Master Sommelier Pierre Brunelli picks his top bottles and shares wine recommendations for a range of occasions
Our By The Glass series sees sommeliers and wine experts share some vinous inspiration for your next pour.
Pierre Brunelli is one of just 261 people in the world to hold the Master Sommelier title, a distinction awarded by the Court of Master Sommeliers in the US. It’s an even rarer accolade than the Master of Wine, which 420 people currently hold, and it places specific focus on beverage service.
On top of his MS qualification, Brunelli counts sommelier stints at leading UK restaurants The Fat Duck and Greenhouse as part of his extensive expertise, which most recently was complemented by first-hand winemaking experience garnered when he took a sabbatical and spent time visiting and learning from his favourite organic wine producers in France and Germany.
Having transferred to Hong Kong from his previous post at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume restaurant to head up the chef's Roganic, Aulis and The Baker and The Bottleman, Brunelli shares selections from his esteemed career to date alongside solid recommendations.
An early (in your career) wine that made you go 'Wow! (I want to be a somm)'
1978 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Red Reserve Chateau Rayas. This wine had so much energy and was so vibrant for its age. I could not put an exact word to the feeling, but I know it was something truly special.
Most memorable pour
1974 Heitz, Martha’s Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA. My ex-boss Marlon Abela, owner of the Greenhouse, asked me to open this bottle to celebrate the birthday of our head chef Arnaud Bignon. The wine was so fresh with ripe blackcurrant, tobacco leaf, leather and firm tannins. I still have the empty bottle at my place in France.
Tipple for a Tuesday
For my team and I, Tuesday is the first day back at work after a chilled Monday. It would have to be a Lambic (wild ale) style if I want to be fit to work the day after. I really like the Wildflower Apricot wild ale we serve at The Baker and The Bottleman; it has a hint of funkiness, lots of apricot fruit and a refreshing acidity for only 5.7% alcohol.
Sun, sea and …
Pinot noir in all shapes and styles—Champagne, Burgundy, New World, red, rosé…
Wine of the moment
I am really into grower Champagne at the moment. I spend a lot of time with the guys at Avize wine merchant in Causeway Bay, and they have such a great selection. Check out Dhondt-Grellet or Frederic Savart.
What you wish a customer would order (so you can taste it—for taint, of course)
We have a Trousseau from the US from Arnot-Robert that tasted a bit tight though still really delicious last summer, and I would love to see how it has evolved since. Trousseau is a red grape variety usually grown in Jura, France producing light and pale, very smashable red wines; this example is from California.
What you love to recommend to guests
I truly believe wine pairings and non-alcoholic pairings are the way to go if you trust your somm and you really want a great culinary experience. At Roganic we spend a lot of time developing the non-alcoholic pairings that match our tasting menu for those who drive or just don’t feel like drinking.
Best from your by-the-glass list
I really enjoy our Chateau Le Puy claret, made in the Côtes de Francs area (an area next to Saint-Émilion). This merlot-dominated blend is perfect for those who want to enjoy an accessible Bordeaux (in terms of price and drinkability) made in the most artisan way possible. It has lots of red plum, savoury herbs and tobacco with soft tannins and plenty of energy on the palate.
Bottle to bring to a dinner party
I usually ask for the food being served and the people attending to make the best choice. But a bottle of grower Champagne (they grow their grapes and make their wine—we could call them artisan) or a good crémant (sparkling wine made in the same Champagne method but from other regions, for example Crémant de Bordeaux) will always do the job.
What’s in your cellar?
I am from the Loire Valley (home of Sancerre, Anjou and Muscadet) so I have plenty of wine from this region. I started a big collection of really serious Muscadet before I left for Hong Kong. Great examples are age-worthy wines for a very fair price. Look for Domaine de l’Ecu and Domaine de Bellevue.
1990 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Red Chateau Rayas decanted for at least two hours and served in a Zalto glass, please!
If not wine, then what?
If not wine, it would have to be an Eaux de Vie de Poire from Laurent Cazotte or a Green VEP Chartreuse (a herb liquor made from a secret recipe by monks in Savoie). Chartreuse tends to be my go-to drink after a long dinner—it's great for digestion.