Sommeliers live, breathe and drink wine. FINE+RARE Buyer Jessica Bryans asks a handful of sommeliers from world-renowned restaurants for their newest discoveries
Sommeliers are our trusted guides when it comes to discovering new wines, avoiding bad ones and pairing our food perfectly. The best sommeliers are always on the hunt for outstanding bottles, emerging producers and the best value examples of the classics we love. With that in mind, it is no surprise that some of my favourite wine discoveries have come from wine lists curated by incredible sommeliers from around the world.
In search of a little February inspiration, I asked the sommeliers from top restaurants around the globe for their most recent discoveries. As you might expect, the responses are an eclectic blend. But through FINE+RARE's extensive network (as the second half of our name suggests!) we are often able to source the esoteric and hard-to-find wines that other wine merchants can't access. So if you would like to add one of the sommeliers' picks to your cellar, just email us and we'll do our best to find it.
Jan Konetzki, Head Sommelier, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London, UK
Since 2010, Konetzki has been the head sommelier for the three Michelin star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, where he has achieved both WSET qualifications and the Court of Master Sommeliers’ advanced sommelier certificate. In 2012, he won both Moët UK Sommelier of the Year and the Prix Le Montrachet. Konetzki has also co-founded WineMeister, an app that helps users select wines from German supermarket shelves. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay's extensive wine list (complete with excellent educational illustrations) includes some incredibly high-scoring Bordeaux, such as 1982 Latour, 1983 Palmer and 2003 Cos d'Estournel, but Jan picked out a German treat...
Jan Konetzki’s pick: 2011 Gutedel Hoch4, Ziereisen, Baden, Germany
Why he loves it: "This is a very fine young wine. Just imagine a top Burgundy, then take out the toasty new oak, add some German love and craftsmanship.”
Erik Johnson, Head Sommelier, The French Laundry, Napa Valley, California
As the head sommelier at The French Laundry (which boasts nine of Guigal's perfect 100-point scoring La Las and 20 vintages of Screaming Eagle on its wine list), Erik now leads the wine program, including the wine education of the staff. Erik’s passion for his craft drives him to work relentlessly towards elevating the standards of service and, more importantly, utilizing the wine program to support the chef’s menus each day.
Erik’s Pick: 2011 Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, California
Why he loves it: “Coming from the east side of Oakville, perpendicular to the Oakville Cross Road and just above the Silverado Trail, this Cabernet Sauvignon is located in one of the most iconic and legendary vineyard neighbourhoods in the Napa Valley. Linda Neal is the Proprietor and David DeSante is her winemaker. This red wine is indulgent, elegant and amazingly graceful for being such an intense varietal. The red Aiken soils provide a perfect bed for the vines to flourish and the perfect opportunity for this extraordinary team to capture the very essence of Cabernet that makes it so magical. Rich but not heavy, powerful but in balance, with a finish that will leave you longing for the next sip. The Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville 2011 is truly an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon from one of my new favourite producers here in the Valley.”
Alessandro Stefani, Sommelier and Assistant Manager, Terroirs Wine Bar, London
Ale arrived in London two and half years ago with little English but a big passion for wine. He made his way up through all three restaurants owned by Terroirs (including Soif and Brawn) to become one of the group’s favourite Italian wine geeks. When he isn’t talking about wine, he is drinking it! Personally I fell for Terroirs' Beaujolais (including Marcel Lapierre's 2014 Morgon and Jean Foillard's 2013 Morgon Côte de Py), but Ale has chosen from the Loire...
Ale’s Pick: 2003 Chateau Tour Grise (Philippe Gourdon) Les Vigneaux, Saumur, Loire Valley
Why he loves it: “From a warm vintage in the Loire, this 12-year-old wine expressed beautiful fruit with a classic touch of green and a great mineral finish; still alive and really intense. Beautiful expression of old vine Cabernet Franc!”
Chaylee Priete, Wine Director, The Slanted Door, San Francisco
Chaylee Priete is the Wine Director for the Slanted Door Group of restaurants based in San Francisco, California. Her lists focus on ecologically farmed wines with food-friendly acidity, made from unique varietals that showcase the delicacy of the Slanted Door's vibrant Vietnamese-inspired cuisine. Some of the highlights of the wine list include 2012 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese, 2012 Domaine Tempier Bandol and 2009 Larmandier-Bernier Non Dose Terre de Vertus Champagne.
Chaylee’s Pick: 2014 Zahel Orangetraube, Vienna, Austria
Why she loves it: “I love finding a new grape in a familiar place. The wine region of Vienna is historically fascinating and Orangetraube (named after the orange tint of its skin) traditionally went into their famed Gemischter Satz field blends. By itself, it is lightly floral, slightly racy and thirst-quenching. Perfect with our food and a fun discovery to share!”
Alessandro Perricone, Head Sommelier, Bæst, Relæ and Manfreds, Copenhagen, Denmark
Alessandro Perricone, born in New York and raised in Italy, is the head sommelier for top Copenhagen restaurants Bæst, Relæ and Manfreds. He is also the director at Vinikultur, a boutique wine importer specializing in European wines. His back vintage catalogue of Barolo at Bæst is a thing of wonder, including over fifty wines from the likes of Aldo Conterno, Giacomo Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Mascarello and Giuseppe Rinaldi.
Alessandro’s Pick: 2014 Azienda Agricola Casebianche "Il Fric”, Campania, Italy
Why he loves it: “They work with biodynamic practices and use no sulphur for their sparkling wines (like Il Fric) and very limited amounts on the still wines. The wine I like the most is the vintage 2014 sparkling Aglianico. I love it because it´s definitely a unique wine. Normally Aglianico is very rich, powerful and extracted, but this is a fresh and juicy sparkling version, with a very bitter finish which cleanses your palate, making it so suitable with many dishes from vegetables to fatty food.”
Guilhem Henriot, Sommelier, Maison du Colombier, Beaune, France
Guilhem began his career in wine with three years at hotel school and a further year specialising as a sommelier. He then worked in fine dining establishments: the Pavillon de la Rotonde, at the Celtic Manor resort in Newport (Wales), and the Hostellerie de Levernois. Following these positions, he accepted an offer to work as a sommelier at la Maison du Colombier for Rolland Chanliaud, a purist of fresh and high-quality products boasting a list of over 1200 French wines that pays homage to all the top Burgundy producers.
Guilhelm’s Pick: 2010 Vincent Dancer Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru La Romanée
Why he loves it: “Romanée is a South Morgeot Premier Cru from the Chassagne-Montrachet designation. The wine is pure and buttery on the nose with a note of white flowers and ripe peaches. On the palate, it reveals aromas of white fruits along with a saline mineral quality. I chose this wine for its contrast between the breadth of aromas and the purity of the fruit which for me are the epitome of the Burgundy terroir.”
If you would like us to attempt to source any of the sommelier's picks described above, please don't hesitate to email us.