Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Yanick Dehandschutter

Yannick Dehandschutter is the next sommelier to answer my 10 questions. Yanick is the sommelier/owner of wine restaurant Sir Kwinten where I personally like to go a lot. I met Yanick when he was competing for the title of “Best Sommelier of Belgium 2013-2014” or better, I was one of the judges grading him 🙂 What I liked about Yanick was his smoothness of doing everything and his strong social skills, he won that year so I guess I wasn’t the only person with that opinion.

Yanick best sommelier of belgium

When you ever have the chance to eat at his restaurant you’ll see that when he gives you more info on the wine he serves it is like he is reading you a story or poem! He also likes to surprise his guests, he sometimes serves a wine without telling  what it is for you to find out what it is… time over time you’ll be surprised about which wine it turns out to be. With me one of the greatest discoveries was a white Belgian wine, I literally bought the vineyard’s last bottles of that wine afterwards 🙂

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Next to the title of Best Sommelier of Belgium Yanick has lots of other awards and prices that he can show off with 🙂 Not that he does it, but fi I would have that many awards I think I would 😉 😉 . What I admire in people like Yanick (and all other top sommeliers), is their passion!!! Passion is always the best drive for success!!!

Yanick

What maybe not every knows yet is that Yanick will also be making his debut on the national cooking channel NJAM! The sky is the limit I’d say.

Yanick op Njam tv

The questions:

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I’m of the principle that a good sommelier must be ‘open’ for everything that gets made. That’s why I obligate myself to serve/pair wines from totally different regions with our menus.

As long as the wines were purified with respect for the terroir and local grapes I’m happy :-). I notice that I’m usually more tempted in staying in Europe with y choice of wines and less with wines from outside of Europe. For the moment my favorites to work with for white wines is Austria and for the reds Piemonte.

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

Knowledge of wine regions, grapes and vineyards are the base for a strong/good sommelier. Next to that ‘social skills’ are very import for me.

A sommelier should be able to pass the correct information to the customer in a pleasant understandable way. I think that it is also important to be able to estimate a customer’s ‘wine profile’, is a customer more classic or does he rather prefer something new, does he like a lot of info or non… you should feel it.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

No, not to my opinion. Today people are much more ‘gastronomically educated’ and know that it’s not an easy sector. It demands 200% of passion and dedication. Because our sector gets put in the spotlight more often people do get more respect for the job and the people doing this job.

Especially the young generation seems very interested and shows a lot of respect for all we do. It must also be said that the knowledge about culinary products in general has improved enormously amongst people and they’re able to valuate/appreciate the quality.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

My Parents are already in the restaurant business for more than 30years, so I basically grew up in it. For my 10th birthday we went to a Michelin starred restaurant and it really rocked my world, from that moment it became my favorite hobby ;-).

During my period I spend in hotel management school I didn’t really had a preference, I like both working in the kitchen as serving people in the restaurant. It was at the age of 14 that I started tasting more wines and that’s when I knew this would become my favorite 🙂 . After my specialization year in hotel management school the passion only grew…

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

I have lots of respect and admiration for all passionate winemaker on our planet that make it possible for us as sommelier to serve and offer a wonderful product.  I also believe more and more in a better cooperation between sommelier and winemaker. We as sommelier can help blending and advice the consumer’s needs , a winemaker from his side can give us much ‘extra’ technical knowledge that in the end makes us a better sommelier.

What is your approach for pairing wines (or other bevrages) with dishes?

Taste and most of all testing. It has occurred lots of times that the things that seem obvious actually don’t work together/match and vice versa. I think that this is the point where a sommelier has the liberty of playing around and should dare to innovate and make unexpected matches.  It speaks for itself that before you serve this pairing to your customers you should be 100% behind this decision. This is definitely one of my favorite subjects, but it is obviously something personal and complex.

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

Piëmonte, beautiful region, top gastronomy and the wines obviously!

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

It is always a unique experience to be allowed to taste Selosse Champagne after a long aging in the cellar at the right time. To my opinion a remarkable product!

Selosse champagne

What is you most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

During my specialization year I was allowed to participate in the Côtes du Rhône Challenge in Avignon, together with my teacher José Lemahieu, a man for whom I have an enormous respect (especially for this passion and knowledge about wine! We won 1st place, I was only 17 years old and it is something I will never forget. Truly a wonderful experience!

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides having a meal in your restaurant, shop, winery , etc…?

Skiing  is a one of my favorite hobbies, preferably in Austria. I just love it to sit on a sunny terrace after having skied a few hours and open a top bottle of  Paul Achs, a Prager or Knoll I recommend to everybody 🙂

Gustative pleasures at sir kwinten

It’s for almost 2 years that I wanted to revisit Sir Kwinten!! Last time I was at Sir Kwinten I was not feeling 100% and got sicker by the minute…so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I had hoped back then.  Now a friend of mine, who lives in Lennik (which is the town where Sir Kwinten is located), wanted to have dinner, so  it seemed like the perfect excuse for me to revisit Sir Kwinten. Very glad I did as it was a night to remember!! The type of kitchen they serve at Sir Kwinten is exactly the type I like best, ‘simple’ brought in a special way – revisited classics if you will :-). I say simple, but there’s more to it obviously… I just mean that they are able to serve you culinary heaven just using few ingredients of impeccable quality and at a correct price (not overpriced basically).

