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Q&A: Piotr Pietras MS, independent wine consultant and SITT On-Trade Ambassador

Published:  28 January, 2019

Piotr Pietras MS, former director of wine at London’s Hide, has taken on the newly-created role of on-trade ambassador for SITT (Specialist Importer Trade Tastings). Harpers caught up with him about his plans for the role and for tips on the on-trade wine scene too.

What are you hoping to bring to the SITT tastings this year in your position as on-trade ambassador?

SITT has always been on-trade focused, but this year we really want to bring more sommeliers, restaurant managers, and bar managers as well, because they deal with wine too.

My role will be about liaising with the on-trade and acting as an ambassador between restaurants and the exhibitors. I will be able to convey to the SITT team what professionals are looking for when they go to tastings, and maybe find new ways of running masterclasses and panels too.

What does SITT offer on-trade visitors?

It’s all about independents and smaller suppliers. It’s a good opportunity for those suppliers to show what they have available, and for the on-trade to discover some new wine, and even new regions.

And it’s always a good event to catch up with the trade, and with producers and suppliers too. It’s all about bringing the trade together.

How will the SITT tastings be tackling some of the trends and issues in the wine world this year?

Low intervention wine, for example, is a trend that is well established now. SITT want to bring some panels about this to the event, and there will be a designated area for these wines too, poured by a special by-the-glass system.

What are the wines, and wine regions, currently on your radar?

There are very food-friendly wines based on Assyrtiko, and in the on-trade they’re becoming ubiquitous, from places like Santorini, but also Greek islands like Kefalonia or Crete.

From the New World, places like Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula, where they’re producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Syrah – not Shiraz, but Syrah made in an elegant, restrained way. Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir too, made in a balanced way, such as those from Santa Barbara County, or Sonoma Coast. There’s a new wave that’s focussing on less oak, less extraction, and more crisp, fresh flavours to work with a variety of food. It’s important to have this drinkability factor.

Austria as a country is very dynamic and vibrant. On drinkability and food friendliness, it’s a case in point. And it resonates with me, because I like when winemakers and growers are responsible, and have sustainable farming practices. Austrian wine ticks those boxes. They’re at the top of their game.

What would you like to see improved when it comes to the on-trade in general?

It’s important that sommeliers don’t focus on wine only, but also have great knowledge of sake, for example. It’s important to know about spirits and liqueurs, as well as beers and ciders, especially here in England where we have quite a few artisanal ciders, alongside ciders from Normandy and the Basque country. These are fantastic food companions, and you can use them for tasting menus too.

You need to be versatile and not only focus on wine, because a customer could request something else, or just want to try something different. Ultimately though, the most important role is wine, so we need to constantly educate ourselves, and those around us.

Piotr Pietras MS is a Master Sommelier and an independent wine consultant. Having moved to London from Poland in 2013, he worked as a sommelier for renowned chefs such as Gordon Ramsay (Maze), Richard Corrigan (Corrigan's Mayfair) and Tim Allen (Launceston Place). Most recently he was a director of wine at Michelin-starred HIDE where he managed UK's largest wine list and a team of 18 sommeliers.

Piotr has also successfully competed internationally becoming 2nd Best Sommelier of Europe 2017 and Best Young Sommelier of the World 2017.