Food and wine are the twin pillars of any memorable meal; get the balance right, and you have the perfect dining experience. But while most people know exactly what dishes to choose, or are at least willing to take a risk, they can be a little less certain when it comes to wine. Doubt and hesitation can creep in all too easily, like smoke through a crack. This is where the knowledge and guidance of appropriately trained staff is key.
For lovers of wine (or oenophiles as they are known in the industry), wine is a labyrinthine landscape of hidden valleys, intricate pathways and exotic destinations to be explored. It’s an adventure, a journey — sometimes, in the case of the great vintages, even a pilgrimage.
But a certain, rather unpleasant brand of wine snobbery – one that thankfully is on its way out – has made others less than confident about choosing wines, particularly when the list you’re presented with is thicker than your arm. So having staff who love wine and are keen to share their passion in their guidance of others is essential.
And that’s what we have here at Chapter One. Yes, we have a sommelier, and it’s their huge knowledge and experience (and that of those who went before them) that underpin the quality of our cellar and, of course, our winelist, both of which have taken years of investment, passion and commitment to build into something we believe is truly special.
We also actively encourage anyone who wants to, to study wine in a formal capacity. This way, not only do they qualify and get another string to their professional bow, but our staff deepen their knowledge and passion about wine in ways that build a customer’s trust and confidence in their opinion.
The natural consequence of this is that staff are happier and better positioned to guide customers. So at busy times, say, when the sommelier is at another table for longer than usual, we have a host of other qualified, passionate people who are more than happy to help guests choose a wine that will complement their meal.
Even better, they might just nudge the tentative wine drinker to think of the meal ahead as an adventure all their own, with a personal ‘wine sherpa’ to guide them through the unknown and unfamiliar. When that happens, we know we’ve succeeded in making their experience with us the best it can be.
They shouldn’t expect anything less – and we wouldn’t want them to.