Elvis Ziakos, the head sommelier at two Michelin-starred The Greenhouse in Mayfair, manages one of the most comprehensive lists in London. Described by Zeren Wilson on Wine List Confidential as “a supermodel of a collection” and “pretty much peerless”, Ziakos’s list runs to more than 3,800 labels – stored in four separate cellars – with huge verticals of everything from Francois Raveneau Chablis to Penfolds Grange. Head sommelier at The Greenhouse since 2013, the former Best Sommelier in Greece has previously held sommelier positions at two Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing Restaurant at the Berkeley, in London, and two Michelin-starred Spondi in Athens.
What’s your vintage?
I was born in 1976, one of the warmest vintages in history. Well known for great Champagnes and sweet wines.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Perhaps surprisingly I love ending my day with a cup of herbal tea – I particularly like verbena which I often pick and bring back with me from Greece. Drinking in moderation is essential to be an effective sommelier.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
Touch wood, I haven’t had one so far.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a somm, what would it be?
Something which I have already worked with: discipline, focus and humility.
Has a single wine ever given you an epiphany?
For me wine itself is lifestyle! As Ernest Hemingway said: “Wine is the most civilised thing in the world!”
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
In our profession you have to be flexible enough to deal with any challenge.
Who is you inspiration in the gastronomic world?
My employer Marlon Abela is a food and wine hero. He enjoyed an epicurean upbringing from a very young age with a full immersion in the world of fine dining. His excitement, and his passion for ingredients and wine is infectious.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
I am fortunate in that I have enjoyed many! One of the recent memorable pairings was by The Greenhouse chef Arnaud Bignon – he prepared pan-fried foie gras with araguani chocolate, bitter leaves and Tasmanian pepper that positively enlivens one’s palate. The Stephane Ogier Condrieu La Combe Malleval 2014 complements the dish perfectly. Its exotic and floral complexity, combined with sultry texture with creamy edge, lingers with the spiced minerals which accentuate and contrast with the dish.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
The Greek island of Santorini.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing?
I am dedicated to delivering epicurean excellence: I love cooking and so could see myself still in a restaurant but as a chef.
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
Wines without any identity, balance and quality.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served?
All customers to me are memorable! Everyone as a human being has their own character and as a sommelier you have to follow and adapt. I enjoy the challenge of a customer who has a deep knowledge about wine in the same way that I do serving customer without that understanding.
What’s your biggest occupational hazard?
Great wines which are corked and oxidised.