“I recently had a wonderful pairing of Scottish Venison with Cabernet Franc ~ a 2006 Bourgeil from Jacky Blot, chocolaty and Gamey delicious!” Sommelier Stuart Skea
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.
Stuart Skea, Scotland, UK
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
21212 Restaurant Edinburgh
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
The Pompadour in Edinburgh, classically proportioned with wonderful Scottish produce
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
The Champany Inn in Linlithgow (just outside Edinburgh) has a mightily impressive cellar and an old school charm and warmth
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
A wonderful dinner last October at Akelarre in San Sebastien
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Oh yes! Whenever I get the chance, I am not sure if I have perfected anything but I’m quite into my bread making and I think I have perfected Brioche
Do you have a favourite wine bar?
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Edinburgh’s own Raeburn Fine Wines
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
Loire Cabernet Francs and Chenin Blancs, a Palo Cortado at this precise moment
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
A 1986 Gentaz Dervieux Cote Rotie Cote Brune an elegant, profound wine with layers and layers of flavour. A style that is sadly ebbing away
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Austria. For both with and reds, wonderful dry Rieslings and Gruner Veltliner. And there are some excellent Zweigelts and Blaufrankischs around, excellent value and very food friendly too!
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)
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
I recently had a wonderful pairing of Scottish Venison with Cabernet Franc ~ a 2006 Bourgeil from Jacky Blot, chocolaty and Gamey delicious!
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
The beauty of the Mosel Valley is breath taking, lazily undulating river with vines, and people tenaciously clinging to vertiginous, precarious slopes
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.
Farrside 2011 Pinot Noir By Farr
Savennières ‘Clos de la Coulaine’ 2010 Château Pierre-Bise,
Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese 2010 Emrich-Schönleber,
Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 1989 R. Lopez de Heredia
2002 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs