Top UK Young Sommeliers: part 5
In part five of this series, Sherry shines as a sommelier favourite, even when there’s no tapas in sight, and we uncover actor Johnny Depp’s wine preferences.
Arnaud Bardary, 28, from Maze, London
Was there a particular wine or “wine epiphany” which made you choose this career?
I didn’t have a eureka moment, but wine is in my blood. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a winemaker at Château Chalon in the Jura. I remember being fascinated about wine as a child and asking him about how it was made and bottled. I’ll never forget the taste of Château Chalon 1875 he allowed me to try when I was nine.
Are there any parts of your current list that you’re particularly proud of?
It’s hard to single out one specific part of the list, as there are always wines I’d like to add. Rather than increasing the quantity of wines to make our list bigger and more complex, I like to switch up the wines and have a constantly evolving selection. It makes me proud to see my team learning the list and enjoying what they do.
Which wine styles or regions are exciting you at the moment and why?
Eastern European wines have caught my attention lately, but what I’m really excited about is Sherry and its food matching capabilities – I think I always will be. I’m always keen to try wines from appellations and grape varieties I’ve never heard of. The breadth of different styles of wine coming from all corners of the world keeps our job exciting and varied.
What’s the key to being a successful sommelier?
Modesty, and being open-minded. I’m still learning every day through speaking with guests, staff and bartenders. Wine knowledge is very important, but there will always be things you don’t know. I love going to a restaurant and having the sommelier suggest a wine pairing for me. Listening to customers and understanding what they want rather than pushing them is vital. Our job is to suggest, educate, and make people try drinks they’ve never tried before. It’s also important not to lose sight of the fact that you are a salesman with stock to look after.
Are there any wine-related ambitions you would still like to achieve?
I’d love to own a wonderfully stocked cellar.
What do you drink on your days off?
A bit of everything: there’s a drink for every occasion. I’d love to tell you I tend to pop a bottle of Pétrus in my picnic basket, but it’s more likely to be a Beaujolais if it’s very sunny, or perhaps a glass of rosé. I like to enjoy a beer after work, and a cup or two of sake if I’m eating sushi at a Japanese restaurant. A gin and tonic at the end of a meal as a digestif is and will be always amazing.
What made you decide to come to the UK to pursue your sommelier career?
I was drawn to the open-minded nature of British people and the possibility of getting to work with people from all over the world, from Italians to Spaniards, and also getting to try wines from all over the globe. The UK also offers excellent, world-recognised qualifications, from the WSET to the Master Sommelier course.
What is the one wine you are desperate to try before you die?
I’m keen to try great wines from great years – I’d be lying if I only gave you one. Quinta do Noval Nacional, Barbadillo Reliquia, Château Mouton Rothschild 1945, DRC Montrachet. If I was only allowed to drink one wine for the rest of my life though, it would be Sherry.
Who is the most famous person you’ve served and what did you serve them?
Johnny Depp. He wanted to try Spanish wines, so I served him Alvaro Palacios’ L’Ermita 1993 from Priorat. I also served Prince Albert of Monaco a bottle of Château Leoville Poyferré 2005 once. Bigger VIPs in my eyes are Gerard Basset MS MW and Jancis Robinson MW; I’m more likely to get starstruck around them.
What’s the oddest request you’ve ever received from a customer?
I’ll always remember the night a woman advised her husband not to order the 2004 Puligny Montrachet from Leflaive as it was past its sell-by date. I also had a customer ask for a table with a sea view despite our central London location.
The full collection of sommelier profiles appeared in the drinks business October on-trade report, Eat.Drink, or you can click the options below to see who we’ve profiled so far: