Top 10 most powerful sommeliers in London: 2019

10. Hamish Anderson – Head sommelier and wine buyer Tate

Hamish Anderson has worked for Tate for so long, he’s become part of the fabric of the place. This year marks his 20th anniversary at the gallery group. Having been the Tate’s long-time head sommelier and wine buyer, last year Anderson was promoted to the role of chief executive of Tate Catering for the group’s four sites: Tate Britain; Tate Modern; Tate Liverpool; and Tate St. Ives, in Cornwall.

A bottle of 1982 Les Forts de Latour set Anderson on his wine path. Having found his passion, his first few sommelier shifts at Terence Conran’s Bibendum in Chelsea didn’t go swimmingly. “During one of my first shifts I opened a bottle of Champagne and the cork slipped from my grasp, hit the ceiling and landed on a nearby table. There was silence, followed by clapping. The mark on the ceiling was there for the rest of my employment, so I was never allowed to forget it,” he says. Undeterred, Anderson cracked on, spurred on by the guidance of Matthew Jukes, whom he still counts as a good friend.

Joining the Tate group in 1998, Anderson has consistently championed high-quality wines at affordable prices at Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler restaurant, which opened in 1927 as the Tate Gallery refreshment room, and features a Whistler mural depicting a royal party travelling the world in search of exotic food.

To get his hands on Bordeaux that isn’t eye-wateringly expensive, Anderson makes regular trips to the region and buys the wines en primeur, as he does with the Burgundies on his list. Unusually for London, Rex Whistler is only open for lunch, so half bottles of the likes of English fizz Nyetimber, Lebanese star Château Musar and dreamy California Cabernet blend Ridge Monte Bello do a roaring trade.

Anderson also lists his vintage Champagnes at close to retail price, and allows guests to bring their own wine for £15 corkage, so long as they buy an additional bottle from the list. As well as wine, Anderson is a keen champion of craft beers, particularly those brewed locally.

In his spare time, Anderson writes a weekly wine column for the Saturday Telegraph magazine and features for Telegraph Men. His book, Great Wine for Everyday Life, has sold more than 15,000 copies. Topping his wine bucket list is 1976 Grange, though he’d also love to try some pre-communist era Tokaji. The self-confessed Pinot Noir nut has served many a colourful character in his time, including acclaimed Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.

 

N/A. Gonzalo Rodriguez Diaz – Head sommelier Seven Park Place (Please note: Shortly after publication, Gonzalo left his position at Seven Park Place, but to reflect his top 10 position in the printed guide we felt it fair to include his profile)

Gonzalo Rodriguez Diaz grew up in Uruguay with his Spanish family. His introduction to wine came at an early age, when he was put in charge of opening the wines at his family’s weekly barbecue, under the watchful eye of his grandfather, a bon viveur who lived by the motto: “wine is life”.

His introduction to fine dining came equally early in life, as his grandfather used to take him to restaurants, where he remembers ordering the same food as the adults, and was occasionally allowed to try a sip of their wine. Rodriguez Diaz cut his teeth in the catering industry in San Sebastián, in northern Spain, when he was 17. The region’s proximity to Rioja gave him the perfect excuse to take off for a few days and explore the vineyards, which ignited his passion for wine.

Today, this passion has “evolved into an obsession, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge”, says Rodriguez Diaz, who takes every chance he can to visit the world’s wine regions. His wine journey in the UK began in 2013 at River Café alumnus Theo Randall’s eponymous restaurant at The InterContinental hotel on Park Lane, where he worked as a supervisor, moving on to the role of sommelier at Thackeray’s restaurant in Tunbridge Wells a year later. His big wine break came in 2016 when he was appointed head sommelier and wine buyer at St James’s Hotel and Club.

Nestled in the boutique hotel is art-strewn Michelin-starred restaurant Seven Park Place. Catering to only 26 covers spread across nine tables, Rodriguez Diaz is in charge of the restaurant’s 104-page ‘wine book’, filled with 1,100 drops, including some of the finest wines known to humanity, all of which can be delivered to the bedrooms of hotel guests via room service. As well as his beloved Spain, and adored Nebbiolo, Burgundy holds a special place in Rodriguez Diaz’s heart, and his passion for Pinot is reflected in his list, which includes the likes of Vosne Romanée Les Gaudichot.

Despite his day job keeping him busy, Gonzalo has also found the time to make his own wines in the Spanish regions of Cigales and Toro, which he hopes to be able to serve soon at the hotel. “I love escaping London to my vineyard in Toro and relaxing there with my wife,” he says. “The project gives me a chance to express my artistic side.” At the top of his wine bucket list are Vega Sicilia Unico 1942 and Krug Clos du Mesnil 1985. However, the wine to have moved him most so far is Château Lafleur 1982. “I remember the feeling of happiness and confusion when I tried it. It was so sublime I was lost for words and couldn’t think about anything other than the wine for days.”

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