Head sommelier – Margot
Italian wine is one of the world’s great joys and also one of its greatest headaches. It’s claimed that even most Italians don’t fully understand it, but one who does, luckily, is Sabrina Manolio at Covent Garden restaurant Margot.
Previously based at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Manolio is, naturally, equally well versed in French wines too. While it may be an Italian restaurant, Margot is not slavishly devoted to only offering up drops from her home country. Although Italian wines make up the bulk of the 350-bin list (about 45%), the rest are split between the Old and New Worlds, with an especially strong Champagne component. This is all excellent stuff to play with for someone like Manolio, whose mantra is that wine is central to any restaurant experience. There’s nothing sadder, in her opinion, than the refusing hand placed over a glass. “I would prefer to stay home rather than go to the restaurant and have tap water to complement my dish,” she says.
You get her point when she begins enthusing about matching Alsatian Gewürztraminer with pumpkin and ricotta ravioli or Isola e Olena’s Chardonnay with smoked eel and roasted pineapple. For Manolio there’s nothing better than finding a customer to share ‘the moment’ with, and that makes the back and forth between a sommelier and diner intrinsic to the evening. “The guest that you can laugh with and know you made their visit more special is great, and after a tough day at work you’re kind of satisfied and proud of what you have done,” she explains.
In part this is thanks to her love of passing on knowledge. If it hadn’t been for wine and the hospitality trade, she reckons she would have continued her studies and carved out a career as a teacher instead. “I love the idea of passing on what’s ‘mine’ to others.” In that vein she’s keen to take in everything she possibly can and not miss a thing, because, she says: “I would prefer to regret something I did rather than something I wished I could have done.”