Name: Petar Velickovic
Nationality: North Macedonia
At the moment: North Macedonia
Founder of Wine Way – WSET Educator
Own Website: https://wineway.org/
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first serious experience with wine was in 2009 when I was working as Assistant Waiter on a cruise ship. I was a young server that knew how to open and serve a bottle of wine but did not have the knowledge and skills to sell it. I had the fortune to have a lovely family as my guests for 28 days. They had a different bottle of wine every night and my guest would explain every bottle of wine that I served them. Life changing moment for me was when my guest gave me my first wine book (Wine Wise) as a present. That moment changed my life forever.
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?
Sommelier in my opinion first needs to be a person that has a passion for hospitality and has guest experience as his top priority. This is something that cannot be taught, either you have it or not. Service skills and wine knowledge can be learned, it is not rocket science, but requires passion and dedication. As you move away from the restaurant floor to a Head Sommelier role, good level of organization, educator, financial and leadership skills are required.
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 am currently working as a WSET Educator for Wine Way in Macedonia. The reason for opening Wine Way was to give people an option to get the world class wine education in Macedonia, which will enable them be more valuable to the market place. The best money that I have ever invested in my life was in educating myself. Everyone is different, but my advice would be to find a work place where the management understands the impotence of investing in their staff. If you are just in for the money, cruise ships are a great place. This will also give you a financial freedom to invest in yourself.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
Understanding the customer’s needs. Ask questions, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What they like or not, what is the occasion for the wine, are they having food with wine (food & wine pairing interactions), understand their budget. DO NOT be that person that sell wines just based on price!!!
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?
Glasses are important. I had the opportunity to work in restaurants that served all their wine in Riedel glasses. We would serve specific varieties in specific glass designed for that variety. First of all the glasses look great, but more importantly wines actually taste better, depending from what kind of glass you drink. Try to drink New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Chardonnay glass, or vice versa, you will understand. But not everyone can afford Riedel, there are alternative brands that will be a better value and will be as good.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
There is a lot intimidation in food & wine pairing that is annoying. Everyone is different and has different thresholds of tolerance for sweetness, acid, bitter, spicy, so again you need to understand what your guest enjoys or not. Some general guidance: wine more sweeter than your desert, salt great for tannins and fruit in the wine, high acid wine with food that has acidity and oil/marble, spicy food with wines with residual sugar, or with Amarone if you can’t get enough of spicy food. Try different combinations and trust your palate.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
My opinion is no. I find that invasive and unnecessary. If a guest ask a Sommelier to taste the wine, that is a different story.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
You will not find a Sommelier position posted on internet in Macedonia, but for international jobs that is the most efficient way. Wineway.org is planning to offer that option in the future.
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?
Understand the concept of your restaurant and know your guests. Wines by the glass program is very important, with Coravin you can add great value to your wines by the glass. Have versatility with wines styles and prices. Create a good relationship with your supplier, they will help you to create an interesting and value driven wine program. Some restaurants are just greedy, not much to say. I would have a higher margin on the lower end wines and lower margin on the high end wines. I enjoy finding wines that have good value. Work with suppliers to get a deal that you can transfer to your guests.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
You do your best, so much changes. It takes a few years to write a wine book, before the book is finished it is already out of date. There are Sommelier sites that are doing a great job to have the most updated information available.
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?
My experience was more focused on working with suppliers than producers. I loved the stories and passion that producer have for their wines. I now work in a very young wine market, I need wines to have a clear style that can be explained to the consumer and be priced in a way that customers are willing to pay.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Barolo. Rough around the edges, nothing in the middle, improves with age.
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?
Barolo, Amontilado Sherry, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If I am on desert island I would love to have the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I actually have a great story about drinking a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on an island.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
GuldSomm, Purple Pages, Wine Folley
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – www.sommelier-jobs.com