Name: John Agnel Dsouza
At the moment: India
Currently: Sommelier / Wine Trainer
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I was a Bartender on a Cruise line and then was assigned to bring in one of our new built ship in Saint-Nazaire France. Since we were there for some time got a chance to visit wineries in France and was really fascinated seeing the details of the history and the process of winemaking that's when I decided I am going to learn about wine and become a Sommelier. So Here I am Sommelier John for you.
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?
Firstly your love for wine He or she be able to read the guest and assert the needs and be able to suggest. Anticipating what a guest may want next. Should be able to operate with Style and be graceful. Must be able to guide the staff in service and convey a sense of enthusiasm to the staff. He or she should share his knowledge and experience. Should be able to accept criticism and admit mistakes. Should be a representative of the restaurant and must be an articulate spokesperson for the restaurant. He or she should organize training sessions must have a sharp focus and a clear objective. He or she should be familiar about grape varieties or regions along with harvest times, climates, soils and the overall winemaking processes. This in-depth understanding will help him or her to answer a vast number of questions from patrons as well as industry partners. He or she should be approachable and able to share his or her knowledge with the staff and guests in a confident manner. And yes Andrea Robinson the American sommelier, chef, television personality, and Jancis Robinson British wine critic, journalist and editor of wine literature were persons videos I would watch and learn a lot about wine..
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? Any further tips?
Learn about wine and try wines that may be irrelevant to you or may not feature in your wine list. The major cities and Five star hotels are always hiring for this position again depending on which part of the world you are from. But Cruise lines to hire for this position frequently. So if you wish to see the world that's a great way to go.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
If a guest ask advice on wine, first ask the customers if they have a preference of red or white wine once they have taken the pick next Ask the customers if they have a preference of grape-type. Ask the customers if they know what they are going to order for their meal so you can pair the wine with the food that they will order. Lastly when recommending If the customer seems hesitant about your wine suggestion, it could be because they are looking for a lower price. Always start with the more expensive suggestions you might have, and move down from there while looking at the customer's’ response and read the body language in a professional manner you will be able to judge what the guest is comfortable with.
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?
Yes, wine glasses really can make a big difference in how wine tastes. In principle, you can use anything to drink wine out of and if you're drinking especially in expensive wine, it's unlikely that your choice of glass will make much difference But I still believe that you can drink a inexpensive wine in a good glass and make it taste like an expensive wine or the other way you could drink an expensive wine in a cheap glass and make it taste like a cheap wine. So to really get the most out of good wine, though, you should pick your wine glass with care and attention. The more care you give to buying and tasting wine, the more care you should give to having the right wine glasses.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
When matching wine and food you could try matching the wine to the meat or matching to the sauce you can even try a match that works with parts of a dish. Sometimes with the whole dish. Basically at times the wine brings out the best in the dish or at times they both bring out the best in each other. At times it could work out as a mirror pairing where both are so parallel in tones and they create a perfect harmony. But then again there are just some combinations one must avoid just keep your guests' tastes in mind and let them enjoy the wine they are comfortable with as for some most wines will work well with most foods. Don't be intimidated by the opinions of others. White wine with red meat is fine, if that is what your guests enjoy
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
There are a few reasons I did followed this practice it could be a reason for a guests accidentally accepting a bottle that is not up to standard since I want to ensure the wine I serve is in perfect condition.
You also have guests even those who know something about wine, are not comfortable saying that a bottle is gone bad . They may be not sure or embarrassed to send it back. Then again if it's a borderline case of a wine going down by tasting the wine first the Sommelier could engage in conversation with the guest and say that a wine needs to breathe a bit, or needs to be slightly chilled . In most cases the guest will agree with the sommelier
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
In Cruise companies and in five star Hotels web sites.
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?
Firstly I suggest a Progressive wine list where your White Wines are listed, from light and bright to heavy and serious. And your Red Wines, From Light To Heavy. Your wine list must have textual explanations this saves your server's time by not having to explain the wines. And if your servers don't know the wines well enough to explain them it would prevent them from saying “I don’t know” or worse, lying their way through. It should be more economical for your guest to buy a bottle. Don’t deter your guest from buying a bottle as if they do buy a bottle you make more money right away it saves your bartender time from pouring the wine you save your guest money having bottles of wine on tables may compel other guests to order a bottle too With regards to ridiculous pricing i would say whatever price you are offered for a wine bottle from the supplier that should be what you charge for a glass of that wine.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Get updated with the current goings on in the industry now there are apps which one can have on their mobiles and get information on wines regions grape varieties and more. Social media is the way to go. Have a training and development program set which will keep you abreast with the changes happening.
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?
Firstly word of mouth and reviews about their wines and for listing I would ask them to do a couple of days on premise visit and go around giving guests (Wine drinkers) a sample taste of their wines and I would look for feedback from those guests and if the feedback is positive i would list them.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Champagne as I would be bubbly and unique coming from a certain region only.
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?
As for my desert island wine depending on the weather if hot surely a Rose or a Sauvignon Blanc otherwise Merlot or Red Zinfandel
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Depending on what level of wine knowledge you have to start with Wine for Dummies, KISS(Keep it Simple series), Windows of the world, World Atlas of Wine, Wine Bible and web sites like Wine Searcher, Wine Folly, Robert Parker ,Decanter etc
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommelier - www.sommeliers.at