Wieteke Teppema will be opening restaurant and bar Gezellig in collaboration with chef Graham Long and general manager James Comyn, with Teppema taking the role of sommelier and wine buyer. Beginning her professional career in media, Teppema changed direction in 2006 to become a commis sommelier at Prism Restaurant in the City before stints at two-starred Michelin restaurants The Square and The Ledbury. Following her position as head sommelier and wine buyer at Viajante Restaurant, Teppema moved into on-trade sales for Roberson Wines until 2015 and then Howard Ripley Wines until 2018, during which time she also consulted as sommelier for Trinity.
What or who inspired you to become a sommelier?
I wanted a job that made me use my head and was physical. I looked at becoming a carpenter, a landscaper or a nurse. By chance, I was offered a commis sommelier job at one of the restaurants at Harvey Nichols, where I worked with head sommelier Louise Gordon who introduced me to the wonderful world of wine.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I love that I’ll never get to know it all. Wine is forever evolving, new regions are establishing themselves, and producers come and go. I’ll be 85 and still looking up some an obscure grape variety.
What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?
That we are there to encourage guests to spend more than they want on wine, and that we are paid to drink.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Cold, cheap lager.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
Whilst attempting to decant a bottle of 1996 Palmer at the table, I accidentally pushed the cork back into the bottle. Wine exploded all over me, the guests’ table and the two tables either side. It was quite spectacular.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a sommelier, what
would it be?
Get insoles for your shoes, and don’t eat pizza after work at 2am.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
Château Musar 1996 – I had never tried a wine with bottle age (it was ten years old at the time) and the flavours were so totally different to what I understood wine to be.
What to date has been your most memorable wine experience?
Doing the 2009 harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot in Burgundy. We had three large meals a day, casse-croûte twice a day, and wine supplied at each – and we might have picked some grapes in between!
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
Putting the bottle upside down in the ice bucket when it’s finished.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
Phil Howard. He is a wonderful advocate for our industry; still cooking and excited about flavour. Plus, he is a genuinely lovely person with a wicked sense of humour.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Riesling with anything.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Any Greek island.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing and why?
A carpenter, a landscaper or a nurse.
Which grape or style do you find it impossible to get along with?
Gewürztraminer – it has no redeeming features.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?
George Michael. Why? He was George Michael.
What makes you most proud to be a sommelier working in London?
The scope of wine served in London is impressive. Drinkers can try iconic wines with age and be open-minded enough to try varieties and regions that are unfamiliar to them. It’s something I try to reflect in our wine list.
What’s on your wine bucket list?
To try a drop of 18th century Madeira that has been salvaged from a shipwreck.
Finally, what wine and paired plate would you pick from your list and why?
We have a veal sweetbread slider with truffle coleslaw on our bar menu which is divine with the 2012 JJ Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese we have by the glass.
* Gezellig was ranked 48th in Wine List Confidential’s 2019 guide to the best restaurants in London for wine. To see is full review, please click here.