My earliest wine memory – from the sommeliers

My earliest wine memory – from the sommeliers

Do you remember your first sip of wine? What’s your earliest memory of wine in your home? Sommeliers share their recollections…

My earliest wine memory – from the sommeliers

In Confessions of a Sommelier for Decanter magazine, sommeliers were asked ‘What was your earliest wine memory?’

What’s your earliest wine memory? Let us know in the comment section below.

Grandfather influence

Stefano Petta, speaking to Decanter when he was working at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern in Switzerland, said ‘A Valpolicella Classico, out of my grandfather’s glass, at the age of six.’

‘It was with my maternal grandfather,’ said Stéphane Morand, sommelier at Le Cercle à Bourges. ‘I was seven years old and at family meals he was the one who showed me his wine cellar and how to use a corkscrew.’

wine memory sommeliers, corkscrew

Funniest moments on the job – from the sommeliers

‘My grandfather bought a barrel of wine four times a year from Boudes in the Côtes d’Auvergne. He took a glass from it with each meal, but the remainder was never protected from oxygen, so progressively became worse,’ said Richard Bernard, head sommelier at Le Saint-James, Bouliac.

Ali Rasouli Nia, speaking when he was head sommelier at Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel, said ‘When I was seven years old, I had a sweet wine made by one my great uncles in Iran. Back then I thought it was fantastic; now, I’m not so sure!’

My ‘wine-changing’ moment – from the sommeliers

‘I grew up in Bulgaria, in an area where almost every family has a small vineyard and makes their own wine,’ said Marinela Ivanova beverage manager onboard The World, Residences at Sea. ‘As a child I remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap during dinner and him dipping my finger into his wine glass to try it.’


open NV Champagne

Credit: Cath Lowe/Decanter

Wayve Kolevsohn, speaking while sommelier at The Test Kitchen, said, ‘I was aged about three or four, and my mother gave me a sip of Champagne from the bottle; my parents managed to capture the whole experience in photos – right from the intrigue, to the shocked expression afterwards.’

Worst customer habits in restaurants – from the sommeliers

‘Every New Year’s Eve my father would allow me a sip of Champagne. I’d wait for the party to finish and sneak inside the kitchen to look for leftovers,’ Bhatia Dheeraj, speaking to Decanter when he was head sommelier at The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong. He is now head sommelier at Penfolds Magill Estate.

As young adults

Michael Deschamps, wine director at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, said ‘The Vega Sicilia 1981 I had on my 18th birthday. It was a present from my father who simply bought it as it was the year of my birth – he hadn’t realised the quality and prestige of this great wine. An amazing surprise and a fantastic bottle to share with my family.’

Nightmare food and wine matches – from the sommeliers

‘In 1991, at the age of 21, I tried Jean- Baptiste Adam’s Gewurztraminer SGN 1989 after I passed my sommelier exam in Burgundy, and I can still remember the taste as if it were yesterday,’ said David Vareille, head sommelier for Bar Boulud in London.

Mathieu Ouvard, speaking to Decanter when the head sommelier at Gleneagles Hotel, said, ‘It was tasting a wine from Savennières’ famous Clos du Papillon vineyard on a trip there with my class at Angers University. I was astounded. I could not believe or understand how grapes could produce such flavours.’

Scandinavian restaurants

Restaurant Palaegade – Copenhagen, Denmark

Parents’ habits

‘My parents are both chefs. Wine has been with every meal since I was a kid,’ said Christian Thorsholt Jacobsen, speaking when head sommelier at MASH in London.

‘My biggest faux pas’ – from the sommeliers

Maria Wallèn, head sommelier at London’s Coya, ‘My dad was trying to make his own wine in the cellar of our house in Sweden when I was young. I remember the smell of the yeast and the grapes fermenting. As well, my mother was always making her own mulled wine for Christmas. These memories are still so vivid.’

Florence restaurants, Barbere

Tobias Brauweiler speaking to Decanter when he was head sommelier at The Ritz in London, ‘Visits to our local pizzeria when I was a kid. My mum used to drink glasses of Gavi or Pinot Grigio served in 1.5-litre screwtop bottles, or Chianti in the traditional fiasco basket.’ He is now head sommelier at Hakkasan Hanway Place in London.

Johan Andersson, head sommelier at Restaurant Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm, ‘I was not more than 12 years old. I remember my dad drinking Black Tower from that black bottle. It got me excited and I always wanted to pull the cork.’

More on sommeliers:

No day is the same in a restaurant…

What were the hardest matches…?

Even the professionals make mistakes…

Habits that get under a sommelier’s skin…

What made them love wine…?

Some of the names to know…

How things have changed…

Could you challenge the world’s best sommelier?

Researchers compared Somms to ‘normal’ people…

Read our sommelier’s guide to making a complaint…

Share This