Name: Tahiirah Habibi Allen
At the moment: USA-FL
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My 1st encounter with wine started in college where I had to attend social events for student leaders. I began to really study wine while working at Kimpton Hotels, at the time I was being mentored by Master Somm Emily Wines who ran the wine program for all hotels.
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?
I believe Sommeliers need to be knowledgeable, humble and most of all personable. I know a few Somms who posses these qualities that I’ve met along the way.
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?
My advice is study! Reading is so important, even if it’s for 10 mins a day. The wine will always rule and it’s always changing. Also, don’t expect to know
everything, no one does. And don’t beat yourself up about it either. If you don’t know something go learn it for next time.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
I always ask them what they normally drink. From there you can get a better picture of their preferences and then we can talk about food pairings, etc.
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 love glasses! I believe a glass can really make the difference in a wine experience. When I say that I mean glass quality and style. Some varieties do perform better when suited with the right glass. Brands play a role but quality is important.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Food pairings used to be so subjective, now I think they are more personal. People should really drink what they like. It starts there mentally however, I love introducing people to new flavors and varieties. Because of sauces a lot of the old rules are going out the window.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
If a guest offers defiantly but I don’t think a Somm should ask for wine.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
Sommeliers are very popular now here in the US. Most restaurants seek them. It’s fairly easy to go online and google opened positions.
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?
Wine lists are about a balance between the food, atmosphere and demographic. If you understand these things then you can create a quality wine list for the guests. Mark ups are also determined by location. A upscale restaurant or hotel will demand a different demographic than the little Italian eatery. I don’t believe in ripping guests off with astronomical pricing, I think it depends on how much you pay for the wine at cost.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I read, I go to different places, I pay attention to the people.
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?
I love to try new wines so it’s not hard to get my attention but I am easily turned off by packaging. If the packaging if cheesy then it takes away from the wine. Producers who make quality wine at a good price will always get noticed.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I’d def be a Pinot Noir. There’s something so seductive about the grape yet it is so delicate at the same time.
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?
My top 3 wines are sparkling (almost any kind), Pinot Noirs, and whites (Viogniers, trebbiano, white Rhones, wines from obscure places)
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I love podcasts. They are entertaining and informative. Pick your favorite!
Tahiirah Habibi Allen
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com