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.
Amanda Bulgin, British born, living in Switzerland
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Park Hotel Vitznau, Switzerland – Sommelier at Restaurant focus
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?
Bar Brutal – Barcelona
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
My fresh Pasta
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Sager & Wilde in London
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Here in Switzerland we have many good merchants but a merchant that tries to bring the fun into wine and take away without pretentiousness is Smith and Smith in Zürich.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Condrieu from the master that is Vernay from the ‘80’s
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I had a 1984 Chasselas from the French part of Switzerland last month, I was so shocked at how gracefully chasselas/gutedel can age.
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)
Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 1993 for less than CHF200.00 a real highlight, a wine I will not easily forget, an underrated vintage that has proven that a wine can be a huge success even in an so-called off vintage.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
The Juice Pairing in Noma was outstanding!! Alcohol free but nonetheless fab!!!
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
The Piedmont is an area that fascinates me time and time again, the people the culture the food. I love the area around Alba.
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.
Dry Tokaj from Antilla Homanna, Tokaji Hungary
1985 Completer from Adolf Boner, Malans Switzerland
Any Chardonnay from Thomas Studach, Malans Switzerland
2006 Weissburgunder Steinporz Smaragd, Wachau Austria
Anything from Château Rayas!!!!!!
1978 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux, Burgundy