Interview With A Sommelier – John Nyaga

4th March 2024

Interview With A Sommelier John Nyaga

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 man from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is John Nyaga, let’s find out about his life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“I am a Kenyan hospitality professional and certified wine expert/Sommelier with extensive knowledge and experience in the wine industry. I have dedicated myself to gaining in-depth knowledge of this fascinating industry and have had the privilege of collaborating and working with international brands as a Wine Expert mostly in restaurants to date for the past 5 years.

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

“My first time having a glass of sparkling I was at Kiza Dubai in December 2015 and I went to celebrate and treat myself that day for getting a job after one month of job searching. What reasons could stop me that day I didn’t understand, but I knew sparkling wine was for celebration.

It was a sparkling wine from South Africa, but still today I can’t tell the name, it was fresh, fruit driven and I would go for it even today if I got to know it again. But I had only one glass.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“My journey began as a server in a local Kenyan pub, and later, I ventured onto international soil (Dubai). In my quest to discover true passion, I explored various roles, from becoming a barista to trying my hand at bartending. However, none of these roles truly fulfilled me. It was during the wine dinners that occurred every two weeks in one of my previous working places, which was a modern Mediterranean with Lebanese influence fine dining as a food runner that my interest in wine truly blossomed. The desire to understand wine, its producers, perfect wine pairings, and the nuances of the consumer experience became my driving force. It became evident that I had found my calling in this beautiful wine industry.”

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

“Personally I have come to understand the importance of giving an amazing wine service to each client is key and this comes whether the client buys either an expensive or an inexpensive bottle of wine or Champagne or any other service, always treat them equally.  Also, but not least have the wine program be profitable for the restaurant at large, business wise, knowledge wise and any other aspect to always push the sales for the benefit of all stakeholders from the owner, management, staff to the consumer.”

What Sparkling Wine Producing Countries or Regions Hold A Special Place In Your Heart?

“Champagne where of course the art of wine is curated and there is a lot to say about this region in France. But let me focus on England today.
Recently I have come to love English sparkling because they are passionately focused on quality.

They’ve got chalk soils in the south of England & the climate here allows slow ripening of their grapes, allowing them to achieve the optimum levels of ripeness and acidity, as well as the complexity and finesse often you would find some of their sparkling wines are gaining market momentum and also they are even sometimes priced higher than some of the known Champagne producers.”

What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Sommeliers?

“The world of wine is vast and filled with endless information and for this particular reason we the sommeliers and those willing to join this wonderful world of wine. It’s important to always stay updated with recent and upcoming data and also to find mentors to guide you.

In Dubai, there are so many stars who can guide you and when you think you know that’s the time you need really to get on your toes because the world doesn’t stop moving so you can’t afford to be comfortable as well.”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“Recently I was in Kenya for a short leave from work and I happened to open a bottle of Laurent Perrier cuvée rosé (NV) and we enjoyed it in the middle of the river surrounded by nature and particularly the river and ridges from both sides.

A cuvée of Pinot Noir from 10 grand crus with the precise nose of extraordinary freshness and a wide range of red fruits, crisp texture, and toastiness marking the flavors. Beautiful bottle and we enjoyed it.”

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

Images belong to John Nyaga & 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.