Name: Julien Haie
At the moment: United Kingdom
Tea & Wine Sommelier
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I started to work in the wine industry on a real glimpse of chance. After my first year on a French Business School in Paris (EDC), I had to find an internship of 3 months as a summer job. The first internship that I did was at Castor and Choucas, a french luxury company specialized in clothing and home accessories for children. After one day on the company, I received a call from my school’s relationship manager who proposed me to become wine shop manager in order to replace a student fired from the company.
At that time, like most of the young students, I was drinking white and rosé wines, but I had a lot of difficulties to appreciate a red wine. Then, meanwhile I was starting to work on the wine shop, the company just send me a senior shop manager to teach me the job in 12 days. This great man explained me the basic of the wine tasting and he opened my palate to red wines, starting with a nice glass of Loire Valley wine. Thanks to this, a new land of discoveries and flavors appeared in front of my very eyes, and I fall in love with wine.
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 skill comes with time, but I think that a Sommelier should first have a great passion for all the food and all the drinks on this world. He needs as well a good heart, a desire to share his experiences and to discover his guests way of being. He needs a balance between forgetting himself in order to better know his guest and an ability to make some connections between his wine and spirit knowledge and every similar knowledges (tea, chocolate, coffee, cocktails, cigars…).
I especially admire for this M. Bettane, whose food and drink memory is just completely amazing.
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 only way to succeed within the wine industry as Sommelier is to stay honest and humble. Do not be afraid to say to another of your colleagues or your superior “I do not know this”, but add “Could you teach me?” or “I will learn it”. You have to be honest as well with yourself, being a specialist in the wine industry will take you dozen of years. I am working on the wine industry for 7 years and I do not consider myself as a specialist, because there is a lot of subjects that I just barely know. Let you knowledge grow at your own rhythm, and build your future knowledge according to your direct professional needs. Memory is key, but emotion is as well one of your best weapon.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
First you have to reduce your field of research. You can ask if this wine will be drink in accordance to a meal or just as a simple and unique satisfaction. Then you can talk of the color (red, rose, white, sweet, port…), the wine’s behavior (light body, structured, spicy notes, fruity notes, dryness, freshness,…). Do not forget to check any obstacles that will lead to a complaint (tannins allergy, can’t stand a certain type of grape, do not like the new world wines,…).
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?
For me, I will adapt the type of glasses according to the type of wine that I already have at my disposition. For example the thickness is very important, as some white or reds need to warm up a little bit before being perfectly aromatic, so if have these kind of wines, I will definitively choose glasses with a very thin thickness. Most of the time, you have to think of the drinking combos available. The best way to have a nice meal is to start with a white then a rosé and to finish with a red, because of the tannin proportion, so I will recommend to put on the tables white wine glasses and to switch them with bigger balloon ones for red and rosés. This allows you as well to analyze the table from a greater distance, as you will see the size difference between the two. For ports, the dedicated port glasses are very good and will suit desserts wines as well, because of the jammy texture that you feel when drinking it, so if the guest is asking you a bigger glass, take a less thin glass. For the brandys, you will need the snifflers and a burner. This last one, done with a rock glass, avoid the warm up by hand for the guest and accelerate the flavors development.In term of brand, for a regular use I will recommend Chef & Sommelier and for premium wines Riedel, but I am opened to any other brands.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
My understanding of the right procedure to make the perfect food and wine pairing , regardless of the guests queries which will help you to present the best wines after pairing, is to use some good indicators. I always represent myself in 3 categories: the light food, the medium light food, and the strong food. By analysing the ingredients, you can easily determine and adapt your choice. (light wine for light food, medium wine for medium food, etc…).
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?
The best way of creating a wine list is to know who is your guest. Working on a five-red-star hotel will not necessary mean that you will sell some premium wines everyday on a current basis. If your guest is just here to be seen on a prestigious place, he will take a glass of your cheapest wine, so you have to present a range of wine on his price bracket. About your list, always try to think of your way of presenting some options to your guest. If you give a choice of 2 wines, it will be easier for the guest rather than having a choice of 3. Do not think of having some appellations, your guest most of the time are thinking by grape variety. The markups will be determined by a psychologic price calculated with someone working on your marketing department, most of the time by after-dinner questionnaire.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
The key is to be curious and to exchange a lot with every wine professionals. I regularly go during my free time on some professionals fair or in tasting organized by some producers or wine merchants. These are very convivial moments where you can share your point of view and feel the new wine trends.
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?
Even if I am working on one of the most prestigious establishment of London, I am very simple. I prefer the human contact, because if I do not understand who is behind the wine, I will not be able to sell properly the wine.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
If I was a wine variety, I will certainly be a Romorantin, mostly because I am a storyteller, and I am found of the wine History.
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?
My top 3 types of wine are the wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, and finally Brunello di Montalcino.
My desert island wine is obviously an island wine, coming from Tahiti, the Blanc de Corail.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com