Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A Case of Questions with Terry Kandylis, Beverage & Wine Director, Lucas Restaurant Group

As you all know by now, this blog's interview involves a standard case of questions that (hopefully) elicits non-standard (i.e., wild, remarkable, insightful, embarrassing, etc.,) answers. In today's case, if our Editor had gifted us with the flexibility to drop one of the usual questions, we would have straight-up asked Terry Kandylis, former Head Sommelier at London's iconic 67 Pall Mall, how he went from studying physics in Athens to getting physical with wine as one of Europe's best sommeliers.

Prior to his stint at 67 Pall Mall, Terry, who's originally from Greece, spent time fine-tuning his palate at acclaimed restaurants such as The Fat Duck and The Ledbury in the UK, while wrapping up his WSET diploma and advanced level of the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. As a professional sommelier, Terry was also crowned Best Sommelier in Greece in 2015, the UK's Best Sommelier in 2016 and winner of the 2013 Sommelier South African Cup.

Now Terry is heading Down Under where he will live and work just a skip and a hop away from the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and countless other world-class Australian wine regions. There, Terry will manage wines and drinks for the Lucas Restaurant Group, a consortium of Asian-inspired eateries in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Since Terry has been to Cyprus on several occasions and has plenty of friends on The Rock, we thought we'd reach out before he heads southeast on his next adventure in this wonderful world of wine.

Why wine?

I fell in love with hospitality, to be surrounded by people, different cultures and languages. Wine came naturally. It's our social lubricant, the medium to spark the most amazing of conversations, and I was fascinated by how it can make your senses travel and how it can remind you of childhood memories, people, places. 

First wine that really captured your attention? How old were you?

I came relatively late into the industry, so I was around 23 years old. The first one that really captured my attention was a 1983 Cos D’Estournel. It's my birth year, so it was quite special to try something as old as you are.

All-time favorite bottle of wine?

1978 La Tâche. I have and had the privilege to try amazing wines in my life and haven’t tried yet a more complex, seductive and poised wine than this. If the nine Muses could be impersonated into a bottle of wine, then that’s it.

Favorite wine-producing region? Why?

Burgundy! Because they make wines that can speak to the soul.

Your favorite food-and-wine pairing?

Anchovies, olives and Sherry.

What is Cyprus missing when it comes to wine?

It's missing the brand name at the moment. It could be a variety or a region. Or both combined. Unfortunately, sweet wines sales have been declining for decades now, so Commandaria is a hard sell. If you look into Greece’s recent success with Santorini, I think there is definitely global interest and potential with indigenous varieties from amazing terroirs. And Cyprus has to show to the world that it has both beautiful indigenous varieties and a unique terroir.

What do you foresee for Cyprus’s wine industry?

Maybe not dissimilar to Greece, people will start to recognise the potential of the local grapes. And hopefully they will become more confident in their wine-making, allowing the varietal typicity to shine and the terroir to speak through their wine-making, rather than their wine-making covering the terroir.

What do you enjoy most about your work in the food & wine world?

I do enjoy spending time with generous and passionate people that really care about their regions and the environment, value life and its gifts, and have a vision for a better world.

What is your “Five Year Plan” for your career in the wine industry?

I am moving to Australia and Melbourne, in particular, so I will say that’s part of my 5 year plan of where I see myself.

Who is your favorite wine personality? Why?

Gerard Basset. I had the chance to meet him in person and interact with him. His ethos, humble approach and continuous thirst for knowledge and generosity to help the people in our industry make him stand apart. A true gentleman and a real loss to the industry.

Any embarrassing episodes involving spilled wine, corkscrews, sommeliers or drunken behavior?

I despise drunken behaviour and believe that, as our ancient ancestors used to say, greatness comes in moderation. Our job might have lots of colourful moments and heaps of fun, but it hides many dangers that every professional should know how to avoid and deal with. And it's a serious job as we need to take care of our guests and protect them.

Of course, your all-time favorite Cypriot (or other island) wine?

I apologise in advance to my Cypriot and Greek friends. I love islands and volcanic wines in particular, but my favourite island wine is Madeira!

You can find Terry Kandylis on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.