Bartosz Kopacz began his hospitality career in 1994, in his homeland of Poland, first becoming a bar supervisor for Blue Faith Shipping Company in 2001. During his four years with the ferry boat company, he achieved a Master of Rum’s certificate, a Diploma in flair bartending, and placed as a runner-up in Finlandia Vodka’s cocktail competition. In 2005, Bartosz relocated to London, where he was appointed bar manager for Mamilanji Private Members Club in Chelsea. In 2008 he moved to Moomba Bar and Kitchen in Putney, followed by two years at D+D London’s Royal Exchange from 2010-12. During the summer of 2012, Bartosz managed the Champagne Bar at Lord’s Cricket Ground. He was later appointed beverage manager at 1 Lombard Street in The City in 2012, and has since helped to develop the restaurant’s drinks and wine lists, alongside owner Soren Jessen.
What or who inspired you to become a sommelier?
I started as a bartender exploring cocktail mixology, and since moving to the UK in 2005, I have also developed my knowledge of wines. There is an incredible demand for great quality affordable wine, which is why I wanted to enhance my skills to be able to offer my guests the best experience. At 1 Lombard Street we have a large selection of fine wines at a really good price, so it is great to work with guests to find them something unusual and rare to enjoy.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Interacting with people and of course always trying new wines for the list. There is also a great sense of achievement after a busy service.
What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?
Some people think that it is an easy job. We spend a lot of time researching rare and unusual wines that we can put on our list at a great price.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
A good glass of red Burgundy or a Shiraz from Torbreck.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
One day when topping up a wine glass I used the water bottle and poured water into their wine glass.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a somm, what would it be?
Knowledge, knowledge and more knowledge.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
A glass of Blanc de Blanc Deutz Champagne.
What to date has been your most memorable wine experience?
Spanish hospitality! Visiting Peter Sisseck in the Ribera del Duero and tasting Pingus in their cellars. Also visiting Jerez and learning about Sherry with Antonio Flores.
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
When I hear “I don’t want to drink Chardonnay, so please give me a glass of Chablis”.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
Zdzislaw T. Nowicki. He established the Polish Bartenders Association and wrote several books on drinks and mixology, which sparked my passion and interest in wines and spirits.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
It has to be Burmester Colheita Port with Cote Hill blue cheese.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Most likely Spain.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing and why?
I have been in hospitality for so long that it is difficult to answer this question, but I do love motorbikes so perhaps I would be racing one.
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
I think it’s all about understanding wine, then you get along with everything.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?
All my customers are memorable, of course, but there is one person who sat at The Dome Bar and ordered four bottles of wine between two of them. A magnum of Musigny Blanc 1990, Meursault premier cru 2014, Richebourg 2003 and a Château Ausone 1998.
What makes you most proud to be a sommelier working in London?
Being surrounded by such incredible people from our industry.
What’s on your wine bucket list?
1811 Château d’Yquem or, Domaine Ponsot Chapelle – Chambertin, Grand Cru 1999, which is on our list for £280.
Finally, what wine and paired plate would you pick from your list and why?
I would go for beef tartare with glass of Talbot 2009 to start, and whole grilled dover sole with Kistler Chardonnay for a main course.