How did you get started as a Sommelier and how did you learn?
First of all I went to catering school and studied there for 3 years, including one year dedicated to sommelier studies only. After this, I worked briefly in France in a two-Michelin-star restaurant and then moved to Dublin in 2004. Since then I have kept improving my knowledge by attending to as many tastings and masterclasses as possible, reading dozens of wine books and studying with the WSET for my Diploma, Sake level 3 as well as attending to classes to learn about tea, beer, etc.
Where does your love for wine come from?
I think my love of wine came naturally from first of all an appreciation for food and cooking with my mum and grandmothers but also from a real interest from a young age in perfume. I always paid a lot of attention to the scents of things and even considered working in the perfume industry before deciding to learn about wine. I love sharing meals with friends and family and I always keep my best bottles of wine for these moments. There is no pleasure in drinking something good by yourself, sharing is the extra bit of magic.
Do you remember the first time a wine really blew you away?
Yes, I was attending to a trade fair in Bordeaux dedicated to biodynamic wines. I had the chance for the first, and only time, to taste a wine from Domaine D'Auvenay. It was a Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les folatieres. I never tasted a wine with some much concentration, purity and life. It was an extraordinary experience and the funny thing was that when tasting the next couple of wines after this, from other producers, I could still taste the Puligny-Montrachet.
What is the most expensive wine you have ever drunk?
I have tasted some expensive wines but in the scale of things nothing too crazy. However, I have tasted some really expensive wines that customers who have brought to the restaurant. I would say that Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947 was probably one of the most expensive and would cost nowadays around €10000/bottle.
What has been the biggest change in the wine world since you started your career?
The production and access to wine from so many different countries and the increase in overall wine quality is certainly one of the biggest change.
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Very certainly Champagne! ;-)
Buzz words we are hearing a lot lately are - organic, biodynamic and natural wines…could you tell us the differences between them?
An organic wine is made from grapes grown following organic farming principles which excludes the use of artificial chemicals. The winemaking process and the list of what can be added to the wine is also controlled and limited. However, depending on which country you are in, the definition can vary.
A Biodynamic wine in some ways is organic taken even further. As well as not using any chemicals within the land and winery, some homemade preparations are used to grow the vines, based on different plants, manure, etc. This farming principle was described in the early 20th century by Rudolf Steiner. A planting calendar has to be followed and the earth is considered as a living entity. Everything needs to be in balance - the land, the sky, the people working on that land. Some people think it is too esoteric, I personally love biodynamic wines.
Natural wines had no official definition until April this year. In France, it is now recognised by the INAO as this: "a wine has to be made from handpicked grapes that are certified as having been grown organically by one of the major certifying organisations. The yeast necessary for fermentation must be found in the vineyard and/or winery, not bought in. All additions, such as acid, sugar, tannin, water and colouring matter, which are sometimes used to make up for nature’s shortfalls, are forbidden. And the wine must not have been treated with any of the interventionist procedures that take place more frequently than many wine drinkers probably realise"
What are the biggest faux pas that customers tend to make when ordering and drinking wine?
I don't like talking about faux pas when ordering wine as before anything, wine is a question of personal taste. However, the one thing which for me could be improved in most restaurants and hotels and that customers could learn from wine professional is the right service of temperature of wine. White wines tend to be served to cold and red wines to warm. As a consequence, the quality of these wines is not always showcased at its best. Temperature is a small detail but it can make quite a big difference when drinking wine.
Which unusual grape varietals do you recommend we try?
Assyrtiko from Santorini (white wine), Blaufrankish from Austria (red wine), Xinomavro from Greece (red wine), Mondeuse from Savoie in France (Red wine), Romorentin from the Loire Valley (White wine), Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire Valley (Red wine), Torrontes from Argentina (White wine) as well as many others! I think indigenous grape varieties are what make wine so interesting and rich a beverage.
What would be your desert island meal? (Starter/Main/Dessert) – and what drinks pairings would you have alongside?
Tomato salad from my grandmother's garden with some fresh basil and a light vinaigrette paired with a Chateau Le Puy Rose-Marie 2018 (A biodynamic rose wine from Bordeaux) or a Junmai Sake, Katsumaya EN.
Roast Chicken stuffed with garlic bread and green olives served with some Macaroni and cheese gratin. The best version was made by my great grandmother who passed way about 10 years ago. I would love a juicy style of red wine for this such as a Morgon, Cote du Py from Domaine Foillard 2015 or maybe a richer style of white wine such as a Gruner Veltliner Kaferberg, Weingut Brundlmayer 2015.
For dessert, Black Forest Gateau without any hesitation! My mum's recipe. I would probably choose a Madeira Malvasia Colheita 2000 by Barbeito... I am not sure that the pairing will be perfect but I love this wine so it would have to be with me on this island or as another option a Barolo Chinato by Cocchi which is a rare speciality from the Piemont in Italy based on Barolo wine flavoured with herbs.