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.
Lara Caraturo – Sydney, Australia
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Just left a 7 ½ year stint at Pilu at Freshwater restaurant in Sydney’s northern beaches. I am now working on a project of my own creation, the ‘Sydney Italian Wine Festival’, to be held at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday 10th November 11.00am – 6.00pm. www.sydneyitalianwinefestival.com.au
I’m also still consulting, and have recently compiled a new wine list for the Welcome Hotel in Rozelle. Plus I am the project manager for Gambero Rosso’s first ever Australian event, ‘Top Italian Wines Roadshow’ which will be held in Sydney on March 10th 2014.
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?
Popolo, Rushcutters Bay – Interesting and unique presentation of Italian wines, great focus on the south of Italy, good variety of wine styles, a list with personality.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Alinea in Chicago about 6 years ago, truly amazing.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Love to cook, but don’t get as much time as I used to! Zuppa Gallurese, is a Sardinian bread soup, that I learnt how to make from Giovanni Pilu.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Love the Enoteca Sileno online shop, they have lots of Sicilian and old Piedmontese wines, plus the most amazing artisan food.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
I always drink a lot of sparkling and rich white wines, but at the moment there is also alot of Nebbiolo, and Etna reds.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Honestly can’t remember! I think it was really working in restaurants and exposure to food and wine and how they work together that opend up my mind to this crazy community!
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Etna in Sicily is my new favourite, adore both the whites made from Carricante and reds made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio
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)
Benanti ‘Rosso di Verzella’ from Sicily – great for Nebbiolo and Pinot drinkers too.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Salt and pepper squid and tofu with Bass Philip Gewurztraminer at Mr Wong.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
It would have to be in Italy, because no where in the world does wine and food go together like in this country, but very hard to choose! Maybe Barolo? Sicily? Sardinia?
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.
Berlucchi Franciacorta Rose ‘Cuvee Storica’ – Lombardy
Pieropan ‘Calvarino’ Soave – Veneto
Giotto Bini ‘Seragghia’ Zibbibo – Sicily
Panevino ‘Piccade’ Monica blend – Sardinia
Benanti ‘Rosso di Verzella’ Nerello Mascalese – Etna
Vajra ‘Langhe Rosso’ Nebbiolo blend – Piedmont