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Confessions of a sommelier: Bhatia Dheeraj

Decanter speaks to head sommelier Bhatia Dheeraj about his earliest wine memory and the most valuable lesson he's learned on the job. As published in Decanter's March 2014 issue.

Bhatia Dheeraj is head sommelier of the restaurants at The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, Salisbury Rd, Kowloon, Hong Kong; +852 2920 2888; peninsula.com.

In 2013, he was a finalist in China’s Wine List of the Year

What’s your earliest wine memory?
Every New Year’s Eve my father would allow me a sip of Champagne. I’d wait for the party to finish and sneak inside the kitchen to look for leftovers.

What bottle stopped you in your tracks and got you serious about wine?
It was a Peter Lehmann Shiraz a few years ago – it was like I’d been kissed by an angel. I was still thinking about it long after I finished the wine.

Since then, what’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?
One memory I will cherish is when I sold my first bottle of Henri Jayer’s Cros Parantoux, Vosne-Romanée 1996. The customer was kind enough to offer me a glass: it had incredible structure, elegance and balance.

What’s the biggest faux pas you’ve ever made?
When I was a commis sommelier, a guest brought in about 10 of his own fine wines for a private event. I messed up by topping up the wrong wine in the wrong glass. The head sommelier was very upset with me.

What’s the hardest food and wine match, and how do you overcome it?
Recently our chef served roast saddle of roe deer in a cocoa bean and juniper berry crust with Jerusalem artichoke and Brussels sprouts. Eventually I was happy with pairing a Malbec-based blend from Mendoza: Dominio del Plata’s Ben Marco Expresivo 2009.

What wines are you buying for personal consumption at the moment?
More wines from the Jura and southwest France as well as Japan and Tasmania and McLaren Vale.

What’s the most valuable wine lesson you’ve learned as a sommelier?
Be humble and approachable to everyone. And travel, live and work as sommelier in as many countries as you can.

Written by Decanter

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