Were you both intimidated when you started preparing to become sommeliers?
M: I guess I would say I was anxious, not so much intimidated. Pretty quickly into studying I realized how much depth goes into preparing for the test. There is a lot more science and agriculture than you really think.
A: I was intimidated by other people and their expectations of me. Mostly, I worried about what people thought. Margaux and I both entered the wine world at 23. We didn’t have 25 years experience on the floor of Michelin Star restaurants. We had an interest in wine and saw an opportunity so we jumped on it!
What is a common myth about somms that you would like to clear up?
M: People have this vision in their heads that somms are stiff and have their nose up in the air. For Arden and myself, we just love sharing and exploring alongside our clients, whatever their level of knowledge.
A: In the industry, some people think that you have to work in a restaurant to be a somm. I will make an argument against that idea any day!
Have either of you ever been “scared” by a wine list?
M: Nope! I get the most “scared” trying to read the crowd, or the person, when ordering off a wine list. Everyone’s taste preferences are different, and they might not like something that I think is spectacular. It’s finding a balance between your knowledge and the taste buds of a client that can freak me out sometimes!
A: When I first got my certification, and went out with family and friends for dinner, they always turned to me to order the wine. I totally get it! But It’s a lot of pressure. You want everyone to like the wine you choose!
If someone is just getting started in the wine world as a hobby, what resources can they use to get a footing?
M: The first resource was to pick up a book! Once you’re already into it a bit go to as many tastings as you can. Indulge yourself in the culture and embrace the ridiculous. It’s just fermented grape juice after all!
A: An open mind! It’s important to want to explore. You’ll come across wines you love and wines you don’t care for but never put your palate into a box. Take advantage of having a sommelier like myself or Margaux at your service! This is the exact reason we started Argaux. We wanted to take the intimidation out of tasting wine and buying wine. Ask questions!
When looking at a long wine list, where should you start?
A: I like telling people that if they see a long wine list, that means there is most likely a somm around.
So ask for them! And talk to them! I request to speak with the somm at restaurants and they usually lead me in the right direction.
M: Word! Long wine lists can take days to search through. Someone at the restaurant organized that thing. Ask for the somm and have a general knowledge of what you are looking for. White vs. red, fruit forward vs. earthy. They will lead you in the right direction.
You are going over to a friend’s house and want to bring a bottle of wine, but are worried it won’t drink well with whatever they are cooking. You want to impress them without seeming overly pompous. What should you bring?
M: I would usually bring an interesting out of the box wine that’s really affordable. Something that they might have never heard of. Better to go a little out-there than play it safe with something that is boring! We do custom gift boxes, too, which is always a good bet.
M: And if it won’t pair well with the dinner, they can always drink it later!
What do you both read to stay current in the wine world?
M: Instagram, honestly, is good to keep up to date with the wine world and our friends in the business.
A: Facebook too. I hear about a lot of the somewhat “geeky” wine news from scrolling through my FB newsfeed. It’s a quick way to stay up-to-date with what everyone else is talking about.
How does your age play into the way you approach the wine world, and working as sommeliers?
M: In this industry, it is really important to read people to discover their needs, tastes, and what they’re looking for in a wine experience. When I go into a tasting as the somm of the evening, my number one goal is to have people let their guard down. For an older crowd, that means proving we know what we are talking about and can hand you the facts. For a younger crowd that might be newer to the wine world, it’s more about proving we’re not wine snobs, trying to take the intimidation out of it and hand them with information they can use on a day to day basis.
Being younger in the industry we do have an advantage because we see and understand the way millennials consume wine, and are open to change. We are in a sweet spot in that sense.
I honestly don’t think about it until someone brings it up, which happens quite a lot.
A: I agree with Margaux. I don’t think about our age that often either. The goal and the approach remain the same, despite our age.
What are people afraid of at wine tastings?
A: It takes a bit of open mindedness, and not being embarrassed to admit what you know and don’t know. People might be afraid of looking uneducated or maybe they don’t know what questions to ask.
M: Guys that are on a date and want to look like they know wine a lot are our most “scared” customers. What we suggest in this situation is to learn 10 wine terms that you can use that are actual descriptors. Learn the vocabulary – then you will know how to talk to a somm that can help you! Or…text your Pocket Somm! Seriously all my clients have my cell. I’m at your service!
What is the most stressful situation so far?
A: It’s just us two! Margaux and I manage everything from fulfillment to wine club to tastings to gifts. We have chosen a career that is something we are passionate about, but it’s always on our mind. We want to make this the absolute best it can be, but that means mentally working 24/7.
A: Yeah! That’’s a story for another time…
Cheers From Your Pocket Somms! And Happy Halloween! – ARGAUX