Interview With A Sommelier – Kate Puhachova

1st September 2023

Interview With A Sommelier Kate Puhachova

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 woman who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, her name is Kate Puhachova, and let’s find out a bit about her life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“My name is Kate. I am a sommelier and I am a citizen of the world. I was born in Belarus. I guess, I was born under the lucky star, as I was fortunate enough to feel my calling and made it my blessing. Wine is a blessing for me, as it not only became my profession which I love only stronger with each passing day, but above all wine is something that keeps me moving around the world exploring how beautiful it is and how fascinatingly different and beautiful people are all around it. I keep moving since 2016, having saved in my professional memory 5 star hotels, wine business, Parisian Michelin star restaurant internship with M Thomas Boullault, the wonderful time of being part of the team of M Pierre Gagnaire, and a joyful period of working for an American boutique cruise company.

These days I work as a sommelier in The Arts Club Dubai, Dubai outpost of the historic London private members’ club founded in 1863. Dubai is a very curious place, it is so inspirationally multinational… During my time in Pierre’s TT, the restaurant of M Pierre Gagnaire in Dubai, I truly felt like I had been living in Dubai, but working somewhere in France, since the majority of our guests were native French speakers, and some of those days I spoke more French than English at work. Now, in The Arts Club, I definitely feel the London vibe daily, with a Dubai twist, I would say. This multicultural spirit is my natural habitat.”

What Inspired You To Become A Sommelier?

“Who, in my case: people. This is another strong passion in my life. What I love so endlessly about my profession is how many beautiful people I meet on my way: working on the floor in restaurants, on the land and on cruise ships sailing the seas and oceans, walking the streets of many many places, cities, countries, continents I visit and explore. Guests, colleagues, wine professionals, educators, ambassadors… People of all cultures and mentalities. This continuous exchange of energy, knowledge, experience, and, above all, love to what we do and what we enjoy in our lives: there I find my reliable source of inspiration. Each and every person I met on my path made an impact on who I am today, and so many more people will… However, if you ask me to give you the first name that flashed in my mind the moment I heard the question, Gérard Basset will be my answer. I never happened to have the honour to meet him in person, but his life and his path in wine somehow is something very special for me. His kindness, his openness, his motivating spirit; as the phrase in the documentary filmed by 67 Pall Mall goes: “He made an impact on people’s souls”. Most definitely.”

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

“Being a person who believes in miracles and faces them regularly, I am quite a difficult one to surprise, to tell the truth. But what keeps fascinating me continuously is how purely wines mirror the personalities of people. The deepest understanding of it came with my in-depth dive into Burgundy. When I had been working as a sales manager for a boutique wine importer company, I remember finding myself having no need to even taste the wine to understand the style of the winemaker: just speaking to the person behind the bottle and feeling his or her energy made it. I learned how to know the style of the wine before opening the bottles. And, from another side, it’s fascinating how at times I found myself even guessing the signs of the Zodiac of my regular guests after getting to know their tastes in wine. Wines are bottled stories, if you wish.”

How Often Do You Find Yourself Recommending English Sparkling Wine?

“Well, I wish I had more possibilities to do so, I may say. I have been working with Champagne quite a lot, especially with récoltant bottlings. Even in Dubai, where Champagne and all other Méthode Traditionnelle sparkle is definitely not the strongest part of the local wine companies’ portfolios, you may get lucky as I did. In Pierre’s TT they have a nice collection of millésimé Champagnes dating from 1976 to 2012, which has been carefully and perseveringly built by our General Manager M Hervé Lorit through the years. Sadly, English sparkling wine is not so well represented in the local market in Dubai. And in the cruise industry as well, where in the luxury cruising companies Champagne is the house sparkling. I believe in the bright future of the English Méthode Traditionnelle, which I only assured myself of while stepping on the Dorset land and getting to explore and taste local wines. I wish we could build another island off the coast of the Great Albion with a terroir similar to what they have in Dorset to make room for local production.”

In Your Professional Opinion, Out Of Champagne And Prosecco, Which Do You Think Does A Better Job With Complementing A Meal?

“Champagne, of course, is a sommelier’s reliable best friend in terms of wine and food pairings, all over the meal, and following with this lovely French tradition to have it after or before the dessert “pour rafraîchissement”. Blanc de Blancs are the all-time classics for various starters and tapas supporting so well an absolute most of the fish and seafood mains. The winey character of Blanc de Noirs can create impressive combinations even with meat, when approached consciously, and has a place during after-dinner minutes, especially solera cuvées served in Burgundy shape glasses. Prosecco, though, from how I see it, is an Italian instrument for celebrating what they call “dolce far niente”. And it shows up wonderfully on cocktail parties where more talks and smiles during people’s interactions are served than food.”

What Advice Would You Give Inspiring Sommeliers?

“Do the most you can with what you have wherever and whenever you are. Do anything that can help you open the world for yourself, open yourself to the world and open your mind. Travel, explore, meet as many people as possible, as the exchange of energy and inspiration that comes with that is priceless. Be curious and never stop learning and exploring, as the world has so much for you. Enter communities, attend tastings and wine events, because you never know who will inspire you today to be a better version of yourself tomorrow. Believe in the impossible, as there is nothing you cannot learn or do or learn how to do as long as you want to and as long as you are determined. Pushing beyond your borders, unlocking your potential, living out all the 86,400 seconds, you have as a credit of time every single day, is the way to your own interpretation of success in this life. Love people, try to truly understand them. Wine is a beautiful beverage that through centuries and centuries served the world in helping people to truly connect with each other. Make the best of it.”

If You Sat Down For A Quiet Dinner, What Dish And Sparkling Wine Would You Choose To Enjoy Together?

“I believe in the sensation of the moment and the importance of being open to what places and people offer you here and there. People have been making particular wines and growing particular foods in various places of the world through the years and years of history. For me, nothing is more interesting than to give it a try. While travelling Hungary, for instance, an hours’ drive from Budapest itself in the village of Budaörs, I happened to uncover the local sparkling jewels, like Riesling Méthode Traditionnelle made by the local legend József Szentesi, which fascinated me how well it can revive the simple flavours of various recipes of goulash, a delicious local specialty, and even stay on the stage until an apple pie is served for dessert.

Franciacorta in both colours, and Franciacorta Satèn with its ethereal character, are capable of enhancing the aromas and tempering strong flavours at the same time, creates beautiful combinations with Italian pasta and gnocchi. Fish and chips and the ability of the English Sparkling Wine to cut through the crunchiness and oiliness of the breadcrumbs is what adds beauty to your gastronomical memories in the UK. And at the same time, we should never forget how nicely wines made in one part of the world can be integrated into another. Champenoise method made Austrian Sekt, especially Welschriesling bottlings, filled with pure fruitiness and being crisp and refreshing at the same time, are capable of making a plate of crudo served somewhere on one of the Greek islands so much more enjoyable. Open your mind, that is the best way to feel all the shades of this beautiful taste of living. And never forget to look at things from another angle.”

Thank you, Kate, 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 Kate Puhachova, InterContinental Hotel Dubai Festival City & Pierre’s TT by Pierre Gagnaire. 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.