Sommelier Business

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Wine Happy with Chappy Cottrell

Photo for: Wine Happy with Chappy Cottrell

10/02/2021 Chappy emphasizes that a sommelier’s job is done if the customer is comfortable and happy. It is important to have a conversation and never to lecture.

"Immerse yourself in wine. Live it, breath it, drink it, talk about it constantly, go to wineries, visit vineyards, ask every question you have, network like crazy, live with roommates who work in wine too." - Chappy Cotrell 

Hi Chappy, tell us something about yourself

I'm a marketer, podcaster, sommelier, geek on vintage Land Rovers, and never pass up the opportunity for ice cream.

Where do you work?

Joseph Jewell Wines.

What initially drew you to the world of wine and how did you get started in the industry?

The stories. I was curious about the story behind each bottle when I would go to a restaurant growing up. I'd stare at the back bar and just wonder what each bottle was all about. Then attaching these stories to the land and farming brought it all together. Plus, the best nights are those around the table with friends and a couple of bottles of wine.

How according to you has the role of the Sommelier evolved, especially now during Covid times?

The role of the sommelier is to provide an experience and to educate. All that's really changed is the medium which we now operate. It's no longer restaurant for many of us, it's now a tasting room, on Instagram, hosting our own master class or wine courses, or writing. If there is wine, there will always be a need for sommeliers, it's just how one personally defines that role in the time.

What are some of the most important skills for a Sommelier to have?

Make people feel comfortable and happy. We have to remember that oftentimes people aren't there (in a traditional restaurant setting) to learn something new or discover that "ah-ha" bottle. They're there to have a great time with whoever they are dining with. If they are comfortable and leave happy, then our job is done. It doesn't matter if they drink wine or not. I've often thought of the role of a sommelier is to be a liaison between the chef and the guest, while also being a server, back waiter, Maitre'd, bartender, and everything in between. We often act as the buffer between everyone in a restaurant, and as times are changing that role is simply expanding outside of the restaurant walls.

chappy cottrell drinking wine

Chappy Cotrell drinking wine, Source: Chappy

What’s next for you, and how do you see your career evolving as you look into the future?

What's next for me is building a wine company focused on sustainability, community, and mental health at a large scale. 

What is a way to grow the digital presence of your restaurant in 2021?

Actually engage with people the same way you do on the floor, but online. Turn the camera around and be real with people, show them what's going on in the business, how you're working on ideas, and taking them behind the scenes. 

Any ideas and formats on how somms can conduct virtual tastings for their restaurants?

You could focus on more cost approachable bottles and ship those out, or you could re-bottle into smaller formats. No matter how you do it, remember that people don't want to be lectured to, they want to have a conversation. 

chappy in meeting

 Chappy in meeting, Source: Chappy

How to bring new customers back and drive takeouts, in-house, and wine sales.

Utilize great, and often free, digital tools/resources like Mailchimp, Yotpo, Google Business, Hotjar, SMS/Texting.

How has Covid affected the way you buy wines?

When I was buying for a restaurant, it shuttered my buying altogether. 

Any tips to make a good wine menu that sells more wine

In this time, focus on value and quality, but know your audience and what they want.

What do you look for when you plan to buy wines for your restaurant?

How does it work into my program and do I know that I can sell this in 3 months, or am I buying this as a long-term investment for the restaurant (cult cab, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, etc.)

What support programs work best for you from suppliers?

Somm.ai was really helpful with selling higher-end wines to collectors at a good price point.

What wine trends do you see in 2021?

Cans are continually on the rise, people are going to be even more focused on alcohol content and wanting lower ABV drinks, and the demand for sustainability/organic/biodynamic is going to continue to increase.

What's the best part of your job? 

I'm immersed in everything wine all day long

 Chappy Cotrell, Source: Chappy

If you had to pick one wine as your personal best which would it be and why?

Chateau Musar - the history of the property and everything they go through to make wine each year is incredible, plus very affordable for the quality.

Any tips for new sommeliers?

Immerse yourself in wine. Live it, breath it, drink it, talk about it constantly, go to wineries, visit vineyards, ask every question you have, network like crazy, live with roommates who work in wine too.

Are there any permanent changes Covid will create in the restaurant industry?

If you don't believe there will be, you're a fool. But hopefully, to-go cocktails and alcohol will still be a thing. 

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