A toast to wine culture

08 Feb 2016
3 min read
Sven Schnee, global head of brand at Gaggenau, reveals the importance of the sommelier in culinary culture and sophisticated lifestyle…
Sharpening focus on sommeliers

In a fine restaurant, what one drinks is often left in the capable hands of the sommelier. He or she takes their guest on a sensory and culinary voyage through aromas and flavours. The sommelier becomes the narrator and the tastes and smells experienced often leave a lasting imprint on ones subconscious, with the journey as a whole more important than any one individual element or course of the culinary experience.

This is why, as part of its brand philosophy, Gaggenau, the leading luxury manufacturer of professional-grade domestic appliances, focuses on all aspects of exclusive culinary culture and sophisticated lifestyle and, as Sven says, “the art of composing food and drink, which is ideally done by a sommelier.”

A sommelier’s responsibilities have long extended beyond advising guests on their choice of wine, but other drinks, such as cocktails, beer, spirits, including cognac, whiskey and sake, plus non-alcoholic drinks, too. The modern-day professional profile is multi-faceted, covering pairing and menu recommendations to buying and managing an extensive wine cellar, the value of which can frequently run into seven-figure sums—not uncommon in the world of gastronomy.

“When it comes to [the guest’s] restaurant experience, the sommelier has to be knowledgeable on the chef, the menu and ingredients the chef uses.” Sven explains: “The sommelier of a restaurant needs to be an ambassador of each dish, then he or she needs to know about the drinks you might experience during the three or four hours that you pass in this chef’s palace and this is very important to curate the entire drinks configuration in perfect harmony with the food composition.”

Sven explains how it is not only the sommelier’s drinks recommendation that is important, but other factors, too. “It is important to have the right glasses and to present the wine at the table at the correct temperature.

“Just imagine a red wine from Italy that requires a temperature of 18C or 19C and the sommelier brings it to you at 22C or 23C. It would be way too alcoholic, you wouldn’t get a sense of the different aromas, it would leave this sour taste of alcohol and this would completely destroy the quality of the dish.”

In the world of gastronomy, drinking culture is partly about recommendation, partly about the storage of the product—usually wine—, partly about the temperature (and taste) and, lastly, the depth of glass. “Wine culture then, in that sense, is to focus on the entire configuration of this experience. [Gaggenau] want to push ahead of any technical aspects of wine culture, push sommeliers as the ambassadors of the ‘perfect drinks culture’, making wine the primary element of culinary culture.”

For a sommelier, constantly honing their skills is another vital aspect of this challenging profession. Annemarie Foidl, President of the Austrian Sommelier Association, is responsible for training at the ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) and partner of Gaggenau. “Our profession has found a like-minded partner in Gaggenau in that we share a common ambition, that of promoting exclusive wine culture at an elite level. With the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards we launched a mentorship programme that gives highly talented young sommeliers access to international haute cuisine circles.”

Last year’s launch of the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards was to promote the extensive knowledge invested in wine enjoyment, bringing the sommelier’s profession into sharper focus. The winner of the first international Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2014 was Nikolas Giannopoulos from Athens, Greece.

Gaggenau is a luxury all encompassing brand. Not focused on any one particular product or line, but a sophisticated lifestyle choice. “It is about being based on values, attitude, driving culinary culture and sophisticated lifestyle and being uncompromising, extraordinary and authentic.

These values means whatever we do, we need to make it special, we need to make it tangible, we need to make it real, we need to make it outstanding in terms of production.”

So what exactly defines sophisticated lifestyle? “It could be a foodie, who is just composing his or her meal, who goes from market to market in the afternoon to buy their ingredients. Sophisticated lifestyle is an individual composition configuration of what makes life individual and different for you as a person. This sophistication does not need to be precious or restricted, or extremely highly prized or snobby, it is you, as an individual, handpicking what is good for you,” concludes Sven.