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Time to put the sommeliers in the picture: Benoit Couderé

The next sommelier to put in the spotlight is this year’s Best Sommelier of Belgium Benoit Couderé. Benoit has been head sommelier for many years of the 3 Michelin starred restaurant Karmeliet located in the city center of Bruges. Unfortunately after 33 years, of which 20 with 3 Michelin stars, Chef/owner Geert Van Hecke decided it was time to close the doors and start enjoying life more.

As our dear friend Benoit has a very good reputation it didn’t take too long for him to find a new challenge, he will start working as consultant for the supermarket chain Carrefour. I know it might seem a strange choice, but I’m sure Benoit will be a great added value for Carrefour to lift up their wine assortment to an even higher level in Belgium. When I met Benoit he seemed like a very silent/modest maybe even shy type, but once you start talking about wine all of that changes instantly He starts lighting up and starts talking wine in the most fascinating and passionate way. Just like with the other sommeliers, I asked the same 10 questions to Benoit to find out more about the life of a sommelier.

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Difficult question: German Rieslings, Wachau, Bourgogne, Côte du Rhône, …

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

Knowledge, passion, being social, good with languages, understanding/feeling the ‘food-wine’ language, having a good knowledge of purchase/stock management for his of her wine cellar.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Yes, quite a bit! That’s also why I think restaurants should invest in a good sommelier. On a long term this will have a very positive impact for both the restaurant and the guests visiting it.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Already since I was a little boy I was fascinated by my grandfather’s winecellar and this fascination only became bigger while doing my studies at the ‘hotel management school at Koksijde .

Of course another thing that played a big role was visits to lots of vineyards… especially when hearing the passionate winemakers talk and that get their enjoyment of seeing people loving their wines.

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

All colleagues that share the same passion as me and want to share that passion with everybody… friends, guests, family

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

The wine must have a good balance in all its dimensions, only then you can let the wine “connect” with dishes. Obviously the finesse of the preparation must speak for itself.

Some complex wines are sometimes better to be enjoyed without food, to fully enjoy its depth, finesse and character.

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

The Hemel-en aarde valley in South- Africa, in January I was fortunate enough to have visited a few vineyards in the valley that had brilliant wines and breath taking landscapes!!

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

Very old madeira vintages en red Burgundy wines from Henri Jayer that I wasn’t able to taste yet…and unfortunately doesn’t get produced anymore (as owner/winemaker died)

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

In the 5th year of high school we were allowed to bring our own wines from time to time to wine class.

One time my dad gave me an old Pommard to bring to school that had evolved quite vegetal at that time not much appreciate by my fellow students, now 13yrs later we would all know better

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant?

A Geert van Hecke classic Pithivier. A Puff pastry pie filled with cuckoo Malinois, foie, cream of salsify and truffle. An absolute TOP dish that should be enjoyed with a Château Rayas 2001 from Châteauneuf-du -Pape

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