Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Alexandre Freguin
Not an in Englishman in New York, but a Frenchman in England :-) please meet our next sommelier to put in the spotlight, top sommelier and 2018 Best Sommelier of UK Alexandre Freguin.
Provence Hospitality School Alexandre was born and raised in a place where many people would have wanted to be during the covid-19 lockdown, Aix-en-Provence… La douce France. It keeps surprising us how many top sommeliers at some point of their live just rolled into the position or found a passion that didn’t know they had while studying something completely different or even already having a completely different job. Alexandre is one of those people, as he was actually studying Law at University to exchange his Law studies 4 years later for studies . We are probably repeating ourselves, but once again it is proven that passion is the best motivator for life.
When he finished his studies in 2011 he immediately aimed high, as his first job as apprentice was at the Michelin Awarded restaurant of Pierre Reboul. A job that got followed by positions as maitre and sommelier at restaurant Eskis and Michelin awarded restaurant Les Loges in Lyon. Like every bird, at some point it is ready to spread your wings... and so he did and set sail to England for a job as sommelier at 2 Michelin star restaurant L’Enclume, to eventually return to the UK (for a job as sommelier at Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms**) via Corsica at restaurant Casadelmar** and a little detour via restaurant Jean Sulpice in Val Thorens.
In 2018, next to winning the Best Sommelier of the UK championship, he also obtained his advanced degree at the Court of Master sommeliers and is preparing himself for the Master Sommelier exams.
Today Alexandre works as Head Sommelier and buyer for the Michelin awarded London restaurant Chez Bruce. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of him as we're sure he still has a bright future ahead filled with great accomplishments.
Enjoy getting to know this wonderful sommelier a bit more
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
Ah! That is a great question and I do have a lot of regions in mind. I do love in general working with regions that I am not familiar with. The discovery gives to me a level of excitement that I love sharing with our guests. If I had to pick a more specific area, I would say the Balkans and the large Eastern Europe. There is a spectacular wine scene in countries such as Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Czechia or even Slovakia. I love working with wine showcasing a strong sense of DNA and Identity.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
Well the journey is long so patience would be one of them.
Humility is also a key one, being humble towards the vignerons, the nature, our guests and of course colleagues. I do not really believe in one man show and see the sommelier much more as the person delivering a message. The determination and commitment play a huge role too.
Pedagogy is really important, once again towards the guests and the younger sommeliers, there is a real transmission role. Also, empathy and generosity should be qualities putted forward and not forgetting than the human’s relationship is the core of our profession.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
We see more and more a certain level of recognition to the general of public of the profession. I do still believe that in general, not just sommeliers but all industries worker, should receive a bit more recognition and being more valued. We are not savings life of course but delivering a great experience to our guests requires a lot of skills.
I will always remember a few years ago someone asking me “but are you going to have a real job?” and I answered gently “actually that’s my job”. I thought for a minute that it was not nice and then I realised there was no intention of being rude. It was much more the lack of understanding what really is involved on a daily base in this industry.
When it comes to sommeliers, I do strongly believe that wine or any beverages are key elements in a restaurant for the guests but also in a business point of view.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
Well in my region, Provence. I was taking a different carrier path while trying to pass my first year of Law University (my results were pretty poor…). I got introduced to people who were running a small winery. From then I thought than the wine industry was opening a new path and I followed it. There is something special and unique in this universe which gave me the feeling than what I was doing is real.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
That is also a huge question! I do get inspired by people who succeed but at the same time remains loyal and honest. Sticking to your words and ethos is what I respect the most.
Of course, the name of Gerard Basset will come up, and I did not the chance to know him as many others do but just watching and listening him had a real impact.
I have to say, I have never met him personally, but Alex Atala is a person that I took as inspiration especially for his strong attachment to his country (Brazil) and commitment. These peoples as many others are example to follow in terms of determination.
I could name many others, but I think Vignerons and producers in general are the people that I get the strongest inspiration from.
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?
Hot topic this! That is only my point of view, but pairing is not just about a dish and a liquid. This is a moment, a place, a person or what ever else which makes it memorable. The greatest pairings I had were always made of simple things, but which created an emotion. We are all different and we will be sensible to different elements of a pairing this is where the sommeliers play a key role in understanding this at the table. My personal tastes always remind in the shadow with the guests. More you listen to them greater will be the pairings in my eyes. I think there is no right or wrong and thinking outside of the box is also important because a pairing is not a one-way answer.
An all-time winner remains a glass of Manzanilla paired with olives and Anchovies! In Sanlucar if possible!
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Slovenia! Slovenia! Slovenia! A real lesser known and undiscovered treasure. Not just about wine but the country itself is a jewel. Hospitable people combined with spectacular landscapes. It is a breath of fresh air every time I arrive there. This country has just everything you need to escape! The wine and food culture are also extraordinarily strong combining diversity and authenticity.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
Some incredibly old vintages of Madeira. That is very personal to me and I have a strong affect with these wines. In general, old vintages of any type of wines tends to catch my eyes, simply because they been made in other times which are miles away of the world of wine that we know. They are in a way fragments of history.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?
Without any doubt the UK sommelier of the year competition 2018 which for me was just unique. Winning a title is a great personal satisfaction but the recognition which came after that regarding my parents and friends was even better, I knew I have made them proud! I had the feeling that I was giving back something and saying thank you for their support. The feeling of togetherness was something I will never forget.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc…?
An experience is related to a moment, and I would say nothing better for me than an early fishing day and preparing your catch of the day! Of course, with close friends and great bottles!