Name: Harish Acharekar
At the moment: India
Currently: Sommelier/Assistant Beverage Manager
2015 Sommelier of the year in India
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry?
I was always curious about beverages during my college days. I got an opportunity to pursue ‘Wines of the World’ course with Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai which gave me comprehensive knowledge about the grape varietals and the regions.
Any particular mentors at that time?
Our then General Manager Mr. Armando Kraenzlin who conducted wine courses for the Hotel staff, his training sessions have played a very crucial role in fostering my passion towards wines. Also, Sommelier Gagan Sharma’s recommendations on wine encyclopedias have been very resourceful.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance? What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e)
A good Sommelier should be Persuasive, Confident, Knowledgeable, Witty and Pocket friendly and whose focus should be on exceptional customer service.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
Understand the guest’s preferences by asking relevant questions based on grape varietals, style or any preferable region. Also take into consideration if they are looking at pairing the wine with a particular dish or cuisine, and what their usual favourites are. Make recommendations based on these factors and offer options at various price points.
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?
I love using this line -- Wine is like ‘Sun Trapped In Beautiful Glasses’.
I have extensively worked with Schott Zwiesel. I do believe that good quality glasses elevate flavours in a wine. The same wine in two different glasses (brand/shape) tastes differently.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
“White wine you pair with Fish, Red wine you pair with meat and whenever confused offer a Rosé”
(Ha ha Did I just say that?)
Along with the main ingredients do consider the method of cooking, sauce and the side dish. Also feel free to experiment and explore.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
I would always recommend a Sommelier to taste guest’s wines to ascertain its quality before serving. However this privilege should not be abused.
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?
1. Theme / Cuisine of the Restaurant
2. Trends in the local market
3. Balanced with variety and price.
4. Availability with the Distributors.
A restaurant wine list must be competitive and lucratively priced offering value for money deals, encouraging customers to go for second bottle. This will not only increase sales but also foot fall.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I like conversing with Sommeliers and Distributors about various new trends in the market. Regularly attend wine tastings, trade shows, and refer to magazines and digital media.
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?
1. Organize wine tastings with the Sommeliers.
2. Showcasing wines during trade shows.
3. Initially, new wines could also be introduced for ‘Wine by Glass’ programme in order to gather guest feedbacks.
4. Also a strategy in promoting a wine does wonders.
Eg. Recommend ‘Cava’ to a restaurant, if their wine list does not carry it.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I am like young Vintage Champagne which gets better with age.
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?
1.Krsma Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Hampi Hills, India
2. Bibi Graetz Testamatta Soffocone di Vincigliata Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy
3. Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Blanc, Loire, France
My desert island wine would be my all time favourite
Gramona III Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava, Catalonia, Spain
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Sommelier India magazine, wine-searcher.com, winefolly.com
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at