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- Wednesday, 17 September 2014 05:35 | Written by Matthias Tesi Baur
1. Tesi: Alexis, you are the wine manager for a range of restaurants with the D&D group, who own many iconic restaurants in London. Can you tell me about the concept, the idea, and background of the restaurants?
Alexis: I need to give different answers to this question for the different restaurants I look after! The “Wine Shop” is the only wine bar that offers guests the opportunity to sit in a wine library. The concept is actually a mix between a shop and a bar. We have 30 different wines by the glass, and beyond that, the guest is sitting directly in front of the bottles we offer. Our concept encourages our guests to discuss the different wine, which make me happy.
The “Fish Market” restaurant is a typical Shoreditch style restaurant. The chairs come from an old school, and it is all about fish dishes in that restaurant. We mainly offer white wine from all around the world, but we try to focus specifically on English white wine. They are a great match with fish, and it gives people the opportunity to discover more English wine.
Our “New Street Grill” restaurant is a fine dining restaurant that offers excellent American, Wagyu, or West Country beef. It is a typical place for business dinners or people from the city to meet friends. We have more than 400 wines with a big focus on American (Californian and others) and Bordeaux regions. One great wine I always recommend is Terre Rouge in the Sierra Foothills or other wines from sub-regions south of San Francisco. These wines offer a great value in a price range of £25 to £55.
2. Tesi: The community of guests drinking wine is growing, but people are more price-sensitive. How do you think the “wine drinker” has changed in the last 15 years?
Alexis: The business is clearly changing. Not many people are willing to pay a couple of hundred pounds for a bottle or put that amount of money on their company credit card. Also, people are much more knowledgeable about wine than in the past, so they don’t feel the need to spend as much money anymore to get a good wine. I think the guests are right. It is also good for the entire wine industry because it pushes the big Estates to offer their wine at more reasonable prices and brings more diversity to the wine market.
3. Tesi: What is the funniest thing to ever happen when you presented a good bottle of wine to a customer?
Alexis: (is laughing)… That’s a tough question. I remember one guest who refused to taste the wine. He put his nose deep in the glass and then asked me to taste the wine at the table in front of him on his behalf. I was confused because no one had ever asked me to do this before, but I did it. Only after I tasted the wine was he willing to taste it. He ended up ordering the bottle.
4. Tesi: A young gastronomy entrepreneur wants to offer his guests wines that can’t be found on the supermarket shelf, but his budget to build his wine cellar is tight. How would you recommend this restaurant owner plan his wine offerings?
Alexis: Seriously – he should go to the D&D wine shop (www.danddwineshop.com) and order his wine from there. I created the wine shop online by working with other sommeliers. It is a shop created by sommeliers – not by wine buyers – and we put a lot of effort into keeping costs down. If this guy would start his collection from 2006 to 2012 with, let’s say, a burgundy from 2010, a Bordeaux from 2009, and two or three good wines from California, he could start putting together a good wine menu with very little investment.
5. Tesi: What are three bottles of wine every wine cellar should have, and why should they have them?
Alexis: My three wines would be:
- St. Aubin 1er Cru, Hubert Lamy: A great chardonnay that I think is very well priced.
- Chateau Haut Brion: My favourite of the 1st Grand Cru Classe. Finesse and earthiness
- Chardonnay Seascape, Hartford: One of the most impressive white I’ve tried from California. The Sonoma parcel is facing the coast, which allow the wine to show a remarkable acidity.
6. Tesi: What does good food mean to you?
Alexis: Good food is simplicity! As a sommelier, I eat in a lot of good restaurants and find that sometimes a dish is simply too complex, and single flavours do not come through anymore. The point of good food is to balance the ingredients so that the purity of the single elements of a dish does not get lost. I am not a big fan of molecular cuisine. Pure and authentic ingredients prepared in unique simplicity can make something really special.
- Acorn Award 2013
April 2014 – Wine Manager at Old Bengal Warehouse, Liverpool Street, London
August 2011 – April 2014 Head Sommelier at Skylon, Royal Festival Hall, London
April 2010 – August 2011 Head Sommelier at Quaglino’s Restaurant, St James, London
June 2008 – March 2010 Assistant Head Sommelier at BlueBird Restaurant, Chelsea, London
February 2008 – June 2008 Sommelier at Les Ombres Restaurant, Paris, France
April 2006 – July 2006 Senior Commis Sommelier at Le Pont De La Tour Restaurant, Shad Thames, London
August 2005 – April 2006 Commis Sommelier at Le Pont De La Tour Restaurant, Shad Thames, London
June 2013: Acorn Award winner (Thirty of the brightest prospects in the hospitality industry under the age of 30) August
2009: Rise Development Programme for Supervisors Certificate March 2006: WSET Level 1 and 2 Certificate January