To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts choosing this year's best wines.
In this exclusive interview with Nicolas Clerc, a Master Sommelier based in the UK, find out more about what he’s most looking forward to judging at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards and his most memorable wine moment from the last 10 years…
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in London and I’m working for a company named D&D, I’m managing the Wine and Beverages for two of their sites: Le Pont de la Tour Restaurant and Old Bengal Warehouse
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I celebrated 12 years of being a sommelier last year, and nine of them have been here in the UK. I started my career in catering at the age of 22, the restaurant scene was attracting me on the way people act, speak about products, cooking, wine etc…. That was my initial attraction, as much as the travel opportunities. Wine came at the same time, I guess I had the luck to meet the right people at the right time; they gave me guidance and pointed me in the right direction. Curiosity and passion has done the rest.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
I guess with time I’m listening more than I’m speaking. By having a look at what I was doing professionally 12 years ago, only few things remain the same. My profession has developed so much in the last decade that I had to adapt and grow with it. The people I’ve met or served, or worked with have been the reasons for that change. Is it the lesson of the wine or of the life? I trust they are related.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
I’m inspired by people everyday, from the commis sommeliers I employ or young sommeliers I judge at competitions or at diploma level.
The sommelier scene in the UK is an inspiration; there are some incredibly talented sommeliers in this country. What Gerard Basset has been doing with the Hotel du Vin in the UK is remarkable; he created a school of sommeliers within his business, developing the future of this profession in the UK. Fifteen years later, these sommeliers are in charge of some of the best establishments in the country and the next generation keeps developing.
One person in particular was Eric Zwiebel, I had the luck to work for two-years on his side, and he is my biggest inspiration.
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
Winning the Best Sommelier in the UK competition in 2007. I was so pleased and proud, and still am today
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
I wish to see a rise of local grape varieties as opposed to international ones. I also wish to see more Canadian still wines in our market – I discovered some amazing ones in that country but only few of them are exported to the UK.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
My company is opening a restaurant in Istanbul next April. I was in charge of creating the wine list. I was in contact with Wines of Turkey and they helped me superbly. Over the last two months, my Eurocave was full of Turkish wines, I got through more than 120 samples and I discovered some very interesting producers and grapes.
The Kalecik Karası grape was a real surprise, and certainly the most interesting to drink.
What’s your ‘desert island’ wine?
Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Anada 1968, and if I’m able to take two, closely will follow La Tache 1978.
What single piece of advice do you have for new people just starting out in wine?
Be humble, open minded, curious and passionate. On the top of that, work hard and you should be successful at what you are doing.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Balance and harmony, they are the key factors for quality wine.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
To be present in that panel of professionals from around the world. It’s what I’ve been looking for during my entire career, so am very thankful for the opportunity.
Written by Decanter