Saint Estèphe 1990 allows drinkers to experiment. A particular region or grape varietal can be explored with The Jugged Hare’s regularly changing wine flights.

Staff: Full time: 47 Part time: 21 Total: 60 Average covers a week: 1700

As well as concentrating on serving the best ingredients, we focus on providing new culinary experiences with monthly, sell-out ‘Fine Wine and British Seasonal Food Evenings’ where guests are offered a five course tasting menu with wines matched by myself and a talk from a supplier. Innovative themes have included ‘Glorious Twelfth and Rhone Valley Wine Evening’ and ‘White Park Beef and Malbec’.

We also believe that well trained and informed staff are better placed to deliver profitable customer service through personal recommendations on wine and food, which is key to influencing customers purchasing decisions. We have introduced a strong training and development programme for all new and existing employees. We hold training sessions and masterclasses for front of house staff in World wines and Champagne and butchery, Cheese and Port. We also believe in incentivising and motivating our staff to encourage them to upsell on specific dishes.

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?

Being able to listen to guests’ opinions and experience with wine, being open to suggestion and most importantly, never being arrogant with your knowledge.

Describe your typical day at work.

I start the day with a couple of hours at my desk powering through the emails, then take to the floor of one of ETM Group’s 11 London restaurants, bars and pubs to see how the team are working and relating with the guests. In the afternoon, there’s usually a tasting or two with suppliers and training the staff.

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

I have a very simple and laid back approach to food and wine pairing. I taste the dish first then think what wine would go well with it and then test the combination to see how they complement and bring out the best flavours in each other.

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.

As we only work with suppliers and do not buy directly from the producer, I often request samples to taste depending on the season or the style of the menu at that time. Auctions are also a great way to source matured bottles.

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?

Wines form the South of France, Spain and Italy are having a big moment. Guests are also becoming more adventurous and trying wines from new regions, including those from Eastern Europe or more unusual styles.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?

I don’t favour any. The pleasure is in the successful pairing of any food and wine.

What is the most unusual food and wine you know?

I had an orange wine from Spain (fairly tannic, bitter orange note) with a venison Carpaccio and it was bang on.

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 not be afraid or shy to tell us how much they would like to spend. Once we know we can give them the best wine to suite their taste. Use the staff more to recommend and ask them which wine is their favourite.

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

Every time you drink a glass of wine, just spend 2-3 minutes smelling it, tasting it and thinking about the wines structure, acidity flavour… after that, enjoy your time in its company. That is all it takes.

Where do you see your future career path?

Still in the wine business of course, either as a staff trainer or a consultant for a restaurant or Group.

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

Chardonnay and Syrah. Absolute classics but I am from Lyon in France so very much in the middle if the two.

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

My wife, and one day my son.

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