Interview With A Sommelier – Will Clarke

26th March 2024

Interview With Sommelier Will Clarke

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

Tell Us About Yourself

“My name is Will Clarke, I am 28 years old and for the last 2 years, I have been working as a Sommelier at The Pig in the South Downs, and was recently promoted to Assistant Head Sommelier.

My hospitality career started back in 2016 when I joined the Merchant Navy as a Steward, following my dad’s footsteps of travelling the world and ‘living the dream’, (For context – a steward’s role is essentially the same as a waiter in a restaurant or hotel, but on a Warship instead). The trade was fun and exciting to begin with, sailing the seas and experiencing new ways of life, but that quickly became a struggle being out in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country on the other side of the world with absolutely no contact back home, which I soon discovered was something I didn’t deal with very well.

Fast forward 1 year, I decided to leave the Navy, but continue my hospitality career in the hotel industry instead, with a focus on weddings and events, and I must say, I’ve never looked back.

Over the course of the next 5 years, I worked in two different hotels running wedding after wedding and having the time of my life!

During my time at these hotels, helping guests find the best wines to suit their meals became super exciting for me and I then took that to the next step by putting myself through my first two WSET courses to increase that knowledge.

And that’s where the love of all things wine begins!!”

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

“Not long after my WSET Level 2 course, I took a trip to a local vineyard with my dad (who also shares a keen interest in the wine world) to a sparkling wine producer called Court Garden Vineyard in Ditchling, just outside Brighton. We tasted through their 3 styles and the standout for me was the Traditional Method Blanc de Noirs, made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, a gentle and elegant wine with aromas of summer berries, sliced green apple and a fine mousse! A great experience and an even better introduction to top quality sparkling wine!”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“At first, it started off as a hobby when I was studying the WSET course whilst in the wedding industry, but then the more I learnt, and the more I tasted…I couldn’t get enough of it! It got to a point where I started to enjoy learning about wine more than running weddings! So I sought about pursuing the wine route, not knowing exactly what career it would lead to, but just anything in that industry!

In September 2021, The Pig Hotels were opening a new property in the South Downs and were advertising for a Trainee Sommelier, with no experience required, I went for it and have never looked back!”

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

“The most surprising thing for me was realising how much work a sommelier actually does. I was slightly naive going into this job role, thinking all I would be doing was serving wine to guests in a restaurant and having a bit of knowledge to back it up…when in reality, you are working with a wine list with wines from literally every corner of the globe – if someone orders a bottle you don’t know about, you gotta step up your game! Then there’s the way you carry yourself in the restaurant, opening bottles and checking the condition before serving them at the table, wine cellar management, deliveries, the lot. It sunk in pretty quickly that it was going to be a hard ladder to climb, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

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

“I would have to say Champagne! Since working with the Pig, I have been lucky enough to travel to a few amazing wine regions, one of them being the incredible Champagne, courtesy of one of our biggest suppliers, Mentzendorff. The main focus of this trip was a visit to Champagne Bollinger, one that is recognised all around the world, and one of the last independent houses in the region!

The reason this region holds a special place in my heart is because, believe it or not…it was my first ever visit to France! Yes, I was 27 when I first visited France! But what a way to do it!”

What Advice Would You Give Inspiring Sommeliers?

“My advice would be, if you don’t pass exams the first time, don’t let it get you down! You can still achieve great things, just come back to it at a later date! I started at The Pig as a Trainee Somm with just the level 1 & 2 WSET, since then I have been studying level 3 and failed the exams 3 times, and yet I was promoted to Sommelier, and then Assistant Head Sommelier all in the space of a year and a half. To this day I still haven’t passed level 3, but my determination and willingness to progress up the ladder has worked in my favour. I told myself (with the help of my family) that I know I’ve got the knowledge to do the job, I’m just missing the certificate and lapel pin! You will get there!”

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

“This year, my wife and I decided to step out of our comfort zone and wanted to climb Mount Snowdon in Wales! A huge achievement for both of us!

But me being me, I wanted to celebrate properly, so I brought a bottle of Laurent Perrier Brut NV to pop at the top of the mountain!

When we reached the peak, we raised a toast to our achievement and enjoyed the incredible views in style!”

Thank you, Will, 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 Will Clarke. 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.