Step into the wine room at The Crafers Hotel and you will see a variety of carefully curated wines stacked neatly in racks, in a custom-built climate controlled room. An absolute adult’s playground with wines from all corners of the globe. There are the more traditional varietals and regions, but also many less known gems that have been carefully sourced from boutique wineries, single vineyard, and unique locations from around the world.
The wine aficionado behind the wines is Liinaa Berry, Wine Director and Head Sommelier at The Crafers Hotel. Liinaa exudes passion and knowledge of her product.
We sat down with her to find out how this Hospitality leader is where she is today, and what she has learned along the way.
It’s easy to see why she is on the rise to the top.
Liinaa hails from Mauritius but now calls the Adelaide Hills Home. Starting out in to the Hospitality industry as a way to make a living whilst studying in Melbourne, she then developed a passion for the industry and couldn’t see herself in an office, so she decided to major in Hospitality and take her passion for the industry and turn it in to a career.
“Hospitality is a rewarding career choice” she states, but thinks it's a bit sad that a lot of people don’t see the industry like that, “They see it as a stepping stone, not a profession”.
The hospitality industry can have some great perks but lots of people see it as an in-between job.
It’s well known that it’s not an easy industry – long hours with frequent weekend work, “But you know what, we live in a world where you don’t have to live on the same time schedule as everyone else.”
Liinaa believes what makes a good Hospitality person is serving a product with knowledge, not just serving a product. There is a difference, and it’s all about the experience you give to your customers. When you serve with knowledge you enhance their overall experience.
“Your secret is to know your product. Knowing your product gives you confidence to sell”
At first the world of wine seemed inaccessible to Liinaa. It looked like a sophisticated and poetic world, slightly out of reach and she never envisioned that she would end up working with wine. She soon realised that being involved with wine as a sommelier was about more; it was about Presentation, Gastronomy and Culture. Culture has always fascinated Liinaa and it was a way for her to be in the literary world, but also in Hospitality.
Without a doubt Liinaa says her greatest career achievement has been becoming a wine buyer. Being able to source the wines from all over the world and bring them to her customers. Recently travelling to Vienna to do some buying at the World Wine summit 2017, together with 80 professionals, mostly wine journalists and writers she states that she “Got to taste some things that totally blew her mind. “
In Hospitality every night we have to be stars, and having knowledge helps sell the products and enhance the customer’s experience.
There has been a shake up in the wine industry, with a younger, hip generation of sommeliers and wine makers coming through the ranks. Wine has become accessible to anyone, with more boutique wineries, and the freedom wine makers have in countries such as Australia. There are now so many more wines to choose from, giving us lots of easy to drink and fun wines that Liinaa is enjoying getting to know and focused on sharing them with her customers.
Part of the job of being a good sommelier, is to provide a story with the wine. Even after a 12-year career in the Hospitality industry, Liinaa still works on the floor most nights mainly because she likes the contact with her customers. “You miss out a lot of fun if you are not having direct contact with your customers” she says.
There are a lot of Apps on the market now to help customers pair wine with food, etc. But an App will never replace a Sommelier, as an App can’t read a customer like a person can.
“We have a wine room here, instead of a wine list.”
Instead of seeing black and white printed names in a book, customers see it all in front of them to choose from. “The visual element is crucial in getting people to try different wines, and allows me to go from selling a Barossa Shiraz to a Montepulciano from Italy”. By being able to show, touch, and see the products customers are more invested in the process of picking a wine.
Liinaa recently attended The World 50 Best Restaurants in Melbourne as a guest of Wine Australia. 30 of the world’s best sommeliers attended, Liinaa being one of the 10 Australian invited. This event allowed her to hang out with variety of of sommeliers and talk all things wine.
In the two years she has been in Adelaide she has seen a great change in the industry, particularly in the younger generation coming through, opening their own funky joints and giving it a go. “We have less to choose from in a smaller city like Adelaide, but a better quality of things to choose from”.
During her training Liinaa was tasting at least 10 different wines every single day to train her palate and gives this advice to those wanting to make it as a sommelier.
“Never give up, never stop tasting. Even if it’s a wine you’ve tasted a week ago, try it again. This is how you develop palate memory. You need to study, research and travel.
Look in your own backyard, and start there. And ask lots of questions.
Don’t let anyone make you feel dumb for asking a question.
Have a great posture, how you hold yourself is important but also remember to have fun”.
“We should not take ourselves seriously. “It’s wine, it should be fun”
To stay at the top of your game Liinaa suggests that you need to keep pushing the limit, keep raising the bar. You can’t just come to point where you have a lot of knowledge and stop, you need to keep pushing and trying new wines.
There are really exciting wines coming from all corners of the globe including Georgia, Greece and Hungary. Teamwork is also key in the industry, never do something by yourself. Your staff need to work with you in order for it to work.
“My job is to find good wine at good value. Anyone can put together a “Coca Cola” wine list (so she calls it) with things on it that everyone can get. When you can find more unique wines, this is what make it special”.
Liinaa was lucky to be mentored by a former boss and Master sommelier, who taught her how to be very independent in the way she assesses wine. You can be very influenced by what others say and you don’t have to go with that. You have to be subjective and go with your own thoughts about the wine, there is never a wrong smell or aroma when it comes to tasting wine.
Another great mentor she has been lucky to have has taught her the art of being eloquent and letting people help you along the way. “Believe in the people around you and let people help you. The good ones will see your talent and help you.” Let your passion shine.
Let me show you something else… her take on trying to get the people of Adelaide to try something new.
“You only have a few seconds to get to a customer, to convince them that it’s worth it.”
Lot of people want a different experience and it is an absolute accomplishment when she can get someone to try something new, different, and unique. Getting people out of their comfort zone when it comes to the wines they drink is a true accomplishment.
It was an absolute delight to sit down with Liinaa. Her passion and love for wine and the Hospitality industry is obvious, and there’s no doubt she will continue to have a fantastic career in the industry. I for one walked away incredibly inspired, and could happily spend hours listening to her passionately talk about wine.
Drop in to The Crafers Hotel and catch up with Liinaa and the team and check out their incredible wine room.