Mr. Michael Mcduff – Canada – Sommelier/Wine Blogger/Wine Editor (Interview No. 190)

April 1, 2024

Name: Mr. Michael Mcduff –

Michael Mcduff

Nationality: Canadian –

At the moment: Canada –

Joanie`s Wine Blog –


Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry. Did you have any particular mentors?

Around 10 years ago, during a freezing cold Canadian winter, I started my CMS Introduction journey and fell in love immediately. I had been enjoying wine for many years prior but understanding every aspect of it, from the vines to the bottle, opened my eyes and changed my life. Since that day, I have never stopped learning and the more I learn, the more I discover that I have plenty of things left to learn. I am doing my WSET Diploma at the moment and try to learn a little bit more every day. Me and my wife, Joanie Metivier, are both passionate about the wine industry and I like to think that we challenge each other like mentors will do.

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?

Being knowledgeable is clearly a prerequisite but being a good salesman is also essential. I know the business side of wine sounds less poetic and inspiring but part of the job of a sommelier is to generate revenue for his restaurant and understanding profitability. Being curious, open-minded and motivated are also great qualities to have in general. My first teacher was Pascaline Lepeltier. I think she is one of the most knowledgeable people that I had the chance to meet in my entire life.

What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e). How to find a good position at home or abroad? Any further tips?

Build your personal brand online with social platforms that will help you for the rest of your career. Dm’s head sommelier and restaurant director. Try to interact with your idol online, like their post and comment something positive. The key to finding a good position is to follow up. You can join a tasting club in your region. It’s a small world and everybody knows someone. In Canada, we lack employees and every other great restaurant is looking for young talents. Recruiters are looking for sommeliers in France and trying to convince them to come work here.


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

I like to guide the customer so I gather more information while giving him control over the final choice. Start by asking if he prefers white or red, more oaky or more fruity, classic or modern, affordable or expensive. Soon you narrow the choice to a specific region and the customer has the impression that he is in charge. That way you have more chances that the customer will be happy with his choice and reduce the dissatisfaction rate a lot because he made the selection and feels connected to this choice. Remember the perfect pairing is one that is enjoyed by the guest and can take many forms. You have to take the guest’s preferences into account, even if this means a slightly too structured red with fish.

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?

If your restaurant can afford to break expensive glasses once in a while, I say expensive is frequently better. We work with Riedel Veloce at Ripplecove Hôtel & Spa but personally, I prefer Zalto glasses. Thinness and flexibility is the key, more than the actual brand. I think having quality glasses that don’t cost 100$ each can make sense for a gastronomic restaurant. There are many options available nowadays, with great finesse, and they can really make a difference on your guest’s experience overall.

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

It’s nice to make people discover an unknown producer from a small region in Moldova but the most important thing is that the customer likes the wine. You are making a pairing for other people so try to keep in mind that everyone has different tastes. Stay open-minded and most importantly don’t be a snob about it. Acidity represents the cornerstone of any successful pairing. It cleans the palate and prepares it for the next bite. If the wine lacks acidity, the pairing can deplete the palate and reduce customer pleasure.

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

Personally, I don’t do it. I know some restaurants where they taste every bottle served. I think it is a different approach where you are more friendly with the customer. Not my style. If a customer says the wine is corked or has any doubt about it, I will remove the bottle and taste it in the back. If the wine is good I will sell it by the glass to minimize the loss and keep the customer happy at the same time. It’s a win-win.

Wine list:

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?

Try to have a little bit of everything if you can. Diversity of style is key to be able to please every guest. I know if you work in an Italian restaurant you don’t need to have Canadian wine on the menu, but it can still be a nice touch if a Canadian expat wants to remember it’s country. For markups, compare yourself with your competitors. You don’t want to be twice as expensive as other restaurants, but at the same time, Beverage revenue is an important aspect of a restaurant’s profitability. Ultimately, the right markup is the one your customers are comfortable with. Of course, some customers are more price-sensitive than others, but it’s our responsibility to guide them and It’s an opportunity to present little gems to discover that are at the right price for them.

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

Learning, learning and learning. That’s it. You need to stay at the top of your game. If you can have a budget to visit other restaurants and attend some trade shows, that can help a lot. Visiting a winery while on vacation and talking with producers also help. Studying WSET or CMS are good ways to stay on top.

How would a new vineyard get their wine noticed and what is the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?

That’s a hard one. We are working with the monopoly in Quebec so it is really difficult to organically find your way in our market. In fact, I bought a private importing business, VoirNosVins, so I’m able to import wine when I discover a great producer while I am traveling. I think, if a producer wants to be present in a specific market, he needs to visit the place. We organize winemaker dinners to increase awareness of customers for specific regions or producers. I think sommeliers are often open-minded about discovering new products, but they need to be able to access information about that new vineyard and taste the product to make a choice.

Favorite pick:

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

Something like a Nebbiolo. Can be hard to approach in the first 5 years 😀.

Which top 3 types of wine (your faves would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?

Burgundy Pinot Noir, Alsace Riesling, and Northern Rhône Syrah.

For the desert Island, I need to go with Champagne: alone and happy.

I know it is a French-only selection, maybe for the next interview I will share my Italian list with you.

Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platforms?

You should read my magazine Wine Tourism Mag. It’s free and it covers the travels of me and my wife Joanie Metivier around the world of wine.

Thank you


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