Tasting notes: Vincenzo Arnese, wine director, Raffles London at the OWO

14 March 2023
Tasting notes: Vincenzo Arnese, wine director, Raffles London at the OWO

The wine director at Raffles London at the OWO and 2022 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year reveals his dream list

What makes a good sommelier?

For me, what makes a good sommelier is the capacity to make any guest happy. You will need to be able to handle difficult situations sensitively and understand that everyone has different opinions and tastes. Our primary job is to understand these tastes and to come up with the perfect solution for the guest. It is about finding the right compromise for everyone.

What are your favourite food and wine pairings?

There is no one in particular, I like to experiment and discover unique combinations. It is important the wine is integrated with the food and essential that the finish between the two is balanced, elegant and has the right intensity.

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

My top three are 2012 Ornellaia, 2019 Roussette de Savoie Blanc Prieuré Saint-Christophe from Domaine Giachino, and 1999 Salon.

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

I am intrigued by all kinds of wines but there are some I am emotionally attached to. When guests are curious and keen to hear suggestions I like to recommend Piedmont Timorasso and a nice red from Etna in Sicily.

What's your guiltiest wine pleasure?

After a long day, I do not refuse a nice cold glass of Moscato D'Asti. It is refreshing, pleasant and not overly complicated.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My father. Since I can remember he has always been an example of hard work and dedication. Always doing the right things for the family. I always envy his great patience and everlasting calm. He never jumps to conclusions and loves to understand a problem before solving it.

Which sommeliers do you admire?

There are many sommeliers in the history of the British and Italian sommellerie that I praise, such as Gerard Basset, Ronan Sayburn and Enrico Bernardo. They are legendary personalities for the hospitality world, but there are many sommeliers today that I also admire, like Stefan Neumann, who has tremendous creativity, Matteo Montone, for his consistency and dedication and, last but not least, Claire Thevenot for her capacity to discover incredible winemakers.

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

More than the role itself, the understanding of the importance of the role has improved drastically. The pandemic and Brexit have reduced the amount of talent in the country. Many restaurants, seeing sales reducing and having to deal with an incredible amount of paperwork to purchase wine, have understood how relevant it is to have a qualified sommelier.

The sommelier of today is a team player and uses their expertise to cover different roles to help the restaurants achieve their target. The role is one of the most complete in the restaurant but sometimes is still seen as marginal. Hopefully, we will have even more recognition in the future.

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

That knowledge is important but not a priority. That will come with time. What is an absolute necessity is a positive attitude and the capacity to stay humble at all times. A wine course with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust or the Court of Master Sommeliers will give you more confidence.

What new skills have you developed this year?

Preparing for the Sommelier of the Year competition allowed me to improve many aspects of my job, but it was during the organisation of an event that I had to learn a new way of thinking.

I had collaborated with our pastry chef to create a dessert that could pair with an old Bordeaux. Not an easy task. It was useful to understand how a chef sees the creation of a dish and how changing small elements can modify an entire plate.

What's your goal for 2023?

I have recently become a father for the first time and, if I have to state a goal, it will be to improve my skills in changing diapers. I think I have room to get better there!

Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2023

Entries for the 2023 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year are open. 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.


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