Claire Thevenot MS: DWWA 2014 judge

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.

Claire Thevenot MS works for Enotria, a specialist wine wholesaler. Born in France, she studied catering and hospitality management before taking a sommelier degree. After graduating, Thevenot worked at a number of three star Michelin restaurants in France, Germany and Switzerland, before moving to London in 2002 to join the Hotel du Vin Group. In 2006 Thevenot become a Master Sommelier and was named UK Sommelier of the Year.

Read our interview with Claire Thevenot MS below…

☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why? 
I was born in the late 70’s and I am perfectly happy with that! That said, if I could board a time capsule and attend Pink Floyd’s The Wall gig that they held in Earl’s Court in 1980, that would be pretty cool. The ultimate time travel destination would be to the early 30’s to share a glass of champagne at The Ritz in Paris with Coco Chanel, a lady whose determination, creativity, entrepreneurship, and legacy I admire.

☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it? 
I was 15 and in my first year at catering school. During an oenology course a fellow student was asked to describe a red wine from Burgundy. I couldn’t pick up any of the raspberry and earthy flavours he was describing. I had already realised I was not going to realise my dream of becoming a maître d’ – carrying three plates with one hand, was not, and still is not my thing – and I went back home for the weekend a bit dejected. While I was there I ate an entire pack of solid frozen raspberries and, during the next oenology lecture on southern Burgundy, my brain clicked over a glass of Mercurey La Framboisiere made by Faiveley. 

☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition? 
Hardly any – about 200 bottles – but not too bad given the cellar capacity of a London flat! Lately I have been buying some white burgundies. The 2010 Domaine Boisson Meursault is my latest discovery thanks to some sommelier friends.

☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job? 
I having been in this industry pretty much since I was able to travel on my own. After my eureka glass of Mercurey, I did the following harvest in Beaujolais, continuing this way until I graduated from the catering school. After I graduated, I went to the three star Michelin Les Pres d’Eugenie Michel Guerard in the south west of France to work as commis sommelier. That was my first full-time job and I was 20. 

☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from? 
I wish I had bought some 1989 reds from Burgundy. 1989 was a perfect vintage for me and the Musigny made by Jacques Frederic Mugnier is quite simply the best wine I have ever had.

☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of? 
I have been drinking a lot of indigenous and aromatic Italian whites from Friulano, Vermentino, Pigato and Biancolella as summer wines, and big Chardonnays from California and Burgundy as winter wines. 

☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why? 
I have re-discovered Bordeaux during several trips there in the past year. It is one of the most criticised and scrutinised regions in the wine world and I wanted to learn more, to go behind the scenes to understand my Bordeaux palate. I appreciate the wines from the right bank, which truly offer a sense of place. 

☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)? 
I have three sources of inspiration … My sister, Catherine, is one. She is also a sommelier and has always encouraged me in every step of my career. Pascal Bouchet who was my teacher at the sommelier school in Tain l’Hermitage is another. He has an approach to teaching and guiding his students like no one else. And Gerard Basset MS MW is also an idol. He tutored me at the Hotel du Vin and was very generous with his time. Without him I wouldn’t have entered the UK Sommelier of the Year Competition or taken the Master Sommelier examination and I wouldn’t be the sommelier that I have become. I still call him for advice and to share a glass of wine. I owe all three people a lot and can never thank them enough. 

☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment? 
I have had many memorable moments but the one I always come back to is Christmas Day 2000. My mother made a charlotte a l’orange cake for dessert and my sister uncorked a 1997 Coteaux du Layon from Domaine des Beaumard to have with it. It was a down to earth pairing but absolutely perfect.

☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
Hermitage La Chapelle 1978 – my vintage and a stellar one in the Rhône. I would drink it with my sister, Pascal Bouchet and Gerard Basset MS MW …

☆ What’s the highest number of wines you’ve had on one of your wine lists? 
We had around 900 wines on the list at the Hotel du Vin Winchester at one point; we had to walk in the cellar like funambulists! 

☆ What is the oldest bottle of wine you’ve served? 
A 1875 Madeira produced by Pereira d’Oliveira.

Written by Decanter