“Equipo Navazos #44 La bota de Vino Blanco “Florpower” MMX (Unfortified, 32 months under veil of flor and 8 months in sherry casks) with a sea anemone salad—razor clams, sea cucumber and seaweed. The salinity and the iodine character, either from the wine and the salad complement each other, and the length of both go very long together.” Carles Aymerich, Sommelier at Restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, Spain
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.
Carles Aymerich, Spain
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Restaurant Bo.Tic in Corçá, Girona.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Restaurante Nerua, in Bilbao, which is in the Museum Guggenheim. When you are coming in, the table is only set with a white table cloth, and as the food starts to come the colours and the flavours come to the table as a painting; in one of the dishes, they whispered us different things, to the three of us, than started a discussion till we realised that what we had, could have been any of the things they told us.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
At El Bulli in Cala Montjoi, Girona.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Restaurant el Roser 2 in L’Escala, Girona.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
My favourite dishes are the rice dishes, pigeon, and seafood, I cook a lot of fish at home, as I can buy very fresh fish almost directly from fish boats, and I don’t mind spend hours in my days off to cook it, the average is around 4 hours per meal.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Mon Oncle in Girona.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
No, I work with lots of them, and they are all important to me.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Wines from Jura.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
White Port from Niepoort 1917, I didn’t hear a noise, the time stopped while I was tasting it.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
The New white wines from Jerez area, aged with the same yeasts that they grow on sherry wines, which they call “La Flor”, in fact, that was the taste of the wine, 200 years ago, and there is no legislation for them.
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)
Partida el Pedrer 2011 from René Barbier and Sara Perez, it’s a 100% Garnatxa with no additives from Priorat which half of it is aged in anforas, reflects the character from the area but with less extraction, showing terroir but with an easy and fluid way. For the other side pleases my ecological convictions.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Equipo Navazos #44 La bota de Vino Blanco “Florpower” MMX (Unfortified, 32 months under veil of flor and 8 months in sherry casks) with a sea anemone salad—razor clams, sea cucumber and seaweed. The salinity and the iodine character, either from the wine and the salad complement each other, and the length of both go very long together.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
The Priorat Region. When you step on the same soil, from small and twisted vines, you understand why, the soul of the wine, reflects the suffering from the vineyard, and from the wine maker.
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.
Jacques Selosse. A.O.C. Champagne, Grand Cru blanc de blancs brut Substance
Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff. V.D.P. Nahe, (Grand Cru) Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle 2002
Pierre Overnoy. A.O.C. Arbois Pupillin, White Arbois Pupillin 2008
Domaine de l’Anglore. Vin de France, Cuvée Pierre Chaude 2011
Gaec Bonneau et fils. A.O.C. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Henri Bonneau Réserve des Celestins 1998
Domaine Huet. A.O.C. Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu 59 Moelleux