If, like me, whenever you go to a restaurant you immediately scramble for the wine list, you know that the sommelier is crucial to the experience. We all want to know what would best be paired with our meal and we all want to try and learn something new. You wouldn’t judge a book by its cover – and I’ve learned never to do that with wine. Instead, listen and taste as you uncover some unforgettable stories that make your wine all the more special.
Sommelier Simone Sammuri’s knowledge of and love for wine is unrivalled, and has manifested itself in his influence at some of the world’s most celebrated bars over the last decade.
In 2009, Sammuri was bar manager at Terroir’s, at the time possibly the best wine bar in London. There, he found a passion for small-production wines that focus on sustainability and low human impact in vineyard and cellar. In his efforts to pursue his wine journey, he opened Les Caves de Pyrene, the wine section in London’s Brawn restaurant, before moving to Sydney to join the Vini group.
You may have seen him first at 121BC in Hong Kong, where he headed the wine programme, and where he met chef Asher Goldstein – now his co-founding partner and head chef at Francis – after which he returned to London to oversee The Remedy wine bar before launching Francis in Wan Chai.
What’s the story behind the Black Book at Francis?
The idea of the Black Book at Francis comes from James – our founder and manager – and myself; a small hand-written book that has been created to have a point of difference from the main wine list. It’s really to stimulate our customers’ curiosity. Inside the Black Book, there’s a selection of rare, special wines, very exclusive labels, carefully selected, with very limited stock and something not to be missed.
What wines should we be paying more attention to?
I really believe that countries like Lebanon or Israel are offering high quality wines (Lebanese wines are already more established in the local market, whilst Israeli wines are yet to be discovered by most people), and they will become more popular and established. A few examples, Chateau Ksara from Lebanon and Flam or Recanati from Israel are some of the most important wineries that we should really keep an eye on.
Which wines should we be investing in now?
Of course, if you can afford it, the most famous fine wines are the most important and a secure investment (Sassicaia in Tuscany, Petrus in Bordeaux, or Romanée-Conti in Burgundy); I also believe Lebanese and Israeli wines are a very good investment because of their quality; they are value for money and have great ageing potential.
The world is ending. Which three bottles are you taking with you?
- 2007 Gravner Breg from Friuli, Italy – Gravner is considered to be the father of the byodinamic movement, working with minimal human impact in the vineyard and the cellar. His wines are incredible!
- 1997 Savennières Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, Nicolas Joly from Loire Valley, France – Nicolas Joly is, like Gravner, an institution in the wine world. He owns seven hectares in the Loire Valley, and his approach in the vineyard is extremely minimalist and philosophic. A real gem, this one!
- 2012 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo from Piemonte, Italy – Bartolo Mascarello is a five-hectare winery, one of the most well known and perhaps my favourite in Barolo. The Nebbiolo produced here is undoubtedly one of the best expressions in Barolo. Fantastic wine!