Agustin Trapero has enjoyed a wide and varied career as a sommelier that has taken him from three star Michelin restaurants to running the entire beverage offer at the new Four Seasons Hotel in Madrid. Here he looks back on his career and reflects on what he thinks it takes to be a top sommelier and what are the vital ingredients needed in order to create the right wine list for the right venue.
Fischer’s at Baslow Hall in Derbyshire won yesterday’s Gosset Matchmakers Final 2021, with its young sommelier and chef team judged to have made the perfect two dishes to match Gosset’s Grande Blanc de Blancs and Grande Reserve. Our drinks editor Peter Dean had a ringside seat to capture the rising tension as five of the UK’s best up-coming teams battled it out to see who had the chops when it came to pairing with Champagne. And who knew that caramelised celeriac was the perfect foil for a Blanc de Blancs?
“One thing we’re great at as an industry is collaboration, particularly over the course of the pandemic. People have really come together to create fresh ways of working and new partnerships – with great distress comes great creativity, and I think that’s something the sector has really proved this year.” That’s the way that Jillian MacLean, founder and chief executive of the Drake & Morgan pub group, describes what makes the drinks industry such a unique place to work. It is also one of the main reasons why she has become a trustee of The Drinks Trust and an opportunity for her to share some of her experience as a leader and major employer in the hospitality industry at a key time in the charity’s history.
The memory and influence of Gerard Basset OBE MW MS are encapsulated by the new series of Golden Vines scholarships that are being awarded as part of the Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation in partnership with Liquid Icons. Two of the most prestigious scholarships are the The Golden Vines™ Masters of Wine and The Golden Vines™ Master Sommelier Scholarships which, in their inaugural year, have been awarded to Mags Jango, founder of the UK wine distribution business, MJ Wine Cellars, and Winnie Toh, a sommelier from Singapore, who is currently working at the Aman Hotel in Turks and Caicos. They will both receive £12,500 to cover the full costs of tuition, examination and tastings to take part in the two programmes, including the opportunity to take part in exclusive winery visits and study tours. In the first of two profiles on the winning students we talk to Winnie Toh about her career and what she hopes winning the Master Sommelier scholarship will do for her career.
“Rosé is the only wine where customers buy with their eyes. All rosés are customer-facing in our stores. On our Vagabond machines, the guests are able to see the different shades of pink, and there is a definite sweet spot that Provence rosés hit.” That’s the way wine buyer and winemaker, Freddie Cobb, says Vagabond Wines displays and sells Provence rosé in its bars – to great success. Here he looks at why and how Provence has not only made such a difference with rosé it now leads and drive the rest of the category. But, he stresses, Provence is also a lot more about rosé and that’s why its future is so exciting.
“This isn’t a romantic approach to wine training, instead an unashamedly commercial one that nurtures company profit, team confidence and happy customers.” That’s how Harry Crowther sums up his new Grain to Grape wine training programme that he has devised after years of experience selling wine and creating wine lists for a wide range of restaurants, bars and pub groups. Here he sets out some of the steps that all operators should be looking to take in order to maximise their wines sales and profits when they finally get to re-open their doors, back gardens and front terraces next month.
“Of all the wine countries where wines are easily accessible, South Africa is the best for teaching people from scratch…I couldn’t imagine a better place for a luxury wine school.” That’s why Joe Wadsack is so looking forward to spreading the word about South African wine to the bartender community by linking up with drinks legend, Dean Callan, and spending the next three Friday nights talking about great South African wine on his YouTube show. You can “tube’ in every Friday at 7pm GMT to catch up with Wadsack and Callan and different weekly guests – first up is Helena Nicklin, one third of Three Drinkers.
At home or at work, finding the perfect wine to match a dish is a fine art – in his latest book Wine & Recipes, wine consultant Raul Diaz uses his Chilean heritage and experience of visiting over 100 countries to inform a colourful and insightful look at wine-and-food matching. Apart from featuring some dazzling recipes the book attempts to lead you into making some smart pairing choices, advice which can be used as a basis for on-site training.
There is just over a week left to get entries in for the 2021 London Spirits Competition – the only event of its kind that judges drinks on their quality, their value for money and what they look like in their packaging and design. To help set the scene we talk to one the judges, Cristiana Pirinu, bartender at The Donovan Bar about why she takes part and thinks it is a competition to be taken seriously.
