The wonderful world of wine can seem a tad bewildering at times, but never fear – we've corralled a wild Sommelier to pose a couple of corkers to him - and not just any sommelier, a man who sits on the board of the South African Sommeliers Association.
Celebrated wine explorer Barry Scholfield spends his working hours flying to remote corners of Europe to sample especially beautiful wines and still finds time to serve as one of the leading taste buds of Somm Hospitality, awarded winner of Best Wine List in Africa and the Middle East by The World Fine Wine Magazine in 2014, 2015 and most recently in 2017:
Barry when you sit down at a restaurant, what do you want to see in a wine list? How can it be 'balanced'?
I'm glad you asked! A large part of Somm's business is actually doing exactly that, supplying the right wines to restaurants based around their clientele. Obviously, it has to complement the food, if it's a sushi place you'd better have champagne by the glass, but the most important thing for me is providing a variety of price categories, clearly leaning towards the main clientele’s price bracket. I'm tired of going into a restaurant and finding nothing but entry level or top shelf wines – where are the interesting mid-priced wines? I mean, I know they're out there but why aren’t we putting them out there? A great wine list, to me is not too big and features quite a few lesser known labels, but make sure the waitering staff know what they are and what each wine is about. Every wine has an individual story and it's that story that really matters to people at the end of the day.
If you're building a wine collection at home, how would you bring in balance and structure there?
I'm not there yet but what I'm trying to build in my own wine collection is a wine for every mood and optimal drinking every time – it's a careful balancing act! Some nights you come home and all you want to do is tuck into a pizza on the couch with your significant other and you don't want that to cost you hundreds of Rands. That's why I have quite a few entry and mid-level Cinsaults, Pinot Noirs, and some good Chenin Blancs – they'll all age beautifully but you don't have to wait five years to drink them which, honestly, with some wines, it's just a sin if you don't.
Insider's tip: Chenin Blanc is a grape variety with one of the top two highest ageing potentials – they can happily lay down for more than ten years! The time will bring out a nutty nuanced honey character. Considering there is more Chenin growing in South Africa right now than the Loire Valley in France that made it famous, there really is no excuse.
Lastly, as a runner of the best wine service program in Africa and the Middle East four years in a row, what's the correct etiquette for drinking wine?
Sjoe! You know, I've been a Sommelier at some of the top establishments in the world and when the time comes to open the wine, everyone's dressed up and acting fancy: there's a world of expectation in the room so people will ask you “What am I supposed to taste?” and I always say 'nothing, is it delicious?' – that's what matters – it's pre-digested grape juice. It reminds you of a primal part of your brain like no other beverage, sure, but it's been enjoyed for thousands of years. Is there an etiquette? No, but I will say – make sure it's at the right temperature and if you don't like it at first: keep going back to it, give it time to open up as the wine evolves in the glass. For me a great wine is the conversation with friends about what we find in it, not in the gargle, spit and swirl of it all.
Join the conversation, taste a galaxy of stellar wines and get your collection started in Winter WINEderland.
The TOPS at SPAR Wine Show presented by the Cape Times is back again and shining brighter than ever with South Africa's top wineries under one roof at Sun Exhibits, GrandWest from 12 to 14 July.