The Sommelier’s Palate – Indra Kumar


(pronounced suh-mal-‘yAy)

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.

Sommelier’s Palate – Indra Kumar – Buyan Russian Restaurant & Caviar Bar

Indra Kumar (CS), (CSW) – Singapore

Singapore Best Sommelier 2009

Competed in semi-final for Asia-Oceania Best Sommelier Competition 2009 (in Japan)

Competed in Quarter Finals for World Best Sommelier Competition 2010 (in Chile)

Certified Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers)

Certified Specialist of Wine (Society of Wine Educators)

Advanced Level Certification (WSET)


Where do you currently practice your sommelier skills?


Buyan Russian Restaurant & Caviar Bar

Where have you dined recently that impressed you?

DB Bistro Moderne in Marina Bay Sands, the Steak and Dessert were outstanding.



Where have you dined that you were mightily impressed with the wine list and service?


Osteria Mozza in Marina Bay Sands – I was totally awed to see them carrying Italian labels with vintages as old as 1940s. It might be common to have such vintages for French wines, but to my knowledge, it is remarkable indeed to have such old vintages of Italian Wines.



Where is the most memorable restaurant meal you have had?


In Verona near the Arena – A very old restaurant called Ristorante Ai 12 Apostoli; before commencing your dinner, you get invited to the basement for prosecco and canapés and look through the walls which are decorated with pictures and signatures of very famous people.

Do you have a favourite regular restaurant?


I like to quite often head down to Magma German Restaurant and Bar for their authentic German dishes as well German wines from small but quality producers.


Do you cook at home and is there a dish you have perfected?

I only cook during day off from work, when I am at home the whole day. I do enjoy cooking Spaghetti with pesto sauce and with it I prefer to have at least 2 glasses of dry Muscat from the wine of L’Elephant, Musk Blanc from the Cotes Catalanes in France.



Do you have a favourite wine bar?

Right now I do enjoy going to Praelum wine Bistro in Duxton Hill, just near my work place. The sommelier there is exceptional in selecting a wide range of wines from cool and warm climate styles. And you can pay small amount for tasting portions of the wines.



Do you have a favourite wine merchant?

I work with importers and distributors. If I need buy a good bottle of wine for gatherings etc, I prefer to go to Ponti Cellars or Straits Wine Company for good offers for retail purchases.


What wine are you drinking at the moment?

Mencia and Godello from Valdeorras (Spain), Pinot Noir from Waitaki Valley (New Zealand) and Albarino from Rias Baixas (Spain)

Is there a wine that totally moved you – like no other wine – a revelation and motivation for you to pursue you wine obsession?

A 2001 Barbera d’Alba by Bruno Giacosa of Piedmont (Italy)

What’s your latest wine discovery – new region, variety or style?

Georgian Native White Grape Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane Blended wine from the winery of Tbilvino (Georgia)



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)


1989 Cos d’Estournel from Saint-Estephe from Bordeaux (France). It was an amazing quality compared to the prices


Tell us about an inspirational wine and food pairing that has you have experienced recently.

I was quite surprised to experience by chance a Pinot Noir by Neudorf winery from Nelson (Moutere 2010, went extremely well with Borscht (a Russian Soup made from beetroot and pieces of beef). Now that I wasn’t expecting



What is the most enthralling wine region you have been to in terms of dramatic scenery, inspiring vineyards and good eating?

For me, Soave has been inspirational. Might not be the best place for Cuisine, but after going through the Castle of Soave, and visiting the vineyards, the simple pastas tasted so declicious!



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.

The wines that I have selected below are drinking the best as of this year 2012, and they have produced outstanding wines to reflect the terroir of the individual regions. It brings you from the Riesling to Sauvignon Blanc then to the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and finally ending in Bordeaux with Cabernet Sauvignon Blend.


  1. 1. Hermann Donnhoff,  Riesling, Hermannshohle “Grosses Gewachs”, Nahe, Germany, 2009
  2. 2. Didier Dagueneau, ‘Buisson Renard’, Loire Valley, 2004
  3. 3. Remoissenet Père et Fils, ‘Les Folatières’, 2005
  4. 4. Robert Groffier, ‘Les Amoureuses’ 1er Cru, Chambolle-Musigny, 1999
  5. 5. E. Guigal, ‘La Mouline’, Cote-Rotie, 1994
  6. 6. Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe, 1989





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