Taking Advantage of A Sommelier’s Knowledge

Wine Tales | Written By, NOW! BALI | July 25th, 2013

I have now lived on this beautiful island of Bali for close to seven years. I have conducted a few wine classes in stand alone restaurants as well as restaurants in resorts, stretching from Nusa Dua to Ubud before joining the St. Regis Bali Resort. Very interestingly, in each of these restaurants, I came across one person who was in charge of the entire…

I have now lived on this beautiful island of Bali for close to seven years. I have conducted a few wine classes in stand alone restaurants as well as restaurants in resorts, stretching from Nusa Dua to Ubud before joining the St. Regis Bali Resort. Very interestingly, in each of these restaurants, I came across one person who was in charge of the entire wine collection at the establishment.  Some were called “Sommeliers” while others were simply called “Managers” and this got me thinking about the meaning of being a Sommelier.

When can a Sommelier be called a Sommelier? In my opinion, it is when a person is in charge of the wines in the restaurant, however a pertinent factor is that a Sommelier must be able to answer, if not all, most questions on wines, those served in the restaurant as well as wines in general, asked by guests or staff. 

So what questions should he or she be able to answer? To me, a common question is regarding the storage temperature for certain wines in Bali. To this day, I still see wine stored in wooden shelves in restaurants.  The area is not even air conditioned and I wonder if there is another area where the wine has its ideal temperature of 14 degrees.  Guests are afraid in Bali and think, very often, that the wine has oxidised already and therefore they have to complain and, as a result, their holiday time is disturbed. Whenever you have a fridge or a wine cellar to show, show it to the guest right at the beginning so that he/she can be assured that the wine is stored well and is coming to the table at the right temperature. Other important questions a Sommelier should be able to answer is which wines on the wine list are dry, demi sec or sweet and what are the differentials between each wine in quality, production, area and the year. 

Another common question guests ask is; “Why do Bali restaurants feature more wines from France, Italy and Chile than from Australia on their wine list, even though the latter is closer in proximity?” On the other hand, one can hardly ever find wine from countries like Germany, Austria and USA. My explanation is very simple. There are many wine suppliers in Indonesia and these suppliers have good relationships with some wine producers in the world. For example, just recently Indowines introduced wines from Italy and Champagne to Bali. The high import numbers of French wine is the great effort of Sopexa, the French wine ambassador. This French organization has offices located in all the main cities of the world and is in charge of promoting French wine outside of France. In so doing, they encourage wine owners to visit different countries to promote their wines. The recent event of the Bordeaux red wines featuring in the Hong Kong auction is testament to consumer desire for the wine and therefore also a reason why French wine is so popular in Asia and in Indonesia. In my opinion, the reason why German, Austrian and American wine is not as popular may also be a result of there not being many national restaurants. We see and dine in many French, Italian and Latin American restaurants in comparison. Germany and Austria has a global perception of being great producers of beer.

As for me, I would welcome more wines from the USA, Germany and Austria, especially since I feel that the grape variations from the German speaking countries are so interesting. For example the most famous Gruener Veltliner, in my opinion, produces the best white wines in the world and rarities like Kerner or Rieslaner have no comparison in taste. The USA is most famous for their big Chardonnays, Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignon which also belong to the best in the world.

A question I hear very often from restaurant staff is; “What wines could we suggest to complement the dishes from our menu?” This may seem an easy task to understand and to reply to but the fact is, it is not. Traditionally, the world knew wine pairing as; Chardonnay, or white wine, goes well with Seafood while Pinot Noir, or red wine, goes well with steak. As a Sommelier myself, I don’t generally believe this and instead I would suggest to staff and guests alike to try one dish from the menu with different wines and feel the difference and decide for themselves which wine they feel is perfect and which hits the right note. It’s always best to be humble and tell the truth about what you think matches and not to assume.

There are many more questions of course and I would like to answer them all. If you have any questions to pose, write to me: harald.wiesmann@stregis.com

 

HARALD WIESMANN

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 40 years of international experience has led Kayuputi to receive prestigious awards from the Wine Spectator Magazine (USA) for four consecutive years since its opening four years ago. While for the first two years the restaurant was awarded ‘Award of Excellence’, these last 2 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.

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