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Pushing the sales vehicles for wines with Certified Sommelier Thomas Brenner

Photo for: Pushing the sales vehicles for wines with Certified Sommelier Thomas Brenner

08/09/2022 Seasoned Sommelier and Wine Buyer Thomas Brenner talks us through his focus while evaluating the effectiveness of a wine program

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you begin your career and how did you progress into this role?

My career as a full-on wine fanatic can be traced back to when I first worked in fine dining and heard about terroir. I had always been fascinated with anthropology, cultural studies, maps, geography, biology, and geology. Susceptible to suggestion as I always was, I was taught about terroir and how it affects wine. I became consumed in all aspects of production, location, tradition, effects, marketability, and the overall worth of wine. Over many years I have become well acquainted with many vinous offerings and am lucky enough to surround myself with them for a living, learning more each day.

Define your role and the tasks involved in your role

As a Sommelier and wine buyer at the Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club, I fulfill a role that concerns itself primarily with service, hospitality, research, and professional delivery. I must suggest or otherwise bring a certain wine from point A to point B and have it be curated in a timely manner, then serve it the way it should be served, including temperature, timing, and the vessel. Stocking, cooling, and making available anything anyone can dream up and knowing about it is what I prepare myself for. It keeps things interesting. Add to that a team of higher-ups and subordinates, guests, and other factors, and my role turns out to encompass tasks from far-flung plains of challenge and triumph.

If not a sommelier, what else would you have been?

Before I became a Sommelier I had ambitions of becoming an architect. Then, after many CAD lessons, I realized I would be designing structures according to others' specifications for many, many years until I could build the upside-down, leaning, orange skyscraper with an oval hole in the corner. Nobody would trust me with their investments if I were an architect or an artist. Or I could even have been a rock star. That would’ve been cool. Nah, I learned to give up on collecting baseball cards and getting high with the boys. I get all of the same thrills hooking people up with outstanding, rare, and high-quality wines at a great price, and making food and wine memories. I appreciate the daily challenge of being physically and mentally challenged.

Thomas Brenner

What questions would you ask the restaurant owner before you plan your wine sales growth strategy?

I would ask "Hey! Do you like the money? Do you want to make more of it? Let's think about how to do it. What does the consumer want? How can we get it to them? Can we make item-A go to person-B together? Cool! Let's come up with events, exposes, articles, social media content, email newsletters, weekly updates, promotions, BTG and BTB placements that move, train the staff, update our wares, and hit the ground running, yeah?

How can suppliers work with you to drive sales?

Get me what I want, and, even better: get me what I need. It helps us both. Let’s see what can move! And let's keep it interesting and delicious for everyone's sake.

What are the three main things you focus on daily in your role?

A high, mid, and bottom-tiered wine in my back pocket for every need. Keeping the team inspired and updated. Being prepared with the knowledge and prepared stock.

What are the points you look at when selecting a new wine for your wine program?

I look for the wine’s deliciousness, quality-to-price ratio, uniqueness, and repute.

Thomas Brenner

Define a good sommelier and what qualities you would look for when hiring one.

Not acting like they know it all, but being interested and passionate about the craft to know we want to always learn more. A good Sommelier possesses the drive to always be on the hunt to re-acquaint themselves with the grape and their consumer, and their history.

What do you look for when you have to evaluate the effectiveness of a wine program?

Saleability of the SKUs on offer. This can be sub-analyzed by taking a look at how prominently items are featured, highlighted, or otherwise showcased to the consumer. There are many sales vehicles for wines, many of them revolving around knowledge, insight, confidence, and experience when it comes to sales mutually beneficial to both, the seller and the consumer, possessing profound anticipation, marketing prowess, trust, and passion.

If you had to pick one red and one white wine as your personal best, which wines would they be?

MY personal favorite white wine is the one and only that should truly be every true white wine lover’s favorite grape variety and that is Riesling. It tastes exactly the way the wine Gods wanted it to taste, without inappropriate human sabotage, such as co-fermentation, blending, or oak treatments. The grape is always monovarietal, is a chameleon, takes on the characteristics of that which surrounds it, is fruity and with balancing acidity, very fresh and can come still, sparkling, sweet, or dry. It’s always fascinating to behold, this Riesling grape. My favorite white grapes are still the thinner-skinned ones. Grenache is light but assertive and complex enough, while Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Etna Rosso grapes, and others also delight in myriad ways.

Thomas Brenner

Wine involves a lot of storytelling, what’s your go-to wine story?

Storytelling is really all about origin, uniqueness, tradition, toil, friendship, family, quality, and value. When all factors combine, they do so to result in a fabulously interwoven tale of delight and intrigue.

Is Price = Quality in Wines? What’s a value-for-money wine that you would recommend?

Price does, at best, equal quality. You are what you eat. You get what you give. My favorite undervalued wines are Rioja, Riesling, and Cahors, currently.

The best and worst part of your job 

The best part of my job is amplifying bliss, conviviality, and great times while learning together with others. The worst part is when things fall flat on others and their agendas become more important than good wines, greater times, and the best gains.

Any favorite food and wine pairing suggestions

Rosé and anything. Oh, and sparkling wine and anything. Other than that, there are many, maybe too many to list here.

Favorite Song, Podcast, and Book 

Favorite songs currently are by Future Islands, my channel is The Unknown Winecaster and the most fun I had reading a book was with Billionaire's Vinegar.

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