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.
Serdar Balkaya is currently head sommelier at Hakkasan’s HKK restaurant, after joining the Hakkasan Group in 2004. He will soon be head sommelier at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, starting on April 7th. He studied tourism and hotel management, is certified at advanced level by the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for the Master Sommelier qualification.
Read our interview with Serdar Balkaya below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
I wish I could have been born in the time of Omar Khayyam, so I could have been his apprentice. I should have liked to have learned science and literature from him, and to have drunk wine and discussed philosophy with him.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
I was 20 years old and experienced my first wine ‘moment’ sharing a bottle of Turkish wine with my close friends – the 1997 Kavaklidere Prestige Kalecik Karasi.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
I don’t actually have any wine in my cellar as I have a very bad habit of drinking all the wine I do buy! I did have a 2003 Casanova di Neri ‘Tenuta Nuova’ Brunello di Montalcino in my ‘cellar’, but enjoyed that at Christmas.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
I have been in the trade for none years. My first job was as a sommelier.
☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
The 1990 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros-Parantoux.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I was in the Rhône Valley last year for a visit and re-discovered Cornas. It has the most amazing terroir and the wines you can find offer great value for money. The ones I tried were all concentrated, complex and had beautiful balance.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
A meal at The Fat Duck stands out above all. We had the ‘Sound of the Sea’ dish from the tasting menu paired with Masumi Nanago Junmai Daiginjo sake.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
The 1990 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros-Parantoux – the same wine I wish I had bought a case of! – and I would share it with my dad and my dear friends Isa and Cuneyt.
☆ 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 Taylor’s 1948 Vintage Port.
☆ What are you most looking forward to about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I am looking forward to trying a lot of Old World classic wines and the latest wines to come from the Middle East.
Written by Decanter