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What Are Some Of The Most Important Skills For A Sommelier?

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15/09/2020 Hear it from some of the most versatile sommeliers in Los Angeles

In a recent interview series conducted with sommeliers of Los Angeles, we give you insights from sommeliers on what they think is the most important skill for a sommelier.

Max Goldberg, Sommelier at The West Hollywood Edition:

Max Goldberg, Sommelier at The West Hollywood Edition:

Establishing trust with your guests has always been key for me; It can sometimes be difficult during a busy service, but always taking the time to slow down and truly understand what the guest is looking for can oftentimes help you exceed their expectations and earn their trust.

Ivan Zanovello, sommelier at The Tasting Kitchen:

Ivan Zanovello, sommelier at The Tasting Kitchen:

This will depend on the kind of business a sommelier is working in, hospitality and retail are very different businesses. Wine knowledge, salesmanship, negotiation, culture. All these are important, to me the management side of the profession is often disregarded but is most important; a program that is not profitable is a useless program. The ability to find and offer hidden gems is very important.

Ryan Hess, Sommelier at the Helen’s Wine Shop, Los Angeles:

Ryan Hess, Sommelier at the Helen’s Wine Shop, Los Angeles:

Most important skills for SOMMELIERS to develop is one of truly getting to know the vocabulary of the people you’re trying to sell to. Sam can know his pallet back and forth but you know your clientele‘s palette and to be able to sort the Rubiks cube of their flavors that they love is a true talent. To do this accurately a good Somm, must be on top of his game, knowing as much about the winds he’s peddling as possible. 

Joben Herrera, Sommelier working in Hollywood’s most prestigious Pizzeria called Mozza:

Joben Herrera, Sommelier working in Hollywood’s most prestigious Pizzeria called Mozza:

Knowledge & Kindness. Knowing the beverages and in particular the wines. Telling their story which includes more than just varietal. But also the people and the place. Then also being aware of the clientele and whom you are speaking with. Some love guest will love all the information but some may only need a snippet.

Tanner Johnson, Beverage Director at Shorebreak Resort:

Tanner Johnson, Beverage Director at Shorebreak Resort:

More than just developing a wine list that compliments your concept and trends, you need to be personable. Hospitality is why we all got in this industry in the first place. A sommelier needs to be able to connect with guests and tell a story. Most guests enjoy hearing about the process that went into creating each dish, cocktail, and bottle of wine.

Catherine Morel, Lead Sommelier at 71Above Restaurant in DTLA:

Catherine Morel, Lead Sommelier at 71Above Restaurant in DTLA

Obviously in-depth wine knowledge but also the ability to communicate with the guests without 'teaching' or being overbearing- honest, genuine hospitality is such a necessity. The ability to work hard & adapt at a moments notice- 

Jared Hooper, Sommelier at Faith & Flower:

Jared Hooper, Sommelier at Faith & Flower

The ability to listen is one of the most important skills for natural born speakers. As sommeliers, we are so used to talking about the wines that we are passionate about, that we miss out the most important element- the customers preferences. It can be tricky to do, and many times can involve reading between the lines, but the astute sommelier will be able to bring their guest the right wine, especially if the guest didn't even know they wanted it.

Michael Smith, Sommelier at Osteria Mozza:

Michael Smith, Sommelier at Osteria Mozza:

As a sommelier we have a high knowledge of wine, beverage, and dining. You obviously need to have a grasp on those but for me some of the most important skills for a sommelier are being able to read your table and understand what they want and being personable and approachable for our guests. I try to be as welcoming as possible. For some people, the wine list can be intimidating or somewhat of an uncomfortable part of dining. Guests may not  know what certain things are and can get embarrassed. Helping them through it all as easy going as possible goes a long way. Some guests want to get geeky with it and talk about barrels or soils and some just want a wine that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. As a sommelier I’m there to do both!

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