Lime Wood head sommelier and 2019 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year finalist Chris Parker reveals his best wine finds and explains why he can't resist an over-oaked Chardonnay
What makes a good sommelier?
I think a good sommelier is someone who is passionate, above all else. It's our job to be teachers, ambassadors and story tellers and I think passion is the key to delivering this.
What are your favourite food and wine pairings?
Tartare and Riesling. It could be beef with a traditional coddled egg and Smaragd Riesling from Austria or sea bass tartare with oily, citrusy Clare Valley Riesling.
What's your best wine find of the past 12 months?
I'd have to go for Cri de Coeur by Crittenden Estate, which is an oxidative Savignin from Australia. It's just the most exciting wine I've seen all year.
Which wine can't you do without on your list?
Tignanello by Antinori, an iconic red from Tuscany. The 2009 was my first fine wine, and I've not looked back. It also couldn't be more fashionable with endorsements from Meghan Markle and Boris Johnson.
What's your guiltiest wine pleasure?
Slightly over-oaked wines. I won't name names, but over the top Chardonnays and smooth- sipping Cabernets.
How do you develop your knowledge and skills?
Every day I try to read something new. The world of wine is fast-paced; magazines and apps like Compendium by GuildSomm are really useful. Supplemented with lots of tasting, of course!
Who is your biggest inspiration and what did you learn from them?
My head chefs Luke Holder and Angela Hartnett taught me about passion and commitment, which are the best traits anyone has taught me.
Which sommeliers do you admire?
Terry Kandylis, who until this year was at 67 Pall Mall. I was in the final the year he won the UK Sommelier of the Year and I was in awe of his knowledge but also his humility.
Who would be on your ideal sommelier team?
I would take the junior role. I would love to work under Jancis Robinson and Fred Sirieix. Jancis has forgotten more about wine than I'll ever know and Fred is the definition of being ‘hospitable'.
How has the role of the sommelier changed in the past five years?
We've become less stuffy. It's much more about education and less about simple service. We spend most of our days teaching – guests, staff, anyone who will listen!
What advice would you give a front of house team member considering training to be a sommelier?
You have to study hard and listen a lot. The best sommeliers never stop learning and always stay humble.
What new skills have you developed this year?
Humility. This is my first year in charge of a team and I've learned that the strongest person will learn how to ask for help.
What's your goal for 2020?
I have one exam left for my WSET diploma. Hopefully I'll be better than runner-up in the Ruinart Challenge. I'll also be entering the 2020 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year competition.
Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2020
Entries are now open for the 2020 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year, the awards that recognise the very finest talent in wine service.
Organised by The Caterer, in partnership with the Academy of Food & Wine Service, the competition is open to professional sommeliers and waiting staff working in the UK.
Candidates are judged on their wine and drink expertise as well as their ability to deal efficiently and knowledgeably with customers by demonstrating exemplary front of house skills.
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