Tasting notes with Emma Denney, assistant head sommelier at the Clove Club

18 May 2022 by
Tasting notes with Emma Denney, assistant head sommelier at the Clove Club

The assistant head sommelier at the Clove Club, London, on the joy of year-round rosé and why sommeliers should visit the vineyard

What makes a good sommelier?

A willingness to work hard and never stop improving. So many new things happen in the world of wine, so you need to constantly be on your toes to be aware of new producers, legislation or trends. An understanding of the hospitality industry and how to successfully run a restaurant goes a long way, too. Being a successful sommelier on the floor means being part of a larger team and being able to understand the priorities of what is happening around you.

What are your favourite food and wine pairings?

At home, I like to stick with the classics, such as fried food with Champagne. At work I love the pairing of our monkfish and Szechuan peppercorn hot pot with a skin contact Weissburgunder by Claus Preisinger from Austria. The texture of the wine works so well with the fattiness of the fish.

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

Discovering more of the English wine scene. I'm obsessed with the Langham Blanc de Blancs and we pour it by the glass at the Clove Club. I was also blown away by the range from Hundred Hills. Their sparkling rosés are some of the best I've ever tried.

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

I'm a sucker for Northern Rhone wines and I will always fight to make sure they have a place. There's many producers that I have a soft spot for, such as Pierre Gonon in Saint Joseph. Their Saint Joseph Blanc ‘Les Oliviers' is one of my favourites, especially if you can find one with a bit of age on it.

What's your guiltiest wine pleasure?

I love to drink rosé all year round – especially from producers such as Domaine Tempier and Domaine Pibarnon in Bandol, Clos Sainte Magdeleine in Cassis, Rosé des Riceys from Olivier Horiot or Pink Rosé from Judith Beck in Austria.

Who is your biggest inspiration and what did you learn from them?

My previous wine director from Davies and Brook at Claridge's – Gabriel di Bella. He is one of the hardest-working people I've ever met, and always did so without complaining. He taught me how to be extremely precise at work, how to talk to people and how important good relationships with your suppliers and the people you work with are. If I'm ever unsure of what the right choice is, I ask myself, ‘What would Gabriel do?'

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

With the lack of hospitality staff and reduced sommelier teams at many restaurants due to Brexit and the pandemic, you often need to be able to wear more than one hat at work and be as flexible as possible. This is where having a full understanding of how a restaurant is run is vitally important. It's not just all about wine!

What's your goal for 2022?

To travel to as many wineries and wine regions as possible. When travel restrictions started opening up after lockdown, I went to the Rhone Valley and Provence and I've just returned from Austria. Being in all of these places made so much of the information I had swimming around my head make sense, and I gained an even deeper understanding of the wines. You need to get into the vineyards and the cellars and experience it all yourself.

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.

The final for this year's event will take place on 18 July at the Savoy, London


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