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Every month, Naturalista highlights a renowned Sommelier whose responsibility is to curate some of the most interesting wine programs at venues in Thailand and around the world. We are honored to work alongside them to push the industry to new heights!
This month we are proud feature Benoit Bigot, Head Sommelier at Hedone, London.
Give us a little insight on your journey?
Well, I started as a Somm in London at the OXO Tower restaurant (2005), while studying for my Advance Certificate at the WSET. I was there for a short time (9 months) but tasted plenty of commercial big names: Bordeaux cru classé, Penfolds top cuvées and big brand Champagnes. I still remember clearly a lunch service where I sold a Margaux 82 and a Latour 90, I was shaking and sweating while decanting them, lol.
I then moved to China Tang at The Dorchester Hotel. This is where I discover the world of organic/biodynamic and fell in love with wine, thanks to my Head-Somm at the time: Auckland born and bred, Peter Lorimer. I would taste on a weekly basis producers such as: Leflaive, Coche-Dury, Raveneau, Lafon, Carillon, Sauzet, Ramonet; DRC, Dujac, Rousseau, Vogüé, Angerville; Deiss, Zind-Humbrecht, Weinbach, Keller, Wittmann; Beaucastel, Rayas, Chave; Gaja, Giaconda, Vietti, Voerzio.
Although I had tasted plenty of Cristal, Dom Perignon and Krug, I didn’t like the wines from Champagne at all. I thought that they did not deliver as much as great white wine did, especially considering the stupid price that came with them. But one day it all changed, as a supplier brought a sample of Cuvee 732 from Jacquesson. This is when I started to focus on Grower Champagne and the like-minded sparkling of this world.
After 4 years in London I came back home in Bretagne as Head-Somm for my friend Olivier Belin at L’Auberge des Glazicks. That was a wake-up call for me! I had been spoiled with ridiculously expensive wines in London. I discovered top producers with great value for money: Albert Mann, Ostertag, J-M Stéphan, Tollot-Beaut, Patrick Javillier, Huet, Antoine Arena, Comte Abbatucci, Ch. Simone, Olivier Pithon, Léon Barral, Gauby, Arlaud, Follin-Arbelet, Foillard, Lapierre, Clos des Papes, Gramenon.
I then went to South-Australia for 2 years; enjoying sunny weather, visiting wineries and killing my palate with high alcohol/chemical wines… (I since discovered the new Australia & I love it!)
Then came my best professional experience with the opening of Hedone in London (2011). Mikael Jonsson the Chef-patron has an insane palate backed by amazing food & wine knowledge. He’s definitely my mentor. With him I deepened my knowledge of Burgundy, Grower Champagne and natural wines: Dauvissat, Chandon de Briailles, Roulot, Confuron-Cotetidot, JJ Confuron, JF Mugnier, Michel Lafarge, Cécile Tremblay, PY Colin-Morey, Thomas Morey, Dureuil-Janthial, Pattes Loup; Selosse, Larmandier-Bernier, Vouette & Sorbée, Jérôme Prévost, Cédric Bouchard, Ulysse Colin, Georges Laval, Francis Boulard; Clos Rougeard, Dagueneau, Tissot, Soldera; Frank Cornelissen, Arianna Occhipinti, Le Coste, La Biancara, Dard & Ribo. Julien Courtois, Casot des Mailloles, Emidio Pepe.
Bangkok came 2 years later, with a quick stint at Mezalluna followed by the opening of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. It was super exciting especially in term of wine buying. They were lots of top wines on the market but not many present on wine lists, I had to rectify that!
Then came Sühring where I deepened my knowledge of German and Austrian wines.
What are your thoughts on Natural wine?
Natural wine? Humm. Well, I still remember the first natural wine I tasted, cause it blew my mind! But to be honest, it had nothing to do with the fact that it was made without any additives, it was just f…… great!
Because of my deep respect for nature I’ve always felt more connected to wines made with limited interventions and/or additives: wines that are made with a strong connection to our planet.
So Yes, I love natural wines! But they HAVE TO hold the same kind of qualities as any other kind of wines do.
What does it means to me? Elegance and Purity, but above all: Complexity. Of course, for top examples, Minerality is a must.
The great thing about them too? As long as you don’t mix much, you can say goodbye to Mr Hangover…
How do you see wine changing in the next 20 years considering factors of climate change and increased population?
To be honest, I’m not thinking about wine when I think about the future. I think that in 20 years from now, there will be no more wild Tigers, no more wild Lions, no more wild Elephants, no more wild Polar Bears, and the list goes on and on… It’s f…… sad what we’re doing to our beautiful planet. All the plastics in the oceans. The Holocene mass extinction. Climate change (F… you Trump, it’s real). And all our governments not giving a freaking crap about it.
Thank god we have wine, because it’s like nature’s happiness in a glass!
What's your favourite wine at the moment and which musician would it resemble to you?
Côte-Rôtie, Coteaux de Tupin from Jean-Michel Stéphan & Black Album from Metallica
100% Sérine Noire & 100% Heavy Metal
I fell in love with this wine the second I tasted it, and it has been my favourite red ever since (Sorry Pinot). I’m so obsessed with it, that I look for it anytime I go back to Europe (Or any wine from J-M Stephan for that matter).
J-M makes natural wines on the “Roasted Slope” of Côte-Rôtie, but no Syrah in this Tupin. His ancestor, called Sérine, produce more fragrant and elegant wines.
Full of dark fruits, black olives and cracked pepper, the palate is profound with firm tannins and complex minerality.
It reminds me of the Black Album from Metallica, dark and heady with power and intensity…
What advice would you give to aspiring Somms?
I just gave you a list a great producers to taste so go work where their wines are on wine lists: London, New-York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong-Kong. Spend at least 2-3 years there and attend suppliers tasting whenever you can (most likely during your afternoon break). And taste, taste, taste!
Be as excited and interested about food as you are about wine.
A bottle of wine is like a song or a painting, it’s all about the emotions it gives. Emotions comes from flavours & stories, not boring technical facts. And that’s a fact!
Have convictions in your taste/style, but back it up with quality. Quality always, and be gentle with your pricing too!
Never, ever, forget that wine is a produce of Nature. Chemicals and additives taste better in Coca-Cola or Sprite. ;)
Which bottles would you recommend our patrons to try!