Sommeliers gather for “intimate” tasting

19th February, 2014 by Rupert Millar

Importer JE Fells has hailed its inaugural “Wine Forum” for sommeliers as a success and hinted it will expand the concept to other parts of the trade.

Paul Symington

Paul Symington

The Wine Forum saw nearly 30 sommeliers from some of London’s leading restaurants, including Dabbous and Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, listen to short talks from Thomas Henriot, Miguel Torres Maczassek, Barone Francesco Ricasoli, Philippe Guigal and Paul Symington who also presented just three wines apiece.

The point of the morning’s session was to give a brief outline of each individual’s winery, a flavour of the wines produced and, more importantly, to provide some interesting and amusing insights into the producers themselves and their family histories.

So, for example, the group learned how Torres’ grandfather furthered the cause of Spanish wine by introducing the world to “Spanish Chablis” when real Chablis was unavailable in the Second World War (and that he’s a Barcelona supporter) and how Guigal and his wife are semi-pro ballroom dancers.

The presentations were also meant to prompt discussion and debate and while there was not too much of this there were questions from the floor on the addition of disgorgement dates to Champagne and drinking windows.

Despite the lack of questions, Gerard Basset MS who was chairing the event told the drinks business afterwards that the interest of the audience to all the speakers was palpable because “they weren’t talking among themselves.

“It shows how seriously they took it,” he said.

He stressed at the beginning of the talk that it was important for sommeliers to know “how these people and their wines fit into your wine list” and how personal touches could be used to sell wines.

Afterwards he told db: “I thought the presentations were different, we had some very exciting wines and we learned some great stories which can be used to sell the wines.

Miguel Torres Maczassek.jpg

Miguel Torres Maczassek

“We need stories because all customers are different.”

Steve Moody, general manager of Fells, told db that he felt the tasting was a “different” but also interesting way of getting across the “stories” of the producers and their wineries which was not always possible in larger tastings.

“What we’ve got to try to do as a distributor is connect the trade with wine,” he said.

“Tastings are grander, this was smaller and more intimate. In London particularly we have a big challenge.

Economically big tastings make more sense but there’s less time to focus on the stories of the winemakers which the prestige on- an off-trades need.”

Happy with the overall turnout and result he said that despite the on-trade focus first time around, Fells would “seek to open it up” to other members of the trade in the future.

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