Our Sommelier of the month for September 2015 is Maxime Walkowiak, Head Sommelier at The Waterside Inn. Maxime has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.
How did you get into the wine industry?
When I entered to the Catering School, my dream was to become a Maître D. However when I started to undertake the wine courses, I was asked to make a presentation about wines from the Alsace Region, and from that moment onwards I started to be interested about the wine culture in France. The more I was studying wine, the more I realised I wanted to become a sommelier.
When the Catering School was over, I entered to the Wine School, where I was lucky to find a renowned expert as teacher, who conveyed his passion for wine to me.
Why do you enjoy using Riedel glassware within your hotel/restaurant?
The Riedel glassware includes a wide selection of shapes and types of glasses that allow us to serve the wine in the glass which improves the most the characteristics of each grape. So when you look, smell and taste, you really touch the wine and understand its “essence”.
What reaction do you get from customers when you serve their wines in different varietal specific glasses?
Often the interaction between the sommelier and the customer starts from a question: “Why do you use this specific type of glass or decanter?” The answer can be rather complex: the glass is made on the way to emanate the bouquet and the aroma of the wine or, in the case of the decanter, to make it breathe etc… However with a simple demonstration, the explanation becomes then clear: I pour the wine in two glasses of different shapes and I leave the customer to identify the differences between the two; immediately the reaction is “It’s true!” This is the best way to make the customer understand why we serve wine on specific glasses ad-hoc.
What’s been your biggest ‘wine’ faux pas?
It happened during my period as a trainee in a restaurant, while I was still a student, and the Head Sommelier asked me to get a bottle of Puligny Montrachet Etienne Sauzet 1996 in the cellar. I then run to the cellar and got the 1996 Etienne Sauzet Batard Montrachet and I presented it to the customer. As soon after I opened the bottle and tasted the wine, the Head Sommelier came to see me and asked me what I was doing: I was testing a much more expensive wine then the one ordered by the client, but nevertheless I think it was one of the best wines I ever taste.
What’s been the funniest ‘wine’ moment in your career?
It was an evening service, there was a table sitting just on front of the Sommelier gueridon, were we open and taste all the wines, and I realize they were strangely always looking on my way.
I just went to ask them if everything was ok.
They answer, was a question “do you know how many wines you tasted this evening?”
Very surprise I Stopped for few second and I said
“Well I’m not sure... but the best thing I know is that in the restaurant, it doesn’t look nice to spit the wine!
Such a hard Work!!