Behind the Label – Jan Konetzki of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

To celebrate ‘Febvreuary’ Jan Konetzki flew over to Dublin to give a talk to the trade about ‘Shaking Up Your Wine List’. Jan is the head sommelier at three star Michelin Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London since 2010; he is a young, passionate, enthusiastic and affable guy from Germany. Jan was delighted to share his knowledge honestly, whilst keeping everyone’s attention. One of the few talks where no-one uttered a word whilst Jan shared with us his experiences and keys to keeping your list fresh, interesting and approachable. Although very busy while he was in Dublin, The Taste was fortunate enough to get a few minutes with this superstar and discover a little more about the man behind the list that can change twice daily!

Is it true that you will be leaving Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and if so what is your next destination?

It is true, I will be leaving at the end of the February. I need some time away, I will be heading to Thailand to relax, re-set my buttons after which I will work as a freelance sommelier.

Which grape do you believe is the most flexible food wise?

Pinot Noir. From Burgundy to California to New Zealand, you have very different styles.

What upsets you most about wine?

Honestly it’s your drink, whatever you like you can do, I’m not drinking the wine that you are, you are the guest plus you are paying for it. With the industry it would be that there is no legislation for labeling what is in wine; you have to write about the sulphites but not all the other additives. Not everyone has the same salary and with some of the cheap wines they add all sorts. So that is what upsets me, there is very little transparency with it..

You are a sherry lover, how would you persuade people into trying it?

The price will never increase, it is a very flexible drink, there is more to it than what was in your grandmothers cupboard.

What would be your top five points to consider when designing a wine list?

Well, first who’s serving it, the establishment, who’s drinking it, flavour profiles, give the customer something to explore and don’t leave anyone out. You want to supply a good mix of well known names with some niche wines, do they have character, can they hold themselves? People will come back if you don’t work them too hard, a little bit of work is good, gentle persuasion is best.

When you go out what excites you about a list?

Personality and character; if someone puts something together that works well for them and offers diversity in the price range I want, everyone wants to find that treasure.

What would be a your key piece of advice to people when they go out?

Steer to what is unknown, regions, grape varieties, countries. They have been put there because of either they cannot afford anything else or they want to show you something different, they can’t put the same margin on it as it isn’t as well known. Just keep trying new things.

What is the most memorable wine you have had?

It was an 1861 Quinta Noval port, it was an experience and had character.

You have an app for German wines, would you have a preference for German wines?

Yes, WineMeister, my friends Eike and Henning Thole and I created an app to assist people in Germany to be able to select the right wine for them from a supermarket shelf. There are also tips and videos on it. I wouldn’t say German wines are my favourite, I left Germany over nine years ago, I would actually say I would be more knowledgeable about Burgundy.

What are you most proud of?

It would be winning Moët UK sommelier of the year 2012. It is possibly a once in a lifetime achievement. It was tough but it was also fun.

Before we go, can you describe Gordon in one word?

Inspiring, he is also very funny.

Yan is a dynamic and interesting man yet quite humble and during his talk he made some great points for those in the trade but they can also be applied in our personal lives. Instead of using ice add frozen grapes, rather than play it safe be a bit more bold and adventurous. If you are a consumer talk to the sommelier or staff in your wine shop and tell them what you like and allow them to guide you, to take you on a journey of discovery; when you consider how much work and how many wines there are it is a valid and exciting point. So be brave and explore the wide and wonderful world of wine and maybe bring a friend with you.

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