Do you have a favourite wine bar? “28/50, always a great selection” Sommelier Marc Piquet
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.
Marc Piquet, United Kingdom
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I am the Head Sommelier at The Greenhouse restaurant Mayfair, part of the MARC ltd.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Umu restaurant. Perhaps the best Asian restaurant in London. The flavours, the precision of execution blown me away
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Restaurant Calima in Marbella. Some old sherry by the glass and a great diversity
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Restaurant Sat Baines in Nottingham. The food was just incredible, combinations of flavours, texture, and creativity, absolutely outstanding.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Kitchen W8, close to High Street Kensington. Great value, delicious dishes and a great friendly service
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I generally enjoy cooking and try to be adventurous but one of my favourite is pan fried scallops with chorizo and sweetcorn puree; delish!!
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
28/50, always a great selection
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
I am in a Nebbiolo phase….but I like to change from time to time and share bottles and experience with friends
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Not a wine but more the wine in general and the people I was working with when I was apprentice. The passion and interactivity they had with the guests really motivate me to become a sommelier.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
White wine from Coster del segre in Spain from the winery Castell D’encus. They make some kind of unusual blends (such as Riesling Albarinho) for the area and the wines are outstanding
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)
Lalama, Dominio do Bibei 2009, Ribeira Sacra Spain
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
It was at the restaurant with the chef and his new pan fried foie gras dish with fennel pollen, plum puree and cocoa nibs. We decided to match it with Chateau Fonsalette white 2003, the richness of the foie gras with the unctuosity of the vintage with a touch of smokiness slightly pity and such a great tension was I think one the best food and wine pairing I‘ve ever made
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Must be Burgundy!! But what about Germany, Rhone Valley, Portugal….they all have something special.
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.
Barolo Cascina Francia Giacomo Conterno 2005
Riesling Graacher domprobst spatlese Willy schaeffer 2009
Hermitage Chave 1990
Grahams 1982 Tawny
Leoville las cases 1959
Brunello di montalcino Gianfranco Soldera 2006