Name: Kelvin Irungu Wanjira
At the moment: Kenya
Brand Manager/Wine Consultant
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular, mentors at that time?
My personal encounter with wines was rather funny; I would buy dry box wines and lime juice mix them up and enjoy. Little did I know that I was messing up the gist.
My professional encounter with wine came at around Mid 2014, I did get a chance to give a talk at an agency that was going to be handling a wine account, Nederburg wines. Fast forward I got employed by the same agency as the brand manager for the wines and I was asked by the managing director to undertake training to understand wines.
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?
He/ she must be humble, equipped with skills to learn and study a customer and possess some charm that way customers will be persuaded of any wines they recommend. In Kenya, I admire Geoffrey Kariuki who won the Sommelier Word Cup Africa Chapter and represented the country as well the country in South Africa in 2016.
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?
My advice is for them to look within places that are not already swarming with fellow sommeliers if they were to get an opportunity and grow on the job.
A good somm, needs to save and travel at least three wineries outside their country in their lifetime and attend a harvest as well make some free run wine just to have a grasp of the winemaking bit.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
Time of day..
Is there a celebration?
Is there food to pair with?/
Are they a sweet or dry palate kinda people
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?
The glasses should reverberate enough and be as delicate and functional enough. Think Olivia Pope’s glasses. IKEA is a good brand that does not let down.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Do not overthink it? Pair the food with your wines that you like but if they are experts, pair the weight of the wines with the weight of the dish.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
No. such opportunities are only reserved if client complains of a wine a fault.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
Kenya has a lot of potential as far as wine business is concerned. Restaurants are a first start up for any sommelier at least this is where most of the business and best wine practice exists.
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?
Here in Kenya most restaurants look at wine producing regions, taste offerings and obviously prices. The price of a wine in a restaurant should be closer to that in the supermarket otherwise by the glass sales will always supersede that of bottle sales.
The price margin should be at least 10-20% more from retail.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
- Wine events
- Wine magazines
- Fellow wine enthusiasts
- Online courses (doing more of this more and more)
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?
The only way for them to make a difference is if there’s a different taste from the rest of the world. A brand like Leleshwa wines in Kenya to me does this.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Pinotage. It is a cross breed of Pinot Noir and Cinsault/Hermitage. I believe nobody can be one but a breed of many cultures and somewhat personalities.
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?
Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon for the house but a Rose would make as desert island wine.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
We need to have world tours both physically and online by sharing the ongoings, challenges and the link with the world.
Kelvin Irungu Wanjira
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – www.sommeliers.at