Name: Bernard Neveu –
Nationality: French –
At the moment: France / Paris
Directeur de la Sommellerie
@ Le Bristol – Paris (click)
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry. Did you have any particular mentors?
My first encounter with wine was when I was 16 years old, I was an apprentice in a small restaurant, with 1* Michelin, and they had an interesting cellar with many great labels. This is when I first started to taste wines and do wine pairings, right at the beginning of my career.
My first mentor was one of my teachers when I was studying hospitality, he was the first to push me to be even better. A few years later, in 2003, I met Mr Patrick Fioramonti in Corsica. Back in time, he didn’t have a huge wine list, but every reference was a nice pick! He is the author of a great book; “Le Vin Corse”, a must-read!
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with those qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
The most important skill for a sommelier is to be curious: to love new discoveries and to be excited about tasting new nectars! He also has to make sure that he gives the best advice without being patronizing, and that he understands very quickly the needs of the customers in order to choose the right pick!
I truly admire Loic Chavasse-Frette from the Royal Evian Hotel, exactly for the reasons I just mentioned.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e)? How to find a good position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
My advice to a young sommelier would be: to learn, read, and take part in as many possible wine tastings, meetings, and conferences. Always be open-minded, curious, and focused. Whether you are looking for a job at home or abroad, it is important to find the right places to apply to: Look for the restaurants acclaimed by gastronomic reviews, for the wines lists awarded by Wine Spectator for example, or « Terre de Vins » that value the work of the sommeliers.
If you are looking for interesting positions check out: www.sommelier-jobs.com
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what, in your opinion, would be the best approach?
First of all, the sommelier must know the food. He can’t give any advice if he doesn’t know the menu and the recipes of the chef! Secondly, he needs to be aware of the occasion (anniversary, business, dinner with friends..). Depending on it, the advice will be quite different. This being said, the sommelier needs to ask the client a few questions and listen to them. The key to our jobs: the best bottle to the right client at the best moment= the perfect match!
What is your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well-known brands or are you considering new brands as well? How do you decide?
The glass is very important! I like the shape of the brand Shott Zwiesel, the collection “Alloro”: Very light, thin at the top and quite resistant… At home, I use Zalto Glasses but it’s too fragile to use in a restaurant!
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
The classics are good and make everybody happy! Sometimes you can try different styles, but for me, a perfect pairing is when you don’t smash the dish. Also, the temperature of the service is very important and you need to know the right time to open it… But definitely, the most important is with who you will drink it!
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Yes, it’s necessary. Every bottle is different, sometimes it’s a bit closed, sometimes it’s perfect, and sometimes it’s corked… The sommelier guarantees the best service for the customers. Also, when you have 36 bottles of wine, you will probably open a bottle after a month, then 1 year, 5 years or more, so, by tasting it each time, the sommelier can learn so much and understand the evolution of the wine, its peak moment, which is truly valuable for the knowledge of any sommelier.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on pricing wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
First of all, the relationship with winemakers, keeping always contact with them, and visiting the different vineyards. Also having a comfortable budget is important, especially if you want to build a solid wine list. In order to determine the right price for our restaurants, I analyze the market, the availability of the wines (some are less expensive but really hard to find), and the retail price. Sometimes, if a wine becomes too much trendy, I would rather take it off the wine list instead of rising prices, and wait until the euphoria is done and the wine appreciated itself.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I try to keep myself informed as much as possible by exchanging a lot with winemakers, wine traders, and sommeliers. I attend many wine tastings and visit vineyards all year long. And I also read wine magazines and online articles.
How would a new vineyard get its wine noticed and what is the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
I would advise them to contact the professionals in gastronomic restaurants: they are always looking for new talents and it would be very good publicity for them to have a big restaurant as customers to find new ones then. Also, contact well-known wine traders that could promote your wines to restaurants and wine cellars.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I think I will be a Châteauneuf-du-Pape for its generosity, and its beautiful aromas of dark fruits: it’s expressive, strong with a nice final.
Which top 3 types of wine (your faves would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
Definitely Côte Rôtie from Jamet, a lot of Champagne from wine growers like Pierre Peters, and some Sancerre from Boulay. My Desert island wine would be a Schlossberg Riesling « Epicentre » from Albert Mann.
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