Name: Juan Luis Garcia Ruiz
At the moment: Spain
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
When I was doing my secondary school I used to work on weekends as a waiter in bars and celebrations to pay my treats. When I was in University studying Math Sciences I realised that I really didn’t want to study, that my real passion was the restaurant and wine world. It was really vocational. When I worked in the first restaurant I realised that the Wine´s world was fascinating so I started to study in a self-taught way all about wine. Around 2003 I came across to a person called Blas Cerón, who taught me and saw the wine in the same way I see it nowadays.
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?
Being a sommelier is a hard daily work, you have to study and work every day, being devoted to beverages and be totally up to date. The skills are hard work, sacrifice, honesty, humility and generosity.
I especially admire to two sommeliers. One is Josep Roca from El Celler de Can Roca and the other is Jose Antonio Navarrete from Quique Dacosta.
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?
Basically the same I told you before, hard work, sacrifice, honesty, humility and generosity and I would add curiosity and willing to continuously learn.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
I think that we should ask the client about their taste with some questions that help us to understand what they would like. The sommelier has to be a little bit like a psychologist to approach the client and understand if you follow and develop their own taste or take them out of their comfort zone.
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?
I use to work with some very well-known brands as Riedel or Schott Zwiesel. Fine and delicate glass. There are also two Austrian brands between my favorites as Zalco y Gabriel Glass especially the “Gold” model. For me is very important selecting the right glass for every style of wine.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
The cuisine at Casa Marcial (Two Michelin Stars), has a traditional side and a sophisticated and modern side. The style of cooking is very attached to the land and the surroundings between the sea and the mountains where the restaurant is located. This same concept has to be reflected in the pairings.
We have to find this same equilibrium and be very creative searching for wines that came from the same philosophy, from local varieties, from traditional and creative wine makers and producers with the same ideas than us. We try to recommend and give the best advice to our clients and explain what is behind the wine.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Of course, always. This is because if a bottle is not in the best conditions the first one who has to notice it is the sommelier and be able to remove it on time. I have through away many bottles from different kind of wines and prices because there weren´t in the most optimal condition. And I always let the client know about it.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
Internet is a great source to find a job as a sommelier and to learn and search about the profession. Promote yourself at the workplace and be helpful and creative.
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 mark ups?
The secret for a wine list is to represent the personality of the sommelier and the philosophy of the own restaurant. Choosing the most adequate wines and producers that share the same concept. Everything going in the same direction. This together with a good variety and equilibrium in the price list so they are suitable for all kind of clients of the restaurant. The most expensive wine we have in our restaurant is around 1,500 euros. I don’t believe in a very extensive wine list as it were an encyclopaedia. I think it has to be an equilibrated and personal wine list.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Working, having curiosity, travelling and studying day by day. You have to be in constant formation.
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?
Authenticity, creativity, good tradition, knowhow, similar philosophy than our restaurants.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
For sure I would be a Jerez Wine. I would be a “palomino fino” variety because it is a wine because they are oenology jewels that luckily they are every time more popular worldwide. Between the typology of Jerez Wine I would be an amontillado. It is straight, direct and complex. This complexity develops in your palate as you are discovering it better and better.
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?
The three wines you always can find in my home are Dominio del Urogallo Retortoiro 2012 (Cangas del Narcea), Luis Anxo A Torna Dos Pasas 2031 (Ribeiro) and an amontillado Zuleta Viejísimo (Sanlúcar de Barrameda). I have no doubt I would bring to a desert island three wines a Krug Vintage 1996, Rioja Imperial Reserva 1970 and Comte de Vögue Chambolle Musigny 1990.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
To keep doing a good job, searching, teaching, noticing new producers, new wines, new Role Models, Sommeliers all over the world.
Juan Luis Garcia
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com