Mr. Alexey Ulyanov – Russia (Chef Sommelier)

April 30, 2018

Name: Alexey Ulyanov

Alexey Ulyanov

Nationality: Russian

At the moment: Russia

Chef Sommelier


Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?

My relationships with wine started by chance. I have been working as bartender at the pool hall and heard from one of my friends about interesting wine-oriented project. I came there for an interview. It was really weird to me. There was 12 bottles of fine regional Bordeaux and I had to describe my feelings by simple words. After that the wine world swallowed me. My first mentor was Hugh Johnson and his marvellous “History of 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?

It depends what is your current profile of work. If you are at HoReCa you have to be guest-friendly, with great knowledge and trendy balanced wine list. Off-trade work implies that you are good at finding best quality-value correlation and marketing components as well.

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?

Reading, tasting and travelling at all of your freetime is the key. Nowadays learning is much more easier – a lots of useful information at social networks and lots of other resources.


When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?

I need to understand what is customer expects from wine. Is it wine for dish or something unusual. Ideal key surjective for every person, people are different.

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?

Glasses are one of the most important things at wine service. Main multipurpose glass for me is Authentic Spiegelau White Wine Glass or similar shape. This one fine for a lots of grape varieties. After that everything depends on status of the place. Must have are Burgundy, Bordeaux, digestive-tulipe and flute shape. Others are for premium restaurants and enotecas. My own preferences are Riedel they are great ones.

What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?

Use the main rules of combinations but don’t be afraid of experiments. Days of “red for meat, white for fish” are gone. Often the sauce and garnish got the main role on the plate, so keep it in mind. Another question is what do you want to enjoy, meal or wine, there’s no need to complicate matching if you are not sure.

Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?

If there is an opportunity that wine has reduction or some cork problems, of course. Sommelier has to give an attention to freshness of wines by glass. Those ones needs for everyday tasting.

Wine list:

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?

For the regular restaurant my choice is on worldwide wine list with 40-50 varieties. In Russia, Italian wines are mostly in trend, but everything has to be connected with concept of the place. Russian winemaking getting some great results, so I’m always including some best wines from local regions. Times of mad prices are passed, people understanding what they are paying for. On sommelier from Moscow told me horrible story about pricing at early 90’s – bottle of Chablis at wine list was about 1000$.

How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?

Firstly lots of tastings from a lots of distributors. Second is specialized exhibitions and wine producers events. And pricelists monitoring to find the best offers. So everything is quite simple.

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?

To get my attention producer has to make fine fine. For off-trade on more key is to have an attractive label, but it is not necessarily. For example last time I’ve been surprised with Baglio di Pianetto sicilia estate. In fact it’s not a five-star winery, but their wine range has a great quality with balanced price. Great explanation of winemaking and viticultural specifics gives one more point to winemaker.

Favourite pick:

If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?

I think I could be Aglianico, southern, hot and acidic.

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?

It’s hard to choose only three, but surely it’s Champagne, Saint-Aubin and Barolo. Sweet one – Riesling with balanced acidity.

Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?

Google always gives me answers. Wine Folly great for rookies. Magazines are The Wine Spectator and Simple Wine News from Russia.

Alexey Ulyanov

@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions –

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