In Medieval Provençal times they were saumaliers, animal pack drivers who evolved during Middle French kingdom to become court officials charged with transportation of supplies. So what does a modern day Sommelier actually do? Well, Wikipedia outlines as such, “A sommelier or wine steward is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food matching. The most important work of a sommelier is in the areas of wine procurement, wine storage, wine cellar rotation, and expert service to wine consumers.”
A reasonably accurate job description although perhaps a little parched as our new-age sommelier has evolved to a higher learning with a wine Jedi cognizance and a seventh sense that can psychoanalyse a diner, marry the person, the dish and the wine in seconds. They are now the gateway to wine discovery equipped with clairvoyance in food and wine trends, inspiring thirst around the world.
Feared by winemakers, loathed by wine distributors as the arbiters’ of wine lists, the restaurant patron should embrace their knowledge, skills and talent as they are hopelessly and passionately obsessed with wine and will take you on journey of gastronomic enlightenment. And our new-age sommelier is no longer confined to fine dining and can be found in casual eateries, wine bars, gastro-pubs, winery restaurants, wine stores and you’ll even bump into an air-sommelier at 30,000ft these days. Some have hung up their waiters-friend and metamorphosed to the wine trade as brand ambassadors, distributors or consultants, but once a sommelier, always a sommelier.
This column explores the gustatory and olfactory manifestations of sommeliers all over this planet. We take a cross section of the sommelier’s stomach and intestines to reveal what and where they eat. And we dissect their taste buds and dopamine receptors as they relent to the Wandering Palate narcosynthesis and confess to their personal vinous pleasures and closely-held secrets – this is The Sommelier’s Palate.
Edward Scothern, England
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Mele e Pere Trattoria, a new ‘casual dining’ restaurant in the heart of Soho www.meleepere.co.uk/
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Briketenia, French Basque Restaurant, Martin Ibarboure is chef/owner. www.briketenia.com
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
La Trompette, Chiswick. Mathieu Longuerre does a fantastic job in a humble manner. www.latrompette.co.uk/
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
A good meal is determined by circumstance as much as cuisine; Andre de Laine at Libertines, Melbourne made us a farewell tasting menu that blew us away. www.libertinedining.com.au
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
In London I would say hands down the Princess Victoria in Shepherds Bush, it’s my local pub that does the simple stuff consistently well. www.princessvictoria.co.uk
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I’m a terrible cook; Does a slap up English breakfast count? Sunny side or scrambled
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey, they import their own wines and you guzzle them under the railway lines of London Bridge.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
There are so many; At Mele e Pere we use Passione Vino for our Italian orientated list and they’re very efficient and knowledgeable.
(Importers of fine Italian wine OFFICE: Unit – W111, Holywell Centre 1 Phipp Street, London EC2A 4PS Telephone: 0203 487 0600)
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
After years of being pessimistic about natural wines, the worm has finally turned so to speak; therefore it would have to be Eugenio Rosi in Trentino. His wines have a soul and character. www.vignaiolideltrentino.it
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Jurancon Domaine de Souche, and more importantly the owner Yvonne Hegoburu. She’s in her eighties and still gets stuck in. She likes a tipple too! www.dynamicvines.com/producer/domaine-de-souch
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Business wise; Draught Prosecco, Wine for the masses and inexpensive.
For the aficionado; Beaujolais, the new generation producers are changing the face of the region for the best. Check out Julien Sunier, Charly and Jean Paul Thevenet (all natural)
Tell us what is your ultimate wine bargain discovery in terms of price/quality rapport? (i.e. does not have to be cheap but over-delivers in quality for the price)
Damien Tsharke Zinfandel 2004. I like Zin and I like Damien. www.tscharke.com.au
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that you have experienced recently.
Donostia restaurant W1; Txipirones and Txocoli. Better than San Sebastien itself. www.donostia.co.uk
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Tough one – Champagne
Select a six pack of wines that you think are absolutely outstanding and inspirational, and that will set people on a journey of vinous discovery and enlightenment.
Henri Giraud 96 Champagne www.champagne-giraud.com
Skerk Malvasia Istriana 10 – Friuli www.skerk.com
Dalwhinnie the Eagle 06 – Victoria www.dalwhinnie.com.au
Burn Cottage Pinot 10 – Central Otago – A nod to Claire Mulhollland www.burncottage.com
La Stoppa Macchiona 04 – Emilia www.lastoppa.it
Ch Tour Blanche 1925 – Sauternes www.tour-blanche.com