Name: Mr. Shahzad Talukder -
Nationality: Germany -
At the moment: Luxembourg -
Chef Sommeliere - Lea Linster Restaurant
Japanese Sake Judge at Mundus Vini
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time? I was a student of Bioinformatics at Frankfurt Goethe University and working part-time in Hospitality Industry. David Oesterreich, the F&B Manager at former Falkenstein Grand Kempinski (now Marriott) was the first one to introduce me to wine in a professional matter. Because of him, I decided to quit my studies and become a Sommelier, the best decision I have ever made.
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?
As everyone in hospitality a Sommelier needs to be able to handle multiple tasks at the same time, working efficiently and fast, but staying focused and calm all the time. To be able to do this and answering questions from customers at the same time, a Sommelier really needs to know what he/she is talking about. I am very happy that in Germany we have a big group of highly professional young Sommeliers e.g. Nina Mann, Jo Wessels, Marc Almert, Stefanie Hehn, and if not 2020 we usually meet each other several times a year on different purposes but discussing and learning from each other.
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 would always admire to find a position abroad, at least for 2 years to find some new ideas and approaches to wine and industry. It is very helpful to understand different wine markets to improve the own skills. In an ideal way, you might see the strength and weaknesses of your own (home market) and the market you are actually working in.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
I will always ask for preferences (wines and wine styles the customer prefers) and sometimes as well for a price target. But if you are talking about a specific style of wine already, then I will always propose wines at different price levels.
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?
We are working with a wide range of glasses from multiple well-known brands, e.g. Gabriel Glas, Zalto, and Riedel. The shape and size of the glasses and durability are most important.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Follow the basic rules like „low tannic wines with spicy food“ and „salty food with higher acidic wines“, but if you want to have a new experience you will be surprised how perfect grower champagnes will be with your menu. The Champagnes of Raphael Bereche (Champagne Bereche et Fils) easily can be paired with a fillet of beef or saddle of lamb.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
Yes. Always and every bottle. If not only for cork failure as well to make sure the wine is in perfect condition, to make recommendations to decant or not to decant wines (based on customers preferences of course), or even to be able to discuss on the actual bottle if the customer wants to.
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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?
The first step is o know the customers and the restaurant you are working by heart. Every restaurant has a different approach, searching for different customers. Then search for wines in different price and quality levels, keep in mind the average bill per customer you need to earn to run your business. Never forget a Sommelier is there as well to make sure the Restaurant is making a profit, to recommend wines and to try wines ist he best part of our job, but if you want to be successful you always need to make sure to make some profit, keeping the restaurant in business.
The ridiculous pricing….
Well… there are some wines in the world that are extremely pricy, but if you buy wisely you can be able to offer fair prices to the customer. We bought e.g. the 2015 DRC La Romanee Conti as soon as it was on the market, we offer it for 15K € in the restaurant (incl tax), but on the retail market now there is no bottle for less than 19K € (ex tax). Yes, it is expensive, but I think still fairly priced.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Never stop learning. Join Masterclasses, go for tastings as often as possible, listen to your retailers, read magazines and blogs.
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?
Make an appointment with me and come around to introduce yourself, sent some sample bottles of selected wines of you, or ask for an appointment at a trade fair e.g. ProWein. Possibilities to be listed will improve if a vertical selection of a specific wine is available, I like to show not only wine but as well its aging potential.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Gernot Heinrich Graue Freyheit (Cuvée of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay), a natural wine from Austria. It would reflect my character, honest, straightforward, sometimes a bit rough.
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?
Château d´Yquem for the desert Island
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