Interview with the Sommelier
Soon after being awarded as one of the best wineries in the country, by the "Guia 4 Rodas", Fazenda das Videiras received the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine "Vinho Magazine", who was surprised to find such a peculiar Wine Chart, a large city like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
The conversation between them, turned into an interview, which is reproduced below.
Interviewer : I can see that the Wine List of the restaurant Fazenda das Viras is divided into three volumes. Why that?
G. Vianna: In fact, our Wine Charter is distributed in three volumes: the first, only for red wines (100 pages); the second for white, rosé and sparkling wines (68 pages); and the third for aperitif and dessert wines (16 pages). There are 184 pages in all. An amount that might even scare you. But only at first sight. The division in these three volumes has a purpose: to facilitate the consultation of the client, making it easy, objective and pleasant. It seems to me that this division is also necessary because of the volume of information.
Interviewer: I've never seen, not even abroad, a Wine Chart with so much information about a wine. Is not that an exaggeration?
G. Vianna: Maybe it is. But I'd rather make mistakes because of too much information and not because of your lack. The wine consumer, like any other consumer, also needs to be respected. Providing adequate and clear information about the various products offered for sale is much more than a positive commercial strategy or an appropriate sales behavior. It is a legal obligation of the whole restaurant.
Therefore, it is a disrespect to the Consumer Protection Law - Law 8.078, of 1990 - simply print the name of the wine in English, French or Italian, and then release the price of the wine. It's not honest, not fair, to turn a wine's choice into a blind decision, on a guess. I preferred, then, in respect to my wine consumer customer, to adequately and clearly provide all the information I have about the product I am selling. So, my Wine Charter informs the country and region of origin of the wine, name of wine, grape (s), producer, body of wine (if it is full bodied, medium bodied or light), as well as available harvests and harmonization recommended with the dishes on the menu.
In addition to the essential information, I also present relevant information, such as the alcoholic degree of each crop and with an icon, I highlight the harvests classified as exceptional (price equivalent to 10) and the excellent ones (price equivalent to 9). And more - almost all of our wines are classified into four categories: exceptional wine (five stars, median 100/94), excellent wine (four stars, median 93/88), good wine (three stars, median 87/83) and acceptable wine (two stars, median 82/70).
Interviewer : So you present your opinion on the quality of each of the wines offered?
G. Vianna : No. In no case does the classification of a wine represent the opinion of the author of the Wine Charter or of a single sommelier, an oenophile or wine critic. Robert Parker's notes can be quoted, but do not decide on the quality of a wine. I only use the evaluations, classifications or awards resulting from blind and collective tastings, promoted by reputable institutions (associations of sommeliers and specialized magazines, national and foreign). Whenever possible, next to the classification is printed the Proof of the tasters. Only then, after this set of information, does the Charter state the price corresponding to the vintage of each of the wines. Therefore, there is a set of information that some may judge exaggerated, but whoever wants can always consult only what interests him, or even, only the price.
In fact, when choosing a wine, every customer searches for the right column, that is, the price column. And there often happens a revolt, because the price charged is often more than triple the price by which the same wine is sold in a supermarket. Do not you think that restaurants usually charge too much for wines?
In fact, there is an exaggeration. Charging more than 100% profit for a young and popular wine from the most recent vintage and that can be found on the shelf of any supermarket, is, in fact, an exorbitance. It is necessary to remunerate the costs with the service of sommelier and waiters, glass beakers breaking and cellar electricity. Still, nothing justifies a high profit margin to pay for a simple, light wine, prepared for immediate consumption. As a consumer, I feel beaten and I usually do not go back to a restaurant that does not respect me as a consumer.
Now, this does not apply to the price charged for a structured, guarded wine, which requires a long maturation in wine cellar. A wine kept in a wine cellar for ten years or more, for example, means a capital that has been invested and has been frozen for years! How to pay it, but adding value to the product? A special wine, of a rare crop, exhausted, is like a piece of antiquary and must be understood as such. Obviously it can not have a serial work price, found on any shelf. It is a relic, a jewel. And there is still the risk of this rarity being lost: when opening the bottle, the wine may be decrepit or totally spoiled. Therefore, the honest Wine Charter observes a balanced profit margin, where the composition of the final price of a wine enters variables such as the nature, quality and vintage of the wine, as well as the average time of return of the invested capital.
To summarize: at one extreme we find the light wines, for immediate consumption and therefore of more recent crops and easily found in importers, specialty stores and supermarkets - which should be sold with a reduced profit margin. At the other extreme are the rare, structured wines from already exhausted vintages, which require long storage in an air-conditioned cellar and are no longer available for sale to importers.
Interviewer: Please, exemplify better, from the Wine Charter of the Vineyard Farm.
