If you have it in you it doesn't matter where you come from or where you went to school. This applies for all jobs of course... I might even say that for sommeliers from 'less known' wine countries like Cyprus it took much more effort of getting the recognition this job deserves. If I remember it correct, it was Paolo Basso who said the biggest problem in southern countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus... is that most local people always think they know it better :-) this doesn't make the job as sommelier easier.... although if they would just consider listening to you and try something different you could make their whole food/wine experience one of another level.
A perfect example of a sommelier of a 'lesser known' wine country is Vasos Manoli from the beautiful island of Cyprus. What we first of all have to mention about him is that in 2009 he won the title of Best Sommelier of Cyprus and is considered as a real wine guru in Cyprus!! If that wasn't already a great achievement, the restaurant he works (Risto La Piazza) as general manager and head sommelier was awarded many times (7 years in a row) for having the best winelist of Cyprus. Vasos was also awarded the title of Officier Maitre Sommelier of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs.
Vasos also competed in the 2013 ASI Sommelier World Championship defending the Cyprus colors. I repeat what I said before, when you have it, you have it :-)
As Vasos Manoli is member of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin we know he is a Burgundy wine lover... but a little bird also told me he's a big Italian wine lover and collector :-)
Please feast your eyes on what Vasos Manoli responded to the 10 questions below.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
Doing the profession (with passion) of a sommelier, I love all wines , but I do have a strong softspot for a few regions like Piemonte, Rhone Valley, North Burgundy, Loire valley, Santorini, Naousa from Greece and last but not least the Commandaria from Cyprus... each wine drop of Commandaria is a harmony of flavors and aromas, enough to cover the full spectrum of human senses.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
To be a good sommelier…I would say 'knowing' a much as possible about both wine and food... about the wine as you want to transmit the winemaker's passion and emotion he put in the wine in the glass, but this must of course be as extension of all the senses of the food.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
I think it depends on where you are, but in most places today sommeliers are well respected, especially in top hotels and restaurants no matter where you are.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
Long time ago… My family was always in the restaurant business… So basically I grew up with it and clearly got transmitted the passion from my family... although I also think the flavors and wonderful aromas of a wine that I got to experience from young age made me want to be a part of this magical world :-)
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
Well…it is difficult to name just one person as there are quite a few I admire…but if I have to name one , it would be Mr. Giuseppe Vaccarini president of ASPI and best sommelier of the world in 1978.
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
Simplicity… That would be a key word. How it usually works is that my team and I first try a few wines we want to serve and it is the kitchen (together with us that is) that will try to match a good dish with it taking in consideration the different flavors and aromas of each wine.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
A special region that is close to my heart…Commandaria in Cyprus. A region on the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, a legendary wine that was born since 4000 years, from the time of the Knights of St. John and the Knight Templars. Spectacular to visit!!
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
I have been fortunate to taste many of my dream wines, but my wine bucket list still exist for legendary vintages of Bordeaux and 1945 Mouton Rothschild..!!
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
Talking to each other about our wine experiences and dreaming that one day…when a dream comes true..!! And now many years later being fortunate to visit all these places and make those dreams from back then reality…every time we taste a wine… I close my eyes…and I am there again..!!
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop,etc…?
My mother’s home made cooking …in the garden, with my wine companion… the GRAND BOUFFE as we call it… The fresh garden salad, the green olives (with olive oil, lemon and coriander), the homemade pies with haloumi cheese and spinach , the stuffed vine leaves (dolmades), the grilled haloumi… and drinking fresh Xinisteri wine from Cyprus…
After all that there comes the KLEFTIKO (in the clay oven slow cooked lamb )… with red Maratheftiko wine.…. And then the Apocalypse… St. John Commandaria 1967 with a traditional cake made with grape honey, barley and walnuts…