Tasting notes with Charlotte Prescot, general manager and wine buyer at Kitchen W8

26 April 2022
Tasting notes with Charlotte Prescot, general manager and wine buyer at Kitchen W8

The general manager and wine buyer at Kitchen W8 in Kensington explains why the London restaurant has introduced cost price wine by the glass and what impact it has had on the business

What makes a good sommelier?

Someone who really listens to what their guest wants. It's not always a verbal indication – being able to read your guests is paramount. I think many people have a perception that the sommelier is there to make them part with their money, but it's more about having an understanding of the guest and what will improve the experience for them.

What are your favourite food and wine pairings?

I'm always keen to try new things, but I can't pretend that white truffles and Nebbiolo is not my favourite – despite my previous comment!

What's your best wine find of the past 12 months?

There's no one particular find. I enjoy exploring regions that I'm less familiar with, so I'm really enjoying discovering lesser-known parts of Spain and I've been quite taken with German Pinot Noir of late.

What inspired you to offer wines by the glass at cost?

The opportunity to share something with our guests. Hospitality is all about welcoming guests and I firmly believe there is magic to be made when food and wine is shared. Offering a little of something that does not need to make us a profit is a way to share the experience and hopefully create some magic.

Has it encouraged guests to try something they might not otherwise?

Absolutely! We've not gone too far off the beaten track yet but we'll be opening some more unusual bottles soon, such as Ronchi di Cialla Schioppettino 2005.

Which wine can't you do without on your list?

I love the wines from Produttori del Barbaresco, I was even given a vintage poster of theirs as a house-warming present, so I'll always find a spot for their wines.

How has the role of the sommelier changed in the past three years?

I have never occupied a traditional sommelier role and I think that's pretty indicative of the changes that are happening within restaurants. Most places don't stick with the traditional hierarchy any more and sommeliers are no longer expected to solely focus on wine. I think this is also driven by sommeliers themselves as they want to expand beyond traditional roles.

What advice would you give a front of house team member considering training to be a sommelier?

To taste as much as they can, go to as many on-trade tastings as possible, and talk about what you're tasting with your teammates. It's invaluable to share.

What new skills have you developed this year?

I think I've learned to be a little less rigid over the last year or so. I've come to appreciate the importance of creating a little more fun with drinks too.

What's your goal for 2022?

I don't set myself time-specific goals. I know where I'd like to end up eventually, but it can happen when it happens. In the short term, I'd like to continue to build on the success that we've enjoyed over the past 18 months or so at Kitchen W8.

Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2022

The Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year recognises the very finest talent in wine service. Organised by The Caterer and recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, 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.

Regional finals for this year's event take place on 25 April before the national final in July. www.uksommelieroftheyear.com

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