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.
Philippe Perreault, Canada
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
I’m a wine blogger on www.nataliemaclean.com and I am also wine consultant and wine educator.
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
La Tomate Blanche is an Italian fine dining restaurant locate Montreal South Shore. They have good wine selection from Italy and the food is delicious. I had a good service, the waiters were very professional.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Steirereck Vienna, Austria! Excellent extensive wine list, good food, good service. I enjoyed duck. Also all the beautiful views I saw make that’s experience unforgettable.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada! Before I became Sommelier in 2005, I was travelling North America with my family. We stopped at Moraine Lake Lodge for dinner after a day visit. It was a cool day but inside, we had a good fire place. I took the rack of lamb like main course and we ordered 2 bottles of Black Hills Estate Nota Bene 2003, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada. We had a lot of fun together; one of the best moments of my life.
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
I love Tenka Sushi. It’s not far from home and BYO wine so I can bring a good bottle of riesling from my cellar.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Yes I do! My grandmother was cook in an Italian fine dining restaurant. My mother learned from her and when I was younger I learned from my mother.
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Vinomania Reims, Champagne, France. They have an excellent choice of wine by the glass.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Now that it is not winter, I’m tasting a lot of Canadian small wineries that I don’t know of every kind, sparkling, red, white, rose, ice wine…A lot of sparkling’s from Nova Scotia, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Ontario, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc from British Columbia and even rosé and ice wine from Quebec.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
Absolutely, I remember that was at Montreal Passion Vin event in 2006. I was a volunteer Sommelier for this event with many others Sommeliers from Quebec. I tasted a lot of wines from different estates, but the Penfolds’s Grange 1994 from Australia was wonderful. I was hooked!
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada. They make good white and red but their speciality is Traditional Method sparkling. Like Binjamin Bridge who grow mainly pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier and riesling to make their sparkling.
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)
Abadia Retuerta’s Rivola Sardon Del Duero, Spain. The winemakers Pascal Delbeck and Angel Anocibar are passionate about wine, like me. With their Rivola, I have never been disappointed with any vintage since I tasted it the first time. That’s a wine around 25 Canadian dollars.
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
Matane shrimp with green peas purée and mango espuma (a kind of mango jelly), which I’ve been pairing it with Nagelsforst Weissburgunder (also known as Pinot Blanc) from Baden-Baden, Germany. It is a delicate wine with a somewhat exotic dish.
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
I’m divided between Paso Robles, California, Wachau in Austria and Alsace, France. A glass of local fine wine, a nice view and good meal equally a good experience.
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.
Champagne Moutard 2005 (100% Arbane) Arbane grape is very rare to find. That’s a chance to discover a new style of Champagne!
Jonathan Edwards Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 AVA Southampton, Connecticut, USA. This estate also involve in Napa Valley, California. We find some surprisingly Cabernet Sauvignon in Connecticut, like Napa Valley California. Around 35 $US
Henri Boillot Chassagne-Montrachet 1 er Cru Les Embrazées 2011. A true interpretation from a top Burgundy chardonnay producer. About 70 $ Ca.
Black Hills Estate Winery’Nota Bene 2003, Okanagan Valley British Columbia, Canada. An interesting complex new world Bordeaux style wine (46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc), very surprising wine. 52 $Ca
Abadia Retuerta Pago Negralada 1996, Sardon Del Duero, Spain. That’s the most noble grape of Spain ( Tempranillo). The vines are planted in deep gravel soils and produce wines with a distinctive firm, tannic character. Abadia Retuerta is the neighbour of Vega Sicilia. Expensive but to try once in your lifetime. 125 euro
Austin Hope Syrah 2006, Paso Robles California. A real taste of Paso Robles’s top Syrah. 40 $US