This semester has had a lot of unique challenges, and one of the days when a lot of external factors had me feeling pretty low, I knew that, regardless, at 3:30pm I needed to suit up and show up- to recite the “spiel” and serve wine to the guests as Student wine Sommelier. There was something about offering free samples of wine, really learning about them, and being on the floor that ended up brightening my day- I felt like in a small way I was spreading a little joy in a world that seemed pretty dark.
One of the ways a fine dining establishment is set apart from others’ is the extensiveness of the wine list and beverage menu. Certainly you find many more options at a place like vita nova rather than any fast casual or even casual restaurant nearby. If you have dined with us or worked there, you have certainly heard that, “Here at Vita Nova we offer an extensive beverage selection including 100 wines by the bottle and 20 by the glass.” What that means is that all of our knowledge coming from our other hospitality classes, such as beverage management, come into play when we are on the floor- wine sommeliers or not.
Although it certainly takes commitment on the students’ end to memorize the weekly featured wine descriptions, what we come out with is at least a conceptual knowledge of a certain style of wine that we can then apply to other descriptions. While studying the wines of the “New World” for our Court of Master Sommeliers level one test, I knew that Barossa was in Australia because I had to describe our Chateau Tununda Cabernet Sauvignon from that region. When you pay attention, all experiences in the beverage world helps to render you a more competent food service professional.
One of my favorite memories of applying this knowledge was when I was student wine sommelier one Thursday night for a table of two ladies. After tasting the featured wines, one asked if we had Moscato on our wines by the glass menu. I explained that we did not, but I happened to remember there was a White Zinfandel, another sweet, easy-drinking wine, although rose, and made a recommendation to her. She tried this new wine and liked it so much she got a glass of it for her meal. In this situation, knowing just a little about flavors and having knowledge of the wine list allowed me to make a sale when otherwise she may have been disappointed in our wine selection. This not only generated more revenue for the restaurant but also brightened the customer’s experience.
This joy that comes from giving a taste of wine, informing and educating guests, and selling something that the guest will really enjoy all comes together in a successful food and beverage program. In this case, it’s not about selling quantity, but rather quality and enjoyment, just like each of our dishes in the 4-course dinner menu aim to provide. Then, the quantity follows, because of course people want to enjoy high quality products in Vita Nova.
I came to college knowing that I wanted to study hospitality management, and now three and a half years later I am two weeks away from getting my degree. The more I learn about food and wine and all other beverages, the better service I can deliver, the more numerous customers whose evenings I can brighten, and the more confident I can be as I pursue my restaurant management training and career. And when the days get hard, there are always things to learn and samples of wine to taste. For that I am grateful.
Written By: Jenna Pekofsky
The students of the Hospitality in Business program at the University of Delaware share their experiences at Vita Nova