Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Lotte Wolf

The world of wine is still a men’s world, but I’m glad to see that the amount of female sommeliers and top sommeliers is increasing by the day. I’m not sure what keeps many women from deeping themselves more in the world of wines and spirits? I’m very glad that like I said the amount is increasing and the tables are turning. It is also said that women are better tasters… Anyhow I already had the chance to interview a few leading ladies in the sommelier world and this time again I consider myself lucky to have interviewed another very inspiring young Dutch lady (top) sommelier Lotte Wolf.

What I find intriguing about Lotte is that she is actually an oenologist that became a sommelier :-) usually it is the other way around. Lotte got her passion for wine at the age of 18 during a trip (alone) through New Zealand and therefore I’m sure it won’t surprise you that this is also one of her preferred wine countries…

After this life changing experience it can only be said Lotte has had a very inspiring career with as first real sommelier experience the job as assistant sommelier in Jamie Oliver’s fifteen restaurant in Amsterdam where she got enormously inspired by Jamie’s head-sommelier as he was everything but the boring imagine many have of a sommelier. Lotte described him as an ‘Australian Surf-dude’ :-) .

Her carreer only went and still goes crescendo. Her next stop was the Michelin star awarded Seinpost* in The Hague followed by a job as sommelier at ‘t Zilte** where she learned all about top gastronomy. What I think must have been the highlight of her career (at age of 23!!) so far was the job a head-sommelier at the 3 Michelin star awarded Oud Sluis … when Oud Sluis closed a few year ago she continued her job in the other 2 Michelin star awarded restaurants of Sergio Herman (Pure C and The Jane).

Although I’m sure she enjoyed it al lot to be sommelier, the oenologist bugs in her body made her go back to her first passion… making wine. This time to South Africa or Swartland to be more specific where she helped John Meyer make his wines. The help actually works in both ways as besides Lotte helping John making his wines, John helps Lotte making her own wine… A wine that for the moment is still without a name :-) but a wine that I’m looking forward to taste one day… (not inviting myself here ;-) ;-) ) .

The heart wants what the heart wants… Lotte’s heart was missing her home country that much that she decided to turn back to The Netherlands (with I think lots of trips back and forward to South Africa) where she now works as head-sommelier of restaurant Bridges by Ron Blaauw (one of the most inspiring chefs of the Netherlands) in the luxury top hotel Sofitel legend The Grand in Amsterdam. Again the a good example that Lotte only goes for and wants the best!

I won’t keep you longer to be inspired by the interview I did with Lotte!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I do have to say: Swartland, not because I make wines there myself as well. It’s a great region, very young and inspirational winemakers. Without boundaries, no rules, just doing what they think is best with the grapes.

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

First of all passion, if you don’t have that, you won’t enjoy what you’re doing. Secondly: a certain drive, the desire to go that one step further. And to be a people-person, you are not only a sommelier but also a ‘waiter’, you have to know what the guests would like to drink, just by a asking couple of questions or by reading the guests.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

In a certain way, yes. All the tv-programs are normally all about the chefs. Which is lovely of course, but they hardly ever talk about the front of house. If you are dining in a restaurant the service is crucial, you talk to the sommelier a lot. And I think chefs will agree; that wine pairing is very important. We (the sommeliers) try to make 1+1=3. When you’re dining out, you want an incredible evening in a nice setting, with amazing food, amazing wines and great animation from the service.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Actually it all started in New Zealand, I went there backpacking when I was 18 years old and ended up in Marlborough to work in a restaurant.I didn’t have any experience, but they hired me anyway. When I was there they taught me about wine, I went to their vineyards and for me all the pieces of the puzzle came together.The terroir, the soil, the winemakers, the way every inch is different and every year is as well. The way the wine matches the food and sometimes how it doesn’t work together. It is amazing to see and experience the things to can do with wine. The way these people were so passionate about wine inspired me and I fell in love with it immediately. I had to go back to the Netherlands but I knew right away what I wanted to do for my career!

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

It is actually not a sommelier, I love Jamie Goode, the wine writer, he’s a big inspiration. My other inspirations are winemakers: Thibault Ligier-Belair and Eben Sadie.

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

Wine pairing, for me, is a game. When you have a menu, you don’t always want the wine to match the dish, you something want to provoke the dish, make it more exiting, but you don’t want to do that too much. So it’s a game between matching, balancing and provoking. The main goal is to make it build up. It’s a different kind of science: food and wine pairing. Of course most pairing should be with wine but sometimes a cider, tea or even beer fits better with the dish, I am not afraid to use them.

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

Naturally I have to say Swartland, South Africa, but my favorite place would be New Zealand, Central Otago. These wines are amazing, the people are ever so nice and the landscape is impeccable! Wine wise, I think everybody needs to see Bourgogne, which is the ‘Holy Grail’ of all wine

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

When I was working at Oud Sluis (***) I was quite spoiled, I pre-tasted all the wines of the wine list. However, I never tasted that ‘one’ wine, which has become kindof a thing for me now. Bollinger Vieille Vignes Francaises 1998 I never tasted and when Oud Sluis closed we simply sold the bottles.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

I never went to hotel management school. I am Vinoloog, which is a wine study, but as soon as i came back from New Zealand I started to workin restaurants. At the age of 20 I worked in a one Michelinstar restaurant (Seinpost) as a sommelier, and at 23 I worked at a three Michelin star restaurant Oud Sluis. I was very lucky to discover my passion for wines at such a young age.

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

I have quite a sweet tooth, so I would say buy an amazing cake and drink a very old Madeira. Like the Barbeito Sercial 1978 or an amazing port from Quinta de Vale de Maria. I also love a sparkling Shiraz from Rockford, Australia. It’s a weird thing, but so very good! Too bad you can’t really get it in Europe.

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