Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.
Clément Robert is head sommelier and wine buyer at Medlar. After completing a sommelier degree from Angers and an apprenticeship at a Michelin starred restaurant in the Loire, Robert moved to the UK to join the Hotel du Vin Group and then Summer Lodge Hotel as assistant sommelier to Eric Zwiebel MS. In 2009 Robert won the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs International Young Sommelier of the Year competition.
Read our interview with Clément Robert below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
It might sound boring but I was born in 1986 and am very content to have been born in this decade. 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989 were all excellent vintages in many wine regions around the world. Outside the world of wine, the 80’s were also memorable for major historical events such as the development of modern internet, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Columbia space shuttle lift-off.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
I remember my first wine ‘moment’ like it was yesterday. I was just 18 and completing an apprenticeship at a one-star Michelin restaurant in the Loire. The head sommelier gave me a glass of red wine – the 1983 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – to taste blind. I could not stop smelling and tasting it and realised at that moment that my chosen career was also my passion.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
Around 2000 bottles. One of our most recent additions was the 2009 Kanta by Egon Müller. I am a big fan of Egon Müller’s wines for their purity of expression. The Kanta from Adelaide Hills is no exception – it is the pure expression of a great Riesling.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
I have already been in the trade for ten years. I’d say my first real job was here in the UK as commis sommelier at the Hotel du Vin Brighton.
☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
I wish I had bought the 1990 vintage of any of the 1st and 2nd growth wineries in Bordeaux. 1990 is one of my favourite vintages in Bordeaux as it has everything I love about this region – power, elegance and finesse, and an amazing ageing ability. These wines would also have been a great investment considering how the price of these wines has since increased.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
That’s difficult to say … Probably Chenin Blanc, though, one of my favourite grapes. I completed both my sommelier degree and apprenticeship in the Loire, and fell in love with Savennieres and Saumur.
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I discovered Canada’s Niagara Peninsula after a recent trip there. I was expecting to taste some delicious ice wines – what the country is famous for – but I was also simply astonished by the quality of the some of the Chardonnays, Rieslings and, especially, the Cabernet Francs which were superb.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
Gerard Basset. He is an MS, an MW, and a World Best Sommelier champion. He was also the founder of the Hotel du Vin, one of the best wine-orientated restaurants/hotels. I have the great honour to know him a little bit and have found him to be extremely humble as well as being very generous and approachable.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
Pairing Barbary Duck with black olives with a 1998 Domaine Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage ‘La Guiraude’. I had just started as a sommelier and it is a food and wine matching that I will always remember – the aroma and structure of the wine was in perfect harmony with the texture and the black olive sauce of the dish.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
I would share the 1978 Montrachet DRC with the members of a non-official wine club that I am part of called ‘The DD du Vin’ and also with my girlfriend, Kathrine.
☆ What’s the highest number of wines you’d had on one of your wine lists?
☆ What is the oldest bottle of wine you’ve served?
A 1860 Madeira Verdelho d’Oliveiras which was still incredibly fresh and lively for such an old wine – simply outstanding.
☆ What do you enjoy most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I enjoy tasting the wines blind so that one has to focus only on their qualities, and then discussing these wines with fellow judges – all experts in their fields but from such diverse backgrounds.
Written by Decanter