A Chinese proverb says, “Wine reveals the secret of the heart.”
However, we could start today’s conversation differently: Attila Méri has revealed to us the secrets of wine with his heart. You rarely meet a person who you feel incredible peace with and with his passion he can transfer you to his world. Interview with Ati – as we, all his colleagues, call him, he was like that.
He says about himself he really likes wine and you can really feel it from his words. Just few people knew he graduated from high school and attended the University Geodesy and Cartography for four years. In his fourth year, he quit and hasn´t still understood why his parents didn’t kill him 😊. He bought a tuxedo and worked as a waiter in one of the Bratislava hotels. One of the guests spoke to him that night and praised him for being a real professional and he could he really enjoyed it. That was when he realized he belonged to the hotel world. Since then, he has perfected himself in what he does and told us about the road to sommeliering and told us some interesting things about the world of wine.
Let´s have a look at the wine through the heart of Attila Méri.
Ati, how did you get to sommeliering?
13 years ago I took the course – Sommelier professional, where I gained comprehensive knowledge in several fields: serving wine, wine in gastronomy, wine production, cognacs, beer, mineral waters, tea and coffee, cigars. Since then, I have been mainly devoted to wine and I also like cognac. In 2008 I was ranked among the top 10 sommeliers in Slovakia according to the magazine Trend – it was an honour for me. I was also a member of the Slovak Association of Sommeliers, where I gained a lot of experience.
What does wine mean for you?
I’m fascinated that there are no same kinds of wine. All wines are different and each wine needs a different approach – I can see it as the art. You can play with wine. You can prepare it for immediate drinking, but also for archiving – it’s a beautiful science. At the same time, there are many stories associated with wine. I have a friend who’s French. He always brings me a bottle of wine. The beauty of it is the story he tells me about the wine. Then the wine is very different to drink.
Have you ever made your own wine?
No, but I meddled with making wine 😊. I was a winemaker – theorist 😊.
How do we know when we’re drinking bad wine? Will a layman reveal it?
Of course. The next day for sure😊. Quality wine doesn’t give us a headache the next day. In the case of wines of lower quality, rapeseed sugar is used for sweetening. It is released in body differently than natural grape sugar. This causes an unpleasant headache. Wine should be natural and especially we should like it.
They say a glass of wine a day is good for our health. Is that true?
Yes, it is. It has a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Red wine contains resferatrol – it is a natural antioxidant. It has anti-inflammatory effects. French and Italian red wines contain it the most, due to the typical climate in these latitudes. A glass of wine to eat will caress our souls and help with digestion. Wine can kick-start stomach acids. Whenever I can, I’ll have a glass of wine – in moderation, of course. Italians and French are great in this. They enjoy food, they enjoy wine – they live life.
Is the winery subject to modern trends? Are newly bred varieties trendy?
Wine-growers tend to go back to the original methods of grape processing. They leave the must on the skins before squeezed. The wine is then more colourful – yellower, it has a richer taste and aroma. A popular method of wine processing is also sur – lie. This method comes from France and its literal translation is ‘on lees’. In short, it means that the wine ripens with fine lees. As a result, the wine is softer, more harmonious. Among the new varieties I have a number of favourites. Dunaj (Danube) is my favourite red variety. Pálava is great, spicy. I also like Devin very much.
What is the role of the sommelier?
The sommelier’s job is to help the client find the kind of wine they like and pair it with the chosen food. Wine is a living organism; sommelier must also monitor its storage. This also applies to wines by the glass. Thorough monitoring is needed every day. We monitor the colour of the wine and whether it is oxidized. When decanting, we check the wine sensory and taste it.
Ati, what does decanting mean? What wines do we decant?
The point of decanting is to open the wine, aerate it. White and red varieties are decanted. Even sects and champagne can be decanted. These are mainly older wines that are longer in the bottle. It is in the decanters that their taste develops. The length of decanting depends on the age of the wine. The older the wine, the longer we leave it in the decanter before consumption. I like to do decanting, especially because of the wine. Large wines deserve to be served at a high level. I also talk to guests, get to know them, and that makes me happy.
You said you were helping guests match food with wine. So cooperation with the chef must be very close, right? And what are we supposed to imagine under the fusion of food and wine?
Cooperation with the kitchen is very important. When I know what recipe the chef is going to prepare, I can recommend them the wine to use when cooking and also pair the wine that will be suitable for meals. When fusing food with wine, it is important that food and wine match, complement each other. Combining food with wine, one underscores the other, creating amazing gastronomic experiences.
Do any specific rules apply when pairing food with wine?
In general, the old principles apply, such as: white meat – white wine, red meat – red wine. What is particularly important, however, is what the client wants. If a client likes white wine, he won’t be ashamed if he puts it with a duck, for example. You always have to drink what you prefer, what you like. That’s why it’s important I get to know the client and recommend what they really like. Wine fits any meal and you can drink it anytime 😊.
How is the wine card compiled at Hotel Devín****?
It is compiled so that everyone can really find the wine they prefer. White, red and rosé wines of domestic and foreign production are represented there. Lovers of dry but also sweeter types of wine will surely find their way. We also selected wines with regard to our menu, in which you will find various types of meat, fish, but also meatless dishes or desserts. The wine card in Hotel Devín**** is not only a piece of paper, but a wonderful wine shop in the premises of the French restaurant underscores the presentation of the highest quality wines.
What wines do you prefer, Ati?
At the moment, I like dry white wines, especially the Central European, regional/autochthonous lighter wines. These include Veltlínske zelené (Green Veltliner) and Rízling vlašský (Welschriesling). They’re simple wines, good to drink. My preference for wine has changed over the years. 35 years ago I liked Chardonnay, later Rízling rýnsky (Riesling) or Sauvignon blanc.
Ati, have you got your life motto?
We’re not just supposed to live our lives; we’re supposed to enjoy them.
And I wish that to all our guests as well. At the same time, I cordially invite everyone to join us at Hotel Devín****.
I look forward to your visit, pleasant conversation and great wines.