Name: Romain Calzia
At the moment: France
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first encounter with the wine industry was during my management school degree 4 month training period in a 5* hôtel in the south of France, I was lucky to train alongside head sommelier Ludovic Parfait who was 2nd best french sommelier at the time. I was able to really start understanding the magic behind wine !
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?
I believe a good sommelier must be able to read the customers demands as best as possible as well as being able to perform under pressure especially when working with a very high end wine list. Also being up to date with the wine industry market and it's ongoing evolutions. I would have to name Drew Langley head sommelier from Providence restaurant in Los Angeles, a very professional and passionate sommelier with a very modern look on wine and wine service. I would also like to mention Frederic Theys the owner of the wine cellar where i work at the moment, his passion and love for teaching others about wine is extraordinary.
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?
I would highly recommend training alongside a very solid and professional sommelier in a nearby restaurant with an interesting wine selection, and not hesitate to visit vineyards/wineries to really understand all the work put into winemaking! After a solid training I would advise any young sommelier to go work abroad to be able to continue learning and to evolve maybe a little faster than in europe.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
Since I now work in a wine cellar and I sell closed bottles that will be enjoyed in a private atmosphere I usually ask whether they are looking for a wine ready to drink or a wine to age in their wine cellar, if it's for a meal I ask them the dish to be served and recommend a selection of wines I would pair with it just as if I was in a restaurant. Overall I think the best approach is to be attentive to the person you are advising, whether it's a wine novice or a seasoned wine amateur.
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?
For our wine classes and tastings we work with Riedel, I believe that to really enjoy and analyse a great wine it's essential to serve it in a good quality glass. We often try new brands, even though we've been working essentially with Riedel since the wine cellar opened.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
An advice on wine pairing I give that is easy for anyone to use is to pair a wine from the same regions as the dish being served for example: a grilled Mediterranean fish with vegetables can pair up nicely with a light, crisp, white Côte de Provence or if you're enjoying a choucroute from alsace a nicely made riesling would do the job.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
Yes, If he asks the customer beforehand in a polite and professional matter, I believe it's an added value to a meal since it brings a little plus to a nice diner just like a table side preparation from the Maitre D.
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 markups?
The key to a pleasant wine list is to first of all put forward local wines, it's important to give credit to high level winemaking done in the area where the restaurant is located (if possible of course), next it's important to reassure guests with wines they will easily be able to apprehend made from commonly known grape varietals (chardonnay, pinot, cabernet etc..) this will bring flexibility to the wine selection. Finally I personally enjoy adding a couple of unknown wines to make people discover new things like a wine from Savoie or a 100% sylvaner for example.
Concerning the high prices being put forward by restaurants, it's usually due to the ever rising prices to buy bottles from well known wine producers notably from bordeaux and burgundy, unfortunately the prices of certain big names have gone up by 500% in 15 years. On the other hand a restaurant owner or sommelier selling all their wines 6-7 times their price is just being unprofessional. A 2,5 to 3 markup is already a nice added value to a product that you didn't have to produce yourself and that can be stored quite a long time.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I try to follow wine blogs, i read specialized magazines, follow certain Facebook pages, watch wine documentaries and talk with wine industry professionals.
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?
I have three key points that need to be followed by the winemaker for his wine to be listed: hand picked grapes, quality over quantity, and clean environment driven vine growing. Afterwards a tasting of the wine is of course necessary to see the overall quality of the wine.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Pinot noir, young or aged, from burgundy, oregon, or australia, this variety is for me the most interesting from all aspects: visual, nose and taste.
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. Biodynamic grenache/syrah blend from the south west of france 2. Pinot noir from around the world 3. Botrytis wine (sauternes, tokaji), and my desert Island wine would be a Romanée-Conti 1971, have to go out with the best :)
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Wine spectator, La revue de vin de France, for french speaking: La PinakotheK
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommelier - www.sommeliers.at