“Agrapart Les 7 Crus Champagne: a perfect crisp, clean champagne with extremely long aftertaste, crisp fruit character and a very elegant mousseux. It offers great value for money.” Master Sommelier Alexander Koblinger
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.
Alexander Koblinger MS, Austria
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Restaurant Hotel Obauer in Werfen, Austria (member of “Les Grandes Tables du Monde”; and also constantly voted among Austria’s top 3 restaurants by leading restaurant guides.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Not too long ago I was at the “Döllerer Wirtshaus” in Golling, Austria, which highly impressed me with the excellent and innovative food preparation and great value for money. I had an excellent dinner and a lot of fun there.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
The Vineyard in Strockcross, UK, is highly memorable for the huge wine list, vintage selection and the wine service. The sommeliers and waiters are doing a really fantastic job there.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
The most memorable meal I had in Burgundy, in the Lameloise: fantastic food, perfect wines, the best and most relaxed service – even the memory of it feels like holiday.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
I have a restaurant which we – the whole family – visit on a really regular basis. It is the family-run restaurant Laschenskyhof in Viehausen near Salzburg. It specializes in Austrian food and offers very good quality at a reasonable price. Besides, the kids love the huge playground.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Whenever I have time, I love to cook at home and invite friends. We usually keep it simple when cooking at home and enjoy sitting together, having a nice chat and catching up. I like to prepare whole parts of meat like veal’s back or lamb with vegetables of the season. Everything is put on the table so everyone can take as much as they want.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Not really as I don’t have much time to go out in the evening for some glasses of wine.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
An excellent wine merchant for me is the one-man company Josef Schreiblehner. He is highly professional and still trusts his own taste. I really like to buy wines there as he has a lot of products from very small, mostly unknown wine estates which, however, offer the highest quality. Besides offering hidden gems, Josef Schreiblehner is equally specialized in real classics.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
My “house wine”, if you will, is a Riesling Bundsandstein 2010 from Frank John in the Pfalz.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
As a sommelier that was starting his career I was once attending a wine event with Antinori. Its 1997 Solaia was – at that point – a wine which I had never tasted before. I was so impressed by this wine that it really gave me another boost to pursue my career.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
It is a Rully blanc 2008 from the Domaine Dureuil-Janthial. It comes from the Cote Chalonnaise in Burgundy. If you want to taste a so-called “salty” wine, this one is a perfect example.
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)
Agrapart Les 7 Crus Champagne: a perfect crisp, clean champagne with extremely long aftertaste, crisp fruit character and a very elegant mousseux. It offers great value for money.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Recently I had raw slices of perch with the first fresh wild herbs like wild garlic and tenderloin blossoms marinated with capers, cucumber and a Gelber Muskateller vinegar. The perfect match was a Verdejo 2013 from Jose Pariente from the Rueda in Spain. The fruit and the excellent acidity worked out amazingly with this particular fish dish.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
For me, as an Austrian, it would be definitely the Wachau region. Fantastic scenery, a lot of good food, top notch restaurants and fantastic, world-famous wines – the whole package is worth visiting and experiencing.
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.
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Caillerets 2005 Domaine Amiot Guy
Solaia 1997 Antinori
Riesling Die Leidenschaft 2011 Weingut Martin Arndorfer
Ines u Bijelom 2008 Roxanich
Spätburgunder St. Paul Schweigener Sonnenberg 2007 Weingut Friedrich Becker
Châteauneuf du Pape 2005 Château Rayas