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If I would have to rank Sir Kwinten I would put it in my top 5 favorite restaurants together with Les Eleveurs and my all time favourite Pazzo Antwerp!! If I would live closer I would definitely be a regular. On their menu you find classics like a “sole meunière” or a good “entrecôte” with homemade French fries as well as revisited classics and innovative dishes (innovative but not too complicated!)… A restaurant that puts a big smile on my face!! They also renewed the restaurant’s looks in something more modern, very nice and very comfy chairs!

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Sir Kwinten is owned by one of Belgium’s best Sommeliers aka Yanick Dehandschutter, so getting served great wines is a known fact. What is great about being in the hands of a top sommelier is that they want to let you enjoy some new discoveries they made and ‘get you to learn more about wine and be as astonished as much as they were when they discovered it (that’s called passion btw.) . Who am I to stop them 🙂 Just sit back and relax I’d say! The discovery of the evening (even of the month) was a Belgian Chardonnay Barrique by Crutzberg!!

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Something Yannick tends to do is serve people wine without telling which one it is and let people think about it for a while. Not really to be able to name the exact wine, but more to take away pre-judgements people might have if a wine comes from particular country or place. Plus you’ll be more surprised sometimes when you’re told which wine it is and from where it is….This is exactly what happened with us with the Chardonnay from Crutzberg… not that I would pre-judge Belgian wines as I’m a big fan!!!! (Became even bigger fan thanks to my friends from Belgian Wines) I didn’t and would have never guessed this wine came from Belgium… Result of this is that I’m trying to get hold of a few bottles for myself to pass on this discovery to my friends and family. Isn’t that what a restaurant experience should be all about? Getting to know something you have never tried before and want more of it 🙂

Yanick

My friend and I chose the 4 course menu not that the ‘à la carte’ dishes didn’t fancy me, but my friend forced me to take the menu… If I can make people happy by such a small gesture I do it. I’m such an easy person if you look at it, my wife is such a lucky person 🙂 🙂 Feast your eyes on the menu we had:

We started with a few appetizers: 1st was local Fresh cheese with radish, eel and buckwheat. For the other dishes I confess I know they were veeeeeeery tasty and that there was something with Lamb, goose liver and a veal tartar with beetroot and kohlrabi… but that’s as far as I remember it as I wasn’t really planning on writing a blogpost (rather enjoy and relax), but I had such a great evening I just had to write and share 🙂 To accompany these appetizers we had rose bubbles from my dear friend Luis Pato adding a bit of fruitiness to harmonize our appetizers

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We continued our meal with for me Limousin veal (3 different preparations) with Jerusalem artichoke, chestnut and miso. For my friend a revisited “Chicon gratin” (chicory) . Let’s say we didn’t feel like sharing food and they were able to put the plates right back in the cupboard (we emptied them well). These dishes got accompanied by the wonderful Belgian white wine I described earlier.

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The next dish in line was  Pieterman (Weever fish) with Vichyssoise (potato and leek),  butternut and purslane that was served with a Romanian white wine aka Budureasca Fume… again very impressed, I didn’t know they made wine of this quality!! Definitely I would have never picked myself if I would have seen it on a wine list (damn pre-judgements).

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As main dish a pleasant pheasant 🙂 with cantharel mushrooms, parsnip and rillettes… with which we didn’t get 1 wine, noooooo sire we got 3 that matched perfectly with them… again here e didn’t know which ones we had… I did immediately recognized the 2010 Barolo (by Marziano Abbona) amongst them 🙂 The other 2 were a Bulgaria Allegro Barbaro Marselan, which is a more classic taste because of the syrah/merlot blend (80% merlot). The 3rd one was a French Cuvée violette by Clau de Nell, less my cup of tea on its own, but it worked with the dish 🙂 what disturbs me about this wine is the ‘bio/natural’ taste in it… dunno what it exactly is but I know I don’t like it 🙂 but again it worked perfectly with the dish.

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We finished off with some tangerine with almond, white chocolate and lemongrass served with a Belgian icewine by Hoenshof … in contrast to what you think I must say this icewine was really good!! Not too sweet FYI, for those who don’t know what icewine is, they basically freeze the grapes at a temperature of -8°C and at when grapes are frozen they press them to get the most concentrated juice out of them…(in a few words)

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I had a delightful evening filled with amazing food and wines!! Can’t wait for my next Sir Kwinten experience!! Thanks to Yanick and his team!!