In this exclusive interview with Davide Santeramo, the Senior Sommelier at The Ritz, we dive into the trends shaping wine choices, explore unique selections, and uncover the art of perfect pairings. Discover Davide's personal favorites, the secrets behind crafting flavorful experiences, and how The Ritz makes the world of luxury wines accessible to all patrons.
1.Davide, in your role at The Ritz London, how do you see the luxury hospitality trends influencing the wine choices offered to patrons, and what makes The Ritz's wine selection unique?
Image Source: The Ritz
Whilst it is inevitable you must be aware of the current trends in the industry, in my humble opinion, they are not there to be followed strictly. Our expertise as Sommeliers, developed through years of training, should help us to read and understand trends. From this, we may anticipate the requests or queries of our guests and adjust our suggestions with products that fall similar to the trends, whilst showing a touch of authenticity to our selection. All purchasing decisions should be aligned with the concept of the restaurant, as by solely following trends you could create a disconnect between the wine offerings and the style of the restaurant.
Buying directly from Domaines and Chateaus, as well as creating strong relationships with our suppliers, helps to give to our wine list a well-balanced offering of wines, able to satisfy, if not exceed, all potential requests. Certainly, having different collections of wines from highly recognised estates, such as Domaine Leflaive, Egon Muller, Louis Roederer, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Domaine de la Romanee Conti also give our wine list an extra prestigious touch.
2. Share some of your personal favourite wines from The Ritz London's selection. What qualities make these wines stand out for you in the context of luxury hospitality?
Louis Roederer Cristal 2002, Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes Pierre Yves Colin Morey 2019, Chateau Palmer 2005. These are the first three wines which come to mind, but there are many more I could mention. All these wines, in my opinion, are the reflection of the word “Luxury”. They are wines which are produced from some of the best estates in the world, all made with extreme attention to detail. From the vine growing to the winemaking and bottling, nothing is left to chance. This reflects what we do here at The Ritz London, being attentive to every detail, which makes us stand out from the crowd.
To increase the prestige of the wine list it is necessary to have some wine gems that create a strong impact, in the eyes of our guests, who are looking for the finest expression of wines. Additionally, being able to find extremely rare wines can help once again to increase the value of the wine list and brand, for example we are one of the few restaurants world-wide serving the rare, sweet wine “Leon XIII” from Gonzalez Byass, which only had 78 bottles made, with production dating back to the 1850s.
Image Soucre: Davide Santeramo
3. Crafting a perfect pairing is an art. Could you provide some recommendations for ideal wine and food pairings from The Ritz's menu, creating a symphony of flavours for patrons?
One of my favourite pairings here at The Ritz Restaurant is the Ballotine of Duck Liver, which has been marinated in Sauternes and Armagnac, wrapped in a spiced port jelly, served with a pistachio frangipane Bakewell and homemade brioche bread. To match this dish, I love a Kabinett Riesling Scharzofberger from Egon Muller 2015, where the sweetness of the wine perfectly matches the richness of the dish. Additionally, the natural, high acidity of the wine creates a mouth-watering sensation that helps to clean the palate, preparing it for the second bite, so that it is as exciting as the first.
Another favourite of mine is the Banana and Caramel Parfait, which includes a salted caramel parfait, banana diplomat rolled in puff pastry wafers, banana ice cream rolled in a sugar tuile, all set on vanilla shortbread and homemade fudge. My beloved pairing for this is a Tokaji 6 Puttonyos Aszu’, Disznokô 2016 as this pairs with the caramel aromatics of the dessert, while adding complexity from the hints of candied orange peel and saffron. The bright acidity retained by the wine also gives a delicious lingering aftertaste.
4. Luxury comes with an appreciation for the finer things. How does The Ritz London approach educating patrons about the nuances of fine wines, enriching their overall dining experience?
As we know, The Ritz London carries an iconic reputation in the industry and this allows us to be an enticing destination for producers, where they would like to see their wines being sold. We are lucky to have The Ritz London’s encouragement in the organisation of Sommelier team masterclasses. We are also often invited to supplier portfolio tastings and educational wine trips, which are essential to understand the vision of the Domaine. This all consequently permits us as Sommeliers to convey the history and culture of the Estate to the guest, enhancing the overall dining experience.
5. Making luxury accessible is an art. How does The Ritz London make its luxury wine offerings approachable to patrons, ensuring they feel comfortable exploring the extensive selection?
The duty of a good Sommelier is to showcase the intriguing world of wine and lead guests through their own unique journey. We are at their side, available to be as involved or not, as the guest wishes, allowing them to enjoy full comfort whilst dining. We are also lucky enough to have today’s technology come to our assistance with the Coravin, a tool which allows us to offer prestige wines by the glass, therefore reaching a wider clientele, as we bypass the obligation to purchase a full bottle. In this way, we offer our guests the rare opportunity to taste very fine wine at a more appealing price.