Head Sommelier – The Connaught
There’s a reason Hélène Darroze’s restaurant at The Connaught has such a strong reputation for stocking crowd-pleasing wines with a good pedigree, and that reason is Daniel Manetti, the hotel’s ardent head sommelier in charge of a 111-page drinks card. Manetti joined the two-Michelin-starred venue six years ago. Before that, he was still studying his Level 3 Award with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), while working at The Dorchester as a commis sommelier. For Manetti, it was the sheer scale of The Connaught’s cellar that motivated him to move.
“Although I was coming from Alain Ducasse’s three-Michelin-star restaurant, which had a cellar of around 800 bottles, I was potentially moving into a higher position at a hotel with an incredible 2,000-bin wine list.” He left in February 2015 for a brief stint working for cruise liner Seabourne, before returning to The Connaught as deputy head sommelier a year later. Manetti grew up in the small town of Fucecchio, 35 minutes from Florence in Tuscany.
Like many sommeliers, he was engrossed in the viticultural world at an early age: his grandfather had a hectare of vines and made wine for family and friends in a traditional ‘fiasco’ straw-covered bottle. The oenophile may be fascinated by the hotel’s collection, but for him customer service is the best part of the job. “You must always understand who is in front of you and adapt accordingly. Good storytelling can be a part of this. Your aim is to create a relationship with the guests and get their trust.” Manetti learned this the hard way in his early career. He told us one of his most embarrassing front-of-house moments came when he was obsessed with the ever-trendy orange wine movement.
“I was advising this orange wine to a guest looking for a suggestion to pair with his foie gras; I was talking about the wine with so much passion and enthusiasm that the guest was compelled to taste it. “When he tasted it, I could understand his horrible expression, and still he was trying to say he liked it. Probably because he was sorry to tell me the truth, or probably after the poetic description I gave.”
Manetti, it should come as no surprise, is a perfectionist. His biggest bugbear on the job is finding out he “could’ve done better” to find the perfect serve for his diners. If he could go back in time, he would tell his younger self to read magazines, brochures and menus, travel to as many vineyards as possible and immerse himself in the culture of each region to “constantly be updated on new trends, new products and new scenarios”.