Wine Lesson 101: A beginner’s guide featuring sommelier Max Bozoghlian

When I first started dating my now husband I was clueless about wines. He on the other hand, grew up in the restaurant industry and his family owns a popular Los Angeles Argentine steakhouse called Carlitos Gardel. They happen to have the largest inventory of Argentine wine outside of Argentina thanks to my brother in law, Max Bozoghlian. Max is the restaurant‘s sommelier.

A sommelier, or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing.

And lucky for us I interviewed my favorite sommelier, Max Bozoghlian about all things wine!

Q:Give us a little background on what it takes to become a sommelier and why you began this process.

Max: It takes more than just tasting skills. Becoming a sommelier at any level requires a lot of studying, research, and people skills. A sommelier is part of a hospitality entity, and should be able to cater to his/her guests with professionalism.

I began the process of becoming a sommelier because I thought I was good at it. I had been working in the restaurant industry for half of my life and I developed a deep appreciation for the beauty of wine.

Q:When planning a party menu, where do you start?

Max: A party can be planned a few different ways. I usually decide on the menu, and then choose the wines to pair with it. Sometimes I am really looking forward to tasting something new, or something I have aged for a few years and would plan around the wines.

I also enjoy theme parties that revolve around a specific wine. I’ve been seeing a lot of Rose’ and Riesling parties in the summer for example.

wine pairings for beginners

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Q:Can you share with us a ‘cheat sheet’ of what wines pair with which meats (or vegetarian dishes)?

Max: The cheat sheet below is pretty good and simplified! For example white wine with fish and red with steaks and so on. What’s interesting is finding the wines that can cross over! Pairing an unusual red with fish, or a white that can stand up or enhance a steak. That’s the fun challenge of this profession.

wine pairings

image via Fortunata Wines

Q:What is your favorite wine in the whole wide world?

Max: My favorite wine is Barolo. The grape is grown in the Piedmont area of northern Italy.

Q:Dessert wines: are they in or out?

Max: Dessert wines are in and completely delicious!  I think these sweet wines get a bad rap. Dessert wines are not meant to be enjoyed like a normal pour of Sauvignon Blanc sitting on a patio in the summer.  Dessert wines are made for sipping alongside a delicious dark chocolate soufflé or a well-curated cheese plate.

wine pairings for beginners

Q:What’s an under $20 bottle worth drinking?

Max: Good value whites: Albarino from Spain, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Falanghina from Italy, Argentine Torrontes. Good value reds: traditional Rioja from Spain, Dolcetto and Barbera from Piedmont, Rosso di Montalcino from Tuscany, Malbec from Argentina

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wine pairings for beginners

Q:If you’re not drinking wine, what’s a go-to cocktail for you?

Max: I’m not big on spirits and mixed drinks. I do indulge in a little grappa once in a while.

Q:When sampling wines what should you look for?

Max: When you’re tasting wine, of course initially you just want to know if you like it or not. But as you progress, you want to look for balance, intensity, complexity and length. Good descriptors to talk up your guests at a dinner party are:earthy, high-minerality, acidic, fruit driven or herbaceous.

Bonus Question: What’s a good introductory book to wine?

Max: I always recommend The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

Hope you enjoyed this interview and are inspired to host a wine tasting party at your home! Thanks again to Max Bozoghlian for sharing all his wine wisdom!

2 thoughts on “Wine Lesson 101: A beginner’s guide featuring sommelier Max Bozoghlian

  1. Matt

    Great looking blog – always liked the post on FB but never knew how well laid out and professional looking it is. Nothing Dainty! 🙂

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