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.
Name Tay Junyang, Zachary, Singapore
Having first met Zachery at 53 Armenian Street, where he was the Sommelier, I was blown away by this young chap’s wine knowledge and energy/intense passion. Indeed, it reminded me of when I was a 22 year-old whipper-snapper sommelier, only in our day it was all bravado. Zachary has had his legs off the restaurant floor at present do to an ankle injury so hobbling around the Les Amis groups wine store, which could be a good thing, as I feel he has enormous potential in the wine industry and I can smell an MW or Wine Writer in the making.
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Currently Vinum Pte Ltd www.vinum.com.sg prior to this part of the Les Amis Group team of Sommeliers
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Most recently, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris www.joel-robuchon.net
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Le Pot d’Etain – Chalons-en-Champagne – Best Wine List www.hotel-lepotdetain.com
Cut by Wolfgang Puck – Best Service www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/61447
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
I don’t have a favourite restaurant per se. I rotate my twice a month meals between a hand full of restaurants
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Yes I do cook at home but not too often; can’t let 6 yrs of kitchen experience go to waste now, can we? The first dish I perfected was Garlic butter prawns. Years of prepping that for barbecues paid off.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
My little 36 bottle cellar at home!
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it ) in Singapore no one Merchant has it all. I do buy wines from Ampelia www.ampeliasg.com and Enoplus www.enoplus.co m though, small husband and wife teams with an obvious love for wine.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
YES! This would be the 12th wine tasted at a tutored tasting of wines from Jerez. It was a sweet Olo Rosso, 30 yrs solera system, 30 years bottle aging. I haven’t been able to find anything quite like it anymore.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey Chambertin, Clos st Jacques – ¼new oak, ¼ 1 yr old oak, ¼ 2 yr old oak and ¼ 3 yr old oak. Tasting the individual barrels, comparing to the finished product, reminds of cooking; putting together different ingredients together to create a complete and mesmerizing dish.
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)
A bottle of 1981 Negociant Leroy, Chambertin ( Ex-Domaine ) – purchased on the excuse of celebrating my 30th for 900 SGD. The precision, balance and length of finish has only been rivalled once. http://www.domaine-leroy.com/GB_presentation.htm
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
My last epiphany was a date with an Australian Pinot Noir, Gembrook Hills, www.gembrookhill.com.au paired with roasted quail and foie gras spring rolls (at Verge, Melbourne, now closed). That was the basis of attempting to pair a Nuits St George with Quail consommé and foie gras dumplings
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Priorat! With steep slate hills reminiscent of Rhone, dotted with 100 yr old vines still being tended to via the goblet pruning technique. Not a speck of technology to be found on the vineyards, just good old experienced hands tending the vines.
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.
Franck Massard & Christophe Brunet, Mas Amor (Rose) http://monopolesingapore.wordpress.com/spain/
Tement, Sauvignon Blanc Zieregg www.tement.at
Egon Muller, Riesling QbA www.scharzhof.de
Cordero di Montezemolo, Langhe Nebbiolo http://www.corderodimontezemolo.it/welcome_eng.lasso
Moric, Blaufrankisch Alte Reben www.moric.at
Jacques Frederic Mugnier, Nuits-St-Georges, Clos de Marechale http://www.mugnier.fr/en/wines/nuits-saint-georges-clos-de-la-marechale.php
I didn’t include a chardonnay in this because many would have tasted this grape variety prior and there are many good examples. You could say the same for a syrah or Bordeaux blend. The purpose of this 6 pack, in my opinion, would be to expose wine drinkers to wines of less repute, yet fundamentally sound in vineyard practices and wine making; Each with a unique story and history. This is what makes wine more than just an alcoholic drink.