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.
Saskia Schurink, Netherlands
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
At the One Star Michelin HanTing Cuisine, The Hague, Netherlands
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
The Global Village Restaurant Dingle, Ireland
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Castas Pratos, Regua, Douro, Portugal
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Not really I always try new places.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Stewed beef Grandma’s style, and dad’s tomato salad with Dutch cheese sandwich
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Bart Wijnkopers, Purmerent, Nederland
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Weinbach Riesling, Alsace
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
S. Cristina Chardonnay Lugana 2001 this was in combination with Dutch old cheese Reypenaer VSOP, at the end of a long day’s work we had put some cheese on the bar to have a snack and when I sipped from the glass a new world of flavours opened up for me and I kept on sipping and sipping surging for more and every time I tasted something different. I knew in an instant this was what moved me en would move me for the rest of my live.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) from Germany, Austria, Alto Adige, because of the balance in acidity and elegance in aromatics, the minerality it can bring and the fine structure. I think it’s an undervalued grape variety which can surprise every one. I think Alois Lageder in Italy makes a beautiful one but also Kurt Angerer in Austria.
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)
Georg Siben, Weissburgunder, Pfalz
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
This was not recently but certainly most memorable. A couple of years ago we had a lunch in restaurant Cordial in Oss Holland, This was after the memorable Grosses Gewächs tasting organised by the Gilde of Sommeliers of the Netherlands.The head sommelier and his team made a combination between an Eiswein and Dutch Oyster, how freakily good it was surprised not only me but everybody.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
You might thing Portugal the Douro region would be the most impressive, but my latest visit to Montsant Area and Priorato, Spain totally changed my perspective on this. Montsant and for me, Capçanes a lonely village in the middle of beautiful nature with the only real kosher wine producer of Spain. Impressions of the landscape the variety of grapes produced, the integrity of the people, super fresh food from the land and not touristic in any way you really meet the people, this all together makes it so over whelming you’d never want to leave.
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.
The journey off wine always begins whit a question mark, when you start questioning why does it taste different? How is it made? Where it’s from? Who made this? What is his philosophy making this wine? Etc. etc. So try and compare these wines and you’ll stumble into a beautiful new world called wine.
Pulligny Montrachet, Patrick Javiller, 2009 vs Cervaro, Antinori 2010
Chateau Grillet, Rhône, France vs Condrieu, Louis Cheze cuvé de Brèze
Chateau d’Yquem vs Prosec, Mr Tomic Peninsula of Hvar, Kroatia