G. Vianna : As you know, international practice in restaurants, even in old-world countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain, revolves around a profit margin of around 100% for all wines, with little variation for more or less. In our restaurant, however, we practice a much more pronounced variation. Thus, a popular, light wine, of immediate consumption, like an Italian Bardolino, costs a maximum of 40% (forty percent) more than the market price. Meanwhile, prices for watch wines increase as they stay longer in the wine cellar. Thus, a Première Gran Cru Classe Rouge de Bordeaux of the exceptional vintage of 1990, which is a rarity of antiquary, will cost the consumer an overprice of more than 100% of its original purchase price. Except for the extremes, we tend to work on average with a remuneration of around 75% (seventy-five percent). There is, therefore, another characteristic of our Wine Charter: the option for a variable and balanced profit margin.
Interviewer : In the introduction of your Wine Charter, you say that it was elaborated with the concern of meeting the numerous demands of quality and, at the same time, respecting the purchasing power of all customers. How does such a philosophy become real?
G. Vianna : Simple: having wines for all. Only 16% of our wines are of five stars, 37% of wines are four stars and 47% for wines are distributed in wines with three stars, two stars or whose classification we can not find.Interviewer: In addition to preparing the Wine Charter, what should be the role of the sommelier?
Timely question. I am obliged again to quote the Consumer Protection Law. It emphasizes the right of the consumer to be guided with exemption on the choice that he intends to make, among the different products offered. So it is the obligation of every restaurant that offer wines to have in the lounge a sommelier ready to guide the customer about the choice of wine that best fits their possessions and requirements.
Unfortunately, in many restaurants, the sommelier receives a very low salary, symbolic, but his remuneration is regally supplemented with a percentage of the wines he sells. So it is understandable that he devotes the best of his efforts to suggest the most expensive wine, even if unsuitable to the dish chosen by the customer or at a price higher than what he would wish to pay. This is unfortunate, contrary to professional ethics and the law. Worse: this makes a lot of people disapprove of the sommelier's help in the salon. Whenever consulted, the sommelier should have as a rule of conduct to offer at least 3 (three) wine options to the client: an economic, another of medium cost and a high cost. Discreetly, it should show in the Letter the price stamped of each of the suggested wines. Demand this, for it is your right. After all, the sommelier's role in the salon is to help the wine consumer rather than embarrass him.
Interviewer: There are many restaurants, even the ones highlighted as the best in their specialty, that do not offer customers wine in a half bottle or even in glasses. What do you think?
G. Vianna : Imagine a couple in a restaurant that does not offer wines in a half bottle. The husband chooses to eat a lamb chop and the woman prefers a light fish in the butter, like a trout au beurre noir. The couple calls the sommelier and asks what wine he indicates to harmonize with the dishes. The correct thing would be to indicate to him a half-bottle of a full-bodied red wine and for her and a half-bottle of light white wine. However, worried about selling wine, and not losing the commission, he juggles and suggests a bottle of light red or full-bodied white. That is, it proposes a "disharmony". The reality is that most wineries do not like to pack wines in a half-bottle. Almost all importers avoid bringing such bottles. And the restaurants find it great to stop offering them. With this, the silent pact of disrespect to the consumer is established and, most of the time, it makes stop drinking wine. At the Fazenda das Vinas restaurant we decided to give a strong prestige to the offers of half bottles (375 ml) and baby bottles (one glass or 187 ml) on the market. For us, the consumer-customer has the right to drink as much wine as he wants. In the cup, our highlight is for the 10 wines of aperitif and dessert.
Interviewer : How many wines do you have in the three volumes of your Wine Chart?
G. Vianna: It is an ever-varying number. To answer you, I have now counted (December 2008). The total number of wines in the menu corresponds to 335 labels, of which 188 red wines, 95 white wines, 6 rosés, 16 sparkling wines and champagnes and 30 appetizer and dessert. As for the origin, they are wines from 14 countries and 52 wine regions. The countries with the highest wine supply correspond to the demand: those of France (the specialty of the restaurant is French food) and Chile and Argentina. We work with 19 importers and 6 national producers.
Interviewer : Are these wines all in a cellar? Is it a heated cellar?
G. Vianna : Yes, it is a wine cellar naturally, in the style of the European wine cellars. Cellars with artificial and electric air conditioning are indispensable only when they are in places of hot weather or subject to exaggerated thermal variations - which is not the case of Vale das Viras.
The Wine Charter of Fazenda das Viras is then ranked among the best in the country, in the analyzes carried out by specialized magazines. Does it stand out for rare wines or expensive wines?
Surely, not one thing, not another. Probably, the greatest merit of our Wine Charter is to respect the customer, offering you relevant information to choose the wine that will consume. On this, I'm sure, we are champions. Another merit: a decided priority for cost-effective champions in all price ranges. I think that's where she stands out. At Fazenda das Viras a five star wine is drunk for less than two hundred euros and a four star for less than one hundred euros. Our menu does not have wines of less than 10 euros, but also does not have any wine with a price of more than 500 euros. You see, we avoid the extremes, very expensive and very cheap wines.
Interview granted in September 2008.