Uncorked: Vanessa Majella Stolz

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Vanessa Majella Stolz head sommelier Pine restaurant Northumberland

Related tags: pine, Northumberland, Wine, Sommelier, Vanessa Majella Stolz

The somm at Northumberland restaurant Pine on Coravin mishaps, sexist wine service and the joys of British wine.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine…

I was sipping on a Morgon from Matthieu Lapierre 2014, whilst sitting on a terrace overlooking Sancerre’s vineyard. I remember this moment very clearly because the scenery and the wine were outstanding. However, I couldn’t understand any of it, so I wanted to know everything about it. I haven't stopped since. 

Tell us about your wine list at Pine

Adventurous, out there, affordable with a sprinkle of fine wines. It was clear from the beginning that Pine’s ethos is to work sustainably and with local producers. So I also did it with the wine list by favouring English wines and then European wines to lower the carbon footprint.

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters? eg. dropping an expensive bottle/ordering a case of oxidised Burgundy etc.

When I first used Coravin. Uncertain how to stop the pour, I lifted the bottle a bit too briskly, with the gadget’s nozzle facing the guest. Unfortunately, some gas was still coming through, which squirted some wine into the poor person’s face.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists (excluding your own!)

Ekstedt in Stockholm, La Table d’Olivier Nasti in Alsace and Leroy in London.

Who do you most respect in the wine world?

Winegrowers, winemakers, a lot of sommeliers and my dad. He is in the wine business and was the first introduced me to it when I was little, though my actual interest in wine came much later. Now we share tips, exchange ideas and taste what’s new worldwide and visit vineyards together.

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?

‘Ever’ is such a big call, it’s so hard to choose that one single wine. Though English still blanc de noirs are absolutely fantastic and intriguing at the same time. Norfolk vineyard Flint Silex Blanc 2020 or Surrey vineyard Litmus White Pinot 2017 are my highlights right now.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?

Dry, different, interesting. Adjectives that can really mean everything but nothing at the same time.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment (and why)…

English Bacchus. From what I’ve tried so far, and from people’s feedback is undoubtedly the go-to wine on the list. Always delicious and with an affordable price tag.

What is your ultimate food and drink match?

Unexpected ones are always the best. We offer a full English wine pairing, but English reds are usually light to medium-bodied. In winter, it can be real struggle, especially when our dishes are heartier, such as venison with stout sauce and game sausage. So we needed to be more inventive in terms of what we serve. We have been known to mix a Damson Stout from First & Last Brewery with an English Sparkling wine to create our take on a Black Velvet. 

Old World or New World?

I’m going to say both. It’s hard to take sides because both create beautiful wines in their own way.

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?

When they give the wine list to the man without hesitation, then assume that the man will chose the wine.

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why?

I refer to winemakers as musicians and their wine range as their albums. The one who is consistent in her work and makes some absolute bangers year after year is Judith Beck in Austria.

As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers?

How did I get into the wine industry? or what is the glassware brand? I use stemless for the wine pairing only; believe it or not, it's a hit.

Which wine producing region/country is currently underrated at the moment and why?

England and Wales. Whilst taking the wine orders, I often have people feeling sorry for me being French and having to serve British wines. It is underrated because British wines are unexplored and not in fashion, although the sparkling is just hitting the curve. I believe the other issue may derive from the names of unknown grape varieties. For example: ordering wine with a grape named Reichensteiner (which produces beautiful wine in England); is like asking a friend if he has viral rhinitis instead of a cold.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?

I would go for something ridiculous that I’ll never be able to afford. It would have to be extra special and something I love very much. Perhaps Champagne  Gout de Diamants 2013.

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