Sommelier Isabelle Brunet is our 100th Sommelier’s Palate interview, which is most fitting as she is the sister of Christophe Brunet, the first Sommelier featured to launch this column. Isabelle is a highly respected Sommelier at the top of her game having spent the last 10 years at the legendary Monvinic wine bar in Barcelona as Sommelier and Wine Buyer and has just been nominated in the “Premios Nacionales de Gastronomia” in the category ’Mejor Sumiller’. She recently left Monvinic to embark on an exciting new project of her on.
The Sommelier’s Palate continues to grow in popularity and many readers have commented on how valuable the restaurant and wine bar recommendations are, as well as the excellent wine insights. So, onwards and forwards…to our next target 200 Sommelier’s Palate.
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.
Isabelle Brunet, Spain & France
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I have just left my position as a sommelier & wine-buyer at Monvinic (Barcelona) to start a project of my own.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
L’Horloge Auvillar, Serge François serves fresh and seasonal products with great respect and talent.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Gresca is my favourite restaurant in Barcelona with precise cooking, also because of the wine-list! The owner and chef Rafa Peña with his wife Mireia are just doing a humble job with passion.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
La Ferme de la Ruchotte in Burgundy, where Frédéric & Eva Ménager open their home when they have a minimum of bookings and serving the food from their farm. Interesting wine-list also!
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
My partner is the one doing all the cooking
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
I can recommend the only merchant who has a spirit of a “caviste” in Barcelona: Julien from la Part dels Angels.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Cahors, as we were passing through the region, we stopped to buy few cases directly from the domaine, it does make sense.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
I have been lucky to try a 1795 Madeira Terrantez Barbeito at Monvinic. No words! just memorable!
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
A very interesting unoaked red wine called Exibis in Pla de Bages based from a local Catalan variety called Sumoll.
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 Gaillac rouge from la Croix Marchande, good balance and bargain at 5,50€.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Carpaccio of scampi with a Chablis from Dauvissat.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
I found Tasmania such an amazing place for scenery, wine & food. Rich of local products with cool climate!
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.
Jerez Equipo Navazos
Vin Jaune Jura
Bass Phillip Pinot Noir Gippsland Australia
Vin d’Autan Plageoles Gaillac