“My favourite wine bar is The Sampler. Actually, it is a wine shop where you can sample around 50 wines. It is also a great place practice blind tasting.” Erik Simonics, Sommelier at The Savoy Grill
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.
Erik Simonics, Slovakia
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I am currently working at Savoy Grill as a sommelier. It is a great pleasure to work in one of the best restaurants in London and especially to work for Gordon Ramsay. Practicing and learning about wine are endless journeys for me.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
I have recently dined in Quillon which is a Michelin star restaurant serving South-west coastal Indian cuisine in London. I really enjoy discovering new cuisines.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
I have visited one of the most beautiful places in Europe, which is Prague. I have dined at Alcron restaurant and really enjoyed the wine service and especially a good wine selection. I also visited La Boheme Bourgeoise where the wine list was absolutely amazing.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
My most memorable restaurant meal was with my girlfriend at Rhodes 24 when we were celebrating our anniversary.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
I do not have any regular restaurant, because I always want to experience something new.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I cook at home a lot and I love it! My signature dish is a perfectly cooked beef steak, but unfortunately it is perfect only for me J
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
My favourite wine bar is The Sampler. Actually, it is a wine shop where you can sample around 50 wines. It is also a great place practice blind tasting.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
The best wine merchant is one that always provides something extra apart from just selling wines to us. For example, tasting invitations, excellent deals and so. Therefore my choice would be Liberty Wines.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
I am currently drinking Champagne and Bordeaux, but also drinking Chilean and Californian wines.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Once I had an opportunity to taste Don Maximiano 2005 when I started to learn more about wines at the beginning of my career. Since then, I always have a bottle for special occasion.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I have recently started to discover wines from Hungary, but not only Tokaj. There are some very good Kekfrankos or Dry Furmint to try.
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)
I think the best wine bargain would be wines from Chile, Mosel and South of France. These wines are absolutely amazing with very competitive prices. For example, give a try to Dr. Loosen wines.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
I like simple things, therefore a good Vin Jaune from Jura with local Comte cheese is a pleasure moment itself.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
When I was in Mallorca with my girlfriend we decided to visit the wineries alone. Unfortunately no one could speak English in local small villages but somehow we could understand each other through a glass of wine.
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.
- Salon, Champagne, France 1997
- Fred Loimer, Kamptal, Austria, Spiegel Gruner Veltliner 2008
- Frederic Emile, Trimbach, Alsace, France 2001
- Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina, Malbec 2008
- Don Maximiano, Errazuriz, Aconcagua Valley, Chile 2005
- 6 Putnovy Tokaj (aszu), Tokaj Macik Winery, Tokaj, Slovakia 2002