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Confessions of a sommelier: Marinela Ivanova

Decanter speak to sommelier Marinela Ivanova about what sparked her interest in wine and the troubles of being a sommelier-at-sea. As published in Decanter's June 2014 issue.

Marinela Ivanova is beverage manager on board The World, Residences at Sea; Tel: +1 (954) 538 8449; aboardtheworld.com

What’s your earliest wine memory?
I grew up in Bulgaria, in an area where almost every family has a small vineyard and makes their own wine. As a child I remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap during dinner and him dipping my finger into his wine glass to try it.

What bottle stopped you in your tracks and got you serious about wine?
Not just one but several vintages of all the single-vineyard Terrassenmosel Rieslings of Heymann-Löwenstein, tasted at the winery. Incredibly perfumed wines with fine minerality.

Since then, what’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?
Recently, it was a 1947 Doisy Daëne – still very lively, intense honey, caramel and spice.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on the job?
A guest read my name tag and saw the word ‘sommelier’. He thought I came from Somalia!

… and the biggest faux pas you’ve ever made?
Spilling wine on guests at formal events during windy seas.

Have you ever served anyone famous, and if so, who and what?
I can’t divulge our residents’ names, but my most unforgettable experience was when Jancis Robinson and Michael Broadbent were hosted by some residents aboard the ship. It is the only occasion in my career where I have broken the rules and asked guests for an autograph.

What’s the most annoying customer habit?
When wine is purchased as an investment. No matter how iconic, wine can only give pleasure when drunk.

What’s the most valuable wine lesson you’ve learned as a sommelier?
In the presence of greatness everybody is humbled. I had a guest who was a die-hard Australian Shiraz drinker and said that he didn’t like Bordeaux at all. I served him a 1966 Fleur de Pétrus. He thought it was the best wine he’d ever had in his life!

Written by Decanter

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