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.
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
That’s a difficult question to answer. If I am honest, I am quite happy with the 1970’s – my own birth decade. Although 1976 was one of the hottest years and the wines are not in really good shape any more, the 70’s had great moments such as the 1971 vintage in Germany, the upgrade to 1st growth of Château Mouton-Rothschild, the 1975 vintage for Brunello di Montalcino, and the 1977 vintage for Vintage Port – just to name a few.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
I must have been about 21 years old and I bought my first six bottles of Bordeaux.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
I must have around 200 bottles. My most recent addition was a 2010 Torbreck ‘The Struie’.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
I’ve been in the wine industry for about 12 years. My first job was as a commis sommelier at La Réserve de Beaulieu in the Côte d’Azur.
☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
I wish I could buy some 2010 Margaux.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I have discovered Istria in Croatia. We have been doing a Téran Rosé by the glass and a Plavac part of our wine pairings. Both are great wines with balance and power which also bring originality to our wine list.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
I don’t have just one as I have met a lot of people who have inspired me. My very first source of inspiration was Andrew McNamara though, with whom I worked in Florida. He was studying for the Master Sommelier Diploma at the time and knew more about my own Loire Valley region than I did. His enthusiasm, knowledge and devotion was also brilliant and I decided that I wanted to be just like him. Four years later I passed the Master Sommelier Diploma, winning the Laurent Perrier Crew Cup, as he did.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
Again, it was in the States. A few of us organised a lunch at the restaurant where each of the participants had to bring in a bottle of Bordeaux. The aim was to decide which wine was the most interesting. I took a 1993 Haut Brion blanc which took everyone by surprise.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
I would share a 1971 German Riesling with Andrew McNamara, made by a producer of his choice.
☆ What’s the highest number of wines you’ve had on one of your wine lists?
Around 500 wines. We had around 1200 wines in the States but I wasn’t part of the sommelier team back then.
☆ What is the oldest bottle of wine you’ve served?
A 1955 Château Latour.
☆ What do you enjoy most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I enjoy being part of one of the UK’s best professional wine events, as well as meeting like-minded people, and having the opportunity to put my palate to work. It is just a shame that I can only be there for one day.