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Confessions of a sommelier: Ali Rasouli Nia

Decanter talks to sommelier Ali Rasouli Nia about the best wine he's ever drunk and the funniest moment of his career, as published in Decanter's December 2013 issue

Ali Rasouli Nia is head sommelier at Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel & Spa, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey GU19 5EU. Tel: +44 (0)1276 478 599; pennyhillpark.co.uk

What’s your earliest wine memory?
When I was seven years old, I had a sweet wine made by one my great uncles in Iran. Back then I thought it was fantastic; now, I’m not so sure!

What bottle stopped you in your tracks and got you serious about wine?
I grew up in Germany, and when I was 18 I tried an eiswein from Schloss Johannisberg. From that moment, I knew wine was my passion.

Since then, what’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?
1990 Alzero from Giuseppe Quintarelli. It’s an Amarone-style red wine made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s out of this world.

What’s the funniest thing that`s happened on the job?
Before I became a sommelier I worked in a bar in Munich. I was trying to open a bottle that had a plastic cork, finally putting it between my knees to get a better grip. But I lost control and most of the wine ended up on my customer’s face.

 … and the biggest faux pas you’ve ever made?
A guest once asked if I had a white Merlot. I told him there was no such thing and he got very angry and left the bar. Years later during my sommelier training I tried a white Merlot from Ticino in Switzerland…

Have you ever served anyone famous?
I’ve served (former US secretary of state) Henry Kissinger and also actors Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

What wines are you buying for personal consumption at the moment?
I love old-school Riesling ausleses: sweet when young and with age they have still the same flavours but are totally dry. At Baron Knyphausen in the Rheingau I helped make a wine like this: the ARN (my initials!) Riesling Auslese, Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen 2012. I’d buy all the barrels if I could afford to.

Written by Decanter

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