“I recently discovered the natural wines from the Pyramid Valley winery in New Zealand. Their Kerner Marlborough Pinot Blanc is amazing!” Sommelier Lotte Wolf, Restaurant Oud Sluis, Sluis, The Netherlands
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.
Lotte Wolf, from The Netherlands
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Restaurant Ciel Bleu in Amsterdam.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
I would have to say Eleven Madison Park in New York, the duck there was amazing.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Not really I try to go out at diferent restaurants and when I go out near my house, I live on the border of the Netherlands and Belgium, I prefer to go to classic Belgium bistro’s.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Sometimes I cook at home but my boyfriend is a chef and he can obviously cook better then me. I really like making cakes though, devils chocolate cake is my favorite! But all the savoury he makes too
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
The bar from restaurant Pure C in the strandhotel in Cadzand, the Netherlands this is only 10 minutes from my house and the wines are nice but the cocktails there are lovely as well.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
I really like the wines of SWAFFOU in Belgium (SWAFFOU is’ Sexy Wine Association Fighting For Overall Understanding’)
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Columella 2005 from Eben Sadie is waititng for me at home.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Sometimes this moment is there and most of the time it is there when you don’t expect it. I really liked the Corton Charlemagne from Jerome Castagnier, last year I tated this wine for the first time and I had never heard of Castagnier before. But there are many more wines that moved m of course this is what I love about my job! The Diversity and the contact changing in the wines!
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I recently discovered the natural wines from the Pyramid Valley winery in New Zealand. Their Kerner Marlborough Pinot Blanc is amazing!
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)
In regions I like the Saint Aubin price–quality, and I like the wine from Ossian, there basic wine the Quintaluna, that is an amazing wine for the price!
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
The dishes of Sergio (the chef of Restaurant Oud Sluis where I work) are always very chalanging to combine with wine. So every time a new dish is coming I chalange myself again to find something different and well matching. The last wine pairing I made for the new menu I am very happy about. The dish is Zeeland oyster, potato and a very intense jus of shrimps/meddowsweet with this I matched a natural wine from Swartland Chenin Blanc Intel Lego. This wine is made whithout any suplhurs and has an amazing start of the wine that matches with the intense flavours of the jus. The wine has an amazing acidity as well this is what we need together with the salty flavours of the oyster.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
South Africa! My favourite wine region is Swartland but the scenery and the food of Stellenbosch is absolutely the nicest one I have even been! The people are so nice and the wineries look so beautiful. If you want to dine here you will not be disappointed the food is superb and not expensive. Scenically speaking the Marlborough region is also very beautiful!
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.
- Intel Lego, Chenin Blanc. Swartland 2012.
- Grange des Peres Blanc, France
- Corton Charlemagne Jerome Castagnier, 2010.
- Riesling, Sieferheimer, von porphyr, Wagner Stempel, 2011
- Columella, Eben Sadie, Swartland 2005.
- Rockford, Basket Press Shiraz, Barossa.
- Felton Road Chardonnay, Central Otago, New Zealand.