As we close in on the final entry date for the 2021 London Wine Competition (February 22) we talk to more of the top line judges that will be deciding which wines pick up what medals and trophies in this year’s event. Only individuals with direct buying and senior levels of responsibility are invited to take part in the judging process as they have the experience of being able to pick out the extraordinary from the ordinary.
2020 will go down as the year when diversity and inclusion were not just a tick box on a HR employment form, but became arguably one of the most important issues the whole drinks and hospitality sectors could get behind. Driven by the momentum that has come out of the Black Lives Matter movement is Wine Unify, a new body set up in 2020 to provide a platform of support, education and mentoring for the black and BAME communities. Here Alicia Towns Franken, who heads up its mentorship programme, explains how she hopes her experiences as a leading sommelier in the US restaurant scene can help others and how she will be sharing that story at Wine Future 2021 later this month.
If a drinks competition is doing its job, it should be attracting the most exciting new launches as well as attracting the best established brands in that sector to judge. It’s why so many top bartenders and mixologists are keen to take part in the judging of the London Spirits Competition as it allows them to spot and keep on top of cocktail and drinking trends before they hit the market. Three of the best share their insights here…
Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across the hospitality sector and even with government support and the furlough scheme thousands of businesses are at risk of closing down, which in turn means their employees are at risk of losing their jobs, if they have not already. The Hospitality Gig is a new platform that has been set up by three highly experienced hospitality professionals to offer a new flexible way for on-trade companies to find the most suitable talent, to work on both short and longer term projects that will be needed to help the industry get back on its feet throughout 2021. Co-founder Rachel Moosa explains how it is going to work.
As we finally say goodbye to 2020 there is still time to share the experiences and memories of a key member of the wine trade as we ask Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, what were his personal takeaways from such a turbulent year. It might have meant spending a lot more time away from the restaurant floor, but he has kept himself busy and creative launching his own wine podcast to great acclaim. Over to you Mattia…
Whilst 2020 will go down as the year, the world over, when we all went through the same emotions of lockdown and coming to terms of living in a global pandemic. But the impact of Covid-19 on ourselves as individuals has been very different. Here Victoria Sharples, wine buyer at St John Restaurant in London, shares what it has been like to have been on furlough for most of 2020, and how it is actually been a hugely rewarding time to stop and reflect and make the most of our unique circumstances.
As we emerge from our Christmas bubbles and our thoughts start to turn to New Year, we turn to Shane McHugh, wine buyer and head sommelier for the Goodman group of steak restaurants to share his thoughts on 2020, just what impact Covid-19 has had on him personally and the restaurant group, and what he is doing over the festive period to hopefully take some time to relax, reflect and look forward to the year ahead.
The Ritz, The Stafford, The Connaught Bar, Gleneagles, Roka, 45 Park Lane and Dukes Hotel are just some of the prestigious names represented on the judging panel for the 2021 London Spirits Competition. For any distiller, brand owner, producer or importer the competition is an opportunity to have your products assessed by the top premium on-trade spirits buyers in the country. Here’s how you can enter this year’s competition and who is doing the judging.
The Bibendum training team has seen demand for training fall by about a third this year due to the pandemic, but that hasn’t stood in its way of innovating harder than ever to bring training to those who still want it. After all, when consumers can go out for dinner and a glass of wine they are still expecting a high-quality experience and that is best delivered by well-trained, confident staff. Jessica Broadbent talks to Bibendum’s head of customer training, Julia Bailey, about taking its training online.
“We need to diversify. One voice, one perspective cannot understand and guide the complex myriad of new faces and backgrounds that are making their way into the wine trade. There are issues and experiences that I am going to face that a man in his 50s simply cannot understand. If we don’t act upon this, we run the risk of continuing the monoculture vacuum that characterises the wine trade.” This is how Amber Gardner, in this detailed and personal account, sets out the opportunities, but also the challenges involved in offering much needed mentoring in the drinks and hospitality sectors.
We continue our Onwards & Upwards series featuring key figures in the drinks and hospitality sectors that are now looking for new roles and opportunities in the industry with the highly experienced national account manager Matt Lindsley, who has worked at a number of major importers, most recently at Castelnau Wine Agencies, who looks back on his career, his experiences and what he hopes he can offer in his next role.