“2011 Domaine des Roches Neuves – Saumur Champigny – Loire, France. It completely blew my mind. Layers of flavour, well-structured and a fair price.”
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.
Jessica Marinzeck, a Brazilian living in Malta
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I´ve worked as a Sommelière for a top restaurant and, after that, as Head of Sales for a wine importer. At the moment I´m in Brazil, where I run a YouTube channel educating people in a very simple way about wine and how to enjoy it whilst I prepare for my Advanced Sommelier Diploma.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
It was an Argentinian restaurant in São Paulo called 348. The steak was amazing and really well cooked. We also ordered some lamb which I think is a very hard meat to cook well – you either get right or wrong, there is no half way – and it, too, was excellent. Good wine list too, and instead of going for the traditional Malbec from Argentina, I had a Tannat from Uruguay, the producer was Vina Progresso. Good service and beautiful set-up.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Hakassan, in London was incredible. I´m a huge lover of Asian food and the ambiance, the food, the wines and sakes were unforgettable.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
I´m going to say Asian again. I have a friend that was living in Bali in 2010 for a few months, so I decided to pay her a visit. One night she told me, I´m going to take you to a genuine Balinese restaurant by the beach. I have pictures of myself licking my fingers, in fact I´m not even looking at the camera because I was so concentrated on the food. Great flavours, great night!
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Well, when I´m in Malta I have two restaurants that I like the most. One is a very modern Japanese-Korean restaurant called Club Sushi. The chef is Korean and he is definitely doing a great job there. The second one is Assaggi; it´s a Maltese-Mediterranean restaurant, with a very refined wine list and a pork belly to die for.
In São Paulo, the city where I´m from, I really like the little local places. Our most famous dish is called feijoada, it consists of, black beans slow cooked with pork pieces that you eat with white rice, vegetables and the local farofa. So rich and so yummy.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
I´m definitely a foodie. I can cook but I prefer if someone cooks for me. I can say I make good strogonoff and a pan-fried calamari with herbs, both pretty easy to prepare and I absolutely love them.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
I´m spending some time in Brazil this year (2014), and I found a wine bar that has those machines that allow them to serve all of their wines by the glass so you can enjoy many great wines in one evening. It is such a great idea when it´s well structured. Great options, fair prices, nice atmosphere, skilled staff, this is probably my favourite wine bar at the moment.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Philippe Martinet, in Malta. I had the pleasure of working for him and, besides bringing the classic French wines to Malta, he also brings wonderful wines from all over the world including some very interesting organic and biodynamic wines.
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
I spent the last two years (2012 and 2013) in Malta, so I was drinking wines from everywhere except South America – not because I didn´t want to, but because there weren´t many labels available. So, now that I´m in Brazil, I´m dedicating most of my time to Chilean, Argentinian and Brazilian wines.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
One of the reasons I fell in love with wine, many years ago, was because of wines made from the riesling grape. Riesling really fascinated me because I was amazed how many very different wines could be made from this one grape. Some have flavours of lime, some of honey, some of petrol, some of white flowers – huge variety. It is so versatile that riesling is still my favourite grape for this reason.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Last November I took a trip to Áustria and I was impressed by the two red local grapes: Zweigelt and St. Laurent. What also impressed me was the Gemischter Satz wine made in Vienna from many white grape varieties.
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)
It is a wine that we had at the wine importer I worked in. 2011 Domaine des Roches Neuves – Saumur Champigny – Loire, France. It completely blew my mind. Layers of flavour, well-structured and a fair price. The moment I found out about it, I was suggesting this wine to everyone.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
In October 2013, I was participating on a wine seminar for winebloggers in Spain, and one of the lectures was about pairing wine and cheese. One of the pairings was a blue cheese from the Spanish Pyrenees with Taleia 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, D.O Costers del Segre “Castell d’Encus” also from the Spanish Pyrenees, and that was so good that I can still taste it!
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
I´m going to say the very first wine region I ever travelled to which was in South Africa. I took my backpack and decided to go by myself. The scenario was perfect, the weather was great, wines were lovely, delicious steak and my hotel was at the foot of the Table Mountain, in Cape Town. I had a great time there!
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.
What a difficult question, with so many great options out there and only 6 empty spaces to fill in. I think the following are great discoveries for a wine lover:
NV Cave Geisse Brut – Vale dos Vinhedos, Brasil
Brazil does produce a few good wines. We´ve got big companies as well as garage producers doing really well. And this is what Brazil is most proud of when it comes to wines – bubbles. And the Geisse family knows how to make it.
2012 Greywacke – Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough, New Zealand
Classic NZ Sauvignon Blanc. I love this country and its wines.
2011 Sybille Kuntz – Qualitatswein – Trocken – Mosel, Germany
I mentioned the grape Riesling and I had to put one on the list. Another classic Riesling from Mosel along with this great organic producer.
2011 Domaine des Roches Neuves – Saumur Champigny – Loire, France
This wine was love at first sniff. That was also my option as the best bargain ever.
2010 Arianna Occhipinti – Frappato – Sicily, Italy
The wine making in Sicily is developing so much, and Arianna Occhipinti is one of the producers that are taking over the world, in another organic option.
2010 Errazuriz Pinot Noir Estate – Aconcagua Costa, Chile
In the Brazilian market it´s hard to find Pinot Noir from New Zealand and some Burgudian and American labels aren´t accessible to everyone, so Chile comes as a great option. This wine is aromatic and sexy!