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Unfiltered: Daniel Manetti

The director of wine for The Connaught hotel shares his ambitions to reach 4,500 bins at the freshly three Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, as well as the details for an exclusive collaboration with Harlan Estate…

What is your vintage?

I was born in Tuscany in the amazing vintage of 1990. One of the best wines I tasted from this year was Salon 1990 from magnum – back in 2018. It had such class, elegance, complexity and, even after 30 years, youth.

Where did you work before?

I started as commis sommelier at The Dorchester then had an amazing experience working aboard the Seattle-based Seabourn Cruise Line where I opened The Grill by Thomas Keller. I returned to London in September 2016 to work at The Connaught.

What has been a standout wine and food match at Hélène Darroze, realised by head chef Marco Zampese?

Cornish scallops with tandoori spices, carrot, citrus, and coriander paired with Egon Müller Scharzhof Wiltinger Braune Kupp Riesling Spätlese 2018. Simply delicious, the tension and texture of the Riesling matched the fleshiness of the scallops, while its sweetness balanced and married with the spiciness of the tandoori scallops and coriander. The defined, super-precise acidity of the wine twisted with the citrus mousseline. An explosion of flavours.

How did it feel to gain the third Michelin star?

Incredible. The third star was the result of a vision pursued over several years of restless research, training, hard work and painstaking attention to detail including every single ingredient, plate and glass. When the third star arrived, the whole team felt a sense of pride and belonging. And this came just one month before The Connaught Bar achieved World’s Best Bar for the second year (50 Best).

How does a wine earn its place at The Connaught?

We focus on mature, ready-to-drink vintages from well-established, sought-after producers. Since 2016, the wine offer has been extended in volume and variety from 1,200 labels, with French wines previously accounting for 90% of the selection, to the current 3,500 with a more international approach. While the old world is still divided by appellation, wines from the new are proposed by grape, from lightest to fullest-bodied to give our guests the possibility to orientate across the selection according to style. Particular attention is given to the sourcing of small, emerging, and sustainable producers with wines from lesser-known regions, often made with indigenous grape varieties, to highlight the culture, tradition, and style of a particular region. In fact, we created a separate section for grower Champagnes (Récoltant Manipulant) where producers are united by village.

Is the figure of 3,500 bins the limit?

I think we will have 4,500 by the end of 2022. Since 2015, thanks to the support of our top management who understand the importance of the wine programme here at The Connaught, we started a wine buying project for the future, including en-primeur and pre-release. At present, we have over 20,000 bottles in bond waiting to land in our cellar as soon as they are ready.

Is the whole wine list available in guest rooms?

Yes, we want to exceed expectations.

What are examples of standout producers?

With the aim of proposing one of the best collections in the world, we established important relationships with producers from whom we buy direct. Special partnerships include: Krug, Billecart-Salmon, Pol Roger, Domaine Leflaive, Jean-François Coche-Dury, Domaine Armand Rousseau, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Prieuré-Roch, Château d’Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Egon Müller-Scharzhof, Weingut Klaus Peter Keller, Vega Sicilia, Quinta do Noval, González-Byass and, from this year, Harlan Estate, our first ex-cellar collection with a producer from California. The selection will include a three-litre 2006. We are the only restaurant/hotel in the world to have it.

What style of wine could you happily live without?

I never loved markedly floral wines. However, we must be humble and open-minded. Sometimes a particular grape or wine may not be your cup of tea, but you still must respect it and the work behind it and try to judge/assess it not by your personal taste but according to wine region/terroir where is coming from and the philosophy it has been produced with.

What ingredient do you struggle to enjoy?

I don’t like ingredients to be excessively manipulated.

What has been an enlightening vineyard visit?

Thank to our extensive wine programme at The Connaught we attend 10-15 trips a year, including the magical Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. I only knew of the visit a week before and got to taste the wines from the barrel with de Villaine. An unforgettable privilege. And, the visit to Egon Müller where I tried sweet wines with the legend himself, from the 1970s, 80s and 90s – all still alive and kicking! I never met a more welcoming and more generous producer than Egon.

What is the Red Room?

It is the new bar at The Connaught, its menu developed around the concept of fine wines. At its heart is an exquisite selection curated from The Connaught’s cellars. Experience the world’s finest vintages by Coravin, or break new ground with a stirring, wine-inspired cocktail. Each glass is perfectly accompanied by a menu of lighter dishes such as British cheeses, hand-carved ham, or Gochuchang chicken oysters.

What is your life motto?

“Keep Pushing and Never Give Up!”

Describe the playlist at the restaurant?

Soft jazz and classical music which are also my favourites at home.

If not wine, then what?

I am increasingly interested in beer.

What do you look for when hiring?

Humility, a desire to learn, flexibility and a can-do attitude as well as exceptional interpersonal skills and, needless to say, a great passion for wine.

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught – Carlos Place, London, W1K 2AL; 020 7499 7070;

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