The Sommelier’s Palate – Ned Goodwin MW

Born in London, raised in Australia and educated in Tokyo and Paris, Ned Goodwin is the archetypical ‘Wandering’ sommelier; an intrepid wine obsessed sommelier that has worked at acclaimed wine institutions such Veritas restaurant, New York, Les Juveniles in Paris, Michael’s in Los Angeles, and is currently the wine curator for Luke Mangan’s Salt & World Wine Bar in Tokyo, among many other projects with a CV that makes us other sommelier/consultants look lazy. But most relevant of all, above and beyond all the formal qualifications one can seek as a sommelier, Goodwin passed his Master of Wine exam in 2010 and now a wine Jedi in the realms of Obi-Wan.


Ned Goodwin MW

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 Sommeliers Palate.

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 Sommeliers Palate.

Ned Goodwin MW, Japan



Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?


I largely consult for groups including MHD, All Nippon Airways and Global Dining, Tokyo. I also do private events for collectors, or anyone seeking entertainment whisked with a little wine knowledge. For MHD I construct training seminars for sales staff; assist with purchasing for business and first classes for the airline; and for Global, a large Tokyo-centric restaurant group, train sales staff and sommeliers. This work sees me on a plane every second week.



Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?


Buca dell’ Orafo in Florence




Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?


Veritas in New York; Grammy Tavern in New York; Prince in Melbourne; Cata-181 in Barcelona (great list and silly prices); Mozza in Los Angeles



Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?


In a private palace in Florence, just last week, with the owners of Querciabella; the entire 16-course menu was vegetarian and, in fact, free of any animal products. This may seem religious, but any negative stereotype I carried upon sitting down was shattered by the time I left. The meal was punctuated by Renaissance poetry reading, a Russian guest who told me that he had lost USD 100,000,000 a few days prior; and a corked magnum of d’Yquem ’00. The highlight was the ’99 Chianti Classico Riserva and yet, the dinner encapsulated all that is great (and wrong) about the human condition. The food was phenomenal and the company stimulating. I didn’t want to leave! That is wine-an avatar for the best things




Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?


Buchi in Tokyo



Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?


Yes. Spaghetti with olives, capers, anchovies, and basil, served luke-warm with fresh tomatoes and top Italian canned tuna. This is a classic Roman dish and works well with simple Sangiovese or other drily structured Italian wines.



Do you have a favourite wine bar?


No, not really. I like The Wine Library when I am in Sydney, though.



Do you have a favourite wine merchant?


No, I buy most of wines directly from importers. If I had to name one in Tokyo it would be Tokyu Honten, in Shibuya




What wine are you drinking at the moment?


Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 1999


Is there a wine that totally moved you like no other wine a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?


1976 McWilliams’ Old Paddock and Old Hill Shiraz, drunk circa 1997; I often ask myself if I would like that wine as much if I were to drink it today or, perhaps more accurately, if I were to drink it with the knowledge that I have as an older person. It doesn’t really matter, though. After all, wine is of the moment and that was the first bottle to give me goose bumps! ’78 La Tache and ’61 Latour a Pomerol brought tears, but somehow they didn’t quite resonate the same way as that bottle of McWilliams.



Whats your latest wine discovery new region, variety or style?


Minimally messed with Yarra Valley Syrah, hewn with whole clusters, large format oak and ambient yeasts



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)

The Loire-crunchy Cabernet Franc from all over, but particularly Anjou for superlative quality in lieu of price; Chenin Blanc from all over but particularly from Montlouis and wines such as those from Francois Chidaine and Domaine de la Taille aux Loups; in addition to the southern Rhône which boasts more great wines from a litany of communes (Gigondas, Rasteau, Vacqueyras); many highly ageable and complex. There is nowhere else with the bounty of reasonably priced, high quality wines!



Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.


Aged warm climate Shiraz with some pungent dark Thai sauce of soy, fish paste, chili and garlic….among other ingredients, I am sure! Aside from the likes of larb and the obvious seafood salad-type of culprits, I am finding that soft reds work well with a lot of saucier Thai dishes.


Chawan mushi (Japanese egg custard with pieces of fish and/or mushroom) with aged Champagne


Porcini Omelette with aged Sangiovese



What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?


The Douro and Mosel are unarguably the most spectacular two regions that I am yet to visit in terms of scenery but sadly, the eating-especially in Germany-leaves a lot to be desired. Napa offers great eating but the wines are over-priced and over-bearing. France offers beautiful scenery but the dining scene is tired. This leaves Italy which provides passionate and warm people, fantastic food consistently, and wines that seldom fail to intrigue given the plethora of indigenous grape varieties and strong traditional styles. Piedmont, I suppose, is the most spectacular region, but I love the raffishness of Naples, the coastal scenery, the outrageously good seafood, and nearby Ischia. I love ‘the resolute urgency of now’ (to quote Billy Corgan) that emanates from Naples, its people and its history.



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.


Note that I have either opted for current vintages, or vintages that are drinking beautifully now, among the more ‘collectible’ wines


  1. Bodega Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva (vintage is irrelevant given the profundity of the style, as indeed is the colour! I think the whites are particularly revelatory. The rosé too! Wow!)
  2. Francois Chidaine Montlouis (any of the cuvées) 2010 OR Domaine de la Boussière Gigondas 1998
  3. Jamsheed Silvan Syrah 2010
  4. Heymann Lowenstein Uhlen Riesling 2008
  5. Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 1999
  6. Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Les Cras 2001











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The Sommelier’s Palate – Ned Goodwin MW
The Sommelier’s Palate – Michael Engelmann, Head Sommelier at the legendary Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney
The Sommelier’s Palate – Christophe Brunet
The Sommelier’s Palate – Ladies & Gentleman, please put your hands together for David Glancy, Founder and CEO of San Francisco Wine School, USA

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