In this fifth installment of our Sommelier Spotlight series, I speak with Beatrice Bessi who is the Head Sommelier of the Chiltern Firehouse in London.
Photo: Beatrice Bessi
What are the biggest challenges and how can producers/importers/consumers support you better considering these issues?
Beatrice: Right now, our biggest challenge is finding staff. Due to Covid and Brexit, all restaurants are looking for people. There is a big fight for the best sommeliers. Hence restaurants not only need to offer a competitive salary but also more value by investing in a sustainable workplace, training, courses, etc. I am not sure if 2022 is going to be much better. Also when employees had to isolate due to Covid, we were shorter in staff and thus had to accept fewer covers. I welcome that producers from France started to come back in October and that most of the suppliers started to do more tastings again too.
When you think of European cool climate regions like Alto Adige, Austria, and Germany, what would you be interested in tasting & learning more from/about?
Beatrice: We are a big supporter of these regions which reflects well on our wine list. Through my preparations for the MS and WSET diploma exams, I am constantly learning and participating in tastings when possible. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board organized a terrific online tasting last fall!
Where do you see advantages for these regions in your restaurant?
Beatrice: These regions offer the best varieties of the world, many different styles, and a big choice of quality producers, so we represent them. The versatility offers us to play around with these wines and have consumers try new things. The natural accessibility of these wines excites us. Especially now we want to keep the passion for small regions of high quality and their wines alive.
What are your hopes for next year?
Beatrice: We hope it’s going to change for the better. These are all hard challenges, and ask us to adapt to massive changes. We need better support from the government because restaurants can’t continue like this. But we’ll bounce back from it, I know it!
Thank you Beatrice for your insightful interview.