Name: Matthias Breitsameter
At the moment: Austria
Chef Sommelier, Wine Ambassador
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
Since I am 15 years old i have been working in the hospitality and had always contact with wine but never really got into it
In the year 2002 a friend which was into wine convinced to a wine trip to the Burgenland in Austria. Since I grew up in Bavaria Germany, it was only about a four-hour drive, and I agreed. He was tasting and trying holding conversations with the winemakers, and I was standing next to it having no clue what they are talking about, however I bought a couple of bottles of no name vineyards from the 2000 Vintage. Ten years later when I was living in Oxford, England I went home for Christmas and my mother was making duck for the whole family. My mother asked if I don’t have any wine in the cellar for the feast, I went to have a look I found some bottles from this wine trip. It was a red Cuvee “Lärchenfeld” but the winemaker I do not remember neither the grapes probably Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and something else. So we opened it and it was great with the duck. My family told me I should do a Sommelier course or something. So I decided to look in the Internet for a course, but I am traveling a lot and needed a school where I can be flexible. I found the European Wine Academy which is an online platform from Derek D Koch MW, where you can download papers and manuals and do further studying by yourself. It was good value for money I paid the money and started to download the first PDF file and found myself reading like never before in my entire life. I found my passion for wine and food and wine pairing. Then started to life in Sweden, which was perfect too, in Scandinavia the people do not make so good wine, as one can imagine due to the climate, so they drink wine from everywhere. There is no own preference like some Wine geeks from Austria. Which knows their wines very well but as soon it goes to Argentina or New Zealand they have their troubles. I think in Countries where there is not so much wine grown itself the Sommelier are top, like in Scandinavia or UK. It did not surprise me when Arvid Rosengren won the Sommelier Championship 2016 in Argentina. Last year I registered for the Introduction course and the certified Sommelier Exams at the court of Master Sommeliers and past both of them, since then I know that I am on the right track and will continue that way with the target of become a Master Sommelier one day. Currently I work in a Hotel in Austria as a Sommelier and try to convince Austrians that there is more than Grüner Veltliner or Zweigelt.
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?
One important skill is the ability to adjust to the customer, to understand what he wants. And to give him that what he wants, some sommelier sells you the stuff he wants to sell. The guest or customers is your tool you have to work with, there is no point of selling a Bordeaux to a couple with the age of 22 when they drink fruity wines in that age, except they are in the wine business. Knowledge can be learned and gained, but working with people is a skill and some have the talent and some not.
I recently found out that the wine industry is more like a community. Everybody likes to share their experience and their opinions without getting judged or disliked. I cannot name any specific persons but like to thank them for their time and sharing their experiences
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?
To find a good place as a Sommelier is difficult and rare, the good positions are occupied for long terms, if you have a good place try to keep it. Like I did my Commis Sommelier positions in Sweden I can really recommend that, to speak English in that country is no problem. Swedes like to speak English, I never had a language problem until I spoke Swedish. Other than that there are some good websites where one finds Sommelier positions online like Hotel Career, Sommeliers.at or keep your ears open and be part of the community
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
First one has to ask a couple of questions to find out which style they want, I usually ask always what their favorite grape or region is. I also ask if they want to experience something new or want go that way. Also I think that talking about the price should be done too, I do have sometimes the situation that people say “bring me a bottle of nice wine!” If I think of a nice bottle of wine is indeed something rather expensive. I rarely work with a wine list, only if the customer wants 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?
I think that a sommelier should always have its standard glass is evaluating wine, it is not important which one. I have a simple ISO wine tasting glasses for my studies and tastings. However, in the restaurants and hotels I see mostly Riedel or Zalto in the moment, and in my current place have Riedel. For me it is not as important as long as they are clean.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
You have to see the whole dish and not only the meat or fish which is on the plate, the sauce is as important as the sides dishes. The wine needs to be paired with everything. Also I advise to match the wine with the origin of the dish if it is possible. However, in our days the chefs cook more complex than before, it gets more difficult especially when you work in Michelin star restaurants, so one has to go with very complex wines. At the same time if people wants only one bottle to a 7 course menu, what do you choose? I always go for the customer’s preference, in the end its him who has to leave the restaurant happy. I Psychologically think as long as you do not disagree with his choice and go with what he wants he will be happy in the end, with the menu and the wine.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
This is a tricky question, I have been working in a lot of different location and everybody is handling this point different. I think if it is a regular wine which you sell on regular bases, there is no need of tasting it every time. A good Sommelier will smell the cork failure at the cork itself. If one opens a rare wine with a certain age I do taste a bit before decanting for example because one has to see how the wine develops, and some customers do actually invite you for a taste. It also depends a bit on the customer. At the same time, I never heard anyone complaining if the sommelier tasted the wine.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
In Austria it would be Rolling Pin, Hotel Career and Sommelier.at
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?
That totally depends on the type of restaurant, but I look always for not that famous wines, wineries and unknown regions they sometimes have great value for money. Of course some classics you have to have on your list. Ridiculous pricing you see all the time, one can directly if the F&B manager is doing the pricing or the Sommelier. The Sommelier counts with a certain feeling and wants to the customers to have fun with the wine and earn money and perhaps have such a good price to order a second bottle. A F&B Manager sees more the figures and number in a computer system but if both work well together it can be great. I think that everybody is having its own theory and system.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Reading and researching books magazines all the time, however in this times with having the internet all the time in your pocket, you can be all the time on top of that industry and faster than ever before
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?
Call me or send me a e mail, I am surely always open for new things and people which are with passion behind that what they are producing. I never rejected a wine maker or representative (as long as we have an appointment).
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Sauvignon Blanc, fresh and crisp but very elegant, hahaha.
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?
Desert Island Wine: Pouilly Fume, Silex, Didier Dagueneau 2010
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I am a bit old fashion in that way and like to read more magazines like the Decanter, because the information is quite helpful. But do not trust any magazines judgements and point systems.
Who am I to judge your wine?
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com
Dominik Kozlik e.U.
4020 Linz, Austria