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A sommelier speaks: Lucio Penetra

Lucio Penetra is head sommelier at L’Oranger, 5 St James Street, London SW1A

What’s your top tip for wine lovers picking from a restaurant list?

Ask yourself and the sommelier questions. What kind of dish are the people at your table ordering? What do you like? What does the sommelier suggest?

How important is food and wine matching?

I try not to be too obsessed about it. The customer should decide what they want to eat and drink.

What region would you like to have more of on your list?

Portugal. The overall wine quality is improving all the time and, with so many different grape varieties, climates and soils, there’s a lot for people to discover.

What do you do when a customer claims a wine is corked or faulty but you don’t agree?

I tell them I don’t agree but that I’m ready to offer a different wine if they are not satisfied. I don’t ask them to pay for the ‘faulty’ bottle – I can sell it by the glass. If the wine is very expensive and is showing well, I’d offer them a complementary bottle, but of a different wine.

What’s the most annoying customer habit?

Bad manners. I remember being at reception greeting a customer and he answered by just giving me the name of his booking and handing me his coat. Is it so hard to say hello?

What’s the oddest request you’ve ever received?

A customer once asked me for ice cubes, then placed a few in his glass of fine, full-bodied red wine.

The full interview, including Lucio’s worst nightmare and what he is drinking at home, can be found in the June issue of Decanter magazine (out 6 May) – click here to subscribe.

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