What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style? “Generally I am beginning to appreciate and discover the wines of the Hunter Valley in Australia.” Sommelier Diego Meraviglia
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.
Diego Meraviglia, United States (via Italy…)
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I consult for many establishments as freelance and I mainly work as Vice President & Director Of Education for the North American Sommelier Association
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
Il Piccolo in Venice, Los Angeles, CA
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Madeo, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Tough question. Depends on so many variables and mood. I think one of the dinners I will never forget was with my wife in Limoux, France at the Auberge Moderne et Pigeon in 2005.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Yes, Gjelina in Venice.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Yes I grew up in Northern Italy where cooking at home was an intrinsic part of the culture. I cannot pin-point one dish, but definitely the Piemontese dish called ‘Tapulon’, which is a minced meat based stew with polenta, is amongst my fortes.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Yes I usually list Press Club in San Francisco as one of my favourite spots.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Didier Dagueneau, SILEX, Pouillly Fume’ 2002.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2006, Biondi Santi. I have almost never tried something more complex and engaging.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Generally I am beginning to appreciate and discover the wines of the Hunter Valley in Australia.
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)
A store that miss-priced a Sagrantino Di Monteflaco ’25 years’ of Arnaldo Caprai, 1999…they had it at $29 a bottle on the shelf ! Normally though, I think that Broadbent’s Vinoh Verde remains one of the best bangs for your buck, as well as the Carmignano from Villa Artimino.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Nothing particular, I feel many establishments and Somms tend to overlook and ignore this really important aspect of gastronomy. However, a nice pasta with a genuine pesto (no cream or chicken!) and a glass of Vermentino, Riviera Ligure Di Ponente DOC, Bio Vio is heaven.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
My home region…Val D’Ossola in Piemonte.
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.
Eye-opening, universe unfolding and totally illuminating…
1. “Prunent” Valli Ossolane Nebbiolo superiore DOC, Cantine Garrone
2. “SILEX” Pouilly Fume’ AOC, Didier Dagueaneau
3. Champagne Rose’ ‘Les Vignes De Vrigny’, Egly-Ouriet
4. Passito Di Pantelleria “Ben Rye”, Donnafugata
5. Riesling Auslese, ‘Wehlener Sonnenhur’, Joh.Jos.Prum
6. Merlot ‘Howell Mountain’, Napa Valley, Duckhorn