A Sommelier’s Story

24th June 2024

A Sommelier's Story

The World of Wine is beautifully showcased by an army of talented Sommeliers, who help the consumer discover their next favourite bottle, understand the different regions and pair a delicious meal with the right Glass of Bubbly.

In this feature, I speak with a gentleman who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Dida, let’s find out about his life as a Sommelier.

It’s Great To Speak With You, Can You Tell Us A Little About Yourself

“I’m of Tunisian origin, uk citizen; working in Hospitality much of my working life.”

Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?

“My first glass was a P-Jouët champagne. At the time I wasn’t equipped with any knowledge to analyse what I’m tasting or drinking, I certainly wasn’t Dom-Perignon to say I’m tasting stars.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“It’s fascinating when guest check what they are drinking, looking for the name/ label,champagne or Prosecco, no idea what that means at all. Just very happy customer.. smiles on their faces.

That evening I felt I would love to put a smile on my guest face. I’m keen to learn all answers for their questions.

I’ve worked at L’ortolan Restaurant in Berkshire (Michelin star). The director at the time was Paul Shanagan, he inspired me to learn how to treat a bottle of wine, and must have a connection to understand the wine.”

During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?

I have no idea how much there is to learn to satisfy & impress my guests.

WSET certainly was a platform to take and to fly high around the world.

I learned the method of wine making reaching back to thousands of years ago.

From Ethical process to a very specific scientific way; learned tartaric acid acting like a buffer in TA, it is the backbone of any wine, being discovered by al- chemist Jabir Ibn Hayan in the 800AD

1769, Carl William Sheele, a Swedish chemist, did more studies.

In 1832 the French chemist Jean Baptiste Biot observed the potential of polarised light, that tartaric acid obtained from tartar was optically active, rotating the plane of polarized light clockwise (dextrorotatory).

A decade later, Louis Pasteur observed the existence of two crystals that were mirror images in tartaric acid, an acid found in wine. Through meticulous experimentation, he found that one set of molecules rotated polarized light clockwise while the other rotated light anti-clockwise to the same extent.(-)(+). 1948 Chirality was born.

I learned Louis Pasteur discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation by transforming glucose & fructose into ethanol.

I understood the photosynthesis. The vine leaf must have 75% of moisture to be bio-activate.

Bio-active organic acids depends on humidity and atmospheric temperature.

Sugar in grape depends on: UV light during the day, type of grape, exposure to any Natural Body (like hill side), a water body, any ocean breeze and well drained soils.

The roots of the vines goes so deep to the green part of the earth layer, to feed on the organic imperial matter left by water flows on the stone.

The older the vine the finer the wine.

Vine is a wild plant; it loves its freedom, loves rugged surfaces, and wants to work hard for its food as well as making sure there’s enough sufficient food for its Dormant period; thanks to the Tartaric acid, Malik acid and citric acid

I’ve learned the magical relationship with that wonderful plant.

We understand that if we want a good quality there must be less clusters in order to share enough sugar throughout the vine.

There are many training systems for vines (around 10 or more), However, the bilateral system is the best and most useful for many grape vines.

The quicker the wine is pressed, the better quality and freshness; and prevents the loss of polyphenols.

The minute you cut the grape cluster, the wild yeast from the kloeckera and Candida Genera starts fermentation. These yeasts will usually die out once the alcohol level reaches about 15% due to the toxicity of alcohol on the yeast cells physiology.

Therefore they have to use sulphite to stop the sneaky fermentation of the opportunist Kloeckera and candida yeast.

Still trying to learn the answers…

In 1662, Merrett delivered an eight-page paper to the Royal Society detailing the use of sugar or molasses to give wine or cider a bit of fizz. In the words of Merrett, this was “to make them brisk and sparkling.” Keep in mind that this paper was delivered in 1662, several decades before Dom Perignon’s famous “Come quickly, I am drinking stars!” moment, alleged to have occurred in 1697.

In 1531, when Blanquette de Limoux was created, Dom-perignon was a Benedictine monk serving in the abbey in Saint-Hilaire, Languedoc who falsely claimed to have created Champagne.

Local lore suggests Dom-Perignon learned how to produce sparkling white wine while serving in this abbey before moving to the champagne region and popularising the drink.

