Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Aris Sklavenitis
Please meet 2 time Best Sommelier of Greece, Aris Sklavenitis. Yes 3 times, Aris won the national title in 2016 and 2019.
Aris didn’t start of as a sommelier or follow the "classical" education in Hotellerie like most of the other sommeliers . During his studies he obtained a bachelor in Oenology & Beverage Technology in Athens. So he basically comes from the other side :-) meaning he first studied everything there is to know about how to make wines to eventually cross the bridge to share that knowledge and being in direct contact with the consumers. One thing is for sure his love for wines was there from the start and that is definitely key when you want to be a good sommelier, as passion is the best drive to success.
During his studies Aris liked to fill up his spare time working as sommelier at Fabrica de Vino and having an internship at the Santorini Brewing Company. So you could definitely say that Aris finds spare time overrated ;-) ;-) It also goes for the rest of his career where he sometimes combines several jobs at the same time… why choose when you can do them all :-) just to make sure 100% no time would go to waste he also competed (as seen above) during the best sommelier of Greece contest and won it 2 times, became certified sommelier at the Court of Master of Sommeliers, got his WSET level 4 Diploma, got a ASI diploma and competed during International sommelier contests
Today Aris works as Sommelier Ambassador of Gaggenau Greece and for Bodegas Krontiras . He combines that with a job as lecturer at Agricultural University of Athens and also teaches wine connoisseur and wine professionals courses for Genius in Gastronomy. As he still has some time left he also is editor for local magazines “Gastronomos” and “Oinoxoos”. Oh and we forgot to mention he is also head sommelier & Co-Owner at Oinoscent Cellar and Wine bar. So I think we are not exaggerating saying he likes his life busy?? One thing we can all sure about, he loves his job
Please find out more about our busy bee
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
Santorini is my favorite wine region to work with! Assyrtiko is the “Next big thing” grape variety in the wine world. The wines from Santorini have texture, body and depth with great ageing potential. Furthermore, this great variety has started to be vinified in many different wine regions in the world.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
The most important characteristic to be a good sommelier is passion, passion and passion! Someone also should be humble and share that knowledge when he has the chance.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
The job of sommelier is for sure underestimated, especially in Greece, although big steps have been made within the recent years to change this aspect. I think that we are getting on the right track. Lately, many restaurants are looking for a sommelier, especially in the Greek islands such as Mykonos and Santorini.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
The journey starts for me from the time I got accepted to the University of Oenology & Beverage Technology in Athens, later on, I took up wine courses, attended masterclasses and worked at the wine industry. If I had to choose, I would choose the same path again!
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
For sure the passion and determination of Gerard Basset is something we will rarely see again. Gerard Basset is a superstar for the sommeliers, like Messi or Lebron James. He is number one in the Sommelier Hall of Fame.
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?
First of all, we have to get a wider picture of the dish. Notice its elegance, taste the ingredients one by one and detect the “friends & enemies” which will help me pair it with the wine. Apart from that, feel the intensity, the texture and structure of the food and understand how acidic, sweet, bitter or spicy it feels.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Douro in Portugal! The view of the vineyards in Douro is outstanding and by far the most breathtaking landscape I have ever seen, it’s also a Unesco world heritage site! The wines are also amazing.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
It’s very difficult to answer the question, there are so many wines I would like to taste but I would choose the wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which are expensive and very rare and to find.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?
As I mentioned I study Oenology & Beverage Technology. My internship was in Santorini working in a Brewery and Winery. It is extremely amazing to produce something from scratch and taste the final result, especially for the first time. Also my undergraduate exercise was malting process of barley from Santorini island. It was an amazing experience!
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
One of the best experiences that you can have, is to taste blind iconic wines. I remember when a friend of mine gave me to taste blind Château Margaux 1994 and Penfolds Grange 1991 and later on told me which were the wines we tasted. It was a shock for me, I understood that they were great and expensive wines. People should trust their glass, what they smell and what they taste and not looking only at the label…