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.
Matthias Breitsameter, Germany
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Restaurang 28+, Gothenborg, Sweden
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
I think that is difficult to answer, there are many restaurants with its own charm and style. But recently I have been on a wine trip in Germany, Mosel and had a fabulous Riesling soup at the restaurant of the Hotel Richtershof.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
No, I have seen many wine lists but I guess with time you get used to it or let’s say not impressed, perhaps I have not seen the right one yet.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Restaurant Riedenburg Salzburg, Austria. Unfortunately it does not exist anymore. And the problem is if you work in a Michelin star restaurant and taste all their sauces and dishes, the barrier of good food is quite high.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
No, I like to try new ones all the time.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I do cook at home, and when I do I try the wine first and adjust to the it, since I am born and raised in Bavaria and lived in Austria for over 10 years I am pretty good in making Wiener Schnitzel.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Divine AB from Stockholm, I like the people working there without pressure selling
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Right now I had a Defuk from Antica Cantina Leonardo in Lazio, Italy. Very interesting Merlot based red.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Well a couple of years ago on Christmas Eve my mother made her famous duck for dinner, and she ask me if I do not have a nice bottle of red? I was not so much into the wine business, but I have been on a wine trip to Burgenland, Austria in 2001 and I bought a case of Cuvee Lärchenfeld (Cabernet Sauvignon, Bauernschaft and Zweigelt) vintage 2000 from Weingut Lehmann in Illmitz. I opened the bottle, I guess it was 2010 I opened it, and it was fantastic, soft tannins and well balanced to the duck and my mom and fiancé said I should be Sommelier. Three weeks later I started my master sommelier course.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
A while ago I tried a Alsace pinot blanc, and it was blended with Auxerrois. I was thinking what is that for a grape. So I ordered a bottle of Auxerrois 2009 from Luxembourg, and on the Mainzer Weinbörse 2014 in Germany I tried a sparkling Auxerrois made in 2007 from Schloss Sommerhausen in Franken, Germany. It was made with the methode de Champingnoise and on its lees for 6 years. Both were exceptional delicious and I think that the grape is underrated.
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)
Chile delivers some really good quality and quantity with interesting dry red wines, like the pinot noirs from Bio Bio Valley.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Wine and food pairing is a science and is fun. Recently I had a pairing with Valrhona chocolate variation desert with caramel ice cream and a fortified red wine from Banyuls, perfect match.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Definitely Mosel, the landscape is amazing, so are there vineyards, very steep. The people are very friendly and passionate about their wines, the food is has a lot of kilo gaining potential.
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.
1. Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, 2011, Ried Loibenberg, Weingut Tegernseehof, Wachau Austria
2. Riesling Berg Schlossberg, Weingut Balthazar-Ress 2001, Mosel Germany
3. Pur Sang 2008, Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly Fume, France
4. Châteauneuf du Pape 2007 Reserve, Roger Sabon, Rhone valley France
5. Barolo 2008, Grimaldi, Piemont Italy
6. Recioto dela Valpolicella 2007, Luigi Righetti, Italy