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Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Romain Bourger

When you look up the term “sommelier" it will say that a sommelier is responsible for the development of wine lists and for the delivery of wine service and training for the other restaurant staff. Working along with the culinary team, they pair and suggest wines that will best complement each particular food menu item. This entails the need for a deep knowledge of how food and wine, beer, spirits and other beverages work in harmony. Which does already gives a great view on the job. What is doesn't mention it that it takes years before a sommelier gets this knowledge and that it takes a lot to maintain this knowledge day in-day out. The following sommelier we are about to present to you knows as nobody else what it takes to become a great sommelier, please meet the 2019 Best Sommelier of the UK Romain Bourger .

Born and raised in Lorraine (France), somehow food & wine are already in your vaines (if you like it or not) and at some point it will come out :-) . It was actually during his years at the Lycee hôtelier in Metz that Romain's interest in the world of gastronomy started growing and luckily he was already in the right place to develop this interest. When he finished his studies he was ready to explore the world to find all the hidden gems and he set sail to start his professional career in England as sommelier at the Hotel Du Vin in Wichester.

After 2 years of building up experience Romain was ready to start playing with the big boys and continued his career as assistant sommelier the 3 Michelin star awarded L'arnsbourg and as sommelier at London restaurant The French Laundy (Harrods) where he was able to refine his knowledge even more.

Romain has also been a busy bee when it comes to contest, as he obtained the Advanced level diploma at the Court of Master sommeliers and the level 2 at the WSET and managed to become the Best Sommelier of the UK in 2019. Which are without the frosting on the cake for his beautiful career and efforts he had to make it all happen.

For the past 9 years Romain has been working at the The Vineyard at Stockcross where under the wings of Master Sommelier Yohann Jousselin he was able to grow from sommelier to head-sommelier and completed his as a professional. We are sure there is still an even brighter future awaiting him.

Cheers and enjoy the read!!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

After ten years at The Vineyard, I have definitely an affinity with California. We find some real gems coming over that have a different approach: wines that are leaner, with more minerality and playing more on the acidity than on big extraction of flavours and oak aging. These are wines with a sense of place that reflects where the vines are grown. What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

I remember one of the first thing our teacher said during my Sommelier Diploma: you have to be humble. It is very important as we have a ”people” job and we can always be taught either by a junior member of staff or guests. This is one of the great thing about Sommellerie, there are always things to learn bout. It takes dedication also as the studying and keeping up to date with what is happening with our profession comes with the job. Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

I think there is still a lot to be done to promote the front of house and hotel staff in hospitality. Programs like Top Chef have put chefs in the light but it should be the whole of hospitality for the public to get a better understanding of what we do. Our job is about creating an experience to our guest from the moment they walk in our establishment until they leave by making them feel like home. When and how did you get the passion for wine?

It was during my second year in our local Hospitality School in Metz when I was about 16 and our Sommellerie teacher really built up my interest. I have also been lucky during my school years and career to travel and meet very influential people that develop my interest in the world of wine. Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

That is a difficult question as there are so many great people in this industry, the first name that comes to mind is, of course, Gerard Basset for everything he has done for the development of hospitality and Sommellerie in the UK but also all over the world. Two other names are Yohann Jousselin MS who now works in Honk Kong and who I had the chance to work with for almost four years and who taught me a lot, the other is Eric Zwiebel MS who is now a great friend as well as an inspiration due to his dedication and views on our job.

Yohann Jousselin MS

There are also so many that I have met and I hope will meet.

What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?

It is important to have an understanding of the flavour of the dish. I try to keep it as less personal as possible in the fact that my taste is not the same as the guests. If you have good base ingredients on both sides, you don’t need to do much and just let them express themselves. It is very important to listen to​ Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

There are so many that come to mind but a memorable one was Madeira. Amazing wines, dramatic landscapes and great fresh seafood!

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

Somehow, old vintages attract me due to their complexity and thinking about what was happening in the world at that time. My choice would go for an old vintage from Henri Jayer as I have never had the chance to taste any of the wines he made.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

It would have to be during my Sommelier Diploma year when our class went to do the harvest for one week near Perpignan. It was an early start (7am if I remember well) but we would finish around 1pm as the afternoon were too hot and go to see the grapes being pressed and vatted. It was a week or sharing and learning which will always be in my memory, thinking that we were part of that vintage. A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Wine and food are made to be shared whether with your loved ones or with news people. It brings us together and sometimes, the simplest meal and pairing are the more memorable (as long as you have some good canons to share)

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