Sommelier of the Month - Amelia Singer
Amelia Singer is a wine educator, consultant, wine expert on ITV's The Wine Show and a digital Influencer. Her company, Amelia's Wine, was founded three years ago to offer exciting, authentic and accessible wine tastings and events.
She has been in the wine industry for the last eight years and has completed the prestigious WSET Wine Diploma. Having worked in wineries around the world (Spain, Bordeaux and Chile), as well as with well known retailers, importers and online Fine Wine merchants, she has gained a holistic appreciation of the wine industry.
She extended this ethos to her writing and online videos with Jamie Oliver's Drinks Tube. Her latest foray into making wine even more fun and consumer friendly are her live stream Q & A videos on Facebook. On average her videos reach at least 10,000 views and have covered a range of formats and themes. Whether she is communicating about wine via a tasting, video or TV, Amelia is determined to make wine even more fun and accessible to people of all ages and all stages of wine knowledge.
How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
I was weaned on wine by my European oenophile dad. He encouraged me to taste everything with an open mind and no flavour descriptions were too weird! I love food and cooking and I found it exciting relating to a whole new sensory realm. I thought I was going to be an actress and therefore went to Trinity College Dublin to study English and spent a lot of time in the theatre. During that time I helped run the Food and Wine Society and absolutely fell in love with doing the wine tastings and working with the wine importers there. I was determined to go into the wine industry and use my communication skills with a product that I still think is misunderstood by many.
What do you think makes a good sommelier?
To be a good sommelier or wine educator, you need to think of wine as an extension of hospitality. As soon as people enter a restaurant or a tasting they need to feel relaxed and at home with the sommelier and the wine list. A sommelier has to really LISTEN and be empathetic to their customer’s needs and know the right balance of when to encourage people to try something new and how off piste they can go. They have to be honest when it comes to why prices are the way they are and that the most expensive wine on the menu does not necessarily mean the best. Far from it! Above all, a sommelier needs to be encouraging and enable their client to be confident in their own tastes as well enabling them to understand why they like the wine they do.
Describe your typical day at work.
I do not have a typical day! That is also what I love about this job. One day could be writing, another day could be running a tasting for a corporate client and another day I could be speaking at a foodie festival. That is what keeps me excited and motivated!
When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
I love to do one classic pairing and then I have fun completely ripping up the rule book. As well as getting people to try cutting edge regions or perhaps an unfashionable grape – I ultimately hope that through my pairings they can appreciate the myriad of variables at play when pairing food and wine. They can hopefully also discover what works best for their own palate and how to get the most of food and wine for their specific taste in the future.
Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
I work with a wonderful range of importers who know me very well and support my creative and adventurous sensibilities. I also make sure to go to as many different tastings as possible. I am constantly learning in this job which is what I love. YOU CAN NEVER GET BORED!
What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
In London people are definitely becoming more adventurous! Natural and orange wine is making a fairly regular appearance on wine lists. Bubbles don’t seem to be going anywhere but I am encouraged to see more people trying Cremants, English sparkling wine and grower champagne as opposed to just big Champagne names. South African wines seem to be going through a renaissance. The whites in particular are some of the best value blends around and the Swartland region seems to be having a hey day in the on-trade. For 2017 I am hoping to see Spanish whites taken more seriously and actually whites as a category taken more seriously. White Rioja, White Rhone, White Priorat all show how age worthy and complex white wine can be. There has been some murmuring in the trade that these kind of whites are on the increase... I am keeping my fingers crossed!
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
I love fish and red wine! A meaty white fish, wrapped up in pancetta, served with caponata and a glass of Sicilian red makes me so very happy!
What is the most unusual food and wine you know?
One of the most unusual foods I know is the Japanese dish Nato – fermenting soy beans. A very acquired taste and I have no idea what would stand up to it! In terms of most unusual wine – I think snake bile wine might be the weirdest I have heard of. It is prepared by mixing rice wine with the greenish-black bile taken from the gallbladder of a freshly sliced cobra. Needless to say I haven’t tried it!
How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
I think if they have two or three adjectives about what they like or what they don’t like, that is a huge help. If they can’t articulate specific adjectives then it would be helpful to know a grape, region or wine maker that they have especially enjoyed. It is also imperative to know how much they are willing to spend. If the restaurant had extensive by the glass list I would be very happy to give them a mini tasting of two or three so they could choose with utmost confidence.
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
I think keep track of what you have tasted and what you really liked – either on your phone or a little notebook. This will help when it comes to making wine purchase decisions in the future. I also think it is good to keep trying new things so maybe have a Pinot Noir focused month one month and then choose another red grape the next. Try that grape from different producers from all around the world – it will help give you a good context. Finally – in terms of tasting make sure you swirl your wine glass and smell the wine before tasting - 90% of what you smell is what you taste!
Where do you see your future career path?
What don’t I have planned?! I just love how multifaceted wine is as a product and there is really so much one can do to increase its appeal. There will definitely be more London pop-ups, more appearances at various festivals and shows, more online videos and of course I will be filming with The Wine Show team for Series 2!
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
Eek - well probably chardonnay as it is so adaptable that it would probably be able to grow in whatever soil the island was composed of! Also Assyrtiko – I love it’s playful tanginess which is probably what you need on a sunny island.. assuming that it is not the Arctic... If it was an Arctic island I would love the peppery, siren like Syrah! Who knows how it would grow in the snow but that would keep me cosy!
Who is the one person you’d most like to share a bottle of wine with?
If I could only share a bottle with one person I would have to choose my father. He got me into wine from the beginning and he is one of the people I have the most fun with when drinking it now!
Amelia's wine and food pairings
I love age worthy, fleshy, complex white wines. White Rhone blends with their concentration of fruit, voluptuous body and multi layered structure are able to harmonise all of the different flavours accompanying a Roast Chicken. It has the fruit to enhance the cranberry sauce and fruit stuffing, the richness to stand up to the gravy and earthiness for all of those vegetable side dishes.
This food and wine combination may be from 2 different cultures and yet this is a case where opposites attract. The umami and delicate fresh flavours of the sushi are enhanced by the saline, tangy nuttiness of the fino sherry. The Fino also cleanses the palate after each sip, leaving your taste buds fully able to enjoy all the different texures and flavours on the sushi and sashimi platter!
Bubbledogs (restaurant) have nailed this winning combo. I just love the pairing of the ultimate comfort food with decadence epitomised. It is the equivalent of having my cake and eating it. A complex, nutty and toasty Champagne wine can stand up to all the different elements in this dish, whilst its refreshing bubbles can cut through the fattiness of the fried fish.