In the world of gastronomy it are always the chefs that are put in the spotlight! Time for a change I’d say and put that spotlight on the sommeliers for a change :-). Especially with the ASI Worldchampionship for sommeliers coming to Belgium in 2019, they deserve it more then ever! That’s why I’ve send 10 questions to a few top sommeliers to find out more about their world… The first sommelier I’ve send the questions to is William Wouters aka ‘el presidente’ 🙂 or better the chairman of the Belgian Sommelier Guild and the person who we have to thank for bringing the championship to Belgium. I personally already know William since I’ve been born and have to admit that I look up to William when it comes down to wine and knowledge about wine!! He has learned me lots of things and still helps me to discover wines, vineyards, etc… I also know for a fact that I’m not the only one looking up to him. Lot’s of Top sommeliers still ask William for advice or help. For many years William has worked and participated in lots of competitions at international level with results one shouldn’t be modest about!! What I also always liked about William is that his motto is “wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good”!!! A motto that was also a golden rule in his restaurant (Pazzo)
Every winegrower, (top)sommelier or person involved with wine I mention I’m from Belgium comes with a at least one story about a crazy night they had at the Pazzo winebar with William 🙂 (who used to be the owner of Pazzo). 2 years ago William decided to leave Pazzo in the good hands of chef Ingrid Neven and Tom Dhooghe. The mean reason for that was William being able to spend more time with his wife and kids in Portugal. William’s wife Filipa Pato is a very renowned Portugese wine maker who comes from a long line of winemakers in her family. You could also see it as William changing sides 🙂 from sommelier serving the wines, to winemaker making the wines.
Although it must be said he also spends lots of his time with his other passion… football. William is also the cook or better person coordinating the cooks for the Belgian national football team (Red Devils) and therefore also travelling a lot with them.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
Bairrada – you all know why… 😉 😉
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
A broad knowledge of all beverages and a good culture about food. Perhaps the most important thing is: a very good “social” intelligence
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
Underestimated because a sommelier is a kind of a barometer in direct contact with the customer. He feels the straight needs and consequently acts to them. A good sommelier is a big added value in the front of a restaurant, bistro, wine bar, wine shop,…
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
From small on I was intrigued by the complexity of wine and the wine world in general, the diversity, the interaction with the climate, soil, grape varieties, perception of the winemakers, link to gastronomy… the more you know, the less you know, the more you want to know… (Confucius 🙂 )
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
Obelix, he fell into a barrel with the magical potion as a kid, I think sometimes the same happened to me, but I was probably too small to remember
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
Feeling… This is the biggest challenge for a sommelier! There is no such thing as right or wrong… Depends of many factors : people, the mood, time of the day, the weather, the budget, taste, …
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Bairrada – you know why… 😉 . No, no kidding, I would recommend to visit as many wine regions as possible. As a sommelier it is very important to go into the vineyards and speak to the winegrowers and winemakers to understand better the wines that are made, and why they are made in a certain way. Wines for me should always reflect the place they are coming from. Authenticity is a key word for me
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
For all the wines I don’t know. So I think I still have a lot of work to do!
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
That I always “had to be” a volunteer to go to things related to wine and other beverages. I really loved it! Also to share these experiences with the friends and colleagues gave huge satisfaction.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant?
Whatever, wherever, whenever be open minded and keep your eyes, ears and certainly your tastebuds open! This is the intriguing trigger that will always keep you eager to improve as a sommelier! You are never done!