Name: Joanie Metivier
At the moment: Canada
Currently: Sommelier – Wine Blogger - Wine Editor
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I have always had incredible admiration for passionate, specialized people. You know, the kind of people who love their job so much, that they have practiced a whole life and can talk about it with passion, emotion and a certain fanaticism. It is a quality that is not necessarily limited only to the world of wine, however, we must admit that the subject lends itself perfectly. I did study all kinds of subjects but my interest always seemed to come back to wine and the service industry in general. There’s just something about it that makes people happy and this is a beautiful thing. I’ve had many mentors since that all had the same common things, curiosity and passion.
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?
A sommelier should always put the clients first and foremost. Qualities such as discrecy, attentiveness and most of all respect may seem logical but they are the very basic of a good approach. Furthermore, a sommelier should have a thirst for knowledge. Wine is a living product. It is in constant evolution and development and so is the industry, the trends, the availability, etc. A sommelier can’t stop learning, ever.
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?
Believe in yourself. You probably know more than you think. If you love wine, and of course you do, you will do just fine. Don’t settle. Try different restaurants, different style of service and learn from the experience. Study, travel, taste and look for a position where you can grow and employers that are willing to help you achieve your goals.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
The best approach is to ask questions. The more you know about the customer’s taste, the best recommendation you can make. Try to get a sense of their budget and stay within that range. Also, remember, you are making recommendation for someone else, not yourself. You may want to put your personal taste aside.
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 don’t think brand is really important, but quality and look is crucial. I like when my customers make a comment about the glasses which proves they see our attention to details. I love Zalto, but with their price point, it can get very expensive quickly. Riedel or Spiegelau are as appropriate.
Even if you have the best glasses, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have proper care. The most important is that the glasses are clean, polished and most of all odorless.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Know your basics but don’t stick to them. Get adventurous and try. You need to know your menu very well. I know it’s not always easy to taste everything. Most cooks or directors don’t want to take the time or costs even if they understand the importance. Although, you have to experiment. Keep in mind that the most difficult task is not to pair one dish with one wine, but to find a wine that will fit for a whole table. Acidity is versatile and will be your saviour.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
I would like to. If I’m serving a wine, I want it to be at its best. I feel some customers are afraid to call a wine faulty even if it is. They should not get this pressure. However, in most establishments, the standard is to make the guest taste first and you should respect their policies. Tasting a guest’s wine always bring questions and need explanations which are unnecessary for good service.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
There’s not really some precise site destined for that. The best way will always be word to mouth and contacts. Although, even if there’s no position advertised, there may be a place for you. If an establishment speaks to you, go ahead and apply.
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?
When creating your wine list, you should aim for diversity. Not just in the wine selection, but in the price points and adaptability to your menu. I like to determine my mark ups on activity. An affordable fast-selling wine may have more mark ups than a rare and premium high-end wine. The goal is to make profit, but it has to stay rational. Also, a good by the glass program is very important, this is where you can play and have fun.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Read, study, taste, discover, explore, ask questions, be close to other sommeliers, don’t skip the industry tastings, listen, travel. Never stop and be open-minded. If you only got back to the same wines that you like, within the same style, you’ll be missing so much. The wine industry is evolving very quickly, your taste and palate too, it’s important to be open to new things as much as traditional wines. Something you liked 5 years ago may not be your favourite this year.
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?
Your wine should speak for itself. The story behind the bottle is amazing and interesting but it’s not enough on its own. To let professionals taste your wine is the only way to get noticed.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
This is a tough question. I would say I’m a Pinot Noir. I’m on the softer side, tactful with subtle notes. Nothing opulent, intense or bold.
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?
White Rhône blend
Barolo or any Nebbiolo
And on the island, Champagne !
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Explore Blogs! Not all publication has to be traditional. There’s just so much out there! My blog is joaniemetivier.com but I would also recommend Damewine.com and wineanorak.com
For French readers, check out the magazine Vins et Vignobles, I’m a collaborator.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at