Name: Patrice Auffret
At the moment: Bahrain
Currently: Head Sommelier
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
First encounter with wine at the tender age of 8, Canard Duchene Champagne and Biscuit Rose de Reims to wrap things up on New year’s day……Magical at the time ...Ah those heavenly bubbles, that freshness always awaited with great joy and excitement.
My mentor at the time would have been my father, he’s a Bordeaux man and so I am.
For instance we used to bottle the wine at home from the kegs and received from Mr Raymond Morin based in Anjou. He would come down with his truck and make the deliveries personally. What a great time it was because it was friendly, warm, human and definitely my first glimpse at ……customer service as my father was also a trader. So my first love was Champagne as well as my first wine trip at Moet & Chandon Chateau de Saran in 2003.
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 top qualities required to be a Sommelier are in a non specified order:
Palate is essential for you to read the wines oh yes my friend like a dog sniffing around constantly. No seriously fruits, spices, flowers get a whiff and build your memory bank of smells.
Knowledge is of course mandatory but you cannot be expected to know everything, it will take time and never give murky information to your guests if you do not know the answer to their query then use the internet and find out, there is no harm in doing that.
Management is massively important, leadership, training, cellar management, you must keep that stock level as low as possible.
Remember you are a true success when you help others be successful.
Selection that you have put together on your list says to people come to my garden and discover the flowers I choose for you.
Commitment you own it to your guests as you must deliver great service and products in immaculate conditions. A wine list needs tender loving care. your reputation is at stake and beyond it your employers one too.
Salesmanship is your ability to project your personality, you are likeable, approachable, informed and you must be a great host as you speak the international language of wine.
It is paramount that trust must be established and do not take your guests on an expensive ride, make multiple sound advices. Be cool.
The people that I admire the most in the wine business are Ronan Sayburn MS, Jean Noel Girard Devaux Champagne, Paolo De Marchi Isole e Olena, Didier Cappa les Caves de Pyrene to name a few.
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?
The wine business has evolved rapidly in the last 20 years, new emerging wine growing regions and markets in Asia, Russia, more people consuming wines, more hotels, restaurants, luxurious resorts across the world, Cruises ect….
Demand for Sommelier has grown in proportion. Let’s say for instance you have great knowledge of French wines coupled with a hospitality diploma, great stuff but unfortunately a second language is needed. That language is English in order for you to deal with international customers and make a career abroad. Plus let’s not forget it is not all about Old World wines anymore.
You need to get acquainted with New World Wines and be proficient about them and that will open more doors for you.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
When a customer does ask me for a wine selection, I usually make 3 suggestions.
But hang on a second you need to stop and be a …Psychologist here’s why?
Regardless of the food selection customers might not want to follow a strict wine and food pairing. They might wish to drink New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with their filet of beef and why not. Ask the guest what they like to drink, they might not be able to remember any of the wines they drunk before , maybe not the grape variety either, the country could help, and if you still getting nowhere do not be deterred by it and use the wines by the glass to zero in on the guest preferences. And what happens if your patient suffers from the Chinese syndrome ….. Which is the confusion between a floral, a sweet or dry wine. We are here to help take a few sample glasses with you of a dry, off dry and sweet white wines for instance, let them try and find the result.
They’ll something about wine and their palate in the process.
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?
Ah the wines by the glass offers your guests multiple pleasures and a great GP asset, but be damned if they’re not spot on quality as they represent your bread and butter. I would not recommend to have Zillions of wines by the glass as the lose their freshness very quickly especially if they do not sell on daily basis.
You can work with lots of famous brands but be inventive and bring the lesser known producers to the table and once again products like those needs to be on the target and on the money…. And beware of those so called biodynamic wines they can taste weird and appear too ‘Funky’. It is all about balance and you do not want to list supermarket brands or very little of it.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Ah now the great food and wine pairing. I’d tell you this some people do not care about it ….Why? Well simply they enjoy their wine as a drink independently from their food.
Probably one of the greatest Faux pas in wine pairing is a salty dish and red wine high in tannins …… One of the great matches made in heaven blue cheese and sweet wine. In between plenty of opportunities to experiment, but all depends again of your guest preferences, otherwise stick to the classic pairings.
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 markup?
I strongly believe the ideal size wine list for most restaurants sits between 350 and 450 references. You cannot falter on that selection, you do want people to remember your name. Know who you are, an Italian restaurant, French, modern European, Japanese, American Steakhouse, Seafood and so on. It will help you to determine the number of white wines and red wines needed on your list. Do not overcharge champagnes a 65% GP and lower for the premium stuff is good enough in my opinion. Overall if you do achieve a 70% GP that’s great. Building a wine list is about balance range in quality at every level and prices and let me tell you wine awards are won in the dining room as the customers share their feelings wit you and say this: we have enjoyed your wine selection, we’ll be back and that my friend to me is liquid gold.
You do want repeat customers don’t you? Be fair and offer good value for money and you’ll rip the rewards on wine sales, so take the cash and improve your revenue. People aren’t born yesterday they do know the price of wine.
As one customer from Switzerland put it to me one night, back home in lots of restaurants people can afford to drink very good wines simply because they are fairly priced, then you have more chances to sell that second bottle.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
The changes in the wine industry are frequent and we often go through new fashion, old fashion back in fashion, trends of this and that, emergence of a new generation of drinkers. Nothing beat the classics though. You can travel around the world of wines, a trip full of discoveries and excitement but beware not to drop your guard on wine selection.
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?
As for new producers on how they can showcase their wines and get eventually listed, simple rule as far as I am concerned show me a wine that’s well made, tell me a story, sing to me, serenade me so I can believe in you. Sounds simplistic, isn’t it?
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
If I was a grape variety it would have to be the Syrah grape. It does travel well, France, Australia, USA, New Zealand and Chile. It can burst with voluptuous, generous dark fruits, Blackberry, Blueberry, leather, pepper, cloves. It can be elegant , forceful and bold and full of energy.
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?
I do not possess a cellar but if I did and that particular cellar was let say on a desert island in a faraway place then you would find those wines:
Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1996
Bienvenue Batard Montrachet Paul Pernot 2005
Brunello di Montalcino Talenti 2001
Chateau Baron Pichon-Longueville 1996
Montes Folly Syrah 2006
Château Sigalas Rabaud 1997
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
The tools that I use for my research are varied from Decanter magazine to wine spectator, cellartracker.com is a great website to gather impartial tasting reviews on a wine you would like to list but unfortunately cannot taste.
Oz Clarke’s pocket wine book is also very helpful, and I use Google.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommelier - www.sommeliers.at