We chatted with The Mark Restaurant by Jean Georges Sommelier, Gabrielle Neuberg about how she developed her love of wine at age six, what it’s like working in a predominantly masculine profession and what wines she recommends for the New Year.
How did you start your career as a Sommelier?
My love of wine began at a really young age, even though I grew up in the Washington D.C. area, I would visit my family in Chile and I remember drinking white wine and orange soda. But it wasn’t until I was studying at the Culinary Institute of America that you could say, I was bitten by the wine bug. At The CIA I did a three week wine tasting course and that was it, I knew I wanted to be a Sommelier. I completed the first level of Sommelier training at the Court of Master Sommelier’s and then started working at Mario Batali’s Eataly.
What unique experiences have you had as a Sommelier?
Many guests question whether I am even old enough to be serving wine as I look much younger than I am! A lot of guests are also intrigued by the fact that I am female and certainly surprised. It is very unusual and I have had many guests double take after I inform them that I am their Sommelier.
Why do you think Sommelier’s are typically male?
I think staff that work front-of-house within restaurants have traditionally been male. Yet, biologically, women have a better sense of smell and therefore, you could say, make very good Sommelier’s. It is surprising that there are not more of us.
What trends are you observing in the wine industry at the moment?
We are seeing a lot of wines coming out of Eastern Europe. Countries like Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary are all starting to experiment with creating different styles of wine. For example Hungary is known for creating a dessert wine called Tokaji, however, we are starting to see more and more Hungarian winemakers making dryer styles. Countries like India and China who are not historically known for making wine for commercial use are now experimenting with vitis vinifera or wine grapes, creating them into wines and gaining a following amongst wine tasters.
Finally, can you recommend a Champagne for our guests to toast in the New Year?
Yes, one of my favorite Champagnes for the season is the Billecart Salmon from France, it is a Rosé and we sell it by the glass in the restaurant. This wine comes from a larger house but is very family oriented which means they are very passionate about what they are making and very quality focused. Many of the grower/producer Champagnes are also very good; Jacques Selosse makes a Blanc de Blanc as does Pierre Peters which comes in a magnum form, both great Champagnes to celebrate the New Year.