Wine Minds Q&A

In the hot seat with our Wine Minds apprentices

Last year, we launched our Wine Minds programme and Wine Minds apprenticeship to support emerging industry talent. Our current apprentices are Sam Ameye (Bar Swift, Soho) and Romain de Courcy (Gazelle, Mayfair), who’ve had a packed few months of trips, tastings and masterclasses. With their overseas internships just around the corner, we caught up with them to see how they’ve been enjoying the experience so far.

Romain de Courcy Romain de Courcy

What have you enjoyed most about being an apprentice?

Spending time with winemakers is a unique opportunity to hear first-hand about their philosophy and practices in the vineyard.

Where are you going for your harvest internship?

I am very lucky to be invited by Argento for the harvest in Mendoza. I had the chance to try one of their wines at a dinner in London which made me thirsty for more.

What are you most looking forward to about the trip?

I am ready to roll up my sleeves and fully appreciate all the effort that goes into making outstanding wine. I am also keen to learn about the way people live in the region, their heritage and how this goes into the wine they make.

What do you like about the industry?

I love unexpected questions or requests; it may be stressful, but it keeps me on my toes. The customers some might call ‘difficult’ are often my favourite. There is nothing as rewarding as turning a tough situation around and getting people to have an amazing time.

What’s your favourite drink on the list at Gazelle?

The Petite Merveille is an aromatic twist on a French 75 with grapefruit-infused gin, lemon, sugar and topped with Champagne in a short, frozen glass. It is inspired by the eponymous perfume by Hermes and is the perfect pre-dinner drink or late-night pick-me-up.

How do you wind down after a busy shift?

At work we usually crack open a few beers and talk about changing the world. It’s a great way to bring the floor, bar and kitchen staff together as a family.

Sam Ameye Sam Ameye

Why did you apply to be a Wine Minds apprentice?

Like many bartenders, I noticed I lack the level of knowledge in wine that I have in spirits, so I wanted to bridge that gap.

What have you enjoyed most about being an apprentice?

The vast amounts of knowledge on offer from some of the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Not only wine producers, but also the people at Bibendum. It’s amazing to hang out and learn from everyone!

Where will you be heading for your harvest internship?

I’ll be going to Journey’s End in Stellenbosch. As I’m from Belgium, the language barrier shouldn’t be too hard as Afrikaans is derived from Dutch. I’ve never been to the country, so I’m very excited to go!

What are you most looking forward to about the trip?

I’ve never done a harvest, so the technical challenge excites me. But I think getting to live with the family that makes the wine is what I’m most looking forward to.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of embarking on a career in hospitality?

Keep a clear head and don’t burn out within the first 5 years. Yes, it is fun and engaging, but that doesn’t mean that 60 hours a week of it is good for you. Take your time and set your own pace. Leave room in your schedule for personal time. And always be willing to learn!

What’s your favourite drink on the list at Swift?

It fluctuates day by day, but I’ll often recommend the Piccolina as my favourite – a delicious aperitif consisting of amontillado sherry, white port and fig.

How do you wind down after a busy shift?

I’ve always preferred taking the bus home over the tube/cab as it gives me the time and space to unwind, think about the day and read a book. It’s important to clear your head if you’ve been talking for 10 hours straight. I always make sure I eat something decent before going to bed too. Occasionally I skip a meal during the day, so I make sure I’ve had at least some proper food.

We’ll be opening applications for the next round of apprenticeships in the next few months, so keep an eye out!

But in the meantime, you can always sign up to the Wine Minds programme for exclusive tastings, masterclasses and events.

From her uni wine 'tasting' society to studying for her WSET, Sophia has long had a fondness for all things vinous. So after a few years developing her marketing skills in the financial services industry, she decided to mix business with pleasure by moving into the wine trade. Now she writes, instagrams and podcasts about Bibendum’s portfolio of wines and the fascinating people who make them.

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