Home News > June 2024 > Q&A: Nikos Emner, assistant wine director, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Q&A: Nikos Emner, assistant wine director, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Our diverse hospitality sector would be all the poorer without Nikos Emner in the mix. A consummate professional, Nikos cut his teeth working in wine bars and a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Athens before he relocated to the UK. And, with a résumé that includes The Fat Duck in Bray and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, this dynamic sommelier has plenty to say on curating the perfect list, discovering Greek wines, and navigating the day-to-day challenges of the trade. James Lawrence reports.

What vintage are you?

I was born in the 1990s.

Who, or what, first sparked your interest in wine?

I have always appreciated and enjoyed wine. However, everything changed when I spent a summer on the beautiful island of Crete. During my stay, a very close friend of mine became a viticultural mentor; he taught me how to assess, evaluate and appreciate wine. That was the moment I fell in love with the art of wine tasting and evaluation.

Hospitality is a very rewarding and yet undeniably challenging career. What keeps you going?

Indeed, it can be challenging at times. Yet is is also a wonderful opportunity to flex your creative muscles. My favourite part of working at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is offering our guests a unique experience – creating memorable moments for them to treasure.

Tell us more about your wine list – how does a wine make the cut?

Our list offers a diverse mix of classic and modern styles, new and old, traditional and innovative. We place a strong emphasis on championing new wave wines and cutting-edge winemakers, encompassing every single part of the world. Ultimately, though, the only way a bottle makes the cut is if it tastes amazing.

In 2024, what does a great wine list look like to you?

A great wine list in 2024 should break down barriers – go above and beyond. It should cover several different regions and showcase wines that are found off the beaten track. Most importantly of all, it should always prioritise quality over renown.

Why did you decide to get involved in judging at the Sommelier Wine Awards?

It was an honour to be given the opportunity to be a member of the judging panel at the Sommelier Wine Awards.  I knew that I would have to challenge myself – be at the top of my game when I was judging wines alongside other leading professionals, exercising complete accuracy. The day after the competition I felt very elated and I was able to understand more about this part of the wine business. This has inspired me to expand my connections and to gain more experience when judging wines.

What are your customers requesting at the moment? What styles and/or grapes are in vogue?

We are currently experiencing a high demand for classic regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany). However, we also have an eclectic range of guests, many of whom are looking to try something new like an orange wine or something from an unknown wine region. Nevertheless,  Sauvignon Blanc remains a perennial favourite.

Choice of tipple mid week?

A glass of bubbles – something from the United Kingdom.

Describe the most amazing bottle of wine you have ever tasted

The most amazing wine from a rarity standpoint was a 1990 Echezeaux from Henri Jayer. However, the most incredible bottle overall was an Assyrtiko from Karamolegos winery.

Who are your heroes in the world of wine?

That's an easy one: Yiannis Karakasis. His love for Greek wines is incredible: he's a passionate communicator and ambassador of the Greek wine industry. And when it comes to winemakers, I also really admire Francis Egly and Jacques Seysses.

Finally – how do you relax?

I love spending the day with my daughter. Then I'll share a nice glass of Burgundy with my wife. Bliss.