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.
Tim Veys SC, Belgium
Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills (restaurant, hotel, consulting etc)?
Sommelier Conseil (consultant) at Wine Import Demeyer
Co founder Meyer’s Gin
Where have you dined recently (restaurant) that impressed you?
That must be 1 Michelin-starred Margaretha’s in Oudenaarde (Belgium). I went there in December last year and enjoyed it very much. The chef even managed to blow me away with the best dish I ever had.
Where have you dined (restaurant, wine bar) that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?
Because of our long history with French wines it isn’t too hard to find restaurants with an overwhelming list, but still I was very surprised to see a vertical collection (1982-2005) of Mouton Rothschild, Petrus and Cos d’Estournel at a very small restaurant near my hometown. For an impeccable service and out-of-the-box-wines I love to visit my friend Tijs Coessens at Dell’anno Kortrijk. He’s is extremely passionate about wine and this is the most important. I really want to see and feel the passion for the wine, rather than an impressive service.
Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?
Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?
Not really, as a consultant I have to visit my clients, so no regular restaurant.
Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?
Once in a while I do cook an everyday meal, but when my friends come over it’s often my time to shine. I love cooking but it needs to be a challenge: the more ingredients the better J. My absolute favourite dish is definitely dessert.
Do you have a favourite wine merchant?
Not really, because of my job I get to taste a lot of wines and don’t need to buy a lot. Again I look for passion, in this case the passion for the wine the merchant sells. When I, myself, find this particular wine of great quality at a stunning price, I can’t stop talking about it. This is what I look for!
What wine are you drinking at the moment?
A bit too early to start drinking but I will definitely have a glass of Austrian Zuschmann Schoffmann today.
Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?
I tasted a Château Pétrus 1947 a few years ago at my grandparents’ house on New Year. I did take some lessons at that time and was in my first year Sommelier Conseil (l’Université du Vin – Suze-La-Rousse). At this point it wasn’t about taste only. It was also about respect! It wasn’t the best wine I had, but being able to drink something that has been in a bottle, untouched, for more than 60 years, did move me. From that day on, the way I look at wine has changed. I’ve become even more passionate and determined.
What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?
Not new at all of course, but I found a small winery ‘Weingut Zuschmann-Schoffmann” in Martinsdorf, Austria that is producing amazing wines. Untill now I tasted 9 of their wines (Gruner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Pinot Noir, Riesling) and all of them are of very high quality at an interesting price.
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)
That must be the Papa Luna from Escoces Volante, Calatayud. This used to be (one of) the house wine(s) of El Bulli. I’ve tasted some wines made by Norrel Robertson MW and every time I’m stunned about the price/quality. Norrel manages to put the Spanish sun in the glass without too much alcohol. The balance is just perfect!
Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.
I remember a workshop I had at Suze-La-Rousse with teacher Olivier Bompas. I really like his points of view on wine and food pairing. One particular combination was a crème brulée with Vin Jaune. A match made in heaven!
What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?
Definitely Bordeaux, the ‘cuisine’ isn’t that extraordinary, but I was overwhelmed by all of the chateaux I’ve only knew from the books and internet.
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
Weingut Zuschmann-Schoffmann, Martinsdorf – Austria
Zerberus (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Zweigelt) 2012
D&B Cuvee Décadente 2009
Sauvignon Blanc Limited Edition
Bishop’s Leap 2011, Marlborough, New-Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc(wine made by McGettigan)
Château Montrose, any vintage, my passion for wine began with this domain
Escoces Volante, Calatayud – Spain
Papa Luna 2010 (Grenache, Syrah, Monastrell, Mazuelo)
J. de Telmont, Champagne
Blanc de Blancs millesimé 2005