Name: Ms. Gordana Josovic –
Nationality: Serbia / USA –
At the moment: UAE – Dubai
Head of Wine @ Atlantis Resorts
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry. Did you have any particular mentors?
My first experience with wine happened in Yugoslavia, where I grew up. I was trying local wine on the Dalmatian coast, where I spent summers. It was probably Crljenak, which I discovered many years later, but all I knew was that I was hooked on wine and that it would be an integral part of my life. When I moved to the United States, I immersed myself in the industry and took my passion to another level. Eugenio Jardim was my first mentor who I worked with. In those days in San Francisco, I had a chance to learn from some of the industry’s best; Evan Goldstein, Tim Gaiser, Catherine Fallis, Emily Wines, David Glancy, Larry Stone, Raj Paar…
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
Attention to detail, precision, genuine care, and continuous education is necessary for every sommelier. Every great wine professional I know is also a little OCD, in a good way.
Many colleagues I worked and studied with throughout the years left a lasting impression on me and helped shape my future in this business. The list is long and stretches from the West to the East Coast of the United States and around the globe. These connections and support are invaluable, and I pay it forward by helping new generations and sharing the experience.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what, in your opinion, would be the best approach?
Discover their preferences and how much out of their comfort zone they are willing to go. Ask about the last wine they enjoyed. Part of our job is to be highly perceptive and to be able to recognize their taste in wine without many verbal clues. Pronunciation is one of the most daunting parts of wine selection for most guests. I teach the staff to always speak about and present wines clearly and concisely. We should make wine ordering non-intimidating, fun, and educational.
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?
When choosing glassware, I consider the style of the restaurant first, its energy, interior, and cuisine. The essential parts of decision-making are the focus of the wine list, the number of wines served by the glass, wine styles, and the range of vintages. The sturdiness of the glassware and the allowed breakage is also important. I have chosen well-known brands for most of the restaurants – Riedel, Schott Zwiesel, and Zalto. For more casual ones, I opted for glassware from lesser-known brands suitable for the venue. I am always looking for new brands that offer unique quality and style.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
I like to find out first how important are food and wine pairing to the guest. Many people ask for a professional suggestion but would be happier if they enjoyed wine on its own rather than having a suggested pairing. Even with set wine pairing for the tasting menus, I leave room for substitutions. I love offering guests multiple tastes of wine, and I love to elevate their experience. We are in the business of pleasure, after all.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Yes. Everybody benefits from it; guests should be able to enjoy wine served in perfect condition and at the proper temperature. Sommeliers learn about new wines and recognize bottle variations and faultiness.
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?
When creating a wine list, I start with the restaurant’s concept and cuisine. Knowing your guest, the local market and trends, and the company’s budget are imperative. Whether it is a short list for a casual place or a complex list of thousands of selections, I like to tell a story through it.
Pricing and markups will hugely depend on the company’s bottom and top lines and the wine program’s message. When a company has many outlets under its umbrella, I can balance out prices. For allocated and high-end wines, markups are lower. These wines attract connoisseurs and educate guests on new selections and rare wines. High-volume restaurants selling recognizable and approachable brands will have higher markups.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I keep an open mind (and an open palate). I read reliable sites, articles, and magazines. I listen to guests in restaurants, people in retail shops, and at tastings. It is important to me to keep the conversation going with the winemakers and with the distribution side. I visit wineries, wine regions, and wine events around the world. Being in studying and tasting groups is a big part of staying on top of the game. The wine community is generous and loves to share information and great experiences.
How would a new vineyard get its wine noticed and what is the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
Reach out and briefly describe your wine. Mention if the wine is listed already at some restaurants. I know my colleague’s palates and will trust their choice. Send an invitation to a group tasting if the winery will be a part of it. Send a sample. Ratings, critics’ opinions, and points are not that important. Refrain from insisting on in-person tasting, especially if the winery still needs to be discovered.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Trousseau. It is rare, unique, trustworthy, and a little mysterious. It shows success in various production styles and different parts of the world.
Which top 3 types of wine (your faves would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
My wine collection changed from what it used to be in the United States when I moved to Dubai. Champagne is always there, especially from growers. Pinot Noir from all around the world. Riesling – German, Austrian, French.
When I think of the desert island wine, I think about that magic moment and the feeling I will never forget while drinking it. It would be 1997 Giuseppe Quintarelli, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico.
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