Our Sommelier of the month for April 2017 is Glen Montgomery, Sommelier at Number One Restaurant at the Balmoral Hotel. Glen has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.
What is your industry background?
After studying engineering at university, and realizing that it wasn’t the career for me, I went full-time into hospitality as I had always worked in the industry alongside my studies. I started to be interested in wine quite by accident - I was looking for something new to stimulate me in the fine-dining restaurant where I worked while I figured out “what I wanted to do with my life”. Within a fairly short period of time working as a wine-waiter and taking some basic courses, I had fallen in love with the subject and decided to pursue a career in the wine-world whole-heartedly. Today I’m really grateful for my scientific education as it really helps in a number of the technical aspects of wine.
As well as gaining invaluable practical experience in a number of fine-wine focused restaurants, I have continued my formal studies through the WSET in London, and am aiming to complete my Diploma this year. The beauty of wine to me is the sheer breadth of disciplines it covers: I can be reading about the chemistry of yeasts one day, the life-cycle of the vine as a plant the next, and the food and cultural history of a beautiful region somewhere in the world the day after. I still have the odd moment of clarity where I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of this incredible subject, but at least I can never complain of being bored!
What’s your opinion of Riedel?
I am definitely a huge fan of all of the Riedel products. It has perhaps the best brand recognition of any glassware, and deservedly so. In our restaurant we use everything from Champagne Flutes (in two sizes…) to the Varietal specifics like Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet/Merlot. We find the ‘Restaurant’ range to be the perfect choice day-to-day as they offer a perfect balance of ‘fineness’ of glass and durability in a busy restaurant environment where they need to be tough as well as pretty. The decanters are not only beautiful (sometimes stunning), but pour like a dream.
I believe it adds an extra dimension of quality of service when different glasses are used depending on the style of wine being served. As well as enhancing the characteristics of the wine, it also subtly states to the guest that you are paying attention to every detail of their service. Since tasting menus are such a focus in our Restaurant, the guests invariably see a selection of glasses of different sizes and shapes, and will often ask why we are using such a variety.
Personally, the Riesling glass is my favourite all-rounder (aesthetically as well as practically) as it is so versatile; I tend to use it to taste almost every wine because the tulip shape perfectly expresses aromas in tasting quantities. It might also have something to do with the fact that Riesling is my favourite grape, so is frequently what I’m tasting…
What is your best experience in your role to date?
I feel incredibly lucky to have had a number of amazing experiences throughout my career. To mention just a couple of unforgettable memories that can come with the job at its’ best: I’ve been served Dom Perignon at the Abbey of Hautvillers in Champagne, sipped Amarone over dinner in a 16th Century Italian Villa, and shared a vertical flight of astounding Brunello di Montalcino Riserva with the son of the winemaker and his partner on her birthday.
More importantly than bragging though - I am fortunate to get the chance to share my passion for my craft with people from every corner of the world and all walks of life in my job every evening. Sometimes I’m introducing someone to a wine they’ve never heard of before, but is exactly what they were looking for. On the same evening I might discuss the finer points of Bordeaux with a guest whose cellar and experience might put my own to shame! I also get to spend time with peers within the profession who share the same love of the subject and are always keen to exchange ideas, and will often be treated to meetings with winemakers who may be in town to visit their importers. This is another real perk of the job as I get to talk with people “on the ground” in regions all over the world to hear about different local trends and how their Vintages are progressing.
No matter what the context though, the beauty of my job is in being part of a world of shared enthusiasm, multiculturalism and openness to new experiences, where the ultimate aim is to take as much pleasure as possible from the simple everyday necessity of eating and drinking.