For almost 42 years I have been in the food and beverage business and I may say that all restaurants have secrets just as all wine Chateaux and wineries in the world have secrets. What kinds of secrets are they? The secrets that wine Châteaux and wineries would rather not speak of are mostly regarding ownership, which is fine by me. As a Sommelier, I’d rather know the secrets from the wine-making side…
For almost 42 years I have been in the food and beverage business and I may say that all restaurants have secrets just as all wine Chateaux and wineries in the world have secrets. What kinds of secrets are they? The secrets that wine Châteaux and wineries would rather not speak of are mostly regarding ownership, which is fine by me.
As a Sommelier, I’d rather know the secrets from the wine-making side and I know that not all is revealed by wine-makers when questioned. I had my own experience of this in 1983 when visiting the Bordeaux Area of Medoc for the first time.
I should explain that at this time I was the head waiter of a small luxurious restaurant called Arvenstube in 5-star Hotel Waldhaus in Sils/Maria in Switzerland.
At this time my wine list was small, featuring around 100 different wines mostly from Switzerland, although we also stocked around 15 of the best Bordeaux wines, including Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Mouton Rothschild.
I did not yet know much about the behavior of fine wineries so I just walked straight into one of the most famous ones, Château Margaux. I did not see any office or anything to direct visitors so I opened the big door of the very long building and marched inside with confidence; I was sure to find somebody who would be willing to show me around! What then happened shocked me very much.
About 10 seconds after I had entered, I found myself surrounded by very large barrels and moving noises. Suddenly about 10 men were jogging towards me, one of them was questioning me in rather a threatening tone: “Qu’est que vous faites ici? Qui est vous?” (What are you doing here? Who are you?) I said very nervously, “I am the head waiter of a 5-Star hotel in Switzerland, I would only like to see your winery.” “Oh la la!” the man said; it seemed to me that he was the boss, (later I found out that he was the Chief wine-maker of Château Margaux). “You cannot just come inside our wine cellar and spy around,” “Allez vous,” (go away) they all said to me. And so all the men pushed me out. When I was outside I reassured myself that I would never go back there and I didn’t want to see the Château anymore anyway.
Many years later, after I became a Sommelier in 1993, I found out why these men were so angry about my being there. They had secrets to keep as each Château produces their wines differently from others. They thought I was on a spying mission from another Chateau, seeking to look in the corners and note what kind of sugar they would use if the grapes hadn’t enough naturally or what kind of yeast they would use to trigger fermentation or on which temperature they did the maceration. I am not a wine-maker but there are secrets in a wine cellar which are better not told, some wine-makers have told me.
Today what I find is – in a way – a crime. For example, Australian wines labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon may contain up to 25% of a different grape variety; the law in Australia says if the wine is made from 75% or above Cabernet Sauvignon, then you must label it “Cabernet Sauvignon”. But of course 25% of a different grape can change the whole body of the wine. Australia is not the only country in the world that enforces laws like this. So one of my questions is always, if I only see one grape variety on the label, is the wine made 100% of that grape?
Another secret wineries keep is regarding the use of yeast. Today there are so many different kinds of yeasts that a wine can be easily mutilated with uncharacteristic perfumes coming from the grape. This is often the case with Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling wines.
It is quite an adventure to find out about all these secrets and untold stories but I am always a bit ashamed for these wineries that do not tell the truth. But which businesses are really 100% truthful?
I wish you readers a great time in finding out more secrets in your life.
Chief Sommelier, The St. Regis Bali Resort
Harald Wiesmann, Restaurant Manager of the Asian inspired Haute Cuisine Kayuputi and Chief Sommelier at The St. Regis Bali Resort, has a very interesting career history spanning a number of years with different roles in various countries. His 41 years of international experience has led
Kayuputi to receive prestigious awards from the Wine Spectator Magazine (USA) for four consecutive years since its opening five years ago. While for the first two years the restaurant was awarded ‘Award of Excellence’, these last three years Kayuputi has been honored with ‘Best
of Award of Excellence’, making it the first and only restaurant in the whole of Indonesia to win this coveted award for the third time. In August 2013, Kayuputi also received four awards from HAPA (hospitality asia); Best Restaurant of the year 2012-2014 in Indonesia and Most Innovative F & B Person (Harald Wiesmann), Best Western Kitchen and Best Chef.
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