Name: Vlada Stojanov
At the moment: USA-California
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My household always had plenty of higher end spirits and some okish everyday wine. Even though my family rarely drank, they often entertained guests. Studying hotel management, I wanted to learn a bit about first and foremost because in order to be considered “educated”, a basic knowledge of wine is a must. Plus, it would have been very handy considering my career choice.
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?
As for the specific traits, there is one that is an absolute must and a prerequisite for anything involving wine – passion. Without passion, you will not remember, learn or even understand wine in an adequate way. Anyone can remember that methoxypyrazine compounds give those grassy/herbal notes we love in Sauvignon Blanc for example. However in my mind, wine shouldn’t suffer too much from a scientific approach. Distilling a wine to “aromas of red and black fruit, mostly blueberries, touch of cedar and pencil shavings” is missing maybe two of the most important thing about wine – a sense of place and magic. Magic because (almost) all of it comes from a single grape berry. What can I say, I am a bit of a romantic and dreamer. 🙂
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?
I’m getting a bit long winded here – be passionate, never stop learning and developing, provide great service and anticipate the needs of guests. Sell good bottles whose quality you can stand behind. Always add a personal touch to everything you do and take ownership.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
Identify what the customer likes, identify the occasion, identify the budget you’re working with. Find out if they are adventurous or not. If they are, offer them something different than what they commonly drink. Always make sure that the service is theatrical and a surprise, no matter what the price of the bottle is.
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?
As far as glasses go, if I have the option, I would always go with Riedel Varietal specific glasses. For most restaurants, getting Sauvignon/Riesling and Chardonnay glasses is enough for whites and Bordeaux/Burgundy(you can use them for Barolo too) for reds.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Learn how to cook, befriend a cook or at least get the book called “What to drink with what you eat” by Andrew Dornenburg. Use it and reference it often.
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?
From my experience, it is best to use a scaling margin and I am a big proponent of this. Some restaurants have higher operating costs and I realise that, but charging x3, x4 or even x5 for a bottle of Tignanello for example is just a rip off. People who drink Tignanello at home (probably) know how much it costs and it is in your best interest to have those guests coming back. I would always rather sell 5 Tignanelli at a 50-100% markup than sell 1 bottle at 5x markup. This way everybody wins – your guests, you as a restaurant and your suppliers.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Read, read and read some more. Attend wine tastings and wine fairs to stay on top of everything. Talk with winemakers, distributors, colleagues.
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?
Come and introduce yourself, present your wine, give us a bottle to taste, be reasonably priced and if there is a combination of a) quality b) reasonable price c) authenticity and sense of place in your wine d) a flavor we do not have on the list or we do have, but this is a different interpretation… Well, you’re in. Never forget that no matter what you’re doing, you’re working with people so strive to build a long term relationship with whoever you’re dealing with.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Pinot Noir definitely, maybe Nebbiolo. Notoriously hard to work with, fickle and capricious, but if everything falls into place, you get the most magical, ethereal and unforgettable experience possible. Nebbiolo because I am still young and a little rough around the edges, but I believe I will smooth out over time and get a nice patina and a noble bouquet. 😉
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 – Salon Blanc de Blanc. The combination of elegance found in La Grande Dame with the power, maybe a bit more restraint found in Krug. I love it and is hands down one of my favorite wines ever.
– White Bordeaux – Domaine de Chevalier. I can still remember everything that was around me when I tasted a bottle of that for the
– Grand Cru red Burgundy or a Grand Reserva from Spain – Pinot Noir as it is my favorite grape and Gran Reserva because I love Spanish winemaking.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Decanter.com for wines, foodrepublic.com for food ideas. Winefolly.com if you’re doing a lot of basic wine workshops – it is a really phenomenal site that is a great reference and a host to a bunch of great resources.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com