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.
Sean Boyle, Australia
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Restaurant-The Bathers Pavilion, Balmoral Beach, NSW
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Bentley Bar and Restaurant www.thebentley.com.au
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Est Restaurant, Sydney http://merivale.com.au/est/
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Pied a Terre, London http://www.pied-a-terre.co.uk/home
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Yes. A seafood caserol
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Belle Vue, Granit, Muscadet
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Chateau Pavie 1996 www.chateaupavie.com
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I’m recently drinking a lot of Mencia from the Bierzo D.O in the northwest corner of Spain
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)
Egon Muller, Scharzhofberger, Kabinett Riesling 2004 from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany http://www.scharzhof.de/en/
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Sydney rock oysters with a Manzanilla from Sanluca de Barremeda, Spain
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
The Loire Valley, France
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.
Jean-Cedric Deguy Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru 2000, Champagne France
Egon Muller, Scharzhofberger, Kabinett Riesling 2004, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany http://www.scharzhof.de/en/
Comtes Lafon Meursault-Perrierres 1er Cru 2005, Burgundy, France
Domaine de la Romanee Conti, La Tache Grand Cru 1996, Burgundy, France
Giacomo Conterno, Monfortino Riserva, Barolo 1978, Piedmont, Italy
Chateau D’Yquem, Sauternes 1959