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.
Miguel Cruz Liljegren, Sweden
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Head Sommelier on 5 star resort in Maldives. NIYAMA by Per AQQUM
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Last week I had the great pleasure of dining at Gaggan Anands restaurant in Bangkok. Chef Gaggan has fused inspiration from the laboratories of El Bulli together with his native Indian flavors. The result is quite unique; progressive Indian one could call it.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
The resort of Huvafen Fushi here in Maldives is definitely one of the best for visiting wine lovers. They actually have an underwater wine cellar equipped with huge verticals of the crème de la crème of the old world. The pricing has in some cases not been changed in 8 years so there are some treasures at bargain prices in there.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
The meal that got me hooked on gastronomy was at the now closed Bon Lloc by chef Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm. My mother brought me there for my 18th birthday and the whole experience was extraordinary, both food and service. If I remember correctly both Andreas Larsson (meilleur sommelier du monde 2007) and Sören Polonius (semifinalist meilleur sommelier du monde 2010) where Sommeliers there at this time.
Do you have a favorite regular restaurant?
Le Comptoir des Tontons “Les Tontons” (Rue Faubourg Madeleine 22, Beaune), a great place for both lunch and dinner. Here you always meet some interesting people in the trade, and they must sell the most DRC wines in Beaune, perhaps challenged my Ma Cusine, my favorite place in Beaune.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
After living one year in Burgundy I must say that my Boeuf Bourgignon is pretty nice. This dish is all about the right beef cuts and. Time! Ideally I let it simmer over night.
Do you have a favorite wine bar?
Yes, Gaston wine bar in the Old Town part of Stockholm. Although focus lies on ambience and creating a including wine culture free of snobbism, their cellars is full of wines I like to drink myself. All the way from rainwater-wines like Schloss Lieser to rich white Burgundies like Domaine Valette and modern beauties like Buccella in Napa Valley.
Do you have a favorite wine merchant?
As I´m currently working in Maldives I must say that Navean Wines is my favorite of the around 10 wine merchant’s active here. As a buyer I look for a supplier that is reliable, doesn’t run out of fast moving products in high season and perhaps most importantly, always refrigerated transports.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
At the moment I’m enjoying some 2011s from GranMonte, likely the most quality minded winery in Thailand. The 2011 “Heritage” Syrah is impressive, tastes expensive, and the very possibly the best Asian Syrah ever made.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Yes, the first wine I ever remember buying had just that effect. A 2003 Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 tasted in 2005 was a true revelation. I just thought it was the most delicious liquid I ever drank. Since then my taste has changed, and still does.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
I think Bobal from Utiel-Requena is my latest discovery, I had not yet understood how elegant and almost Nebbiolo/Pinot Noir-like these wines can be. I would bet my money that we will see more Bobal in the future. Bobal´s high levels of reservatrol also makes it healthier than most reds.
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)
I will say Mosel Riesling on this one. These are among the most versatile and elegant white wines in the world and the prices are generally fair except for some chosen few, like Egon Müller. The beautiful and historic Bernkasteler Doctor vineyard is nowadays almost not even worth cultivating, because the prices of the wines are so low.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
A forgotten old magnum bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial with a grilled wagyu steak. The toasty mature champagne just melted together with the fat steak. It was heavenly, and displayed the versatility of Champagne.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Château-Chalon. With no doubt whatsoever. This medieval town in the Jura is the most beautiful and dreamy I can imagine. I had a delicate Caille au Morille (Bresse quail in creamy sauce aux morilles) on a small restaurant close to the church. This was pared with a 2005 Savagnin Pupillin from Overnoy/Houillon. To die for.
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.
2009 Cour-Cheverny, Philippe Tessier
2003 Macon-Chaintre, Domaine Valette
2006 Mas de Bazan Bobal Crianza, Argo de Bazan
1968 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, Marqués de Murrieta
1964 Barbaresco, Bruno Giacosa
1970 Oloroso, Bodegas Tradition