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Most important skills for a Sommelier as per the world’s leading sommeliers

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01/12/2020 Sid Patel, founder of Beverage Trade Network chatted with the world’s leading sommeliers and asked them what is the most important skill required to be a top sommelier.

A positive attitude, humble, Storyteller, passion, great communication skills, work under pressure, empathy, knowledge, curiosity, open-mindedness, and a hospitality professional are just a few of the skills needed to be a world-class sommelier.

In this interview done by Sid Patel, founder of Beverage Trade Network chatted with the world’s leading sommeliers and asked them what is the most important skill required to be a top sommelier.

Svetoslav Manolev, MS- first Master Sommelier from Bulgaria

First and foremost, we should not forget that a sommelier is a hospitality professional, so the customer service aspect of the job is probably the most important. Being present, engaging, and anticipating your guests' needs combined with the knowledge, empathy, and genuine interest in delivering a memorable experience.

Melania Battiston, Head Sommelier at The Medlar Restaurant, London

Interpersonal skills are the most relevant to me. They include verbal, non-verbal communication, and listening skills. They allow us to effectively interact with and understand others in our profession every day. Also, they help us build better and longer-lasting relationships with customers, colleagues, suppliers, etc. Another primary requisite is knowledge, which needs to be shared through well-founded, persuasive communication / social skills. (Header image: Melania Battiston)

Matteo Furlan, Head Sommelier at the Ritz Restaurant London and winner of the UK’s best sommelier award.

A sommelier must be passionate and eager to know more - it's never enough. A sommelier should be well organized as good wine cellar management is fundamental. When I interview a sommelier I am always looking for great communication skills. He must know how to do an immaculate service and know-how to work under pressure. Last but not least, a sommelier should also have an understanding of the wine's financial side.

Beatrice Bessi, Head Sommelier at Chilternfirehouse, London

I believe that empathy is one of the most important. Without being able to read your guests, how can you make them happy? How can you make their day? Also following, I would say true passion for our job, great knowledge, willingness to keep learning and improving, and ability to cope with pressure.

Chris Delalonde MS, Master Sommelier and Head of Wines, The Dorchester, London

Team playing; Hardworking; Humility  - even more so now! Step down the ladder...; Listening; Enjoying... (the list is not exhaustive!) 

Sara Rossi, Head Sommelier of Trinity in London's Clapham, London

Story-teller, teamwork, creative, and curious.

Erik Simonics, Head of Wine at Caprice Holdings Ltd, London

Number one will always be hospitality skills. You are there to provide an extraordinary wine experience to your guests. The one, they will always remember and will be happy to return to your restaurant. It's also important to have a genuine love for wine and a passion for learning. It is a hard job that requires lots of studying, flexibility, long hours, and a lack of work-life balance. On the other hand, it is a very rewarding profession that can teach you a lot.

Antonio Palmarini, Wine Buyer at Franklin's Wine Shop and Bar, London

First of all, a good sommelier needs to be humble. Each sommelier knows something that another sommelier doesn't know! The alcoholic beverage is such a huge topic, the human brain can't know it all.

Secondly, you have to be curious. Invest in books and courses in order to learn more and more. Visiting wineries, distilleries, and breweries around the world will help to solidify what you have learned. Lastly, be honest and judge the wine without thinking about the label. I see way too many sommeliers get overwhelmed by wines that have great marketing… a real sommelier must evaluate the wine regardless and wine competitions prove that there are many good wines with unknown label.

Matteo Montone, World Best Young Sommelier 2019 Chaine de Rôtisseurs

A sommelier must be passionate and eager to know more - it's never enough. A sommelier should be well organized as good wine cellar management is fundamental. When I interview a sommelier I am always looking for great communication skills. He must know how to do an immaculate service and know-how to work under pressure. Last but not least, a sommelier should also have an understanding of the wine's financial side.

Daniele Chelo, Head Sommelier, Clos Maggiore, London

Listening, understanding, attention to everything (to the smallest details), patience (a lot!!!!)

Yuri Gualeni, Head Sommelier at Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

I believe Sommeliers are too often seen as professionals with an ego that is too big to fit in their suits. However, in my humble opinion, I truly support a more modern view of the job where a sommelier is technically competent as well as adaptable and open-minded. As a sommelier, you need to be adventurous and challenge yourself to go the extra mile, whether that is in regard to the knowledge and understanding of how a wine is made, where it comes from or whether that is prioritizing the guests and colleagues needs. Knowledge, salesmanship, modesty, creativity, leadership, respect are some of the words that are in my head right now.

Adriana Valentini, Head of Beverage at Oxford and Cambridge Club

A skilled sommelier should be humble but well prepared, attentive, and curious as what you liked the most in the past might change with time and experience alongside your palate taste. I like to consider myself like a “speed dating psychologist” and I do recognize myself 100% in this quote: 

"a skilled sommelier can work out what sort of person you are, how well off you are and what you really fancy most within a very short period of time, maybe with only a few sentences into a chat — and then take you there quickly, picking up on any hints you drop along the way". Just tremendously true!

Stefano Pasqual, Head Sommelier at Gordon Ramsay Group

knowledge, first of all, listen to guest needs, not to be patronizing and always humble even when you know you are right, never insist on upselling and always give quality for money

Jules Bensacq, Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer at 28°-50° Wine Workshop and Kitchen, London

I guess the most important skills have to be sociable, curious, open-minded, motivated to learn more every day.

Vincenzo Arnese, Head Sommelier & Wine Buyer at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

Knowledge is important, but not the priority. That will come with time and preparation. More essential skills for a sommelier is always having a positive attitude and the capacity to stay humble.

A good Sommelier needs to handle difficult situations sensitively, understanding that everyone has different opinions and tastes. He/she should be able to use his/her personality and knowledge to suggest wines that can satisfy the palate and the needs of the entire table. 

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