Our Sommelier of the month for October 2015 is Will Dennison, a Sommelier at House of Tides in Newcastle upon Tyne. Will has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.
How did you get into the wine industry?
At the age of nineteen I decided to take time out and travel Australia. Driving through the Barossa and Clare Valley got me curious and opened my eyes to a wine world I never knew existed, since then I have never looked back.
Why do you enjoy using Riedel glassware within your hotel/restaurant?
Not only do they look and feel fantastic, they have a purpose and that is to help express and show the full characteristics of the wine. Tasting the same wine out of four different varietal specific glasses has a huge impact on how the wines flavours are received in the mouth and really helps to enhance the guests experience and expectations!
What reaction do you get from customers when you serve their wines in different varietal specific glasses?
I’d say the large majority of people don’t actually realize the science that goes into making a great wine glass, most presume that a “one glass fits all” will suffice. Its always great educating and seeing guests’ astonishment when you have five or six different shaped wine glasses throughout a tasting menu. It’s always good fun to educate and taste in a fun and relaxed environment.
What’s been your biggest ‘wine’ faux pas?
When just starting out in a two hat restaurant in Sydney as a young naive waiter, the head sommelier asked me to open a bottle of Australian sparkling from the Yarra Valley to be poured by the glass; to which I asked, which one? He follows with the one with the black foil on the top. He wasn’t very pleased when I open a bottle of 1996 Dom Perignon… On the plus side, at least we had some good staff drinks that evening.
What’s been the funniest ‘wine’ moment in your career?
Buying a bottle of 1940 chateau Haut Brion with a very low shoulder for £15 in a local auction, cracking it open on a Sunday night just by the off chance to see if it was in condition. Believe it or not the wine was still very palatable, at that moment I didn’t know weather to laugh or cry!