Name: Jenny Polack
At the moment: Australia
Master in Wine Management / Wine Educator / Wine Consultant
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first encounter with the wine and the wine industry was quite atypical. I was busking (singing in the street) in a reasonably well to do shopping area in Melbourne. I did this, every week, as it paid for my food. I still needed a part time job whilst I continued to build up a career in the music sector. The bottle shop across the road had a sign up for a part time staff member, I applied and got the job. (Heaven knows why they employed me because I did not really drink!)
I began buying the cheap bottles of wine as I wanted to learn about what I was selling. My boyfriend of the time thought it was great as he liked wine. This began my learning journey about wine and other alcoholic beverages.
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?
A desire to understand people and a wish to interact with them. I view a Sommelier as being part of a team that will make the customers’ experience in the venue a very special one – memorable in all the right ways. Someone might have great wine knowledge and a super palate but if they are not interested in their customers and have a desire to find out what they need or want, they cannot make a great Sommelier.
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?
Find a company that has a wine culture and supports learning. Work hard and show that you are worthwhile being supported in your learning.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
Let me preface that most of my Sommelier style of work is in a wine bar these days so food is less of a consideration. In a restaurant situation, the food would be of more importance and asking what the customer has chosen to eat would be important to ask (or know via other means).
The best approach that I have found is to ask questions to determine what style of wine that they like and how open they are to trying something different. After this I will make recommendations. If need be, I will ask about price point but often this is clarified in their answers to the other questions. If they are taking it out to dinner or as a present, I will ask about the cuisine or the person whom they are giving it to.
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?
I am pretty basic regarding glasses. At home, I prefer to drink out of the one style, shape and size of glass. This gives me consistency – the wine tastes and flavours change but not the glass. So long as it is an XL5 shape, it works for me.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Weight is my first point to look at – match a full bodied wine with a full bodied dish, etc. After that look for a flavour match and temperature and texture.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
If the wine is under cork, then yes. Under screw cap, I see no reason why to.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
There are three main internet sites for Somm. jobs:
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?
- Determine the parameters that you need to work within eg storage space, display space, number of suppliers
- Style of food
- Staff’s ability to sell – mainstream or esoteric
Re mark-ups. I work with establishments with lower mark ups. If a restaurant can make larger mark ups, good for them. If customers are not happy, they will vote with their feet.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Tastings, reading, travelling
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?
Firstly, contact me with info about the wine. Follow it up with a tasting – either directly to me or via a trade tasting.
If the wines show up as good value for money (price point itself is not so important) and the vineyard can supply when he/she says they can, I will give them a go.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
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?
My ‘cellar’ had quite a few Rieslings (Aussie and German), a fair smattering of Pinot Noirs but otherwise …..variety is the spice of life! No faves!
Re a desert Island wine – I was asked this recently by one of my students. I would probably have none. For me variety is truly the spice of life, if I was restricted to drinking one wine, I would drink it for a couple of days and then leave it.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Daily Wine News firstname.lastname@example.org is great for Aussie updates
Jancis Robertson’s purple pages
The wine industry body pages such as Austrian Wine (www.austrianwine.com) Wines of Portugal (www.winesofportugal.info), Wines of Turkey (www.winesofturkey.org) have improved out of sight over the last few years.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com