Name: Bhatia Dheeraj
At the moment: Australia
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I have had the privilege and grow to work with some of the best establishments. Joel Robuchon three stars in Macau, The Peninsula Hong Kong, Raffles Hotel Singapore with stints in Seychelles for the opening and Beijing for a project, Julien Bompard Singapore, The RoundHouse Cape Town, Burj al Arab Dubai, The Oberoi India. My first encounter with wine was while I was pursuing my hospitality degree and as a kid my memories from New Year’s Eve where I was allowed to sip wine with my father. I currently work for the Magill estate restaurant, Adelaide.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
Ain’t no doubt wine knowledge is a must that can be acquired through various accredited courses (whatever accessible in your parts of the world) and more importantly investing your own personal time exploring. Ideally a hospitality program and working in different areas of Food & beverage departments. Even after you have your professional wine education it’s a constant journey and you learn every single day. I have grown through ranks. The next most important thing that I have learned is to be a good listener and humble at all times to your patrons and colleagues. Art of service showcases professionalism. The beauty of our industry is that we meet so many great people in this journey and there is always something to learn and adapt and I have been fortunate to work with few different mentors who have made me a better wine professional today.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
Start wherever you can and with whatever resources you have. Try initiating and looking after wines in your respected areas of work. Speak to your managers about it. Push yourself and just start and the rest will follow step by step. Try looking for right mentors if possible and start working closely with Chefs. Understand food in depth. Taste with your team including Chefs and see how different our palates are… Understand psychology of taste.. Keep yourself updated with blogs and magazines… Spend more time in the Cellar as taught by my mentor back in the days, Mr Soret always said visual memory is the best format. For job opportunities try to upload you CV on various job sites like Seek, local headhunter whom you can approach to. I also thank and appreciate what Traveling Sommelier website is doing as it consolidates wine positions of the world which perhaps might lead to a position overseas for some candidates.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
I always like to read the guest first. Working in high end fine dining we have different guest eg. Some are there to spend lavishly, some on a quick Business, special occasions or moments.Most of the times guest reservations details always have some info about guest and that comes along handy..I prefer to have a dialogue with guests on the food side first that has been ordered and then should they fancy a whole food and wine match experience that Myself and Chef have worked together on, couple of glasses or bottle selection that we have handpicked and selected for our restaurant. From there on you understand their palate, likes, dislikes and start making recommendations on what’s going to work best and give them memorable moments by making wine a joyful experience for them.
What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
Most of the times I have worked with Schott Zwiesel and Riedel.. I love both these brands as they are the best in all aspects. I would love to work with Zalto at some point as they are very impressive too and a bit pricey $$$ ( bearing in mind cost & breakages) but honestly worth the price if one can afford.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Same as above first try to spend time with the Chefs in the kitchen and understand different flavors, textures, preparation methods and weight of the dishes… Wine should not overpower the food but instead create a harmony…just like a perfect marriage if I may say so. After understanding the dishes apply the same philosophy for wine and work your way up… In the end taste with your teams specially food and wine degustation menus that’s going to be force week or more. Always make it a point to taste with Chefs and they will always be kind enough to make minor changes in the seasoning to adjust with the wine.. This exercise always works and yes it’s true that Powerful reds can work with Fish and thanks to my current Chef Scott and Emma at Magill estate taught me this.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Seeking permission is the best and safe practice.. However smelling is my primary job as I can’t serve them a corked wine.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
For ( now that I live here) Australia Seek is the best search engine and as I mentioned above I really appreciate what Traveling Sommeliers website has done and helping consolidate Somm positions around the globe.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
For me the wine list is the face of the restaurant and it should be curated very carefully with a sense of balance in styles of wines (you can’t have a wine list with 50 percent natural wines only) Uniqueness and balance in regards to producers and countries, economic sense with different price points that also contribute to profitability… Wines listed should be drinkable, movable and sellable.. Mark ups should be justified and wines which are extremely rare and listed with high mark up is still considered vs wine with a high markup that can be found in a retail shop or elsewhere. However some hotels still practice high mark ups and practically it’s difficult to handle.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Read , taste, dine other places and travel whenever opportunity arises. The wine world was has and will continue to evolve.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
That’s a good question.. When I was living and working in Hong Kong practically every producer would travel there and meet Somms in person with wine reps… And I have thoroughly enjoyed that. . I think producers or wineries should have more Somm gatherings as this enables a network and more importantly the wine to be showcased have better opportunities to be tasted by the mass. If not Thankfully wine reps are already doing there best.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
It’s hard as I admit that I have no loyalty here. Last year I called myself Riesling very racy crisp and fresh but as if now I feel like a Barolo ” The King of wines” Often I think about Champagne specially when until today look up to the glass observing bubbles rising in pairs.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
I am really liking Sherries right now. Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (Burgundy & Sonoma) always has to be there. Heaps of Rieslings and Chardonnay (Burgundy) as my wife likes them too…Champagne and possibly lots of water to isolate myself in a dessert.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
There are so many good ones out there but for me less is more hence as of now I follow Decanter and Drinks business for now. Guild Somm the best tool for wine education.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com