Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier at London's Core by Clare Smyth and 2019 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year finalist, talks about needing to understand the business side of wine and his weakness for expensive Champagnes.
What makes a good sommelier?
A good sommelier should obviously have a good knowledge of all things wine, including all styles, regions, grapes, vintages and producers from around the world, but it goes so much further than that. They must be passionate, humble, hard working, able to work in a team and dedicated to the goal of the establishment they are working in.
They also need back of house skills, such as an understanding of the business side of wine, dealing with suppliers, budgets and targets, have good cellar management and should be able to make a profit for the restaurant.
What are your favourite food and wine pairings?
I like the simple pairings: the modern diner is changing and it's no longer fish and white wine and meat and red wine. However, there are basics you still need to follow. As for my favourite, it has to be aged Comté and vin jaune.
What's your best wine find of 2019?
I'm really enjoying grower Champagnes and Northern Rhône Syrah, as well as a lot of new world Syrah that shows restraint, elegance and balance.
Which wine can't you do without on your list?
It would have to be Pierre Gonon Saint-Joseph from the western bank of the Northern Rhône in France.
What's your guiltiest wine pleasure?
A bottle of Champagne that I can't really afford but drink anyway!
How do you develop your knowledge and skills?
Knowledge and skills will come with experience, but I set goals, sign up for exams and competitions and work hard. It's important to work in a great place with a good wine programme and to find a mentor who you look up to.
Who is your biggest inspiration and what did you learn from them?
It's the name that will roll off any sommelier's tongue, Gerard Basset. What he did for the profession will be hard for anyone to replicate, and so many of the sommeliers I admire were trained by him or were influenced by him.
Who would be on your ideal sommelier team?
A team of GOATs [greatest of all time]: Tiger Woods, Tom Brady and Gerard Basset.
How has the role of the sommelier changed in the past five years?
The sommelier role has evolved into much more of a senior management role over time. We have a lot of responsibility financially to the restaurant in terms of GPs, budgets, buying, training and ultimately making sure the wine service is carried out professionally.
What advice would you give a front of house team member considering training to be a sommelier?
They would need to be passionate about wine. Many people just see the sommelier on the floor tasting wine, opening bottles, but what they don't see is that to be successful, it also means a lot of hard work, studying and tasting and developing the right skills.
I'd suggest asking questions, joining sommelier training, signing up for examinations, going to tastings and making sure they take the opportunity to move into a wine role when it's presented.
What new skills have you developed this year?
What's your goal for 2020?
I want to make sure our wine programme continues to be successful in the restaurant and that we continue growing, moving forward and learning as a team in order to deliver something special to our guests.
I'd like to further develop my role in the restaurant and, personally, I have a couple of big dates on the calendar in terms of competitions that I need to continue to work towards.
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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