“Beetroot baked in salt, bone marrow, ox and beetroot jus together with “A tribute to Grace”, Grenache, from Santa Barbara Highlands, USA. The perfect combination.” Sommelier Helena Andersson
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.
Helena Andersson, Sweden
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Upper House Dining, Gothenburg
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Steiereck, Vienna, Austria. It is the most beautiful restaurant situated in the Stadtpark. The food was excellent, highly over our expectations. Perfect service as well.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Also Steiereck. The selection of older Austrian vintages is very good.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
August, Augsburg, Germany. The two star Michelin restaurant in the small city of Augsburg, has almost the same concept as our restaurant Upper House Dining. They serve a six course menu, but in total you get like 25 servings. The creations from Chef Christian Grünwald was amazing! A journey worthy!
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
No not really, I love to try new places.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I don´t cook that much, but every Sunday the kid´s favourite meal stands on the table: Wienerschnitzel!
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Yes, I found one recently in Vienna, Pub Klemo. The wine list was great, both on Austrian wines and other countries. Older vintages, fair prices, and they had weekly tastings, also to reasonable prices, that really caught your eyes. My tasting: Six vintages of Riesling Smaragd, Singerriedl, Weingut Hirtzberger, Wachau. 93, 02, 03, 05, 06, 09, 10.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
In Sweden we have about 250 merchants, outside the monopoly. Big, small, wide and narrow. At the moment we work with 25 different ones, and we change sometimes depending on what we are focusing on.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Spring arrives in Sweden, so the main wines are crispy whites like Sancerre, Grüner Veltliner and Albarino.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
So many wines, so less time! But when I tasted Martin Muthenthalers 2011 Grüner Veltliner Viesslinger Stern, than I got that feeling of a mysterious wine that takes you beyond the limits….
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
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)
The chenin blanc’s from the Loire Valley are my picks here. Good value wines that also can age. Even older vintages that you buy now are good priced.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Beetroot baked in salt, bone marrow, ox and beetroot jus together with “A tribute to Grace”, Grenache, from Santa Barbara Highlands, USA. The perfect combination.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Wachau in Austria. You find the best rieslings growing on steep terraces, to match with local cold cuts from a local Heuringen, or you dine fine at Knoll´s Loibnerhof or at Jamek´s. If you want to enjoy the rest of the Austrian wine world, Vienna is 45 minutes away!
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.
2010 Grüner Veltliner Kamptaler Terrassen, Weingut Bründlmayer, Kamptal, Austria
2006 Riesling Hubacker, Weingut Keller, Rheinhessen, Germany
2010 Sancerre, Les Romains, Domaine Vacheron, France
2011 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Bachelet, France
2008 Pintia, Ribera del Duero, Spain
1995 TBA NO 12, Weinlaubenhof Kracher, Austria. If you ever come across one of these bottles, drink it slowly and enjoy!