Sommelier of the Month (UK): Zigmars Grinbergs

Our Sommelier of the month for June 2015 is Zigmars Grinbergs, Head Sommelier at Hotel du Vin, Brighton. Zigmars has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.

How did you get into the wine industry?

I started to work in restaurants at the age of 17, first as a waiter, so the wine was always around me, but I did not know anything about it, just liked drinking it in my spare time. It was only when I moved to the UK ten years ago, I finally had a chance to join WSET courses and once I finished my Diploma I felt ready to become sommelier.

Why do you enjoy using Riedel glassware within your hotel/restaurant?

There are quite a few reasons, but the two main ones are: these glasses look very fine, so it gives a lot of aesthetic pleasure to our guests, and the difference in wine’s aroma and flavour Riedel glasses makes when compared with other glassware.

What reaction do you get from customers when you serve their wines in different varietal specific glasses?

It has always been positive, though we have had some guests who at first are not sure what possible difference a shape of the glass can make. For me and my team it gives opportunity to prove it works by serving the same wine in two different glasses. We like the diversity of Riedel’s range and like to surprise people and show them something different, like the Pinot Noir based Champagne which, instead of the regular flute, we serve in a large tulip shaped Pinot Noir glass. Our guests love it and I have often been asked for the same glass again!

What’s been your biggest ‘wine’ faux pas?

I have been known for serving the bottle of red wine and then without any hesitation placing it into the ice cooler next to the guest’s table. As my excuse I can say it only happened couple of times and always on very busy nights and luckily I had my colleagues nearby who noticed the mistake on time and saved me from answering the guests why I would encourage them to drink ice cold Malbec!

What’s been the funniest ‘wine’ moment in your career? 

This was actually years ago, back home in Latvia, but it is still fresh in my memory. We were asked to cater for a large party of 600 people which would take place outdoors, outside Riga. One of the things we were told was not to worry about glasses, they would be supplied from somewhere else, which we did not object to, one less problem to worry about, right?

In retrospect though, someone should have checked what type of glassware we are getting, because at the arrival to the place we discovered that we have been kindly provided with plastic flutes for champagne. It was extremely windy day which did not stop the organizer of the event to request us to serve champagne from trays. It was hilarious to see all the champagne literally swept away as soon one of us would attempt to serve it to guests. I’ve never had a champagne bath, but this must be the closest I have been to experience it. I was drenched in champagne and my uniform completely was ruined, so much so that my boss decided that I could not be shown to the public looking like that. He managed to get me the chef’s whites and I spent the rest of the evening cooking on BBQ to a great success!!! I have never cooked at this level since, a great loss for the fine dining scene as far as I am concerned!!