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Romain Audrerie, a sommelier from Chiltern Firehouse
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a sommelier

By Kelly Pigram

…according to Romain Audrerie, 38.

A sommelier’s job is to help, not to judge…

‘Ordering wine is a psychologically demanding action. It’s my job to make it easy and smooth, so there’s no embarrassment. I try to make our diners at Chiltern Firehouse feel comfortable and encouraged – like they have made a good choice, no matter how overwhelmed they might be.’

…but it’s obvious when people don’t know anything about wine

‘I can tell someone doesn’t know what they’re doing if they go straight for a particular variety and don’t want anything else. They could actually get something cheaper which would be better, but they stick to what they know.’

Personality is everything in the wine industry

‘I’m a wine entertainer. I’m here to make you laugh and have a good time, not follow all the rules and go by the book. Recruiting is the worst part of my job, because finding someone with the right panache and flair to entertain is always a struggle.’

The worst thing you can do in front of a celebrity is be nervous

‘I served Bill Clinton five years ago, which was very emotional for me. But if you get nervous in front of a VIP, they will feel it. They need to feel at home – to feel recognised, but not too much. You have to try to look cool and relaxed. And you have to read them carefully, even more so than with other guests.’

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