Interview with Andrea Robinson MS

Tuesday, 22 August, 2017
The Business of Wine & Food Tourism
Andrea Robinson is a Master Sommelier, a TV wine personality in the US and convener of Delta Air Line’s on-board wine selection panel. Andrea is a keynote speaker at September’s Business of Wine & Food Tourism conference.

To get a taste of what Andrea will be covering in her presentation “Taking wine, food and travel to new heights: Delta Air Lines and wine country” Su Birch asked her a few questions.

You are one of only 23 female Master Sommeliers in the world. Why do you think there are so few women sommeliers?
“I think the numbers are growing rapidly and it’s like other career paths – as the professional world has opened up, women jump in and chart a course.”

You have won 3 James Beard awards, which is quite some achievement. (James Beard awards are given for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing and culinary education). Which achievements won you your awards?
“Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year, a Broadcast Journalism award for a public TV special on Chilean wines, and induction into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food & Beverage.”

As a chef, and a sommelier, do you think there should be rules around wine and food pairing?
“I think rules of thumb can be handy, but only as a framework rather than ironclad do’s and don’ts.  Some of my favorite pairings have emerged from “rule”-breaking, but the core pairing principles like matching body with body, nearly always give a good framework.”

You are known for your mantra: “Wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good– wine makes food better and it’s fun!” Do you think wine marketers understand this?
“I think many wine marketers understand this, especially in the realm of wines meant for everyday enjoyment and casual meals where the wine is an easygoing (budget-wise and otherwise) enhancement to the daily routine.  Luxury wines are looked at a little differently – the food is chosen to highlight the wine and the experience centers on it – which is its own form of fun, for sure.”

How important is excellent service in food and wine tourism?
“Excellent service is critical – it’s people and personalities that bring food and wine experiences to life, and personalized service is key to tailoring a memorable experience whether that’s the dining experience in-flight, or a winery visit.”

How important is wine to the onboard experience?
“Very important! Wine elevates the onboard dining experience just as it does any culinary experience on terra firma.”

You have introduced The Delta Sky Club wine course- how has that been received? Is this programme unique among airlines?
“It is called the Delta Sky Sommelier program and is unique among airlines. We have rolled it out to all our flight attendants and now are launching it with Sky Club servers and bartenders.  It’s 38 modules of wine course videos with quizzes and a final exam.  The feedback has been great both in terms of participants enjoying it, and becoming much more comfortable with their role serving wine and delivering great hospitality.”

You are often featured on TV in the US, talking about wine. Is wine education in the US changing with the proliferation of other media?
“Wine education is being increasingly consumed on mobile devices and so the Sky Sommelier video wine course is also optimized for mobile. In general, rich content such as video and/or great graphics, in manageable doses, is what millenials in particular are looking toward to enhance their exploration and knowledge of wine.”

Have you been to South Africa before? Do you know our wines? Will you be spending anytime in our vineyards?
“I have been to South Africa and in fact my television show Simply Wine filmed several features there about 10 years ago. I am sure a lot has changed and I look forward to returning!  I was one of the first sommeliers in New York City to feature significant South African wine programs, including by the glass offerings and a major wine and food initiative at the United Nations delegates’ dining room.“

How do you select wines for Delta Air Lines and do they include any South African selections?  
“I taste extensively throughout the year in my office and as part of my wine country travels and trade duties. This process yields a “wish list” of wines for the annual Delta Wine RFP, which goes out to suppliers globally. From there based on availability, price and affinity to our seasonal culinary menus, we create a fabulous finalist list with whom Delta Supply Chain works to negotiate the needed supply and pricing.  I have featured many South African wines although so far only whites. I am looking forward to seeing this year’s new offerings, including hopefully some great reds, in October when we begin the RFP process.”

To find out more about the conference and to register go to www.wineandfood.co.za.

Andrea Robinson MS
Andrea Robinson MS



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