Sommelier of the Month - Ryosuke Mashio
- **Name: Ryosuke Mashio
- **Date of birth: 20th December
- **Place of birth: Tokyo
- **Height: 178cm
- **Eye colour: Black
- **Nationality: Japanese
"I began my career as a commis waiter and I am now the Head Sommelier at Umu.
I started at Umu 9 years ago, and I was fortunate that the General Manager saw potential in me and recognised my interest in wine and spirits. He gave me the opportunity to join the beverage team as a barman. From then onwards, I studied hard to become a sommelier, attending wine courses. I also acquired a sake qualification in Japan. With the support of Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation, I was able to develop my skills and progress relatively quickly. Three years after joining Umu I was appointed as the head sommelier.
Since 2012 I have been a sake judge at the International Wine Challenge competitions, and this year I was promoted to a senior judge."
"UMU is a Kyoto influenced Japanese restaurant, we serve a traditional Kaiseki (tasting) menu as well and a variety of seasonal la carte dishes. Executive Chef Yoshi is not only a culinary genius but also a craftsman. He has mastered pottery, he loves flower arranging, illuminating the menus with his calligraphy and designs, and he is a passionate fisherman.
We are incredibly proud of the sourcing of our ingredients, from the line-caught fish from the Cornish coast which we preserve by traditional method called “ike-jime”, to the organically grown Japanese vegetables from Namayasai farm in Sussex.
My role here is to look after the entire drinks service including the bar, wine, sake, and specialist teas. The restaurant seats 75, twelve seats of which are along a sushi counter where guests can see the master chefs at work making sushi and slicing sashimi. The staff at Umu are from all over the world, Europeans, Asians, South Americans, and Africans, we are fortunate to have a team who all have great knowledge and cultural interest in Japanese cuisine."
How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
I certainly had a cool image of sommeliers and thought the job sounded interesting however I wasn’t a wine or sake drinker before starting my own career. I always opted for beer. After getting interested in wine, service at UMU every single day made me more into drinks in general. With every service at Umu I learn more about wine, sake, even Japanese tea.
What do you think makes a good sommelier?
You need to be on the guest’s side all the time, know how to read a table, be good at listening, and provide the finest experience in every aspect of the role.
Describe your typical day at work. At the office I open my laptop to check emails and reports from previous evening. Where necessary I make changes to the wine/sake lists. If we have a delivery, I check it thoroughly and store them carefully in the appropriate places. I recently stopped drinking coffee and instead drink still water throughout the day - I like to have a clear palate in case I have to taste wine/sake and other beverages during the day. At 11am I enjoy staff meal with all the team, Umu’s doors open at 12 for lunch. I spend almost all of the both the lunch and dinner services on the floor with customers. In between services from 15:30 and 17:00 I always keep on top of emails at my computer.
When pairing 'Chef’s' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
Always think about the philosophy of the dishes behind, what the chefs want to deliver through the dishes. If the chef’s focus is on the main ingredient, I choose a drink thinking of the ingredient. If the chef’s focus is on the whole plate, I choose a drink thinking of the plate.
Please describe your steps in sourcing new wines. I always try to have good relationships with our suppliers. Going to tasting events whenever possible to discover something new. When new products are coming to the market always ask them to send a sample.
What trends have you noticed in the market recently? I wish I could say Sake and Japanese wines are the new trends but we are not quite there yet… Still Prosecco is in demand, as are natural wines. I believe thanks to lots of wine bars and wine shops opened past few years, consumers have more knowledge in lesser known wines and of smaller appellations.
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing? Sea urchin with orange wines The creaminess and minerals in sea urchin are well balanced with the bitterness and a hint of tannin in orange wines.
What is the most unusual food and wine you know? Locust cooked with sugar and soy. Tsugane La Montagne Beau Paysage (one of the most impressing Japanese wines I’ve ever tried, made of Merlot but it tastes like Pinot Noir which I believe shouldn’t be but is so delicious!!)
How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask? Be brave and ask for a Sake pairing. As well as extensive wine list, we have more than 150 sake references here at UMU which I believe the biggest in Europe. To discover or indeed rediscover sake UMU is the place not to miss.
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips? Always stick to your instincts. If you taste a wine and find it not good, then it is not good even if the wine is famous or expensive or visa versa.
Where do you see your future career path? Whatever and wherever I can make the most of my knowledge and experience to deliver the excellence of Japanese food and sake to the world. At the same time, I’m always interested in working at European restaurant. If I have a great opportunity in coming future, I will put sake on its wine list on my day one.
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant? Without thinking about the climate or water source, I would plant Chardonnay and Yamadanishiki (sake rice)
Who is the one person you’d most like to share a bottle of wine with? My wife. After becoming parents we have less time to go out or eat out together so a bottle of wine at home together means a lot to us.
Ryosuke's wine and food pairings
Tuna is a meaty fish and its fatty part called toro requires great acidity and decent body to cut through the richness. A great red Burgundy is one of the best choice thanks to its fruit, acidity, and finesse.
Kimoto style sake
Kimoto is a traditional method of making sake. While the modern method adding lactic acid by hand, Kimoto method getting natural lactic acid to prevent germs to grow in a fermentation tank. Resulting sake made by Kimoto always becomes rich, creamy, round, and lactic character which pairs with the cheese perfectly.
Champagne Blanc de Blancs
The sweetness from the cuttlefish is enhanced by the minerals in the Exmoor caviar and the Tosazu (which is a bonito vinaigrette) contains lots of umami. Japanese herbs give a freshness to it. A big bodied vintage Champagne can work but I prefer the light and refreshing NV Blanc de Blancs.
Gruner Veltliner Smaragd
Quail works with both red and white but I have chosen a full bodied G.V for this dish. Using charcoal for cooking, reduces the fattiness of the meat and adds a flavour dimension. The spice of sansho pepper on top and miso sauce with butterbur (fuki-miso) can be enhanced by original spice character from the Gruner Veltliner. The structure of Smaragd and the mineral originally possessed by the grape lifts up all the flavours of the dish.