Meet the 2020 LWC Judges: Erik Simonics
LWC interviews Erik Simonics, the wine judge at 2020 London Wine Competition which is going to be held on Mar 24, 2020, in London.
Erik Simonics is a Head of Wine and Head Sommelier at Caprice Holdings Ltd. He has also served as an Assistant Head Sommelier at a French restaurant Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square for two years. During his tenure at various luxury establishments and hospitality management study, he has learned business, management, and leadership skills which enables him to effectively drive sales, achieve financial targets, and enhance the reputation of a business.
Erik Simonics is a part of 2020 London Wine Competition judging team. He will be judging wines at this event on March 24, 2020, in London with his fellow wine judges on the team. Below is a small interview session with the LWC judge Erik Simonics.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Slovakia. I moved to London in 2010 and started my sommelier career at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, followed by French fine dining restaurant Orrery. In 2012 I moved to one of the most iconic hotels in London, the Savoy, where I spent 4 years.
I was also looking after the wine program at the newly opened La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square. The restaurant of one of the most famous chefs in the world, Anne Sophie Pic. I am currently holding the Head of Wine position at Annabel's private members' club in Mayfair.
I gained a BA (Hons) degree in Hospitality Management at the University of West London in 2015 and also successfully passed WSET Level 3, CSM Certified Sommelier and Sake Sommelier course by SSA. In 2013 I was Sommelier of the year in Slovakia. I also won the Wine Bar War of Chile in 2015 and South African Sommelier Cup in 2016. In 2016, I finished as a Semi-Finalist at the Castle European Young Sommelier Cup.
How has the role of the sommelier evolved?
The role of the sommelier is continuously evolving. Customers and businesses expectations are also constantly increasing towards sommeliers. From the customers' point of view, nowadays it is not enough for the sommelier to know only the classic regions and their wines. They are expecting to be surprised or taken for a journey to discover new wines and styles they have never tasted before. From the business point of view, the sommelier needs to be also familiar with stock management, financial performance, buying practices, pricing strategy and so on. Sommelier role is getting more and more complex and the expectations are higher every day.
What you look for when you plan to buy wine for your business?
There are many factors that determine what goes on the list and what doesn't. Demand, price, availability, uniqueness, but most importantly what guests ask for. There is no point to buy a certain wine if none of your guests is keen to try regardless of how good the quality or price it is.
What is most challenging about what you do?
It's definitely to keep up with the demand and expectations of our guests. Our members are from the Royal family to successful business entrepreneurs who enjoy different kind of wines. Making sure that everybody can find a wine that they like and enjoy can be very challenging, but also very rewarding as it constantly keeps me motivated.
Have you noticed any change in the preferences of wine consumers?
Definitely! They are more and more aware of what's good, where certain wines come from, how they should taste like, how much they normally cost and so on. Therefore, they always look for a familiar wine with great value, whether it's a bottle of Chablis they enjoyed last week or a bottle of Chenin blanc they experienced when on a holiday in South Africa. However, they are also more interested to try wines they never tried before but similar to the wine they like.
What do you see as the most important skills a sommelier can have?
There are two top skills that every sommelier should have, professionalism and customer service skills. At the end of the day, a sommelier's main duty is to ensure that all guests are well looked after and that they leave with an extraordinary wine experience. Personality plays a big part in the overall experience as well.
What’s a Wine trend that you’re currently excited about?
English sparkling wines are currently very popular and gaining more awareness and appreciation. Lots of restaurants and hotels serving them by the glass now. Some of which, even changed from Champagne to English sparkling for their afternoon tea menu, which is a big thing, especially in England. There are also plenty of exciting wines coming from California. It is not only about Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon anymore.
Which regions and varietals should we be on the lookout for over the coming year or two?
St Joseph reds provide excellent value. Dry Furmint from Tokaj or Assyrtiko from Santorini is the best way to start a meal. Chilean Bordeaux blends will never disappoint and old vine Chenin blanc from Swartland is always a unique experience. And of course, English sparkling is the best equivalent to Champagne.
If you could only buy one bottle to drink in December, what would it be?
Champagne Salon 1997. It is undoubtedly the best Chardonnay in Champagne.