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Confessions of a sommelier: David Vareille

Decanter speaks to David Vareille about his earliest wine memory and the lessons he's learned as a sommelier. As published in Decanter's April 2013 issue.

David Vareille is head sommelier at Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA Tel: + 44 (0)20 7235 2000; barboulud.com

What’s your earliest wine memory?
In 1991, at the age of 21, I tried Jean- Baptiste Adam’s Gewurztraminer SGN 1989 after I passed my sommelier exam in Burgundy, and I can still remember the taste as if it were yesterday.

What bottle stopped you in your tracks and got you serious about wine?
Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin-Clos de Beze 1988. I was lucky enough to try this rare wine at a friend’s party and I immediately bought myself a case.

Since then, what’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s La Tâche 1999. I had it with Daniel Boulud in the week we opened Bar Boulud in May 2010.

What’s the biggest faux pas you’ve ever made?
When I was assistant sommelier at Birmingham’s Hotel du Vin, a guest asked for my best bottle of Chablis, and I presented him with our grand cru, priced at £250 a bottle. Having not mentioned the price to the gentleman, I took my break only to return and discover that he and his guests had enjoyed seven bottles of it. He was extremely shocked when he got the bill! I’ve never forgotten to mention the price to my customers since!

What’s the hardest food and wine match, and how do you overcome it?
Boudin Noir au piment d’espelette (black pudding with hot chilli). Spicy dishes are always the hardest to pair when you are looking for balance. Here I like serving Egon Müller’s Riesling Kabinett: the residual sugar softens the chilli without altering the taste of the sausage.

What’s the most valuable wine lesson you’ve learnt as a sommelier?
How to read your customer. Often the best challenge is to select a wine for a customer without engaging in a long conversation if they do not want to. The way you convey your knowledge can be more important than knowledge itself.

Written by Decanter

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