“There’s two new places in San Antonio that just amaze me every time I go, UMAI MI a Modern Asian Fare and CURED a Homemade Charcuterie place.” Fabien Jacob, Sommelier at Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, San Antonio
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.
Fabien Jacob, born in France, now ‘Deep in the heart of Texas’, USA
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, San Antonio ,Texas
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Arro in Austin (601 W. Sixth St) , the chef and owner Drew Curren cooks amazing French Food, while his wife Mary Catherine bakes excellent homemade bread, you will be able to enjoy an incredible 3 Course meal for $25! On top of it you have Master Sommelier Craig Collins and his assistant Scott Ota on the Floor to serve you the perfect wine.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Restaurant Le Fox, Walckierstraat 2 , 8660 De Panne (Belgium). Vincent Willekens is a great Sommelier.
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?
I love to cook and love to make stews, one of my favourite one is called Waterzooi de Poulet. Basically a Belgian chicken stew with potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsley, thyme and heavy cream.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
The Red Room Lounge in Austin Texas.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
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?
I fell in love with wine when I was 16, I tasted a 1985 Lynch Bages, 1982 Ch Margaux and Mouton Rothschild and I was hooked. Then when I knew more about wine, I opened a 1978 Vosne Romanee from Maison Leroy with my best friend Nicolas Everrard and that made me obsess with Burgundy.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Republic of Macedonia, Macedon Pinot noir, an incredible value. An old world Pinot from an odd place, this wine truly delivers. A great example of Pinot Noir! I love the texture and mouthfeel, bright bouquet, an elegant palate, and dark fruits that are rich.
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 really enjoy Franciacorta like Bellavista you are basically getting the flavour of champagne without the price tag, I also like to drink wine from Morocco especially Medaillon Red from Domaine Ouled Thaleb et S de Siroua (Syrah).
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
While in Beijing last year I tried the Peking Duck; the Sommelier recommended a wine from Jura, a Poulsard!! Wine form Jura are normally fruit driven, mineral enhanced grapes (Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir) are very versatile. The crispy skin and fat of the duck, plus that doughy bread and touch of plum sauce really match well with a wine such as Jean Bourdy’s Cotes Du Jura. It’s got the acidity to cut the fat, the fruit to match the plums, and the weight to clear the palate. Being French I was sceptical, but now I m a big fan.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Alsace, there is more 3* Michelin restaurant then anywhere in the world (if you compare the size of the state and the numbers of Michelin restaurant).
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.
Wind Gap Trousseau Gris, 2012 Russian River Valley – Stone fruits, herbs, citrus, white pepper, bruised apples, peach and pear. Great texture and good acidity.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal 2003 Alsace – Rich, deep, sweet nose with meaty, spicy undertones to the honeyed fruit. The palate is explosively rich: sweet but brilliantly balanced. There’s also a spicy edge to it.
J&F Bailly-Reverdy Cuvee Chavignol 2012 Sancerre – Lip-smacking minerality, lime and green apple.
Albert Morot, 1er Cru La Bataillere aux Vergelesses , 2005 Savigny les Beaune – Slightly rustic, spicy aromas of redcurrant and leather. Jui,lean, mineral and licorice flavors.
Chateau Lynch Moussas 1995, Pauillac – Beginning you will get some tar and dark berry, with more blackfruits and cedar shining through. The mid palate contains nice acidity which transitions into the long finish. The wine opens up with leather, liquorice, Dry Violet and Tobacco flavours.
Roy Estate Proprietary Red Wine, 2007, Napa Rich and ripe red berries, spicy vanilla, black cherry and tobacco, followed by hints of black tea and mineral notes.