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The Life of a Sommelier: Maciej Lyko

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT IT’S LIKE HAVE THE JOB OF A WINE SOMMELIER? US TOO! THE DISH CAUGHT UP WITH MACIEJ LYKO, HEAD SOMMELIER AT LAUNCESTON PLACE, WHO HAS JUST WON THE BEST POLISH SOMMELIER OF THE YEAR AWARD, TO FIND OUT WHAT THE LIFE OF A SOMMELIER IS REALLY LIKE.

Firstly, congratulations on winning Best Polish Sommelier of the Year! That’s a massive achievement. Who inspired you to become a Sommelier?

Not necessarily a person, but more a wine tasting event that a friend of mine invited me along to. At this time, I was clueless about wine, but I went along and absolutely fell in love with wine. For me being a sommelier isn’t just about the beverages, it’s everything that surrounds it, the story behind the wine, as there’s always history and family involved.

What training did you have to complete to get where you are now?

When I was still living in Poland, I passed the WSET award. From then I’ve had a dream to become a Master Sommelier. I had to pass four years of advanced level training and I am now preparing for the Master Sommelier level this year.

What previous experiences do you have? 

I started out as a manager of a wine bar and shop back in Poland. A few years later, I decided I wanted to work in more of a fine-dining environment, so I moved to London and began working for Maze by Gordan Ramsay, before joining Launceston Place (where I am now), and have been for the past four years.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever had?

My palette changes a lot. What I liked seven years ago, might not necessarily be what I like now. At the moment I like an oxidized style of wine (when a winemaker intentionally allows oxygen to interact with the wine during the winemaking process). I’m not a big fan of heavy, oaky wines, but again maybe in five years’ time this will change again. I guess the definition of a good wine, is just wine that you like to drink, no matter how little or large the price is.

What three wines should people have in their fridge/cupboards?

Something with bubbles is essential, perhaps Franciacorta which is a beautiful Italian alternative to champagne, with a slightly lower price point. In terms of white wine, I’d opt for a bottle of dry Riesling from Germany, and for red maybe Beaujolais from Burgundy.

Best part of the job?

Every single day is different. I enjoy meeting new people and trying to provide them with the best experience. Sometimes guests can be super friendly and interested, whereas others can be quite challenging and prefer to just be presented the label of the bottle. Working with a passionate team is definitely up there too.

Can you share any advice on under-rated or upcoming wines?

If you’re looking for something different then definiely try out natural wines. You don’t have to spend crazy money to be adventurous with your wine.

What wines should we be drinking this Summer?

Rosé is definitely having its moment right now. Something light and fruity; you can’t go wrong with anything from the Provence region when it’s warm and sunny outside. Not forgeting white wine, opt for something crisp and light without any oak, Chablis is a good example.

How do you tell the good from the bad wines?

There’s no such thing as a bad wine, unless it’s faulty (corked or something has gone wrong with the process of making it). As I mentioned everyone has a different palate so what might be great to drink for me might not for you. In a restaurant, it’s all about asking questions and finding guest preferences.

What advice would you offer to someone that wanted to start out as a Sommelier?

First of all, travel a lot, go to as many places as you can and meet with producers, and best of all taste a lot of wine and eat a lot of great food. Becoming a sommelier takes time and patience but it’s all about experience and learning about the different styles and regions, and you’re better off doing that by trying it first-hand.

Meet Maciej for yourself and book a table at Launceston Place.