Name: Stephanie Rigourd
At the moment: Singapore
Wine Director @ The Raffles – Singapore
Articles: Stephanie Rigourd & The Raffles Hotel
Website: Stephanie’s Wine Escapade
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
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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?
Passion for wine and most importantly for the wine producers, being modest and humble, having love for people, never intimidates guests or anyone with wine knowledge. Being the messenger of the winemakers, being curious
respect for wine makers and wine generally, considering the service as important as the knowledge if not more. Being dynamic and efficient on the floor during the operations
I like books from Faure-Brac world best sommelier, but I never had the chance to meet him personally. I admire my ex bosses and Chef Sommeliers, Christophe Santos and Christophe Fournier they taught me so much
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?
Young/commis must work in a winery as a trainee at least once, it’s so important to build up the foundation of wine knowledge and to have a real understanding of wine and wine makers, it helps showing them respect.
They must be curious and take anything they can take from people with abilities to teach. To stay humble always and live their passion. To adapt their wine language to guest’s level of knowledge, make sure to never make them feel uncomfortable, LISTEN to guests to understand their needs.
Travel into vineyards, go meet winemakers and see what they do, understand where they come from to have anecdotes to share with guests while advising wines.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
Identified guest’s needs and preferences by being prepared; knowing what food they ordered, where they come from…(guests might have different preferences based on where they come from) ask questions eg: do you usually like full bodied wine?
Look at guests’ body language, and listen! Listen what wine verbiage guests use to identified their wine knowledge and adapt our wine language. Don’t be stubborn and make compromise when required eg: if the guest like white wine on beef, just give him a white wine! But choose a big body type of wine to get closer as much as possible to a decent food & wine pairing. Don’t recite, speak at the right speed with eyes contact and give just the amount of information that the guests needs. If guests don’t have a big wine knowledge don’t bother them with technical wine details and words.
Don’t freak out guests! Their happiness and pleasure is our mission!
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?
Glass is so important, I had the chance to have training with M. Lagneau, previously designer for Riedel, and taste the same wine in plenty of different glasses, the difference of smell and taste were amazing, since then I am convinced even more that the glass is so important.
I am always open to new brands as long as the glass is proper and enhance wines. I am against flute and coupe for Champagne; it’s not allowing the Champagne to express itself as it should. And I don’t really like the new trend of stemless wine glasses, the glass foot is there for a reason, to keep the wine at the right temperature. But once again, our mission is to make guests satisfied and if they like flute and stemless glasses I would definitely provide it.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
They are rules for food & wine pairing but they are made to be broken! Last week I was at Chateau de Fargues and they served us Sauternes with Oysters! I would have never ever thought about it, in fact it was working pretty well. I didn’t necessarily enjoy it but it worked.
Sometimes it’s all about enjoyment and personal taste. But the key is to find the balance. Making sure wine and dishes enhance each other’s, by playing essentially with textures.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Yes, but I understand that in some countries this practice could be wrongly seen. It has to be done on a proper way: doing it in front of the guest, pouring a really tiny amount of wine in the tasting glass just enough for one sip, never leave wine into the tasting glass, don’t waste guests’ wine.
We are supposed to ask for permission, but in countries where guests are not use to this practice, they might take it wrongly, once I advise to just follow above steps without asking.
After tasting the wine it’s important to give short and clear comments about the general quality of the wine, for guests to understand why the somm actually tasted the wine. Like eg: It’s clean and really open / I think it needs to open up, allow me to carafe it… etc…
Of course if guests are in a middle of a discussion and seams to do not bother about it, don’t interrupt them for unnecessary comments.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
Hotels, restaurants website and by connections… build up network by getting out there! On wine and hospitality fairs, on wine tasting at wineries, on sommelier events etc…
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?
A wine list needs to respond to the market and adapted to the restaurant concept. It’s important to have those well-known labels and to add on personal touches and what I call “sommelier’s wines”, these wines that guests won’t necessary picked because unknown or/and unusual. These wines only allowed sommeliers to do their real jobs… Unfortunately in hotels most of the time we have got beverage cost imposed, Sommeliers can’t do anything about this. Regarding “crazy” pricing, I take it as a form of disrespect for wine makers and way to discourage guests to approached wines.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I travel to vineyards every year and visit as much wineries as I can; I never miss an opportunity to meet up with wine makers.
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?
I work with my heart, wine it’s my life not just my job, I sell wines from producers who’s inspired me. I am open to any vineyards as long as I find “well-born” wines produce with sincerity by inspiring people.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I love this question! I would be a Margaux, because it’s a complex appellation which shows many types of Margaux styles but still remain always elegant and powerful… and modest of course 😉
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 fav goes with my mood and the moment… really hard questions.
I am just back from a gorgeous trip in Loire Valley and Bordeaux and I’m a bit nostalgic about it so I will say:
Chinon White “Amphora” from Domaine Noiré by the fantastic Jean-Max Manceau
Médoc, Les Charmes Dompierre by Michel Aroldi, what a man!
Chenin Blanc from “God” Eben Sadie from swartland, South-Africa
And of course any wines from Yves Cuilleron, Vernay, Gaillard, Villard, Jamet, from northern part of Rhone valley where I am from!
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Oups… I don’t really read magazines and websites… I should but reading is never been my cup of tea. I will get the news monthly from brief newsletters from several wine makers or wine committees.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommeliers.at