“What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style? Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, The Syrah and Bordeaux blends are world class.” Sommelier David Stevens-Castro
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.
David Stevens-Castro, a Chilean in Australia
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I am the Maitre D’ / Sommelier at the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, I am the host in charge of the signature restaurant ‘The Fireplace’
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Esquire in Brisbane, the only 2 hatted restaurant in Queensland.
Where have you dined (restaurant) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Liguria, Bar & Restaurant; I have dined in all 3 locations they have in Santiago. A must visit if you ever are around Chile’s capital city. Every waiter is a character, the typical dishes and the local wines are superb and well priced, the atmosphere is terrific and the toilets have pages of old nude magazines all over the walls, quite good actually!
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Doña Paula Restaurant, in Santa Rita winery. The building itself it’s a National Monument, the name is in honour of Madame Paula Jaraquemada, who owned over 200 years ago the main house of the Santa Rita Estate. I was lucky enough to have a long lunch with head winemaker Cecilia Torres after she showed us personally the whole property, the service was superb and charming. We had the 2007 Santa Rita Casa Real Reserva Especial, which is in my opinion, one of the top Cabernet Sauvignon that Chile has ever produced.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Not really, I enjoy trying out different ones every time I dine out.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I love cooking at home! It reminds me of back home. The selection and quality of ingredients is key, also the timing, because when you cook at home you are doing quite a few things at the same time. What I enjoy the most is cooking an ‘Asado’ (BBQ) for a bunch of friends in the way we do it in South America, with an ‘Asador ’ or the person who looks after the guest all the way. I like to put different cuts and types of meat on the grill. I like the beef to be from 1,5kg to 2kg. I cook it really slowly, It can take me up to 2 hours to cook a piece like that, so you have to allow a bit of time if you coming for dinner at my place!
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
The Wine Experience, Rosalie, Brisbane.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
It depends of my mood, I take my pick just browsing around and talking with knowledgeable staff. I actually really enjoy buying wine that way.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
2001 Don Melchor from Concha y Toro; I was having a lunch during vintage in 2006 with the winemaking team of DE MARTINO wines. Everyone agreed at the time that the wine was singing a song and I remember thinking how unique that was and how amazing it was to be there enjoying that wine with people who really appreciate it.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Tell is 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)
2012 Riesling’s from Clare or Eden Valley, South Australia; an epic vintage for this variety, you can go and pick any producer and It will over deliver at any price bracket, look forward to keep drinking them along the years, they are absolutely glorious wines.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
At the launch of ‘Tolpuddle Vineyard’ the exciting Tasmanian project from Shaw + Smith, they served a Lamb Rump with Portobello & Shallots matched with the 2012 Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot noir, so tasty!
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Clos Apalta, in Apalta, Chile. The State-of-the-Art winery, the cellar underneath the barrel room, the hills surrounding the steep vineyards. The massive quartz rocks in the vineyards, plus an intimate lunch with the winemaker looking at the property was absolutely idyllic.
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.
Champagne Billecart – Salmon Brut Rose
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay
Te Mata ‘Bullnose’ Syrah
De Martino ‘Viejas Tinajas’ Cinsault
Reserva de Caliboro ‘Torontel’