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…
Savor 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 flavor. To successfully produce organic wine on 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 and the birds, flowers and herbs that are encouraged to co-exist with her vines comes through in the Frappato and Nero d’Avola grapes. And it’s here that the flavor 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
A 2016 Gaggenau Sommelier Award winner, Marc exemplifies the passion for wine that diners indulge in 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 passions have shifted to people, cuisine, traveling and languages, which lured me towards the hospitality industry”. While initially being quite unimpressed by alcoholic beverages, entering the hotel business 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 place in the German Nationals, and being a German contestant in 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? Great wine and good advice what food to pair it with, says Marc: “Buy and lay in some pinotage from Sebastian Beaumont, a cool-climate producer from Walker Bay in South Africa. Open it in a couple of years to serve with some grilled poultry, and you'll be amazed by its elegance.”
“I tend to the service of two-star Michelin restaurant Haerlin… Having gotten this job at a mere 22 years of age is an honor.” Marc Almert
Tansy took the Silver award back to Shanghai where he learned his craft in some of the city's finest hotels as well as the “Wine and Spirits Education Trust” in 2010, and then the “Court of Master Sommelier” in 2013. He believes that a good sommelier is “one who can properly deliver the winemaker’s philosophy to the guest.”
Tansy’s indispensable wine collection favorite and pairing suggestion: “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, because 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, forests and lakes, rich in great honeys, white cheeses, oils, sausages – all organic and full of flavors. It is no coincidence that he is now the sommelier at Geranium Restaurant in Copenhagen, which has three Michelin stars.
Winning the bronze medal at the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards was a great achievement, but also an incentive for the ambitious Norbert: “Bronze has two sides. One is that you are in a group of the best already. The other is 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 chili 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
While we rave about the beauty of natural, or terroir wines, finding them can be quite 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-honored cépages that best capture their local land’s potentialities.
These establishments also serve amazing food and are manned by friendly sommeliers who can recommend ideal pairings. For ‘unicorn wines’ from unusual places, sulphur-free, additive-free, exotic wines of all colors, 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