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Confessions of a sommelier: Gal Zohar

Decanter talks to sommelier Gal Zohar about the most memorable moments in his career and the best wine he's ever drunk, as published in Decanter's August 2013 issue.

Gal Zohar is the wine buyer and consultant for Nopi and the four Ottolenghi restaurants, all in London, as well as the online store ottolenghi.co.uk

What bottle stopped you in your tracks and got you serious about wine?
Most of the wines I liked in my early days aren’t favourites anymore. But one wine that is, is Alvaro Palacios’ L’Ermita from Priorat in Spain.

Since then, what’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?
Dario Princic’s Jakot, which we drank with the man himself, on his terrace in Slovenia, with lots of home-made food and many of the region’s fellow producers.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on the job?
I was once flown to Sardinia for a 50th birthday. One of the host’s presents was a custom-made decanter. I was asked to use it, so took it away and seconds later it was on the floor in a million pieces. No one laughed, but looking back now, I can raise a smile.

 … and the biggest faux pas?
When I was working at the now-closed St Alban in London, Jancis Robinson MW arrived. I brought to her table a decanted bottle of Sassicaia 1998 almost before she and her party sat down. The head sommelier calmly picked it up and served it to the right table as if nothing had happened. I’ve never revealed that until now.

Have you ever served anyone famous?
I once asked my partner after a shift if she’d heard of ‘Michael Caine’. She couldn’t stop laughing, and I then realised I’d been serving and chatting to a very famous actor indeed.

What wines are you buying for personal consumption at the moment?
Anything that tells an unusual and different story. I recently bought some fantastic Chenin Blancs from the Loire and some interesting Lebanese reds.

What’s the most valuable wine lesson you’ve learnt as a sommelier?
That our main job is to visit as many producers and wine regions as possible and to pass on the sense of place and passion of the winemaker to our customers.

Written by Decanter

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