Head Sommelier – Core by Clare Smyth

Gareth is the best known South African sommelier in the world, having plyed his trade at London wine institutions Launceston Place, 67 Pall Mall and now as Head Sommelier at the newly-opened Core by Clare Smythe. He oversees a wine program that has a list of over 800 references, leading a team of 6 sommeliers.

Describe your wine list in a few short sentences.

The wine list at Core is what I’d describe as classic in its makeup with a large focus on the regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux with vintage depth, but has something for every kind of wine lover.

What do you love most about being a sommelier?

The people, from the guest at the table to the many friends I have made from being in the profession. Wine connects people from around the world in a unique way!

What is your favourite wine you’ve ever drunk and why?

That’s always a difficult question to answer! I think I’d prefer to answer that as what is my best wine moment and it has to be being in the cellar of legendary Burgundy estate Domaine de la Romanee Conti with some good friends as owner and chief winemaker Aubert de Villaine pulled corks going back to the 1950’s.
A very special moment.

What’s the most exciting wine region in South Africa right now and why?

It’s been at the forefront of some of the best wines in South Africa for a while already, but it has to be the Swartland and the many talented producers there. This region on the western coast of South Africa is home to the most innovative and forward thinking vignerons in the country – people like Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhorst and Craig Hawkins.

Any funny stories from service involving wine?

At 67 Pall Mall, a London wine institution, I once poured from a glass of Petrus (the world’s most expensive Merlot, from eastern Bordeaux), instead of Chateau Figeac (another Merlot, less expensive, from a nearby region), which my guest had ordered.

The issue was we were pouring these wines via Coravin, and so the cork was still in the bottle…..which meant we couldn’t pour the wine back into the bottle. The guest wasn’t prepared to pay for the expensive wine (I think it was something like 500 pounds a glass)….i guess not so funny for me, but my colleagues certainly found it amusing.

What’s your wine glass of choice?

Zalto. I’ve been lucky enough to have been using Zalto glasses for about 3 years now and although there are so many great glasses I just keep going back to Zalto.

How can I get the best out of my sommelier in a restaurant?

Trust is important - a sommelier has gone through a lot of work to make the choices for the wine list, so give some basic information on what you would like and be prepared to take advice, knowing that sommelier has your best interests at heart.

Have a go at our fun palate profile quiz here and we’ll recommend three bottles that we think you'll love according to your results!