Unfiltered: Romain Bourger, The Vineyard

Romain Bourger, head sommelier at The Vineyard in Berkshire, was born and raised in a small village in eastern France, in the Moselle Valley, and trained at Hotel du Vin in Winchester before taking on The Vineyard’s 3,000 bin wine list.

“I knew that I wanted to make hospitality and catering my job, so I entered my local hospitality school in Metz and quickly showed a great interest in wine,” he explains. “During my fifth year, which was the year of my Sommelier Diploma, I completed a training period at Hotel du Vin in Winchester, and quickly became attracted to the UK” – where he has been based since 2008.

What’s your vintage?
1988 – a great vintage for Champagne and Barolo in particular.

What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Definitely a nice glass of wine, perhaps a chilled glass of Madeira or 10 Year Old Tawny Port. I always have something ready to be opened at home.

What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
I think it was during one of my training periods when I dropped a bottle of water on a guest. He took it rather well and luckily laughed.

If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a somm, what would it be?
Stay humble, passionate and look after your team!

Has a wine every given you an epiphany? Which one?
Few of them have, but I clearly remember a Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1966 that I sold when I was Commis Sommelier at Hotel du Vin Winchester. My first old vintage tasted.

Which customer habit annoys you the most?
None in particular as everybody is different, I tend to be quite open minded.

Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
There are a few but one in particular would be one of my hospitality school teachers, Mr Lorrain, who made me passionate about wine and made me take this direction.

What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
An aged hard cheese like Gouda or Comte with a 10 years Old Sercial Madeira from Blandy’s. Simple but very effective.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
I think in California, in Napa Valley or Santa Barbara County.

If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing?
I have been attracted by the hospitality business from a fairly young age, but I think I would have worked in the music industry.

Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served?
Actor Steve Buscemi. I had a nice chat with him and he was very pleasant. Plus, I am a fan of Reservoir Dogs!

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