What’s on?

Sommelier : Enzo Ferrantin interview

First sommelier of the Jean Imbert gastronomic restaurant at the Plaza Athénée (1 Michelin star) in Paris, Enzo Ferrantin, MBA 2020 International specialisation in Wine & Spirits Management at Vatel Bordeaux, shares his vision of the sommelier’s profession.

What makes a good sommelier?

The 3 key words of the sommelier profession are: humilityadaptabilitytrust.

As a sommelier, humility is very important. It takes the form of always wanting to continue learning and remain accessible to the customer.

On the one hand, we embody expertise, but it’s a constantly evolving environment that means we don’t know everything. It is necessary to support the client by taking into account as much as possible his profile and his request, by providing precise and relevant advice without burying the client in technical terms that are often confusing for him. In an environment like luxury, image and ego have a special place, and even more so for wine which wants to be a product of the “expert”, so you must always keep a warm smile and a cool head.

In order to respond to a request in all circumstances, it is necessary to be adaptable. Thanks to the Restaurant’s teams, particularly in booking and reception, we can work upstream on the profile of customers. This is very useful because the restaurant has its regulars, from the Alain Ducasse era as well as from the Jean Imbert era. We pay particular attention to creating a relationship with our customers and we try to collect as much information as possible in order to, not only, meet their needs but also, and above all, to anticipate them.

What remains essential is to quickly identify customers by observation and listening because this allows you to establish their profile, their mood, the reason for their visit, etc. and therefore to adapt accordingly, especially for advice on wine. It will always be about making the best choice for the customer quickly.

Finally, customers expect the sommelier to inspire confidence. Customers don’t have our knowledge, but they want to enjoy themselves and it’s our duty to be receptive and friendly so that the exchange is smooth. I often get told, “I trust you completely.” It’s no longer just a matter of advising and recommending: you have to make a clear choice and take responsibility for it, regardless of the budget. In this way, we show that we have understood the customer’s desire and that, thanks to our experience, we will fully meet their expectations according to a particular budget. There’s nothing more rewarding than a customer happy with their recommendation. That’s why I work, especially when it comes to food and wine pairings, which are particularly close to my heart.

For example, for a venison that was on the menu this winter, I suggested a pairing by the glass with a red wine from Tuscany from Pietro Carciorgna, his Alberaia cuvée. The sweetness and freshness of the Sangiovese (grape variety) respected the delicacy of taste of the venison fillet while the tangy notes of red fruits and chocolate went very well with the sauce, a venison base spiced up with dark chocolate with a redcurrant condiment to complement it.

Picture of Enzo Ferrantin, 1st sommelier at the Plaza Athénée.

You’ve been working as a sommelier at the Plaza Athénée for two years. Why?

From my first recruitment interview at the Plaza Athénée, the head sommelier Laurent Roucayrol (best sommelier of France 2013 competition organized by the Union de la Sommellerie Française) received me in the underground cellar. I really appreciated this authentic and simple approach. He explained to me his expectations and what it means to work in a gourmet restaurant in a palace.

Since then, a mutual trust has been born and I have grown, first clerk, then sommelier and finally first sommelier since October 2023. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people who believe in me and make this evolution possible.

The Plaza Athénée is one of the historic hotels in Paris. As 1st sommelier, I have the immense privilege of having at my disposal more than 35000 references from all French wine regions and sometimes from old vintages (1960) in perfect condition. Therefore, it is an extraordinary playground for a sommelier, both by the bottle and by the glass.

My daily life at the Plaza Athénée gives me an extraordinary multicultural adventure. Whether it’s through my colleagues in the various departments or international clients, I have the chance to develop an open mind on a daily basis, which is precious and very important to me.


How is Vatel Bordeaux a decisive step in your professional career?

The International Wine & Spirits Management specialisation in the 2nd year of the MBA International Hospitality Director explains my coming to Vatel Bordeaux.

Moreover, the opportunity to prepare and pass the Wine & Spirits Education Trust level 3 has allowed me to understand all the richness of the professional wine world, which greatly contributes to my current career choice. Courses taught in English are also a strength, the world of work requires it more and more and it is important to have a good foundation from the beginning.

Overall, this training has allowed me to acquire a commercial approach, a spirit of initiative and entrepreneurship that serve me on a daily basis.


You can also read why Bordeaux is the best place to study wine