Svetlana Atcheva is a classically-trained sommelier, who has worked in various top Toronto restaurants. She’s known for having built ahead-of-the-time wine lists along with training many now-established Toronto sommeliers.

Svetlana Atcheva decided to veer away from the traditional sommelier career path and join a then-unknown vineyard estate. Now, it is known as one of Canada’s top wineries: Pearl Morissette. Svetlana’s colleagues and peers were confused with her decision and some even wished her a sarcastic “good luck.”

Pearl Morissette is a winery located in Jordan, Ontario, with a philosophy for doing things differently. They let nature dictate the wines through a hands-off approach of non-intervention winemaking.

Svetlana’s unique perspective on wine translates to a bigger life philosophy; a shared mindset between all team members at Pearl Morissette. They are also known for the Restaurant at Pearl Morissette – one of the best in Canada!

Svetlana Atcheva On Her Sommelier Journey

Svetlana Atcheva
How did you make the decision to leave the traditional sommelier life behind and dive into Pearl Morissette?

I was always interested in the production side of wine. I was trained as a sommelier originally, and worked as such for many years in Toronto, creating wine lists that were very unusual at the time, but filled with wines that spoke to me. Learning and understanding how wine formed itself, was always what triggered my interest in the strongest way. When I encountered a winery that produced wines with characters that I connected to, it was an easy decision. My curiosity about how wines become what they are turned out to be more powerful than my love and curiosity about wines in their ‘finished’ stage.

Where did your interest in a non-traditional winery come from?

Pearl Morissette is in fact a very traditional winery, in the old, time-honoured sense of this word. The approaches towards the vineyard and the winemaking are informed by traditional methods practiced for centuries in the Old World. Having come from the Old World myself, this is wine the way I’ve always understood it.

What is the future of winery?

Hopefully, it is making better and better wines each year, that are reflections of our deeper understanding of our environment and the way it changes itself each year. Our works are one of exploration – whether it’s new grape varieties, new vineyards we haven’t previously worked with or new expressions in the characters of the wines that the different seasons can give us. All we can hope for is to keep honing our craft with each passing season and help make these wines as representative of the singular circumstances it was born in as possible.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered through this journey?

There have been many – each year the Biggest challenge proves to be a different one than the year before it. Thinking back, apart from the challenging growing seasons that Niagara presents us with 9 out of 10 years, no other obstacle has proven insurmountable so far. Every other obstacle is certainly something one is able to tackle, as long as you believe in the work and the wines that represent it. In that sense, the biggest obstacle, are those that Nature presents you with, and over which one has no control

Published by HOLR Magazine