A taste of the good life

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The Independent Online

Emma Pook, 26, who has a food technology degree from Reading University and a WSET advanced certificate in wines and spirits, joined Majestic as a trainee manager four years ago. She is currently manager of the East Molesey branch in Surrey and is now looking to be promoted to a larger store.

My dad loves wine and he taught me a lot about it when I was growing up. I got real hands-on experience when I worked in a well-stocked wine bar during my gap year and I also learned about pairing food with wine, which is a lot more important nowadays.

There are three sorts of customers in my experience. The price-sensitive buyers will usually pay no more than £5 a bottle, while the customers with a little knowledge will pay between £8 and £12 and may want advice from us on what to serve with a green Thai curry or a summer picnic, for example.

The third category is the connoisseur who’ll pay £20 or more for a bottle of wine and doesn’t need advice from me. But what I’ve learned is that you can’t tell a customer by how they look. I had a one man draw up in a brand new Porsche recently and he bought a case of 12 bottles for just £40 which surprised me, unless of course it was to wash the car with. As a student, I would have spent £6 or £7 on a bottle of wine, but nowadays, I’ll pay £12 or £15 for a decent New World Sauvignon, and Champagne is my all-time favourite.

I talk staff through the different wine-producing regions every day and tastings are all part and parcel of the process. In four years, I must have tried three quarters of the 800 wines we have in stock, but I only try small amounts and there’s no question of being drunk on duty. None of my friends bring wine round any more. They feel embarrassed in case I’ll sneer, so they bring chocolates or flowers instead. But my father is delighted with all the discounts and he’s happy to give me his credit card once a month so I can make a selection for him. I see knowledge of wine as an important life skill as well as a really interesting career and the perks are really very good.