“What I really have started to appreciate over the last year(s) is New Zealand chardonnay. So many great examples, much more interesting than their sauvignon blancs and the Millton Clos St Anne Chardonnay is perhaps the best new world chardonnay I have ever tasted.”
Job Seuren, Sommelier at Restaurant De Librije, Netherlands
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.
Job Seuren, The Netherlands
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Restaurant De Librije, Librije’s Hotel and Librije’s Zusje (Librije’s Sister, our second restaurant)
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Restaurant Vermeer in Amsterdam, a restaurant with its own personal pure elegant refined style of cooking which is much underrated and a lovely pleasant service. Looking forward to El Celler de Can Roca next week. (updat - I went to El Celler Can Roca and it was definitely the most amazing fantastic awesome wow dinner I have ever had! Beautiful restaurant, amazing food, great service and a finger-licking wine list accompanied by a fantastic team of 5 sommeliers. Drank the Nun Xarel.lo 2007 adviced to me and it was a hole-in-one perfect advice.)
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Ma Cuisine in Beaune has an extensive list and is a great place for wine lovers. In The Netherlands I think Cordial in Oss is one of the best, especially when it comes to wine service. Roy Pelgrim is the best sommelier in The Netherlands.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
A Fuego Negro in San Sebastian at a fantastic tapas bar. Had a small dinner there after having had lunch in a reputed 3 star restaurant… had a great experience in both, but perhaps more fun here. And good champagne for 4,5 € a glass!
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Cafe Schiller in Amsterdam. Very good wines, mostly natural, but well selected, good comfortable food, good prices. Everything a sommelier wants on his/her day off. Every time I go to Paris I visit Café des Musées… characteristically old fashioned Paris.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I do cook sometime, but not a perfectionist in the kitchen.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Yes! Vinoblesse who sells fantastic authentic pure wines
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Coffee, it’s only 13.30 hrs. Wine I can always drink: Morgon by Lapierre and Champagne.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
No and I don’t believe anyone has that. You might remember a wine from long ago, but it’s always a combination of that with so many others and your own curiosity.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I’m proud to have brought Inedito Rioja to The Netherlands last year. I was recently amazed by Stonier Pinot Noir… never would have thought it Australian. But what I really have started to appreciate over the last year(s) is New Zealand chardonnay. So many great examples, much more interesting than their sauvignon blancs and the Millton Clos st Anne Chardonnay is perhaps the best new world chardonnay I have ever tasted.
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)
Mas Jullien, Coteaux du Languedoc, specifically the red wines. Such amazing wines… cannot find that quality for even double the price in Bordeaux. And basically any Grosses Gewachs wine is great price/quality rapport.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
It is corny, but my own boss, Therese, made a fantastic wine and food pairing menu last year with a chilled Isole e Olena Chianti and 2000 Chateau Musar white with mackerel and carrot beurre blanc… out of this world.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
The entire wine route of South Africa. From Stellenbosch to Swartland… good food everywhere, amazing scenery and lovely wines of course. Lots of diversity in vineyards as well in such a small region.
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.
Chateau Latour, no matter the vintage. A benchmark, any wine lover needs to have drunken this to know what a true Bordeaux is like.
Lammershoek white blend, one of the best South African whites. Made by two people who respect tradition and nature, but strive for the ultimate in their own reasoned timing.
Morgon by Lapierre. Proof that wine can take you from breakfast to dinner without a bother.
Millton Clos St Anne Chardonnay. Intense, ripe, balanced, pure harmony, constantly interesting. Wine to meditate.
Equipo Navazos, La Bota de Amontillado No. 31. Ultimate sherry. Dry raisins, nuts, salinity, complexity, everlasting finish. To accompany my other hobby: cigars
Knoll, Gruner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd 2010. A wine to proof that a crappy vintage can bring astonishing wines if the viticulturist knows what he or she is doing. And a label you will never forget.