“Their white, Le Blanc de Casot, delivered in the glass the same fragrance of the sea breeze and wild herbs I smelt along the way up and back. It was mind blowing.” Sommelier Sara Bachiorri, Chez Bruce Restaurant, London
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.
Sara Bachiorri, Italy
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Chez Bruce Restaurant, 2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Le Gavroche – London, England
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Andrew Edmunds in Soho, London
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
I’ve had several great meals in London and outside, it’s difficult to pick one! I still think that the Ledbury provides a fantastic dining experience, the food has the wow factor. I still remember the scallops starter with frozen horseradish I had.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Not really, it depends on where I find myself and who I am with most of the time
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I enjoy cooking at home whenever I have time. Lasagna from scratches and tiramisu’ seem to be my friend’s favourites
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Not really. Often my flat (or someone else’s) is a good place to gather with friends and open few bottles
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Nebbiolo in all shapes or forms, from Langhe Nebbiolo to Barolo and Barbaresco. I think it’s great for this time of the year
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
I was in Banyuls visiting Le Casot de Mailloles, a tiny natural project. We walked up in the vineyard and then back to the cellar for tasting. Their white, Le Blanc de Casot, delivered in the glass the same fragrance of the sea breeze and wild herbs I smelt along the way up and back. It was mind blowing.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Canada’s dry wines are of great quality. We don’t see much of it (if any) here in London. Very good Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Laughing Stock vineyard in British Columbia makes top class Syrah.
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)
Chateau Maris La Touge Minervois la Liviniere. I first discovered it with Vintage Roots and was on my wine list (back at The Glasshouse in Kew) at £30. A great bargain
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
We had a starter of crisp lamb breast with oriental salad, chilli, soy, sesame and mint on the menu a couple of months back and I paired it with Riesling Kabinett, Johannishofberg V Rheninghau, Germany or a fresh style Gewurztraminer such as Les Terres Blanches from Mittnacht and everyone was pleasantly surprised by how well food and wine worked together.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
There are many places in my “to visit” list. I’m just back from Piemonte: there are no words to describe the beauty of it, in terms of colours, hospitality and quality of food. Beaujolais is great, the hills, the little villages, and the people I met there left a mark in my memories. British Columbia comes first in terms of scenery, the combination of lakes and mountains is breath taking. The wine world is always extremely welcoming and full of inspiring and passionate people willing to share their knowledge and experience. Wherever you go there will be good memories to bring back home (and some good bottles too!)
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.
This is a real challenge! I’ll pick some of my favourites, but there is so much good wine out there that 6 btls is a very small selection
2010 Meursault, Les Meix Chavaux, Château Génot-Boulanger
2007 Riesling Spätlese Trocken G.G., Ungeheuer, Georg Mosbacher Forst, Pfalz, Germany
2005 Bussiador Poderi Aldo Conterno
1999 Volnay-Santenots-du-Milieu 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon
2001 Gran Caus, Can Ràfols dels Caus, Penedès
2003 Amarone Velluto Meroni