Anyone that believes being a Sommelier is merely a job, cannot be a true sommelier. Being a Sommelier is being a wine professional, a wine aficionado and a person who understands and craves a deep knowledge of the wine world, wine making, spirits, cigars, the professional approach of cooking techniques and ingredients, the art of service and customer care. Together with knowledge, there comes the responsibility to create the wine list, manage and maintain budgets, deal with suppliers, training staff, working alongside chefs for the food pairing. And that is just the beginning. To detail all elements of Sommelier life would require a novel, rather than a blog post. But I’ll start work on that next…
It takes a life time to achieve the above, and as with many professions, it’s a learning experience that never truly ends as every vintage is a different vintage, every day there is a new producer, new appellation, new vinification technique. Keeping up with the trends is mission impossible. So what does it really take to be a sommelier? What my mentor always told me, and what I always say to those under my mentorship is to study, study, study and study more and more.
However the studying process is not enough as you need to train your palate, you need to be able to travel the world visiting as many vineyards and wine exhibition as you can, working long hours, and inevitably marry your personal life with your professional world. So how do we know if we are fit for this job? TastedAndRated put this question to Anka Lazaroni, Sommelier at La Serre Restaurant, an emerging talent in this world who decided two years ago that wine was to be her career, life and best companion. She also has two essential qualities that are extremely important in this world; ethic and modesty. Those qualities allow you to understand the job of the winemaker behind the bottles before you judge them. This means you don’t take advantage of suppliers simply because you buying the wines from them. It also allows you to build a relationship with the clients to prevent their ability to try to always upsell the most expensive bottles, makes you a role model for the staff you train and allows you to bring the same to your world.
When I first meet Anka, she exudes an energy that reminds me of my own youth. The start of my career was in a completely different world than that of today but she demonstrates the same genuine approach, that she recognizes is a drop of water in the ocean in terms of her knowledge and capabilities.
LUCA: How did you fall in love with wine?
ANKA: It happened two years ago, while on duty as bartender at La Serre, Sandy El Hayek, the former GM, asked me to join a blind tasting with the floor staff. Sandy often used to do such training sand this time there were 7 glasses of wine and grape varieties written on a piece of paper for each staff member. On this occasion, the game was to associate the grape variety with the glass of wine tasted. By everyone’s surprise I was the only one to score 7 out of 7. That night Sandy came to me with a nice glass of Opus One and asked me if I wanted to join the floor staff and try a career in the wine world. Until then I had never been interested in a career in the wine industry, but I always enjoyed a glass of wine in my free time. However I was in limbo and still deciding what I wanted to do with my life. I had just come to Dubai not even a week before, after my mum, who also works in the hotel industry had tried to convince me to join one of the hotel’s back in Romania. But I decided to accept Sandy’s offer and the day after my wine journey started.