Name: Sebastian Pacheco
At the moment: United Kingdom
Head Sommelier, Wine Educator
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first encounter with wine happened when I was 19 in the wine class of a cuisine course. At that time I was at university studying engineering but everything changed after that class. The professor was talking about 200 things I have never heard before in my life. Fermentation, grape varieties, tannins, body, oak. Things I found extremely interesting. So thats when I dropped everything and started to study about wines. My first mentor was of course my first professor, an Argentinian guy SUPER passionate about the wine world. After him, a Brazilian FRENCH LOVER AND OLD SCHOOL wine consultant. He is that kind of man who knows A LOT about EVERYTHING. He is still a huge source of motivation to me.
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 or person who works in the wine industry needs to have a big, tremendous, important amount of knowledge not only about wine, but history, art, businesses, general culture, languages, geography, etc, etc, etc.
That is the first thing they need to have. After that, PERSONALITY to transmit all that knowledge. They need to be people person because they will be in contact with people all the time. Social skills are extremely important in a Sommelier or for a person working in the wine industry.
The ability to make people happy, with tact and consideration. Gently smile, passion for wine and a lots of patience (especially if you work in a restaurant)
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?
If you are a Sommelier (or you want to become one) and you are living in a country like Argentina (where wine importation is closed) learn and drink everything, so you know really well the wines of your country…and then disappear as fast as you can. Travel.
Start with the classics. Go to France, go to Italy, go to England and then USA and Australia. You will find the differences between the schools (american schools it has a different approach to the wine industry compared to the english). You will see the vines, you will touch the soil, you will drink the wines and you will understand everything better.
You will meet people, you will experience different languages, cultures. You WILL accumulate stories and wine is all about that. Stories, love. Passion that you will transmit to your customers in a restaurant or during a tasting.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
To give a good recommendation you need to know the person. Where is he from, age, favorite wines. Is he alone? Is he celebrating something? Is he in a hurry? What he ordered from the menu? After you get all this information you will be able to give an excellent recommendation because you will be offering something that goes good with the food, match the style of wine he is used to drink but at the same time can be a new a label for him or a new region, producer, etc.
You need to know how to read people without prejudice and make a table of 6 (or 2) happy. Sounds difficult but you can only learn from experience and doing it.
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?
Like most of the decisions in any business, glasses (amount, type and quality) will depend on how much money is in your budget. Despite this I always use the finest I can get. Baccarat, Waterford, Riedel, Spiegelau are famous brand where you can find always great products but it will depend also WHERE you are working.
If is a LOCAL spanish restaurant and you have a LOCAL brand, with great lead crystal, well…is good to buy things close to you and support their business. What do you think? Again, a good Sommelier will have a great common sense to make a good decision.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
The dark art of food and wine pairing. Personal taste has always to be considered so find what your customer likes and you can start from there. The best moment is when you have that open mind guest and they say: we are in your hands, we like everything, something that rarely happens!
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 markup?
Balance. A good wine list is in balance with the price, amount and style of the dishes in the menu. You will need to know your wines in order to make a proper selection and orders with vendors. If you have too many wines, you will need more space to keep them. Many things needs to be considered but always have common sense and think about the balance between the style of the restaurant, the menu and your budget.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Read, study, drink, repeat. It is very difficult thing that demands a lot of time in your daily routine. You need to be on top of the latest news but don’t get frustrated because you cannot know EVERYTHING. Personally I’m subscribed to some newsletter from the wine industry like The Drinks Business and Jancis Robinson among others.
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?
The best way (unique way?) is tasting their wines. I’m always opened to new wines, new producers, THERE IS SO MANY, so you need to try them all (there has to be something good in the job right?)
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
If I were a WINE I would be a bottle of Champagne (Krug, definitely) and If I were a grape variety I will be ALL of them because I have so many different personalities 😛
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?
Champagne always, Port and Loire. Desert Island? Madeira
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I enjoy reading british critics (Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, Tim Atkin, etc)
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com