Unfiltered: Zareh Mesrobyan, Cliveden House

Zareh Mesrobyan started his career as a commis sommelier at Chewton Glen before moving to Ormer Mayfair. There, under the guidance of Andreas Rosendal, he passed the CMS introductory, certified and advanced certificates in 14 months. From Ormer, he moved Scotland’s only two Michelin-starred restaurant, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, where he won the first UK Gaggenau Sommelier Competition. This gave him the chance to represent the UK at the global final in China later the same year. Mesrobyan now oversees the wine programme at Cliveden House in Berkshire, a hotel known for its association with the Royal Wedding.

How did you arrive at the position you are in today?

Ludicrously long hours and by replacing Facebook with Guildsomm.com.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Meeting winemakers and being able to tell their story to the customer. That gives an appreciation of how much effort goes into a bottle of wine.

What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?

That you drink wine all day, the role includes less glamorous things such as sorting out deliveries, working with excel and polishing glasses.

What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?

After spending a year in Scotland, a Speyside whisky.

What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?

I saw, from the somm station, that a commis sommelier was pouring a bottle of Romanée St Vivant Leroy to the wrong table. It was a bottle that a guest brought in, so we didn’t have another one to replace it. The solution was to give a bottle of DRC complimentary, but it turned out that the guest is a huge fan on Leroy but doesn’t like DRC at all!

If you could give your younger self advice when starting out, what would it be?

Enjoy the present more.

What bottle sparked your love of wine?

Cristal 2002 actually. I was working as a waiter in Bulgaria and this was the first Champagne I tried.

Which customer habit annoys you the most?

When you ask “still or sparkling water?” and they answer “yes”.

Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?

Ronan Sayburn MS and Andrew Fairlie.

What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?

Port and Stilton.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?

The Moon Grand Cru AOC.

If you weren’t working in the restaurant industry, what would you be doing and why?

I would be unemployed, most likely.

Which wine do you find it impossible to get along with?

I am possibly the only sommelier who doesn’t get along with Sherry.

Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?

It was Lisa Kudrow and I just couldn’t unsee Phoebe.

What makes you most proud to be working in London?

Being part of such a multicultural society and one of the most dynamic wine markets.

What’s on your wine bucket list?

A trip to California with a lot of low-alcohol aged Cabernets, hopefully, someday.

Finally, what wine and paired plate would you pick from your list and why?

Truffle Risotto paired with Barbaresco Reyna Michele Chiarlo as the wine changes completely and softens after the risotto.

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