Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: José Lemahieu

The next sommelier we're putting in the spotlight is a sommelier that has inspired many many of our national top sommeliers (was mentioned lots of times during my interviews with them) . José Lemahieu is a true example and for many years has tried his best to transmit his wine passion over to his students during his many years as teacher at the hotel management school Ter groene poorte in Bruges and at Syntra (adult education).

Before becoming a teacher José has gained his most experience as sommelier and later as restaurant manager at hotel Regina's restaurant Yperley in Ypres. Then again, is a sommelier not learning all his life? :-) Although I'm also convinced that José gained much experience over the years when participating and winning many wine related contests (both national and international) like and while teaching.

For me a role model is somebody that even after having inspired many people for so many years, he can't stop himself doing it over and over again. I mean as a teacher I would think that after many days in front of a class you would get exhausted after many years? Not José!! I thinks he get's all of his energy from it as he keeps trying to find ways to help young sommelier (or people who want to grow in the world of food and wine) finding their way and improving themselves...

I do also want to add that I enjoyed working with José as every year he (together with Aristide Spies and Gerard Devos) is the force behind all the tests during the contest of "Best Sommelier of Belgium" that gets organized in collaboratin with the VVS .

I know I keep mentioning it, but I always find it intriguing to find out who inspires a person who himself is such a source of inspiration to others...

Feast your eyes on his answers

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Currently Rhône, but week this might have already changed and be Ribeira del Duero or Casablanca.

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

A good sommelier is particularly attentive to the customer. He must feel what the customer wants like color, style, quantity and price is necessary.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

I think so, it could definitely be better. Being sommelier is a profession with a future even if it sometimes involves a partial assignment in combination with other tasks in the wide world of hospitality.

If enjoying and serving wine brings out emotion this will optimize the restaurant experience. The clientele looks up to restaurants that puts 'love' and know-how in their glass. Appropriate training and coaching towards greater professionalism will create more profitable restaurant businesses.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Around the 1970's I was taught by a wine teacher who spoke to my imagination and got me intresteed in exploring and learning more about wine. During my career at school I've met more people like that . I was also fortunate enough to have worked in many restaurants with passionate sommeliers who transmitted that passion over to me.

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

Late Noël Pauwels . Helpfulness and hospitality were his key words. . His motto: "un sommelier doît être un marchand de Bonheur". (a sommelier must be a merchant of Happiness)

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

For me it are the basic principals that are important as this will also be clear to the customer. Creativity is definitely interesting, but over-creativity is not my cup of tea.

The consumer does like a great food-pairing, but when he afterwards can' remember what he ate or got served with it, it are only the romantic memories that stay :-)

Different styles of wine, fortified wines and beers there are so many possibilities. Me personally I'm a big fan of wine by the glass as today the customer wants to drink less, but doesn't mind spending more for better quality.

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

Heuvelland, is a breath taking region in the outermost southern tip of West Flanders (Belgium) with enormous potential. The quality of wines from this region have improved remarkably over the years!

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

I'm not really a label -drinker, but rather a person who likes drinking a budget friendly wine in the right setting with people that are dear to me.

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

The many lessons I got from Denis Dubourdieu.

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

Like I already mentioned I'm a big fan of wine by the glass. So I would say a restaurant that offers 12 dishes with the perfectly matching wines per glass and change that match week after week... heavenly! And also a wonderful form of creativity... Three glasses of the same or rather three glasses of a different wine ? What does the customer find the most appealing? Yes indeed, we have the most wonderful job in the world!!

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