We discuss the art of wine with those who make it, know it and sell it. Excellent wine demands tremendous amounts of skill, knowledge, perseverance and commitment. Despite this, everyone we spoke to was at pains to demystify the process…
Savour the earth
As a young woman Arianna Occhipinti was drawn back to her native Sicily by the wine she grew up with and the soil that provided its flavour. To successfully produce organic wine in a male dominated island where irrigation and chemical sprays are standard practice is a testament to her energy and drive. Her passion for the deep red limestone soil, the birds, flowers and herbs that are encouraged to co-exist with her vines, all comes through in the Frappato and Nero d’ Avola grapes. And it’s here that the flavour of her wine is developed, in the heat of the day and the cool of night and not in the cellar.
“When I started making wine, I just had this one hectare, a plastic bucket and a second-hand steel tank." Arianna Occhipinti
The serious side of sommeliers
Winner of the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2016, Marc exemplifies the passion for wine that all diners require when choosing the perfect accompaniment to their meal. “For a long time I had the dream of becoming a physicist. I still enjoy numbers, but my passion is more for people, culinary, travelling and languages, which lured me towards the hospitality industry”. Whilst initially being quite unimpressed by alcoholic beverages, an induction into the hotel trade soon had him hooked on the enormous variety of wines, spirits and cocktails.
Marc’s winning streak began with the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeune Sommelier of Germany in 2015, a world cup in Adelaide, a second in the German Nationals and German contestant of the Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup in Cape Town. So what makes an award winning sommelier? “Humility, curiosity and a good memory.”
What do we really want from a good sommelier? A great wine and pairing advice, Marc obliged: “Buy and cellar some Pinotage from Sebastian Beaumont, a cool climate producer from Walker Bay in South Africa. Open it in a couple of years with some grilled poultry and you'll be amazed by its elegance.”
“I tend to the service of the two star Michelin restaurant Haerlin… Having gotten this job at a mere 22 years old is an honour.” Marc Almert
Tansy took the Silver award back to Shanghai where he learned his craft in some of the finest hotels in the city, as well as the “Wine and Spirits Education Trust” in 2010, and then the “Court of Master Sommelier” in 2013. He believes a good sommelier is “one who can deliver the philosophy of the winemaker to the guests properly.”
Tansy’s indispensable wine collection favourite and pairing suggestion is: “With German riesling, both dry and sweet, I suggest spicy Chinese or Thai food, such as poached seafood or sashimi.”
And his guilty pleasure? “Sherry Amontillado, for such a beverage, I have to drink it with food, such as Shanghainese braised pork in soy sauce.”
"I don’t compete with others, I compete with myself." Tansy Zhao
Norbert grew up in an isolated range of Polish hills, with forests and lakes, rich in great honeys, white cheeses, oils, sausages - all organic and full of flavours. It is no coincidence that he is now the sommelier at three Michelin starred Geranium Restaurant in Copenhagen.
Winning Bronze at the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards was a great achievement, but for the ambitious Norbert, it also spurred him on: “Bronze has two sides. One is that you are in a group of the best already, second that there is more to accomplish, that you need to work a little bit harder. I was very happy.”
And his top tip and pairing suggestion? He gets technical. “Makovicza Szent Tamás from Budaházy in Tokaji so Furmint with residual sugar, high acidity, ripe, yellow fruits and touch of honey, some vintages show botrytis character. Pair with marinated mackerel with parsley and chilli oil and fresh green beans, umami gel.”
“To be a good sommelier you need to love what you do, it needs to be your passion, your mission." Norbert Dudzinski
The world’s best wine bars
Whilst we rave about the beauty of natural, or terroir wines, finding them can be a task. To guide you on your odyssey, we have compiled a list of bars with a passion for wine made by vignerons who focus on time-honoured cépages that best capture their local land’s potentialities.
These establishments also serve amazing food and are manned by friendly sommeliers to recommend the ideal pairings. For ‘unicorn wines’, from unusual places, for sulphur free, additive free, exotic wines of all colours, these bars will allow you to explore the world from the comfort of your table.
“You’re not here just to navigate a serious collection of hard-to-find natural wines from cult vintners with limited productions, you’re here to have fun.” New York Times