Name: Alexandre Brard
At the moment: USA-Nevada
Currently: Wine Director
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry?
While younger I would receive wine books from my grandmother on birthdays and Christmas. I have memories of tasting during the family reunions some outstanding Grand Crus Bordeaux. I thought then that because of the wine capacity to improve with age that there was something magic about wine. I was embracing the comfort of drinking a very good red wine and the heartiness of it.
Any particular mentors at that time?
When my career started as a server, private butler and then sommelier my only mentor always have been my big brother who’s a very talented awarded French chef. Since I have been sitting for the Master Sommelier exam I have several Master Sommelier mentors who are always available to assist and getting me prepared for the next exam.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
Hard working skills, humility, human skills and a strong personality. All these attributes should help a sommelier going threw a daily stressful day on the floor of a restaurant.
When I was young I was observing with a great deal of respect the entire restaurant crew. From the chef to the dishwashers, the Maitre d’ Hotel, the chefs de rang, chefs de partie, pastry chefs, bartenders. Each team has its own task and makes the restaurant running like a boat min a storm everyday.
The sommelier to me was that guy that everyone admires, he seems like he is sitting on a gold mine, that treasure hidden in the wine cellar with millions of money worth of super high end wines and spirits. That guy is responsible of the “bank” of the restaurant because this is where the revenues really come from. A gastronomical restaurant without a wine program cannot survive. So the sommelier with his knowledge and service is to me a key player in a restaurant.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad?
Find a position where you will be in good hands where you can learn the sommelier technics of services with confidence.
Any further tips?
Do one thing at a time; keep cool during any stressful event at work. No need to remind you that any item you are carrying is very expensive (Wine, Glassware, Decanters, food) you don’t want to drop anything and break it. A server or a sommelier that constantly drops glasses and break company property doesn’t pay attention and should be removed from the position or company and even from the industry.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
Number One Rule: LISTEN Gather as many information from the customer's voice to guide you thru the recommendation you will give him. Give 3 recommendations.
2: DON’T GO FOR THE WALLET EVER If you try to take advantage and force the sell by taking too much money from your guest. Guest will notice your game and will shut down and take away the trust he could have given you. Now we are here to make money and the sommelier is a sales person? True. The best approach to up the sales is by recommending a slightly higher priced wine than the agreed price. By giving him 3 price points (below, matching and higher). Instead ask to open a second or third bottle of the same wine. You can always do your job by recommending dessert wines, after dinner drinks, coffee, tea. These are up sales that won’t offend and push around the customer. A sommelier need to have a good reputation not of a money grabber but more the reputation of a nice guy who is just very passionate with his job and wines and enjoys sharing his cool inexpensive wines with the guests and coworkers.
What's your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
Cristal is a must for enjoying wine. Riedel and Spiegelau are 2 good brands. Having high-end glassware is a dream come true for a sommelier but we must be conscious of the cost of material.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
1: Be local. Try to pair the wine using the same provenance as the food item
2: Use the color code. This usually works by matching the color of the food to the wine.
3: Consider the body of the dish (Light dish with light wine/ Heavy dish to heavy wine)
4: Locate the 1 aroma or spice that you will match to the wine.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
Absolutely. This is the base of learning wine as a sommelier. Each single bottle of wine open in your restaurant has to be proofed by the sommelier. This is the only way to know if the wine taste properly compared to other bottles opened.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine mark ups?
Make sure you are representing the local wines. If the region where you are doesn’t have a wine industry like Las Vegas then your local wine is California, Washington and Oregon.
A wine list must be diversified. Leading wine countries must be represented (France, Italy, Spain)
A wine list must have a focus whether it is on the wine pairing or a varietal or a region.
A serious wine list should offer all styles of wines: Sparkling, Rose, white, red, late harvested and fortified.
The pricing is very important; make sure all price ranges are available. ($50, $100, $150, $250 and up)
Selection must offer a by the glass section representing most varietals and or regions.
It is good to insert some illustration or maps in the wine book to make the wine list more fun to read.
Brands are important. You don’t want your entire list to be a grocery store list but adding some brand names helps the customer to recognize them and be more comfortable while looking for a wine. If a guest favorite Champagne is Clicquot Yellow Label and sees it on your wine list he will be familiar and not intimidated and could ask for a suggestion for something new to him.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I don’t really see drastic changes in the wine world. I see more evolutions, new wine regions, new vineyards and new producers. And we make sure by talking to colleagues to discover new things.
Too many changes could cause a problem when I have to study and there are too many changes in the wine world such as new German laws or a new Italian DOC to learn every week.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what's the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
We have the chance to visit with wine representatives on a daily basis. We talk to them exchange ideas, share the new wine we just learned about and that’s how we taste new wines all the time. A good way to find new gems is by reading the wine revues.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
PINOT NOIR because with me you can make white, rose, red and even Champagne!
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what's your desert island wine?
Chablis Premier Cru, Grand Cru Saint Emilion, Barbaresco.
Desert Island wine: Champagne
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
The Wine Hub
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at