The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 11 of 119

{ editor's notebook } BEING A SOMMELIER IS LIKE BEING A KID IN A CANDY store. You have spent a good portion of your working life studying, learning and tasting wine. Now, you have reached the pinnacle in your profession. You are in charge. The whole world of wine is open to you. Congratulations! Deciding what to put on your list can be a heady experience. There's so much interesting stuff to choose from. Crafting a great wine list requires all the savvy, knowledge and skill you have acquired. Orchestrating a list that is sensitive to the vary - ing tastes and pocketbooks of a diverse customer base is a precise, Solomonesque endeavor. Once the hard work has been done and the list is complete, you are faced with a transcendent fact: A great wine list can be a thing of beauty, but it all boils down to one overarching purpose—sales. Without an active sales program, a list—no mat - ter how good—can be useless. It just takes up space and eats up capital. It's time to move into a phase of your job that is too often overlooked or placed on the back burner: staff training. If your restaurant has more than 25 seats, you cannot possibly do all the selling yourself. You need a well-trained army of servers to bring your message to customers. It's important to have a session during which you lead the entire serving staff through a thorough discussion and tasting of every wine on the list. You need to explain as much about each wine as possible—its history, its winemaker, why it was chosen and, most important, which menu items it will go best with. To this purpose, the chef should be a participant in this tasting session as well. Often restaurants will stage a comprehensive training exer - cise just before opening. This is key to getting things off to a good start. Unfortunately, in the intensity of full-time operation, training is often neglected. If the list and the personnel were static, this wouldn't be a problem. But they aren't; they're con - stantly changing. Training has to be constant—every two or three weeks. Servers need to be armed with information to do their jobs and the importance of sales has to be impressed upon them. This is a tall order and requires hard work, but it translates into the most important aspect of your job (and a prime factor in keeping your job)—SALES. After languishing in the shad - ows for years (undoubtedly as a result of the over-exposure of off-dry wines in the 1980s and '90s), Riesling seems to be finally coming into its own. When grown in climate-appropriate regions and crafted with finesse, Riesling can have a seductive personality, far from its reputation as a sweet, one-note wine. In British writer Stuart Pigott's book Best White Wine on Earth, you'll learn just why Riesling has caught the eye not just of consumers, but also leading sommeliers and wine connoisseurs as well. This comprehensive and eminently readable book fol - lows Pigott's personal voyage of discovery, as he journeys the globe to taste and learn about the myriad types of Rieslings that are currently produced, from dry to sweet, in—among others—Australia, Washington State, New York's Finger Lakes and, of course, Germany. The author makes a strong case for the fact that, contrary to popular belief, Riesling is one of the most savory, food-friendly of wines and not just a substitute for dessert. Best White Wine on Earth reveals, in an entertaining and colorful way, the inspiring 21st-century story of Riesling. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 208 pages, $25. Much attention in the food world has been paid to French and Italian charcuterie, but very little seems to be known about the equally interesting meat products of Spain. Honing in on this extremely specific and important sub-cuisine is Jeffrey Weiss, author of the masterpiece Charcutería: The Soul of Spain. This comprehensive book explores the Spanish tradition of butchering and curing meat and fish. It explains the techniques of brining, salt curing, adobo and escabeche; it delves into preserving, patés and terrines, as well as embutidos, the various sausages and stuffed meats found throughout Spain. The book offers a duel approach to its fascinating sub - ject. There is also a section devoted to the making and appreciation of jamón Ibérico, the world's best and most expensive ham. Charcutería: The Soul of Spain is a big, comprehensive and intensive examination of an underreported and vital seg - ment of Spanish cuisine. Surrey Books, 462 pages, $40. THE BOOK CORNER It All Comes Down to Sales 12 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014

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