Our Sommelier of the month for November 2017 is Diego Muntoni, Head Sommelier at Harvey Nichols OXO. Diego has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.
How did you get into the wine industry?
It was by accident, I started to work as a bartender at the age of 16. I moved to London in 1998 and my second job in 2000 was as a bartender in a small French restaurant in Covent Garden. The Restaurant had an amazing wine list, and as the only “foreigner” in a team completely made up by French guys I had to prove myself, I soon started to get involved in the wine service, and from one day to another I was selling wines in the floor and suggesting my favorite finds.
Why do you enjoy using Riedel glassware within your restaurant?
First of all, they are just stunning, I am a glass lover, and I like a nice glass. I really like the weight and the balance when you handle them.
For our style of restaurant, they are the best glass you can find, elegant and strong, with a variety that can enhance and show the best characteristics of any wine.
Also, our customers recognize the brand very frequently and they are impressed we use Riedel in the restaurant.
What reaction do you get from customers when you serve their wines in different varietal specific glasses?
Many guests are used to it, and they recognize it as a good practice; others are a little surprised at first and they are interested why we do it. It is a great opportunity to engage with guests and enrich the dining experience.
What’s been your greatest wine experience?
It is difficult to pinpoint it to one. Probably one of the most memorable experiences was traveling around Australia for two weeks visiting some of the most iconic regions and meeting some amazing winemakers. It is incredible how many great wines Australia produce that we rarely see in the UK Market.
What’s been the funniest wine moment in your career?
I like to have fun when I work, so I had quite a few funny moments in my career. Recently I was organizing a champagne training session for our sommelier team, the supplier sent us the samples for the tasting a few days before and for some reason we received one extra bottle the day of the training. During the tasting, one of the bottle was extremely hard to open and, as it was a new product, we thought something went wrong on the production line, when we tasted the champagne, it was completely flat, it tasted nice for a wine but it didn’t have any champagne characteristic. The supplier was a little embarrassed and didn’t know what to say, after a little discussion we realized that we were tasting wine from a dummy bottle. It was hilarious, no-one knew that there would be wine in a dummy and it was actually a good wine. Luckily, we had the right bottle as well!
What’s been your biggest wine faux pas?
It was with a regular customer, one day he told me that the last time he was in he loved the Australia Shiraz Amon Ra from Ben Glaetzer. We started to talk about some of the other wines we list from Ben Glaetzer. In the end, he decided to have the same wine, but when I went to take the bottle I was still thinking about a Cabernet Shiraz blend called Anaperenna from the same producer. I took the bottle, presented and served it and then carried on explaining why the Cab-Shiraz blend was better suited for his meal and I was happy that he liked it.
But when he told me that it tasted better than the last time I realized I served the wrong wine, I was so embarrassed but fortunately he enjoyed the wine and took a second bottle.