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April 28, 2021

The Future of Sommeliers w/ Mia Van de Water MS, United Sommeliers Foundation

The Future of Sommeliers w/ Mia Van de Water MS, United Sommeliers Foundation

Having gone through the most difficult period in history with an unprecedented shutdown during the Covid pandemic, restaurants and their sommeliers and beverage directors are in a new world and need to evolve. Mia Van de Water MS, of Cote Korean Steakhou


Having gone through the most difficult period in history with an unprecedented shutdown during the Covid pandemic, restaurants and their sommeliers and beverage directors are in a new world and need to evolve.  Mia Van de Water MS, of Cote Korean Steakhouse and the United Sommeliers Foundation, explains everything that has happened in the world of wine and restaurants.  From the scandals at the Court of Master Sommeliers to the pivots restaurants have done during Covid to the work of the United Sommeliers Foundation, Mia takes us through the many evolutions and the future of sommeliers. 

Special Announcement: XChateau Live!

When Robert & Peter started XChateau, the idea was to try and build a community around the business of wine. Part of that has been engaging with our listeners, as well as our guests. While it has happened on an ad hoc basis, for our 50th Episode / 1 Year Anniversary, we wanted to do it more proactively.  So, we'll be doing a live podcast on Clubhouse‬ and we hope our listeners join! We'll also have some former guests including Lauren McPhate, Juliana Colangelo, MBA

Details:

Tues May 4th, 12-1pm PST

Link: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/event/mJDAOoYb

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • A 20-year career in restaurants started in high school
  • Became a Master Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers (“CMS”) in 2018
    • Part of the class that had to retake the tasting exam from the “Cheating” Scandal in Sept 2018
      • “Cheating” Scandal was when an examiner released info via email about two wines on the exam to some candidates but was unsolicited, so candidates weren’t “cheating”
      • She re-took the exam in Dec 2018 and passed
    • BLM / sexual harassment scandals - has discouraged many people from taking the CMS route
    • Currently on the Board of the CMS
      • The CMS started as a fraternal brotherhood of wine geeks
      • Today - trying to re-orient the focus off the membership and onto the candidates -> building towards a better, more inclusive, safer, and a more engaging experience
  • The definition of a beverage director and sommelier
    • Key qualities - leadership and hospitality
    • Service is a critical component of the job - should be excellent at bussing tables, running food, etc.…
    • Job is to build relationships with guests, creating magical experiences from the beginning to the end
    • The Beverage director is also responsible for the financial health of the beverage program, which is the health of the restaurant
  • Pennsylvania - restaurants need to buy wine at the same price as consumers from the state liquor store -> has driven a lot of BYO
  • “Dollars trump cost of goods”
    • Mia’s strategy is to encourage people to buy more wine than they would otherwise
    • Still need a COGS engine, which is usually the BTG program (higher margin)
    • Encourages people to purchase a bottle
  • Pre-2020 trends (more NY oriented)
    • BTG prices had gone up substantially
    • Tons of new fancy, a la carte restaurants being opened
    • Everyone needed a fancy craft cocktail program
    • Larger wine lists
    • More floor sommeliers
    • Natural wine was popular
  • Covid pivots
    • CNN reported 110,000 (17%) restaurants closed in the US in 2020
    • Bev to go: Retail bottle sales, wine by the glass in small bottles, blind tasting kits
  • The United Sommeliers Foundation
    • Founded by Chris Blanchard and Christie Norman
    • Aim to financially assist floor sommeliers during the restaurant shutdown
    • Expanded to general wine and beverage industry folks in restaurants
    • Raised money via auctions and donations from people and wineries
    • Raised ~$1M
    • Two types of grants
      • $500 base grants - granted to ~1,000 people, sized to avoid tax liability
      • “Grand Cru Scholarships” - paid expenses directly to creditors
    • Applications still open for those in need
    • Hope to continue to live on post-pandemic -> in the process of trying to identify what the future purpose will be
  • Sommelier role going forward
    • Everyone needs to wear more hats
    • Somms need to become more financially savvy
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