Interview With A Sommelier – Vasilis Lytras

5th March 2024

Interview With A Sommelier Vasilis Lytras

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

Tell Us About Yourself

“My name is Vasilis Lytras, I was born and raised in Athens, Greece. I have been working in the hospitality industry for about fifteen years. When I was eighteen I started working as a barista in a local coffee chain in Greece and from there I moved to restaurants, bars, and luxury hotels in Athens, London and Dubai where I realised through the years that I had a true passion for bartending and wine service. Today I have evolved into a Head Sommelier leading a great team at an Italian Restaurant at Raffles the Palm in Dubai.”

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

“My first experience with sparkling wine was a long time before I was a Sommelier. It was New Year’s Eve and during the celebration, a family member just handed me a bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne, as you can understand I could hardly open it, and wasted a glass or two, but what matters in the end is with who you share these moments. It took me years to understand and learn about the true value of this type of wine.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“My introduction to wine is quite entertaining and quite unusual because I was not planning to follow it. It started when I was just a creative Bartender in Dubai and had to give a repeat order of the same bottle of wine. I handed out to the server a Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru instead of a Louis Latour Mâcon-Villages Chameroy Chardonnay it had a similar label to me then. I had put my Restaurant Manager in a difficult position and he made the decision that I had to pay for the bottle. That was when I took that mistake personally and I started going deeper into the subject of wine. The next three years I got my WSET certificates and got my first Sommelier job in 2021 with the iconic Nusr-Et in Mykonos, Greece which was an unforgettable experience.”

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

“As a sommelier, there are several important things to learn and master. The subjects that kept me going and remain are exploring the history and culture of the significance of wine in various societies. This knowledge can add depth to recommendations and conversations with customers. The world of wine is constantly evolving. Staying updated with the latest trends, vintages, and emerging wine regions through continuous learning and tasting. The marriage of food and wine but also the elegance of wine service has each a purpose. Finally, I believe that becoming a sommelier has become easier but the truth is that it is a lifelong journey, and are have to stay committed to ongoing education and improvement in the craft.”

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

“Well, I can’t take my mind off Champagne, the most prestigious, historic and well known sparkling wine worldwide is unbeatable for me. I could talk for hours about this iconic beverage. At work, because I am working currently at an Italian concept restaurant I do recommend my guests to try Franciacorta as it shares the same method of production with Champagne which is the traditional method and still has it is own personality instead of a classic Prosecco. Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige is an example of my preference that I personally recommend.

The next Sparkling wines that I do find exceptional are the ones, particularly from the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions in the US. These wines once more are often made using traditional Champagne grapes and methods, producing some exceptional sparkling wines. Domaine Carneros AVA of Napa Valley and the Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, which is part of the Louis Roederer Champagne house which I find are exceptional examples.

Finally, English sparkling wine, primarily produced in regions like Sussex and Kent, is gaining recognition for its quality and I am keen to explore more. Ridgeview Blanc de Noirs 2015 and Rathfinny Classic Cuvee 2018 are a few that I have tasted recently with other fellow Somms and I was baffled by the similarity of other premium sparkling wines, for sure England is stepping up on their game.”

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

“I had the chance to serve a, 1983 Louis Roederer Cristal Millesime Brut to a very special person, in one of the restaurants in Dubai. That guest was more like a friend and gave me the chance to enjoy a glass of it, which I personally found very complex and surprisingly very enjoyable. Overall, the 1983 Champagne vintage was a huge success and some of the very best wines may still be drinking well now although the vast majority will be well past their best. However, it was one of the finest glasses of bubbly that was surely memorable.”

Thank you, Vasilis, 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 Vasilis Lytras and Piatti Restaurant at Raffles the Palm in Dubai. 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.