Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Eric Zwiebel
In the gastronomical world it are always the chefs that run away with all the compliments and attention. For me sommeliers deserve the same amount of compliments and attention (if not more ;-) )
That 's why I started this column to put as many sommeliers I can in the spotlight!! This time I chose Master Sommelier Eric Zwiebel. Eric was born in France, where he also started building his career and got classically trained at the Lycée Hôtelier Joseph Storck Guebwiller. HIs first steps in the world of gastronomy was at his parent's restaurant, from there his journey brought him to Paris or better to Le Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre
After all those wonderful years Eric thought it was time to aim higher and decided to move to London to broaden his knowledge about wine and gastronomy. Where he currently is already 16 years which 14 he is already working as cellar master at the Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa... so I guess he likes it there :-)
I also know for a fact that he is a very ambitious man as since 2001 he's participate and won diverse national and international sommelier titles like in 2004 the title of Best Sommelier of the UK and 3rd during the European sommelier championships in 2006 en 2008. Let's also not forget his spot in the finals during the World championships from 2007 and 2013 (he was on 4th place). So definitely somebody to look-up to.
Just like with all sommelier's I asked following 10 questions to Eric to get a glimpse of the mind and life of a top sommelier
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
I don't want to seem to chauvinistic, but I love working with the Alsace region. Not only because I was born here, but also because of it's lovely wines... but I won't deny that the region has a special place in my heart.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
I could answer this with 3 key words: Modesty; listening and honesty. if you got those 3 right and add the correct knowledge to that and you're good to go. I don’t see my job as me teaching guests, but rather sharing a (common) passion
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
I indeed think that our job is often underestimated or undervalued quiet often just because the Chef gets/takes all the attention. Whereas a good sommelier has an equally added value to make a guest's time at the restaurant an unforgettable experience. Even when some chefs who have multiple restaurants are not present themselves, they still run away with all the attention :-)
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
Difficult to say, but I would say it was from a very young age. My parents used to own a restaurant and I guess that's where the 'wine' bugs bit me.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
To this question I can only think of one name, Gerard Basset!! The most internationally awarded man in the world of sommeliers. It is simply amazing what he has accomplished.
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
Respect of intensity and flavor. That's all there is.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
I don't dare to say it, but here again I would say Alsace because it’s my home... but also a very under estimated/valued region that has lots of undiscovered treasures even non 'gastronomy related'
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
For the Egon Müller, Riesling “Scharzhofberger-Wiltingen”, TBA, Mosel Germany , 1959 I wouldn't mind sacrificing a bit.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
The day they started talking and teaching us about wine :-) ;-)
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop,etc…?
Very simple food that is well cooked and well seasoned at a correct temperature Accompanied by a wine that complements with the food like the respect of the intensity and flavour match with the food or maybe do 'crazy' and try to find the opposite... For example a Chocolate Fondant with A Grand Mandarine imperial sever on ice. In this case you can play with the opposites in this case the temperature Warm dessert and Mandarine liquor on Ice. The simple things in life are usually the ones that make us happiest.