Interview With A Sommelier – Laura Rhys
12th September 2023
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 Laura Rhys, let’s find out a bit about her life as a Sommelier.
Tell Us About Yourself
“I started my journey in wine 20 years ago and have spent many years working as a sommelier in restaurants around the UK. I loved being a sommelier and was always very passionate about learning more and taking part in competitions. In 2009 I won UK Sommelier of the Year and the following year passed the Master Sommelier Diploma.
I’m currently working at Gusbourne, as Global Ambassador. My role here sees me supporting our export markets and our teams here in the UK too. I’m also a part of the winemaking team and am involved in much of the blending and tasting trials.”
Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?
“Whilst at university I also had a part-time/holiday job at Majestic Wine. I remember the heady days of summer holidays spent working with such a fun team, tasting wine, unpacking pallets, serving customers and driving around the Somerset countryside making deliveries in that iconic little white van!
We’d always have bottles open for customers to taste and as we headed into Christmas that year we of course had more sparkling wines available to taste. I remember tasting a bottle of Pol Roger and thinking how utterly fascinating the whole process of traditional method sparkling wine was and the wines it creates, with that combination of bright fruit, tension and complexity.”
What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?
“I had a weekend job in a restaurant as a teenager and I loved it. The buzz of a busy service, the camaraderie of the team and the interaction with guests – as well as the food, of course.
When I was at university I started to take the WSET courses and I realised that I loved learning about wine and that a Sommelier role could combine these two passions I’d discovered.
When I graduated, there wasn’t really a clear path into ‘Sommelierie’, as there would have been in France at the time for instance, but I was lucky to find a commis sommelier job at Hotel du Vin and found myself – young, green but enthusiastic – working in this incredibly exciting position, with a superb mentor and Head Sommelier and in many ways it was that team around me that really inspired me to become a sommelier.”
During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?
“I think I’ve learnt so much, not just about wine, but also about what really good service looks like, how understanding your guests and reading body language can make a huge difference, how important attention to detail is, the importance of always having one eye on the business side of things, and so much more.
However, I think the most interesting thing I learnt was something someone said to me when I passed the Master Sommelier diploma. It had been such a huge part of my life for many years; the constant studying and honing of skills, that when I passed I felt almost bereft. I had nothing to push towards. Another Master Sommelier, in fact one of many mentors I’ve had in my career, said that this was just the beginning – that I’d learn more from this point onwards than I ever did on the journey getting there and, that in order to give back to others I had to continue learning about wine. And, he was not wrong! The world of wine is always changing and evolving – just look at the English wine industry in the last decade and the huge changes we’ve seen there. I feel privileged to carry on gaining all this knowledge and to be able to give it to others too.”
What Advice Would You Give An Inspiring Sommelier?
“I’d say go for it! The wine industry as a whole, but also the role of a sommelier, is such a rewarding, interesting and exciting place to work. Although it requires hard work and dedication, there are truly so many opportunities out there if you’re prepared to work hard, to ask questions and to ask for help too. There are lots of people in all corners of the industry who will give their time and knowledge generously to support others, so do ask.”
If You Sat Down For A Quiet Dinner, What Dish And Sparkling Wine Would You Choose To Enjoy Together?
“I feel so lucky to have travelled a lot, for work and pleasure and to have tasted lots of really memorable bottles along the way, but I think the most memorable, or perhaps enjoyable glass recently, was sat in the dappled shade of a sunny park close to my house in the summer of 2020. A group of friends met – at a 2 metre distance, of course! – and I brought a bottle of Gusbourne Rosé 2016 with some stemless picnic glasses. Of course the wine tasted delicious on a warm summer’s afternoon, but more than that was how we all enjoyed the wine together.”
Thank you, Laura, 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 Laura Rhys and Gusbourne. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.