Unfiltered: Gino Nardella MS, The Game Bird

Master Sommelier Gino Nardella began working at The Stafford hotel in London in 1976, and has spent more than 40 years curating its vast wine list and 17th century cellar.

At nearly 400 years old, The Stafford boasts the oldest wine cellars in London, built in the 17th century by Lord Francis Godolphin, and used as an air-raid shelter in World War Two.

Today, the hotel’s working cellars house up to 8,000 bottles, including many rare and precious vintages. Gino also oversees the wine service in The Stafford’s recently relaunched restaurant, The Game Bird.

What’s your vintage?

1954. I can only hope that all those born in that year are in better shape than the wines from the same vintage!

What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Late at night, I like nothing better than a glass of Yamazaki 18-year-old single malt whisky (only a quarter of the bottle now left). Perhaps it is its smoothness that makes me forget all the challenges the day has just thrown at me!

What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
Distracted, I once poured the wine from one table into the glasses of another. I promise I was sober!

If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a somm, what would it be?
To spend time working in a kitchen to understand the flavours of food before embarking on what becomes a life journey as a sommelier. To have knowledge of flavours and the way each wine affects these is something extremely important for a sommelier.

Has a single wine ever given you an epiphany?
It’s a tough one. I don’t quite know that I have had an epiphany from a wine, but I have certainly had many moments I love to remember! It’s the well-made wines that are accessible to everyone that are particularly special to me. Recently I enjoyed a magnificent bottle of Egomei, Finca Egomei, Rioja 2010. Delicious red and very affordable.

Which customer habit annoys you the most?
Every customer has their habits, good or bad, but it is up to us to adapt our service to accommodate these.

Who is you inspiration in the gastronomic world?
Gastronomic geniuses like Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal and Massimo Bottura. Their creativity and inquisitiveness has transformed our understanding of food.

What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Almost anything with a great white or red Burgundy.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
In the grounds of Buckingham Palace! I wonder whether I would be granted the Royal Warrant by Her Majesty?

If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing?
A mathematician. I have always been fascinated by numbers and by those who use mathematics to solve problems.

Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
I am definitely not a fan of homogenised and mass produced wines that aren’t an expression of the country, terroir and of the grapes from where they originate.

Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served?
I see important guests walking through our restaurant doors every day. It’s the guests I greet every day that are my memorable clients.

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