Limoux monks have easy access to Catalunya oak forest for their second fermentation in a wooden flask.

The French might have tried to be the first inventor before Christopher merit 1662.

The English were before the French using the cork, whereas the French still used wood stoppers.

The English who designed the right bottle for champagne to hold up to 6 atmosphere.

But that thick, stout bottle⁠—the one memorialized in a grand statue of Dom Pérignon that now stands on the lawn at the House of Moet & Chandon on the Avenue de Champagne⁠—could not have existed anywhere but Britain at the time. And, what’s more, Merrett’s paper on the secondary fermentation of wine was submitted to the Royal Academy in 1663, five years before Dom Pérignon even arrived at the abbey in which his famous invention was said to have been born; decades before the famous saying could have been uttered.

While European counterparts were still using wood, the Champagne bottle as we know it was born in the furnaces of England.

Verre Anglais .. Thanks to Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665),

No answer yet to all questions..

Champagne originally blend 7 grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot blanc, Arban, Pinot Munier and Pinot noir.

Soon the number eight was introduced-the hybrid resistant new grape variety: Voltis.

According to the drink business Drappier, champagne was the first to have the eight champagne grape varieties.

Blanquette de Limoux only has 3 grapes in the blend: Chardonnay, Mausac and Chenin blanc.

In the second fermentation, chamgne produces a lot of carbon dioxide, leading to an internal pressure of (90PSI) around 5-6 atmospheres – equivalent to over 5kg of weight on every square centimetre of glass; depending on liqueur de triage (liquid solution of yeast, wine & sugar) added to the still base wine in order to create the second fermentation in the bottle.

In contrast, a bottle of Prosecco, from North East Italy, has a pressure of about 2 to 4 / about 3.5 bar (51PSI).

Science is heavily involved in health and drink awareness-units-and metabolism rates etc..

Bubbles in a bottle of champagne at 6 atmosphere produces 49 million bubbles.

Bill Limber says.. ‘the available CO2 would be the originally calculated CO2 (4,125 milliliters) minus the trapped CO2 (750 milliliters), leaving 3,375 milliliters, or 206 cubic’.

The discussion and the disagreement about cork or screwcap; New Zealand-85% of their wine uses screwcap, Australia-15% use screwcaps, South Africa-15-25% use screwcaps.

Wine needs to be part of reducing CO2 for climate change.

Portugal bark trees forest takes over 100 ton of CO2 every year.

The increased usage of screwcaps means the decrease of the bark forest trees in Europeans around the World.

Still trying to have answers to all wine related questions..

When it is grape harvest time, there are two wild yeast that attack the grape as soon as it bleeds. Candida & kloeckera vintner’s have to use sulphate to stop any wild fermentation occurring.

At the state, the wine makers use the Yeasts that tolerate more alcohol succharomyces species, to take over. In addition to S.Cerevisiae Saccharomyces, Bayanus is a species of yeast that can tolerate alcohol levels of 17–20% at high (Baumé, Brix and degrees Oechsle in Germany) sugar levels in grapes for potential alcohol /quality of wine.

Another common yeast involved in wine production is Brettanomyces (Brett).

Called by the Greek for British fungus.

Yeasts & it’s by product:
Ethanol + Carbon Dioxide
And the third by a distance,

Still my answers hasn’t scratched the surface yet…

World wine & it’s level’s:

Premier Cru
GRAND CRU-G/Superieur

Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese to Trockenbeerenauslese
The AVA’s

Conventional wine
Biological wine
Rudolf Steiner & the 9 steps,
Biodynamic wine
Kosher wine
Vegan wine
Vegetarian wine
Unoaked wine
Alcohol Free wine
Auto-lactic wine (Oaked)
Low sulphite
Low amino acid.

All bubbles have my respect
From Ancestral method,
And charmat method / transfer method to traditional method (champagnoise)
-Large bubbles
-Fine bubbles
-Perl like bubbles

Every wine is different
Every glass is for occasion
Every wine is for a certain mood.

Wine to cheer
Wine to celebrate
Wine to enjoy
Wine to relax
Wine for memories

Wine brings out the true you. Just Have a great relationship with your still or Glass of bubbly for sure you will be fine..

Learning about wine is a mesmerising journey…You will remember the start but the End you never will…


Thank you Dida, for sharing your story and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Dida. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.