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Photo for: Monica Bacchiocchi at the Wiltons Restaurant

Interviews

Monica Bacchiocchi at the Wiltons Restaurant

10/01/2022

There are several reasons why Monica Bacchiocchi loves her job, but the main one is when a guest turns back before leaving to shake her hand and say thank you.

Where do you currently work?

Wiltons Restaurant - Assistant Head Sommelier.

Tell us more about yourself.

I like to present myself as a passionate professional, and I think it explains a lot about my role. I was born in Italy, the land of a thousand wines. I believe that hospitality is in my genes as, even though my studies weren't leading me in that direction, I've always known that was my path. I make my story through my feelings and passions. That's why I am a Sommelier!

Monica Bacchiocchi, Assistant Head Sommelier at Wiltons Restaurant.

Why did you want to become a sommelier?

My interest in wines started in London. I used to work for a restaurant which required the staff to take a test to increase salary and therefore position. I sat down and it was like thunder on a sunny day, everything made sense! It was like connecting the points of a bigger picture. The logic of wines, that's what I called it.

And I felt like I wanted to know more and more, and the more I knew the more it made sense. I loved wonder in that world that for most looks only like entertainment, for me looked like art. And I wanted to be an art expert! A very romantic vision, but what is a Sommelier if not someone who makes you feel in love with wines?!

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

Sommeliers are becoming very precious. It's a hard time for London in terms of shortage of staff. It's becoming a luxury having an active Sommelier in the restaurants and holding onto it.

What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier to have?

The most important skill you need to have to be a great Sommelier is the passion for the job. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that this is just a way to get paid to talk about wines. I met a lot of those on my path. Being a Sommelier is much more complex than that. It's about metal flexibility in prioritising tasks.

I think that previous experience in working in a busy environment is essential to be successful on the job, it helps you organise your time at best to manage to cut some time to have an interesting chat with a connoisseur. And good shoes are crucial!!! Cellars are always far!

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

Having an active role on the floor makes it easy to decide what the next buy will be. It's about listening to your customers. Personal taste will inevitably have the final word, because at the end of the day good sales are made when you're convinced you're selling the best.

Your favorite places to enjoy a great glass of wine in London?

I personally have two favourites. The first is Hide in Green Park. They have an incredible selection of wines, both by the glass and by bottle. They have a great backup from the Hedonism shop which stores the best wines in the world! Happened more than once that I ended up going to the shop and buying the wine I drank in the restaurant! If Hedonism didn't think about opening a restaurant with their wine they should have had.

The second is Noble Rot. I really enjoy everything about that place! Great wines, big labels served with Coravin. Last time I had a glass of Clos de la Roche 06 with my main course. Brilliant!

What is your approach to matching food and wine?

Obviously the main guidelines of matching are like commandments for sommeliers, but then playing around it is the fun part. When I'm asked what wine to pair I think about what I personally would drink with that particular dish. I sometimes love some extreme pairing but I keep them for lionhearted guests.

Choosing the food as best matching for a wine, I try to break down the bouquet of aromas, getting the best trait to exalt and then going from that. 

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

It is like asking which of your kids you love the most. I think I have different favourites for different occasions but Burgundy is usually my wonderland. I love finding minerality in whites.

I love Puligny Montrachet and the versatility of the mineral profile, but honestly I'd die for a great mineral petrolly german Riesling. For reds I prefer to have a light elegant peppery structure. I recently became a great fan of Vosne-Romanée. Give me a wonderful Barbaresco and I would be very happy too!

What's the best part of your job?

I can tell you it's trying wines, but nothing beats having customers turning back before they leave to come and shake your hand and say thank you.

What are 5 challenges you normally face in your job and how do you tackle them?

Mis en place. The most important thing is to be prepared or you'll end up running behind the whole day. Preparation and a good checklist are essential. 

Wine Temperature.

There are no fridges big enough to contain the whole stock. Active Replacement is very important.

Vintages.

Alway check what vintage has been served.

Happens that there is only 1 bottle of the stated vintage left. Good is to sign it and act accordingly for the next sale 
Guests profile.

Regulars want to feel at home and it's good to remember drinking habits. Briefings are very important 
86s.

86 is the hospitality code to say one item is out of stock.

Keep the 86s list up to date to avoid the embarrassing situation of going back to the guests and inform of the shortage.

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

One of my best pairing is an aged Rioja (I love the Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904) with confit duck, sesame seeds and crispy kale. Also try an alsatian Riesling with a slow cooked spicy Beef cheek, amazing together!

Any tips for wine brands trying to grow in on-trade and how they can help sommeliers?

It's a two-way relationship. Wine brands need Sommeliers to know them and to appreciate them in order to hit the final consumer, and from the Sommeliers point of view you are getting experience and knowledge.

What's your personal career goal? And how are you investing or planning to get there?

As assistant Head Sommelier my next step will be Head Sommelier. Banal I know but it's still the goal I set when I started my career. I'm investing in education, making my WSET Dip, and getting experience going to as many wine tastings I can. I'm waiting for the day I'll say "I made it!" And decide for the next goal.

Give us one good story that you remember of a customer and you.

There are a lot of stories worth remembering, but I have a favourite one. London is a very busy city and sometimes you're working without being noticed. After a few years of working in the big city I tried my luck in Bath. One day a theatre producer who was often coming to dine where I used to work stepped inside my restaurant.

I recognised him straight away and I went to the table at once with two glasses of Rosè for him and his guest. He was shocked at being approached with his favourite aperitif in a city that wasn't his. I explained the situation and he remembered me soon enough. We had a very interesting chat and a choice of wine to follow. Before they left he came back to me to shake my hand and say "thank you".

That's why I love my job!