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Time to put the finalists for Best Sommelier of Belgium 2016 in the spotlight: Joery De Lille

Now we know who the finalists for the title of Best Sommelier of Belgium are it is time to get to know them better and have a sneak peak in their life as sommelier. The first semi-finalist I’m putting in the spotlight is Joery De Lille. Joery is sommelier of the Michelin starred restaurant Horseele that is located in the football stadium of AA GENT aka Ghelamco Arena .

This is not the first time Joery will be competing for the title as last year he was also in the finals. I wish him the best of luck for this year’s competition!!

I’ve asked Joery the same questions as all the other top sommeliers I’ve interviewed. Also because Joery and the other contestants are the next generation of top sommeliers…

Feast your eyes on Joery’s answers:

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Personally I find the Languedoc a very intriguing and fascinating region. Every type of wine can be found here (bubbly, sweet, white and red). You have a huge variety of terroir, different grapes, partly maritime climate on the coast and then towards Limoux and Cotes de Malpère it becomes continental. Furthermore the winemakers work as unique here as in Burgundy and can thus in the same village the are very diverse styles and qualities. Nature in Languedoc is still untouched and thanks to modern winemaking techniques wines become more elegant year by year.

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

Passion for the job. Without any doubt the most important!! Everybody can become a sommelier when had the proper education, lots of willpower and of course never give up and keep up to date with all changes in the wine world by reading about or tasting them.I do appreciate it when somebody in a restaurant explains me why he chose to serve a particular wine that by having a sip I can see myself walking through the vineyards of that particular wine. Basically feel like I’m almost touching the soil, that I can smell the sea or feel the sun burning…

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

The job as sommelier becomes more complete by the day. Today a sommelier is so much more than only a wine connoisseur . Next to wine we also “need” to gain knowledge about cocktails, beers, coffee, cheese, etc… We just want to know as much about cheese as our colleague to be able to find the perfect match with it. It is true that our job demands a lot, I mean it requires working long hours… then again there are lots of unique tastings, wine trips, etc… that make the job unique and special.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Actually, it is something that grows gradually and you only realize it when you already are in the middle of it. Just like lots of Belgian fellow sommeliers I’m classically trained at the Ter Groene poorte school and during your weekend s you were always allowed to give more explanations/lectures about wine. On my 18th birthday I was given the chance to taste a 1987 bottle of Vega-Sicilia Unico te degusteren van 1987 (my year of birth). In that 1 glass there were so many smells, tastes, complexity and finesse… I was perplexed. How was it possible that in this one glass there are more flavors then in other wines? From then on I never stopped learning, discovering and searching for wines that can thrill me.

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

I have an eternal respect for the people who brought me where I am today like amongst other my teachers (Lieuwe Ribbens and José Lemahieu), my mentors during my traineeships/career (Luk Derooze, Kees Dobbelaer, Steven Wullaert). Furthermore, anyone can achieve the title of Master of Wine

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

I am too young to already have have prejudices about countries, regions or grapes. So all wines that I serve in the restaurant have been blind tasted. I’m more a fan of wines that are very easy to digest and elegant. Wood may be present, but rather of a supporting character, alcohol may be high but must be supported by acidity and fruit,…

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

Last year I was fortunate enough to take a trip through the North of Spain and I was really blown away by the potential of Ribeira Sacra. Steep hills like in the Douro, Fresh climate and a truly green environment. Bottom structures with many alluvial pieces that give freshness to the wine. Everything needs to be handpicked as it’s not possible by machine. Without any doubt THE discovery of last year and I’ll definitely go back if only to try a few of the top restaurants in the neighborhood!

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

The complete story of the ‘The Judgement of Parishow California got the big and powerful (in the wine world their vision back then) France to its knees was one of the wine stories that excites me greatly. So basically for the old Screaming Eagle Cabernet from the 1970’s I would maybe sacrifice a piece of my toe

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

Doubtless our study tour to South Africa. A whole year together with friends and colleagues to Stellenbosch. . Getting received as king with generous buffets, safari’s and incredible visits Kanonkop and Vriesenhof. Memorable!! Especially since we were always invited in the cellars and thus wine country has no more secrets for us now .

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Just go and discover for yourself the world of wines. Walk into the estate of a local wine farmer and even buy one of his bottles. Sit down on his doorstep,on the mountain walk on, or sit on a bench in the local village or even take them to the beach nearby. Look around you and taste the region. That’s what life is all about and what makes wine and gastronomy so special and unique and something everybody can understand!!

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