Ms. Katja Scharnagl – Austria / USA – Chef Sommelierè / Wine Consultant

April 3, 2021

Name: Katja Scharnagl

Nationality: Austrian –

At the moment: USA-NY –

Chef Sommelierr Le Bernardin NYC –

Wine Consultant at Katja Consulting Website: click


Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time? 

I grew up in the Wachau valley and was always surrounded by wine from an early age. Initially, I wanted to become a kindergarten teacher but my non-existing musical talent prevented me from perusing this path. After attending culinary school in Krems I always worked in wine-focused restaurants. Mentors – Thomas Lucian and Helmut Joerg

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?

Be humble, be friendly, listen to what your guests are telling you, hard-working, be open-minded – Aldo Sohm

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? 

It is the same as above, be humble, show up on time, stay longer and come in earlier, work hard, be friendly, go the extra mile for guests and colleagues, keep on learning


When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach? 

Do ask questions, find out what they like to drink on a regular basis, ask for the price point, know your wines and what would be similar to it to give your guest the best possible recommendations, know your menu

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? 

Don’t get too crazy about too many glasses – have a set of 3-4 glasses and that’s it, invest in good wine glasses, we are using Spieglau and Zalto at our restaurant

What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food? 

You should be open and try all out, look at how food is prepared, what is the driving component on the dish, how is the sauce, a pairing should elevate the dish and bring harmony to it.

Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine? 

Yes, especially when your guests put the effort into and discusses the wines for the dinner and then just wants to sit back and enjoy, its our job to bring a flawless product to the guest

Wine list: 

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 markups?

Have a look at the concept of the restaurant – I’m always surprised how often you walk into a restaurant and you look at the wine list and it has nothing to do with the concept of the restaurant

What is your clientele? Is it a newly opened restaurant or is it there for 30+ years with regulars coming in every since it opened

Do have something on the list for everyone, at Le Bernardin, we are trying to make an effort to have wines on the list that we love and don’t cost that much – not everyone wants to spend that much on wine or just saved up everything for this special occasion and simply cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars on top of a very expansive menu – that’s where we come in and still provided the best possible experience for them!

Mark up – we all know that wine is a great income for restaurants but if it’s over the top even I will go for a drink instead of ordering a bottle. In today’s world, it is easy to look up what a wine cost on various apps/websites! It’s so frustrating that when you open a wine list and there are all these cool wines on it but the cheapest bottle of wine starts above $100/bottle

How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?

Organize requently tastings with suppliers, read magazines, watch websites, talk to colleagues – there is so much to discover every day in the wine world

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? 

before covid, we had always tastings with wineries and suppliers where we always made the point of looking for new wines/wineries/ wine regions. we also did a ton of research on our own – Instagram, suggestions from fellow sommeliers, tasting group, purple pages, ….

Favourite pick: 

If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why? 

Riesling, getting better with age, sometimes bone dry – sometimes sweet, can be super charming and easy going but also difficult and a diva sometimes.

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? 

In my fridge is always a bottle of Riesling, something bubbly, and Sherry!

Dessert island wine – a bottle of Madeira – cause it will survive the heat and as soon it is open it will stay as it is because of the way it was produced…. and it will last at least for a couple of days…

Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platforms?

Magazines- I love the Noble Rot magazine!

Online –

Katja Scharnagl

@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers –

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