Chantal Serrano, The Cinnamon Club, London
How did you become interested in wine?
My parents were wine lovers and introduced me to the joys of having a glass of wine with meals. I picked up my own interest by working on a harvest in a Champagne vineyard, attending the Independent Wine Producers show in Paris twice a year and simply tasting, and enjoying, more and more wines.
You have had a successful career background outside of wine, what made you take the step into sommelierie?
After 15 years working in banking and finance, I felt the time was now or never to follow my passion in wines and build a career in the wine industry. I saw the sommelier course advertised with the UK Sommelier Association, and felt it was the perfect first step to training as a wine professional. After years of working in an office, I also welcomed the opportunity to work with other people with whom I shared the same passion for wines in a different environment.
Can you describe your pathway to becoming a sommelier?
I completed the UK Sommelier Association course, which helped expand my knowledge of wines and spirits, network with wine professionals and gain the confidence to apply for my first role as a Sommelier in London, with the guidance of Andrea Rinaldi. I also have attended other training courses such as WSET, a Sake Masterclass and tastings events to develop my wine knowledge.
Which sparkling wines or regions do you think are the most underrated?
There are two sparking wines close to my heart: Franciacorta in Lombardy, Italy and Crémant du Jura, France. Both regions produce traditional method sparkling wines and lack the recognition they deserve of more popular sparkling regions such as Champagne and Prosecco. The two regions produce high-quality and fine sparkling wines and have contrasting histories – Franciacorta is a sparkling wine only formed in the 1950’s, while Jura has a long tradition of production for over two hundred years. Yet both obtained formal appellation status only in the 1990’s. One of my favourites, Crémant du Jura is the Brut Blanc de Blancs from Domaine Baud – 100% Chardonnay – refreshing, delicate and plush with a hint of toast, green apples and citrus, excellent as an aperitif or throughout a meal. Recently I also became acquainted through work with a lovely Brut Franciacorta from Contadi Castoldi, a blend of Chardonnay (80%), Pinot nero (10%) and Pinot bianco (10%), a lively and smooth sparkling, with floral notes of lime, citrus, and white peach.
How many sparkling wines do you taste on average per day whilst working at The Cinnamon Club?
At The Cinnamon Club, we focus our wine menu on a very select list of quality sparkling wines to accompany our food. In a typical day, I would serve from easy to drink prosecco to premium vintage sparkling such as Cristal.
What do you think is the most versatile wine at The Cinnamon Club and why?
My personal favourite is a white Burgundy, a Rully Blanc, from Domaine Saint-Jacques (Christophe Grandmougin). A lovely Chardonnay, slightly buttery, very balanced, with lovely aromas of grapefruit and white peach, and an aftertaste of tropical fruits. It matches perfectly with our most iconic meals such as Old Delhi style butter chicken.
What analogy would you use to describe the relationship between food and wine?
A good friend to be enjoyed over long evenings of good conversation in a great atmosphere.
What is your favourite sparkling wine and what would you pair it with and why?
Being half French, I will go for a classic Champagne, Veuve Clicquot, which never fails to deliver on consistency, taste and quality. It was also the favourite drink of my grandfather in Haiti in the 1940s and every time I open a bottle, it brings back memories of him.