Name: Paula Sidore
Nationality: US-American / NH
At the moment: Germany
Currently: Sommeliere, Writer & Translator
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I first encountered wine in a small glass at Sunday dinner when I was about 6 or 7. Coming from a traditional Italian-American family, Sunday dinner was a big deal. And wine was, from my seven-year-old viewpoint a rite of passage. Those few drops offered me a key into the mystery and magic of what it meant to be a grown-up. That mystery and magic has never stopped enthralling me.
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?
The ability to listen, both to what is AND is not being said. You need to be able to read between the lines and parse both the desires and inhibitions of a guest in order to enhance the dining experience.
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 think it’s crucial to to get outside one’s comfort zone and see what the wine world is doing in places you’ve never even heard of. Learning wine is like learning a language. It’s not for the faint of heart. Get your hands dirty, make mistakes and make them big (like learning the hard way that the word for “drunk” and “blue” are the same. Makes for enlightening small talk!). Wine is as much about people as it is about grapes -- part psychology, part oenology.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
I ask a few questions about wines she has liked in the past in order to gauge what she is feeling now.
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 Zalto glasses for myself. The only problem is that they can be TOO good. I consider them to be the photoshop of the wine world. They enhance all the wonderful qualities of a wine, which when blind tasting can missrepresent how the wines will taste in a sub-optimal (which is pretty much everywhere outside of a professional jury, including my own table!) setting.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Have fun! With balance as a goal. Just as you would in cooking, so it is when pairing wine with food. Let the food be the star, or let the wine sing. But please don’t try to go balls out on both. Two divas on the same stage usually ends in blood and broken glassware.
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?
Again, it’s about balance. Of course you need to hit the benchmarks of the “wine cannon,” but an awareness of price point, audience, and the food being served needs to be taken into account. However, don’t ever confuse balance with compromise.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Read, taste, talk and visit. Especially, visit. Try and visit one of the “the greats” (Piedmont, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rioja etc) every year. Also try to intersperse that with more local or smaller producer visits to keep an ear to the ground on changes at all levels.
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? Industry press, trade fairs especially with a unique focus (indigenous grapes, organic, etc). And of course personal references from a palate I trust.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Wildbacher: late ripening, dark skinned, tart and biting but amazingly refreshing in the right hands. I’d say that about sums me up.
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?
German Riesling, white Burgundy and Lemberger. As for my desert island wine, that’s a toughie. I’ve had so many amazing wines that just make my knees weak and eyes a-flutter. So long as the desert island could wait 20 years, I guess I would say a 2008 Riesling Spätlese Gräfenberg from Weingut Robert Weil. If I had to sail tomorrow, I might have to go with 1943 Weißlack, Schloss Johannisberg both for the taste as well as the history surrounding the bottle.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Much of what I read is in German, but I’m anxious to learn from my colleagues’ responses here in this forum!
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommelier - www.sommeliers.at