“Monvinic in Barcelona is a wine bar that leaves you impressed by their extensive wine, cuisine and high quality service together with their very professional staff. Highly recommended.” Sommelier Enrique Ávila Hernández
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.
Enrique Ávila Hernández, Spain
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
First of all, I am the founder of Le Nouveau Sommelier. This is a blog created in order to bring wine, beer, spirits and other drinks closer to the people, trying always to create original and professional posts, easy to understand and very fresh.
Moreover, I advise gourmet shops (Can Carter in Egham, Barcelona) and I am a sommelier-partner of several wineries in the province of Barcelona (Mas Macia, Bohigas and Kairos among others).
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
A restaurant that always impresses me is Cal Xim, located in Sant Pau d’Ordal (Barcelona) and where the Catalan and seasonal cuisine with wines in perfect harmony immerse you into some interesting sensations. Their specialty is grilled artichokes, a real pleasure.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Monvinic in Barcelona is a wine bar that leaves you impressed by their extensive wine, cuisine and high quality service together with their very professional staff. Highly recommended.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
El Velero in Sitges, a restaurant specialized in Mediterranean cuisine. They offer a new menu every season and the wine list is very balanced. It´s unique and elegant decoration is in keeping with the surroundings. Stands out because of their rice, fish and seafood.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Nou Urbisol in Castellolí (Barcelona), where the Catalan cuisine is designed to enjoy real traditional products. Combines excellent menu with faultless service.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I do not usually cook at home, but a dish that I improved and I always offer to my guests is “Salt Beef with Dijon mustard sauce and tangerine”. Talking about the perfect wine in combination with it, my selection is “Alges” Clos Pons a red wine from Costers del Segre.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Although I live in Barcelona, whenever I have time I love to go to “Tabancos” in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz), a kind of Andalusian tavern, and taste their amazing wines, particularly the Amontillado.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
A very interesting shop in both direct sales and online sales, is Barcelona Vinos. They have a very interesting wine list.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
“NOA” Mas Macia Cava, excellent for it´s fine and elegant bubbles. His special blend of highly structured Pinot Noir and Xarelo is remarkable.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
The big French Syria from the Rhone is memorable for me. I still remember the first drink and then come to my mind the tasting notes.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
One of my latest wine discovery was the Garnacha Blanca by Terra Alta, and specifically the wine Tern in different vintages. In the DO Terra Alta has initiated a strategic plan to boost the local variety “Garnacha Blanca”. They are very well structured and versatile when pairing complex wines.
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 wine that I often take is Caliza Dominio Valdepusa, a wine of excellent “vino de pago” at a very affordable price.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
A very interesting pairing that I have done lately is “fricandó” a typical Catalan dish made of veal and wild mushrooms, with Kairos a very intense garage wine with personality and natural grape variety of Tempranillo.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
I remember a memorable trip to the DO Ribera Del Duero, particularly Peñafiel, with its majestic castle (also wine museum) from where you can see a vast panorama of vineyards in this area. For most charming you may eat in the sixteenth century brasserie Molino de Palacios a good lamb, of course accompanied by Lagrima Negra from Bodegas Santos Arranz.
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.
“Cava Noa” Mas Macia.
“Kairos” Wine Garage.
“Caliza” Dominio Valdepusa.
“Alges” Clos Pons.
“Tern” D.O Terra Alta.
Any Syrah French Rhone Valley.