We love a drop of wine here at EX, but we’d never class ourselves as connoisseurs. Unlike this chap, Stéphane Soret, the Wine Director of Raffles Hotel…
When did you become interested in wine?
I grew up in Provence near the Southern Rhône vineyards so it was natural to take an interest, but I vividly remember the aroma when I visited Chateau Grillet, an exclusive 3.5-hectare wine-growing region near Vienne that produces white wine from Viognier grapes. I was 18. I then studied classic French cuisine, followed by wine, and as soon as I realised the depth of the subject, I knew that I wanted to take it all the way on a lifetime journey.
Are you a classic French or new world wine man?
It really depends. Professionally, my taste must be impartial as I am looking out for and discovering the best quality price ratio for my customers in a wine regardless of the origins. However, traceability and sense of place must be prominent. Anyone can write a wine list with the usual favourites; the wine education starts by paying attention to the appellation rather than the brand, being open-minded and taking comfort in and trusting your own palate. Personally, it’s hard to say as it really depends who I’m with, where in the world I am and the food and the mood.
What are the up-and-coming regions and varieties to look out for?
I am currently serving Koshu from Japan. It’s an exciting white aromatic grape from the Yamanashi prefecture. I discovered this while I was blind-tasting last year as a judge on the Asian wine production panel (I spit so my customers don’t have to). I think it’s crucial to support wine production in this part of the world in order to make wine a bigger part of the Asian culture. It really is worth monitoring quality production out of India, Thailand, China and Japan.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when pairing wine with their food?
Most people I talk to about wine do not have any confidence because wine is a complex subject and my job is to attempt to simplify it, so pairing wine and food is where trial and error should be taking place. However, my advice is to know your classic pairing first before venturing further into new experiences. A chef must know how to perfectly execute Béarnaise sauce before creating his own, right? Wine is essential to food pairing, just like a condiment. The wine must be in total harmony with the food and you have to match everything – colour (yes, colour!), style, texture and body – and, most importantly, have fun with it as well.
If you were told you could only ever drink one more bottle of wine, what would it be?
This is always one tough question, but it would be three classic picks from Champagne, White Burgundy and Red Bordeaux.