Name: Riccardo Guzzardo
At the moment: Australia
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
Wine entered my life from birth through the front door of my house. My family has been working in a wine environment for three generations, but our approach was completely different compared to the sophistication and attention of today. My family business has taught me all about customer service. My story as a sommelier started around ten years ago, when for fun and personal interest I started reading and tasting. I then decided to do my first course- I visited the region of Champagne to see the story from my own eyes. Nothing impressed me like the word of the winemaker. I think at that time they were my mentors. a
André Beaufort and Jacques Selosse left a huge impression on me and changed my thoughts about wine in a few simple words, “dirty hands and a big heart”. Each day my interest grew and became my life passion.
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 of my mentors said “High performance, low profile” this is the key, but without a love for this job it’s so hard. Behind every bottle there is a winemaker. Every time I take any bottle of wine, spirit, sake or cigar, I have to say thanks for his dedication, his hard work and his history.
What I want to say to my colleagues is the price is not important, the brand or appellation, what is important is the approach behind the production. I have been really lucky to work with amazing Sommeliers in my life and I’ve noticed that the more knowledge they have, the more humble they are. They have taught me “less is more” which is a very important attitude to have. Also I try to visit as many producers as possible, taste every moment and study constantly.
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?
Look for environments that are pleasurable exciting places to work with no stress. The world of a sommelier is like a games room full of dreams. Your inseparable best friends are books and trips to vineyards.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
I think the first ten seconds is crucial to understand the guest and connect with the table. This is obvious but smile and make the guest feel confident and comfortable from the beginning. The floor of the restaurant is our house and work in the world of hospitality means this. It is important to make the guest feel at home. Ask what they feel like in terms of food and wine, suggest about three or four options and like a baby ‘Freud’ follow his or her decision. Provide some descriptions about the wine but not too much, otherwise it could be intimidating. It is very important to follow the guests from start to the end the meal, chat about the choice and open the door when they leave. Sometimes I’m so busy and I want to say sorry if I don’t open the door to my guests. Sorry!!
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?
Fortunately the industry of glasses today is very diverse. The sector has evolved and the research and technologies help us in our job. I love tasting wine in a fine and thin glass- crystal is the best, because I like to feel the heaviness in my hand. Also, I love to try new products in different shaped glasses to compare how the shape of glass changes the impression of the taste sensations. In terms of furniture, this depends on the context, sometimes the ultra and elegant glasses are inappropriate for the place, but obviously I think it is important to serve wine in an appropriate glass.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Our role is to create a happy and unforgettable experience for our guests. Always explain why you have suggested a particular wine or another one and try to get a great compromise between a perfect match pairing and what the guest would like.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Depends on the style the restaurant and the situation. I think the Sommelier has to taste to make sure that the quality of the wine is correct and if it corresponds to the real characteristics. This is a great wine service. However, I think it is important to taste and make sure the guest is happy.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
Follow your heart and ask what is your dream? Ask if your friends know any sommeliers or ask on the internet what they are looking for? I also suggest to young sommeliers that they search the internet for great restaurants, hotels or wine bars and approach them. Check on the website to see what positions are available. Try not to take a position just because it is close your house.
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?
My idea is eclectic. I think the wine list needs to be married to the philosophy of the restaurant, the style and the menu in terms of the ingredients and recipes. This should reflect as well on the territory. I love a wine list that is full of indigenous and small producers and if the restaurant is prestigious and the management wants to take advantage, it is important to select iconic producers of the right vintage. Making wine or a great spirit is an art and if you have the smell of the “wine-business” it is possible to make a fortune with correct investments, like paintings or sculpture.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Today the technologies and the media provides so much help. The perpetual information, via press or events and systematic research is the key to the success for the beverage department. Having a good network with colleagues helps to see and discuss the news.
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?
In a simple and traditional way, taste the wine and tell the story of the bottle. I do not think I have a magic solution. Every producer has their own method to appeal to the drinker. A sommelier wants to know about the producer, see the vineyard and find out the history.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Passito di Pantelleria from Zibibbo grapes varieties, South West of Sicily because every grape reflects his population. This wine is an expression of the history of my home, Sicily. Sweet but hard to grow. It has amazing potential if you take care of it. Strong and elegant body, this wine grows only on one island and is the son of the Mediterranean population or Sicilian domination.
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?
Old German Riesling, a matured Barolo and a singular Georgian wine, because without them we do not have wine today. A great recoltant manipulant from Champagne, because I think it is a great match for fresh fish.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Continue to improve the networks between producers and Sommeliers and have a new form of collaboration. This could include organising tastings and meeting other people through this platform. Magazines and online platforms can share study material.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com
Dominik Kozlik e.U.
4020 Linz, Austria