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Know Your Sommeliers: Erik Simonics

Erik Simonics- Head of Wine and Head Sommelier at Caprice Holdings Ltd shares experience of his tenure at various luxury establishments and hospitality management study.

I was born and raised in Slovakia. I moved to London in 2010 and started my sommelier career at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, followed by French fine dining restaurant Orrery. In 2012 I moved to one of the most iconic hotels in London, the Savoy, where I spent 4 years. I was also looking after the wine program at the newly opened La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square. The restaurant of one of the most famous chefs in the world, Anne Sophie Pic. I'm currently holding the Head of Wine position at Annabel's private members' club in Mayfair.

1. Your current place of work / Last place of work.

Annabel's. Private Club In its home at 46 Berkeley Square, just two doors down from where it all began in 1963, Annabel's has been transformed into an all-day and all-night private Members' Club. At its core, Annabel's remains a place to entertain and be entertained.

Matteo's Restaurant is the most recent addition to Annabel's, located on the second floor of The Mews House, offering a wide selection of the finest Italian dishes and wines, with decadent interiors paying homage to the original Annabel's.

2. Why did you want to become a sommelier?

I fell in love with wine while I was studying hospitality in college. I was very passionate about learning more and more about the subject and tasting new wines. Luckily, I was surrounded by people who shared the same passion for wine who supported each other to become great sommeliers. If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

3. How according to you has the role of the sommelier evolved, especially now during covid times?

This pandemic has challenged all of us. Everybody has to do their very best to survive daily. I think the sommelier scene has got stronger and more creative by thinking out of the box. Finding new ways to be closer to their guests, engaging more with others, doing wine tutorials, Zoom tasting, and so on. Technology has played a big part in this.

Eric and his team at Annabel's

4. What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier?

Number one will always be hospitality skills. You are there to provide an extraordinary wine experience to your guests. The one, they will always remember and will be happy to return to your restaurant. It's also important to have a genuine love for wine and a passion for learning. It is a hard job that requires lots of studying, flexibility, long hours, and a lack of work-life balance. On the other hand, it is a very rewarding profession that can teach you a lot.

5. What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier?

Number one will always be hospitality skills. You are there to provide an extraordinary wine experience to your guests. The one, they will always remember and will be happy to return to your restaurant. It's also important to have a genuine love for wine and a passion for learning. It is a hard job that requires lots of studying, flexibility, long hours, and a lack of work-life balance. On the other hand, it is a very rewarding profession that can teach you a lot.

6. What do you look for when you plan to buy wine for your business? 

There are a lot of aspects to consider when purchasing wines, season, current offers, menu changes, your budget, drinking habits, and so on. However, the most important thing is what your guests want. There is no point to purchase a wine that you won't be able to sell, it is just a bad purchasing decision. It is important to understand who you are selling to, gather some feedback on the wine list, listen to your guests, and analyze your sales mix. 

7. Your favorite places to enjoy great wine in London?

There are a lot of places to enjoy a great glass of wine. Some of the top ones would be Andrew Edmunds, 10 Cases, Noble rot, or my local Hungarian restaurant, The Rosemary, which offers excellent wines from Hungary or even Slovakia.

8. What is your approach to matching food and wine?

It needs to be teamwork. I don't like when one person decides which wine is the best with a certain dish, it could be the worst matching. Chefs must be involved in finding the perfect wine with their dish. It is important to taste it together with the chef to understand the dish and also for the chef to understand the wine you are about to pair it with. It is also important to give your sommeliers the opportunity to express themselves, to talk about the pairing, and find the perfect matching together, as a team.

9. If you had to pick one red and one white wine as your personal best? which wines would they be?

For the white, it would be Corton-Charlemagne Roulot 2016 (left) and for the red Cos d'Estournel 1982 (right).

10. What's the best part of your job?

Working with people who share the same passion for wine. It is great to be in a team where you have the same goal, to be the best you can be.

11. What movies and TV shows are you watching or recommend on Netflix or Amazon Prime in this Covid-19 times? 

I'm a big foodie guy so everything about food. Chef's table is a great way to learn about the top chefs in the World. As well as the Final table, Street Food or Somebody feed Phil.

12. Any favorite food and wine pairing suggestions for London drinks enthusiasts?

I mean nothing beats a chilled glass of champagne with freshly opened oyster. Classic, but super delicious.

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