Ali aged 25, has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Previously Assistant Head Sommelier at Michelin starred Murano, she is now Assistant Beverage Manager at Cubbitt House. Her approach to wine is dynamic, warm and well informed.
When did you first begin working with wine?
I had been working part-time for various hospitality companies during my last 2 years at university and after a post-graduation jolly around Australia - with my newly awarded WSET level 2 – I managed to sneak a job as a commis sommelier at Murano.
Marc-Andrea Levy and Bastien Ferreri whipped my arse in to some kind of service shape and after 2 years I became assistant head.
Within my first couple of weeks the restaurant hosted a special dinner with Jean-Charles Abbatucci and it was my first glimpse into just how much I could learn there, if I could only put up with the Frenchmen long enough.
How would you describe your style of service?
Guests know more about food and wine than ever before thanks to all the new openings, cheaper global travel, the number of television shows etc. and will not accept being talked down to.
The easiest way to engage someone enough that they trust your recommendations is through passion - for the wine, for the producer – and a genuine desire to fulfil the guest's needs.
Please can you describe an inspired wine moment?
Drinking what was probably the last bottle in existence of the mythical Els Jelipins White 2006 (from her neighbour’s old vines that were scrubbed up the following year) at the estate with some of my closest friends. It was an incredibly special day.
What advice/knowledge would you pass on to anyone who aspires to work with wine?
Taste lots and ask as many questions as you can.
Try to trust your own palate – we can only ever attempt to understand a wine through our own perception so if you like or don't like something, that's ok.
What do you think affects the experience of a guest the most (other than the wine itself)?
Some kind of backstory. We're emotional beings and it's beneficial to have something other than a physical reaction to a wine.
Lots of wine is technically well-made, emotion helps to distinguish what you want to drink or sell on a regular basis.
If you were to champion anything, what would it be? (e.g. region, grape, style etc)
I'm a bit of a sucker for Cabernet Franc
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
Watching that light go on when a guest or member of staff tastes a wine for the first time and they form an instant connection with it.
And obviously terrorising MAL(Mark Andrea Levy)…
What would be your wine choice in the following situations…
Clos Rougeard "Les Poyeaux" - though it would be drunk quickly, before I burnt to a crisp
"Le Vallon", Henri Milan - in magnum, obviously!
Vincent Dancer’s Bourgogne Blanc
"Le Mont Benoit" by Emmanuel Brochet for some classy bubbles
Tell us your wine secret….
If there’s nothing good on offer, drink gin.