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Sommeliers are not the new rock stars of food and drink theyre the new DJs

Obsessive about their subject, the flair of the new spawn of master sommeliers lies in shaping the feeling and lining up seamless food and wine matches


Not so long ago, the phrase starring sommelier would have been considered an oxymoron in the English-speaking world. Wine awaiting was not seen as a job for the ambitious. It was reserved for the kind of pictures( and it was almost always a boy) who takes pleasure in attaining sarcastic statements while quizzing timid customers about the contents of his big, leather-bound book of potential faux pas, or dishonor them into spending more money than they crave on something theyve never heard of.

Such was the stereotype. Today things are rather different. Or at least, they are in the US, where resulting sommeliers are treated with something of the reverence and respect afforded to chefs, with huge salaries, book bargains and reality Tv shows (< em> Uncorked ). As the chef Michael Mina throws it in the documentary Somm , these are the new stone suns of the industry.

DJ may be a better comparison. Obsessive about their subject, the new breed of sommeliers are selectors and tastemakers rather than creators: their flair lies in shaping the feeling and lining up seamless matches of meat to wine. And, like DJing, the world of wine awaiting has become highly competitive, with its own arcane forms of professional recognition. The truly plum occupations are reserved for those select few members of the Court of Master Sommeliers, who have to pass a fiendish three-part quiz( wine knowledge, service and blind-tasting .) In virtually 50 years, a mere 239 people have emerged from the relevant procedures as members.

Although the bodys descents are British( it still has its head office in that bastion of old-style starchy fine-dining, Torquay ), around two-thirds of current lord sommeliers are American. No wonder when the health risks rewards in the States are so big: the average lord sommelier takes home around $150,000 a year, more than three times the average sommelier salary. But its not just about fund. According to the New Yorker , Geoff Kruth has emerged as an Anthony Bourdain of wine ,~ ATAGEND propelling sommelier status, and feeding mainstream curiosity.

Were not quite at that point in the UK. There is no Jamie Oliver of wine, and for most sommeliers, pay is still poor( below “the member states national” median at 24,173 according to ), the hours long and antisocial. But theres an increasing sensation of respect for the dedication and knowledge that the best sommeliers bring to the job and influential starrings are beginning to emerge. The daddy of them all is Gerard Basset, who co-founded Hotel du Vin and now runs his smaller scale wine-themed inn, TerraVina, in the New Forest. According to Chris Losh, editor of Imbibe magazine, other epithets to look out for include Christine Parkinson, head of wine at Hakkasan; Laure Patry, executive chief sommelier of Jason Athertons Pollen Street Social, and the 2016 UK sommelier of the year Terry Kandylis.

Then theres the French lord sommelier, and former Basset protege, Xavier Rousset who, Losh says, is softly constructing a restaurant empire with his new London undertakings Blandford Comptoir and the Burgundy-themed Cabotte. Previously the driving force behind the mini-chain of affordable London wine-bars 28 -5 0 and the famously brilliant wine listing at the Michelin-starred Texture, Roussets whole job displays just how far the wine waiter has come. Today, in some eateries, its not only the chef whos a star.

Six sommelier favourites

Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

Yannick Amirault La Coudraye Bourgeuil, France 2015
( 15.95,

Recently crowned UK sommelier of the year Mathias Camilleri shows his good taste with this delightful Loire red from a great vintage on his listing at Chelseas Five Fields, a pure cabernet franc with an effortless silkiness of texture and leafy-red fruit.

Albert Bichot Pure Crmant de Bourgogne NV
( 19,

Two of Britains best sommeliers, Xavier Rousset and Gearoid Devaney( the latter now head of Burgundy-specialist importers Flint Wines ), are behind new Burgundy-loving City restaurant Cabotte, where this classy all-chardonnay champagne-alike is a well-chosen bargain.

Binz& Bratt Riesling Gewrztraminer, Rheinhessen, Germany 2015
( 13.96,

Christine Parkinson presides over some of the most imaginative wine listings in the world at the various types eateries of the Hakkasan group, this pristine, subtly ginger-spicy and classically rose and lychee-scented German gewrz well-matched to the restaurants spicier offerings.

Percheron Old Vine Cinsault 2016
( 6.75,

Xavier Rousset may have moved closer, but, with Master Sommelier Clment Robert now in charge, the wine is in good hands at the excellent London mini-chain of modern wine saloons 28 -5 0, with this succulent, tangy illumination red, one of many bargains on the affordable list.

Catena Alta Historic Rows Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina 2014
( 18,

The Sommeliers Choice section of a wine listing was just a dumping ground for inventory a restaurant struggled to change; these days its likely a genuine showcase of favourite finds, such as this luminous, layered chardonnay picked out by Laure Patry and team at Pollen Street Social.

Franck Massard El Mago Garnacha, Terra Alta, Spain 2015
( 11.50,

Former UK sommelier of the year Franck Massard is one of a number of top sommeliers who have gone on to build successful second jobs as winemakers. One of several excellent reds he makes in various sites in Spain, this Catalan grenache is gloriously plump and juicy

Read more: https :// lifeandstyle/ 2017/ aug/ 20/ sommeliers-rock-stars-of-food-djs