Sommelier Christopher Miller
Spago | Beverly Hills, CA
Wine Tips for the Sommelier:
- Take pride in your wine list. Never compromise on the quality of any of the wines on your list. Whether you have 50 or 5,000 wines on your list, every single one counts and is a personal reflection of you as a sommelier. A great chef does not compromise on the quality of what s/he is serving; a sommelier shouldn’t, either. You should take as much pride in your least expensive bottles as you do in your most expensive.
- Study, study, study. A sommelier’s job is divided into several different roles, each overlapping but distinct. Whether it involves interpretation, communication, or education, a sommelier’s role requires a great breadth and depth of knowledge to be done effectively. And building this knowledge is a lifelong process. This career is truly a privilege; don’t abuse that privilege through laziness or casual disregard.
- Listen more, talk less. I have yet to see this disproven as an effective means of communication. You already know everything that’s coming out of your mouth; the only way you’re going to learn and grow is by hearing what others have to say. Ask a few questions and actually pay attention to the answers and what guests mean by them, then translate that information into their perfect bottle of wine. Remember: guests are in a restaurant, not a lecture hall.
Wine Tips for Consumers:
- Forge a relationship. Whether it’s at a retail store or a restaurant, this will serve you incredibly well in the long run. Even when you’re dealing with a professional, taste is subjective and their recommendations won’t be perfect every time. If you develop mutual trust and give honest feedback, the sommelier is going to understand your palate better. Soon, they’ll get it right almost every time, and you’ll fall in love with some wines you’d never have thought to try otherwise.
- An open mind and $50 can serve you better than a closed mind and $150. I often internally classify wines into classics, look-alikes, and some totally unique styles. Everyone knows the classics, e.g. Bordeaux, famous Burgundy communes, Napa Cabernet—and they’re usually priced accordingly. The look-alike selections on a list can offer a lot of the same elements of those wines for a fraction of the price. A lot of sommeliers’ cellars at home are stocked with these look-alikes; that’s a pretty big endorsement.
- My favorite words from a guest. “I want to spend $___. Bring me what you would drink for that price.” You’ll never have a better bottle of wine in that restaurant than you will that night.
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