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At One with Wine: Meet Head Sommelier, Michele Orbolato

Looking out to the view of London’s tower bridge, is an iconic restaurant that is home to an equally iconic wine cellar. Michele Orbolato is the Head Sommelier at Le Pont de la Tour.

Michele first found his passion for wines 10 years ago. He was at the international wine exhibition Vinitaly, in Verona, where he tried a pudding wine that he described as ‘nectar’.  It was at this moment where Michele says he understood wine, it was a wine ‘epiphany’ that led him to enrol into sommelier training soon after. Michele went on to take his Court of Masters Sommeliers (CMS) in London in 2015, and has since been Sommelier at some top London restaurants, before joining Le Pont in December as Head Sommelier.

We couldn’t wait to ask him questions all thing wine..

What do you love most about being Head Sommelier at Le Pont?

Le Pont is a Sommeliers dream. The wine is the protagonist of the restaurant. People come for the wine. The wine cellar is an iconic feature and has its own Wine shop at the front through these street doors.

What are the key factors when deciding what wines to pair with the Le Pont menus?

  1. The first factor must be balance. Neither of the two flavours must overpower the other. A bold Sauvignon cannot be paired with a light fish.
  2. The second is that you must consider the fatness of a dish. Red wine has an acidity that takes away the taste of fatness. After eating a heavy flavour such as pork, the wine is there as a palette cleanser.
  3. Lastly, you must consider the body of the wine. The body of the food must match the body of wine. A heavy beef stew has a heavy body so it should match a rich bodied wine. Whilst a Greek salad is light, so you want a wine with a fresh, light body.

What are your pick of the bunch to pair with a Spring menu?

For a White Wine, I would choose the Paza de Senorans, Albarino. This is a light fresh white wine from Spain. It is citrusy, with peach notes, and fresh and dry. It is perfect for pairing with a seafood platter like ours at Le Pont.

For a Red Wine, I would choose the Clos D’Isore, Chinon, 2017. This is a medium bodied red perfect for lighter pasta dishes, or vegetarian dishes. The smoky acidity is perfect for cold meats or with a rich dover sole.

For a Rose, it would be the Mirabeau Azure Provence. This Rose is very fresh and perfect to pair with salads of crustaceans. A light and aromatic food wine.

Do you have a personal favourite wine or region?

A Bordeaux or a Super Tuscan, and regions; for me it has to be Bordeaux or Montalcino.

And what do you think about the growing industry of the English region?

For sparkling wine particularly, it is great, and in a few years the wines will be matching the quality of produce from Champagne. With more time, as the vine matures, the fruit will become richer, which will result in better tasting, better quality wines.

Myth busters:

Should you only ever drink white wine with fish?

Whilst a white wine is the preferred option to pair with a light fish, a light red wine, such as a Pinot Noir, is a great option to pair with a heavier fish such as a fish stew, or a rich dover sole with capers. The rule goes, if a light fish, have light white, but a heavy fish you can have a light red.

Should you only drink red wine with cheeses?

The answer is simply no. With hard cheeses, such as a compte which is intense in flavour, a red is perfect. But with a soft cheese such as goats cheese, a lighter white wine is also suitable.

Red wine for red meat?

This one, yes, absolutely. The red wine compliments the fattiness of the meat.

Does wine really get better with age?

It depends. With a Bordeaux or a Montalcino, then yes definitely. They become more velvety, and they develop with different aromas. For these wines, it is worth the wait. However, it depends on how the wine is built. Some wines are sensitive to light and heat, and they can go past their prime.

Check out the menu at Le Pont de La tour here.