Yannick Dehandschutter is the next sommelier to answer my 10 questions. Yanick is the sommelier/owner of wine restaurant Sir Kwintenwhere 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.
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 :-)
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!!!
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.
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!
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 :)