Interview with Sommelier Zoltan Szabo of Toronto - Canada

January 2005

Jim Clarke: How did you first develop an interest in wine?

Zoltan Szabo: Just by watching my parents as a child, making wine, tasting the must and smiling at each other.

JC: What drew you to wine service specifically, as opposed to winemaking or importing?

ZS: People – the way I was able to recommend a wine to a client face-to-face, the interaction and the satisfaction of people appreciating the suggested wine.

JC: What brought you to Canada, and how did you first get involved with the restaurant scene in Canada?

ZS: Opportunity and curiosity. I just continued my passion towards wine and ended up working in restaurants.

JC: What are your priorities when designing a wine list?

ZS: Consumer trends, compatibility with menu items, the profile, category, and clientele of restaurant, demographic, etc.

JC: What wines do you like to include on a list for versatility, so that a table with a number of diverse dishes can find a single bottle of wine that does justice to their food?

ZS: Fairly soft and round wines, if white not high in acid, perhaps with a little residual sugar: indigenous Italian, New World Sauvignon Blanc, Niagara Riesling, Argentinean Torrontés, Romanian Tamaioasa.

If red, not too acidic nor tannic, older vintage, not too heavy, neither serious, Merlot, Shiraz, lighter Cabernets, New World Pinot Noir, Gamay, Southern Italian reds, Zweigelt, Baco Noir, Marechal Foch from Niagara.

JC: Why did you move out of restaurants and into private dining and wine education and consulting?

ZS: This way I’m able to share my experiences with restaurant staff & aficionados alike.

JC: You recently competed in the Best in Ontario Sommelier Championship; what do you think is the value of sommelier competitions?

ZS: The competition was an awesome learning experience and it helped to raise the bar when it comes to service expertise. It is also a great way to showcase and give exposure to passionate sommeliers, allowing them to more easily spread the word about the wonderful world of wine.