Name: Rita Toth
At the moment: Hungary
Currently: Wine Expert / #winelover ambassador
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My passion for grapes and wines started in my childhood. My father was director of a wine cooperative in Eger wine region, in Hungary - where I was born. Ever since I had been participating in the harvest work and been observing the wine making processes in the cellars. But honestly, the first true inspiration to work in wine later on, I gained in Australia during visiting Hunter and Barossa Valleys. Although primarily I studied Economics and had been working in the Executive Search business, I soon realized that there will be a big change in my career and in order to make it happen I started to study about wines. 5 years ago I won a scholarship and spent four amazing months in Basilicata at a small winery and learnt about the different challenges that producers are facing (from viticulture to blending and also marketing). I consider both my dad and my ex boss, Alfredo Cordsico and Luiz Alberto - Founder of the #winelover community - as those people who encouraged me to follow my dreams and strengthened the belief in my own talent.
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?
Even though I am not a certified sommelier and rather consider myself as a wine expert - holding a WSET Diploma and WSET Educator Certification - I do admire the expertise of Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine as both titles require tremendous hours of learning and amount of wines to taste on the way which leads to this great success. I also highly look up at those talented colleagues who might don’t have such qualifications, but make the effort to deeply understand specific regions and wine producers and have fascinating knowledge about a certain area. Not to mention the importance of the skills which enable a wine professional to become truly acknowledged, such as communication and interpersonal skills which are very important in this industry. Why do I say that? The wine world is not just about grape juice and aromas, wine is about the people who are behind the bottles and those who connect these liquid beauties with consumers and create enjoyment. I believe that both human values and professional credibility are main factors on the way to success.
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 suggest to any young sommelier to travel as much as they can and invest in the understanding of the diversity of the wine growing countries and regions and also to have the desire to deliver the right message about the wines (and the people behind) to their guests but also to their fellow colleagues. I advise them to team up and learn together: working with wine is usually very social, and studying about wine should be similarly social. One of the aim of my company - MoVIN Agency - is to connect professional people with wines of Hungary, Austria and the CEE region. That’s why we design private tours, tastings and we are also working on to create study projects, workshops for sommeliers and other wine experts and journalists. There has been a huge development and modernization in this regions concerning quality wines which are performing high global standards and emerging the rise and rebirth of traditional winemaking areas. These wines has their own unique style, and with the very interesting local varieties they extremely widen the playground of a sommelier in a restaurant. However these are still not must haves and the sommelier should be prepared to properly introduce them but they can be the bright colours of a restaurant wine list and can give amazing experience to the guest.
When searching for a new job, I would definitely recommend to continuously monitor the www.sommelier.at website, which is full of with great and challenging opportunities from all over the world.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
In my opinion the best way to select the right wine for the customer is to find out his/her preferences regarding the style of the wine that is imagined to be a great ‘company’ in that given situation. Should it be a leisure hang out with friends or a well-designed wine dinner with high quality meals. At the same time it should be an important role of sommeliers and wine experts to educate the consumers and give them the opportunity to select from a wider range of wines and enable the experience of something new and unique.
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?
My favourite glasses are made by Riedel, Zalto and Spiegelau which are well-known brands in Europe. Determination should be based on experience as we know that proper glasses make big difference in the tasting experience.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
It’s always an exciting task to create a proper food and wine match which brings unforgettable gastronomy experience. Main focus of the pairing should be the harmony in flavours and textures, but also the avoidance of over dominating aromas and components.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
Unfortunately at the moment, there is no proper site in our country which would gather job opportunities in hospitality, but interested parties should also consider that the local language knowledge can be a very important aspect of the selection. If there is interest in working in Hungary, I encourage applicants to contact our wine consulting agency, named MoVIN, as we have extended network in hospitality.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
If I was a wine, I would be Tokaji Aszú, of course a nicely balanced one which is quite sweet, but not luscious due to the high acidity that enables the wine to last for long and to keep its qualities. :)
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?
Top 3 wines: Egri Bikavér, Barolo and Aglianico del Vulture
Desert island wine: dry Furmint from Hungary
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I highly recommend for sommeliers to follow the websites of Wine Folly and Wine Sofa, latter covering Central Eastern European wine regions in detail.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at