With the increasing popularity of our recently established “Wine Line” and the apparent “thirst” for knowledge on all things wine related, we were encouraged to delve a little deeper into the world of a Sommeliere and to understand the motivations of a professional wine enthusiast.
Resident Sommeliere at Hayfield Manor, Sandra Biret Crowley developed a passion for serving wine at an early age. While undertaking a four year hotel management course in her native France, Sandra quickly recognised that, while she enjoyed all aspects of restaurant service, it was in the area of wines that she truly excelled. Thus, upon completing her hotel qualifications, she took the initiative to write a letter to a local vineyard requesting a year-long apprenticeship. Twelve months were happily spent working and learning as much as possible at the Vineyard Domaine Dhommé in Chalonnes Sur Loire.
Duly graduating with a Sommeliere’s Diploma, Sandra then took leave of home soil in a quest to improve her English and experience the world of hospitality in Ireland. Her first port of call was a year’s work placement at Hayfield Manor in 2004. During this time, on St. Patrick’s Day 2005 to be precise (!), Sandra met and fell in love with Cork native, Gary. Following a brief 8 month stint back in France, Ireland lured once more and Sandra returned to Dromoland Castle in May 2006, initially fulfilling the role of Chef de Rang but soon advancing to that of Sommeliere. In 2009, Sandra requested a move to Castlemartyr Resort, then a sister property to Dromoland, and stayed here until August 2011 before the five star circle completed itself and she returned to Hayfield Manor.
With her new family, now-husband Gary based in Cork as a guard, and year old daughter Calina, Sandra is very content to be settled here and to be continuously learning more in her role as Resident Sommeliere.
According to Sandra, the thing to love most about wines is that every year is different and brings new possibilities, especially with old world wines. Age old traditions and regulations established in these countries date back hundreds of years. Therefore, modern techniques of the new world wine producers are not often adopted and the fate of a vintage very often rests in the hands of the weather gods. Sandra explains that because of this, certain years are universally acknowledged as great years for wines, such as ‘89/’90, while others are reflected upon in dismay as bad years including ‘84/’86.
New world wines are no less interesting to Sandra who constantly marvels at the advances in the production of better and better wines from Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand to name but a few sources of impressive wines. On the whole, Sandra considers New world wines to be lighter, fresher and less full bodied which make for very pleasant drinking experiences.
When asked about her most memorable wine experience, Sandra reflects with some wonder, on an opportunity to taste and serve an exquisite bottle of Burgundy, costing over €1,000! On a more affordable scale, a good Burgundy is her go-to treat but Sandra is equally delighted with the opportunity to try new wines from all over the globe and to share her knowledge with guests and friend alike. That’s what makes her job so interesting – there is no finite knowledge that one can acquire about wines and there is an endless supply of new wines waiting in the wings to be sampled and enjoyed!
To avail of Sandra’s knowledge of all things viti-cultural, avail of our Friday evening “Wine Line”, where all questions and queries are welcome and personally answered by Sandra on our Wine Society Facebook page or via Twitter.