Eat + Drink

Sommelier Evangelos Psofidis on Building an Exceptional Wine List and How to Enjoy Wine at Home

Evangelos Psofidis drinks a lot of wine. He has to — it’s his job. Though he’ll tell you it’s not. He’ll tell you that it’s his passion.

Psofidis has been working at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, in Athens, Greece, for 12 years and is the acting wine manager and head sommelier on property. In this time he has built a wine library that has been recognized for six consecutive years as one of the best wine lists in the world by Wine Spectator Magazine.

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Hotel Grande Bretagne’s wine list includes over 3,500 bottles. (Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Grande Bretagne)

“You know, if you want to have a really good wine list, there are two options. The first is to spend a lot of money. That’s the easy way. The other way is to take it step by step, every year building something new, putting something new on your wine list in order to get it to a really high level,” says Psofidis.

Taking the latter approach, Psofidis and his team have grown the library to more than 3,500 bottles from regions all over the world while opening the property’s doors to host popular wine events each month.

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“The same wine, in different glasses, has different aromas and flavors,” Psofidis tells Marriott TRAVELER. (Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Grande Bretagne)

He applied these same step-by-step principles in his career. Psofidis started his career as a waiter, working in restaurants for the last 18 years.

“For me it was always a great pleasure watching the guys who were on the floor working as sommeliers because they were always tasting wine. I became friends with them, and my benefit was that each night I was given a different glass of wine to taste,” Psofidis says. “I realized that I could smell, taste and be true in what I was saying, and I wanted to learn more.”

Now, are sommeliers born sommeliers? Psofidis doesn’t think so. He maintains that with enough passion (and practice), you too can become a master of wine.

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Wine tastings and events are offered at the Wine Library each month. (Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Grande Bretagne)

“Wine, like food, has to do with memory. Memory is not a talent. It’s something that you work to create,” explains Psofidis. “Flavors and aromas have to do with tasting and smelling and then programming them onto the hard disc in your head. Talent is no more than 30 percent. The other 70 percent is absolutely work.”

Don’t have time to study thousands of wines? Not a problem. Beyond learning the basics of wine tasting, Psofidis has tips for you to better experience wine at home, including two must-haves for any wine drinker.

“Buy the right wine glasses and a wine cabinet to keep your wines at the right temperatures,” he suggests.

“I can tell you from my experience that the same wine, in different glasses, has different aromas and flavors,” Psofidis says. “Temperature is the other major factor in making your wine pleasant and how you enjoy it. If you don’t store your wine at the proper temperature, you can destroy it.”