Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Jean-Vincent RIDON
Please let me introduce to you Jean-Vincent RIDON who is a great example that if you want to achieve something you can :-) Jean-Vincent isn't a classic trained sommelier who went to Hotel management school, but studied at law school and eventually political science. But if you have it in you, you can try to run and ignore it for a while, but sooner of later.... After years as successful businessman in France jean's love for wine started growing and decided to open a Wine bar and restaurant in the middle of the vineyards next to Sancerre in the Loire Valley :-) talking about change ;-)
From that moment wine became a bigger part. Around 1996 left Europe and traded it for South Africa and moved there with his wife and start working as the 'flying winemaker' . So somehow it is a kind of love story :-)
Today Jean-Vincent is active in all the fields of the wine industry, viticulturist, journalist, importer of wines and winery equipment, host of the Web TV program "Extreme Pairing", wine judges, founder of the South African Wine Tasting Championship he is as well the manager of the South African Team of Wine Tasting going to the world championship and manager the SA Sommelier Academy which is the first professional school in South Africa training toward the coveted SASA Sommelier diploma, the only South African training internationally recognised by the ASI.
On top of all that he is busy in non-wine related business and created KR Healthcare and the South African Academy of Health in 2008. SAAH offers world class training to supply NGO, hospitals, private patients with Heathcare workers.... So in other words he is a very busy person who combines his passion for wine with his passion for business and even helping people. remarkable!! Honored to be bale to add him to the list of sommeliers to put in the spotlight
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
I really love to work with the dry white Roussillon, usually from Grenache gris or white, but as well old Macabeo. These powerful white wines have a natural salinity, and a palate texture that will fit an extraordinary large spectrum of dishes, while surprising the client, offering a discovery... difficult to surprise a client with a Puligny, but a Le Soula white will always raise questions.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
Listening, understanding. Too many sommeliers want to make their show while actually a good sommelier is the shrink of the table, understanding the dynamics, who invites who, who needs acknowledgment, who needs peace, who wants to seduce who... The wine knowledge is only a tool to give answers, the point is to understand what the question is.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
Some off the floor sommelier start to be properly valued, but then the line between them and MW is extremely thin. I believe that sommelier is an on the floor mission first, and this is undervalued, this is why many of us combine working on the floor with other perks such as lecturing or organizing experiences for wine lovers. In the restaurants the Chefs want the lime light, and believe people only come for the quality of the food. How naïve are they? Clients want a full experience, and wine, or beer, can turn an average meal into a celebration of the senses. Chefs often hide their insecurities behind an big arrogance... let them work with sommeliers on the floor for a week and they will understand the added value a sommelier can bring!
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
It started when I was a kid as my grandfather was working for NICOLAS, then I helped my father at his restaurant, and this is how I started as a sommelier, before opening my own restaurant wine bar in Bué (Sancerre)...
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
I think Andreas Larsson is the man to admire because he understands that sommelier is so much more than learning about wine. He has a natural charisma, and knows how to enjoy life in simplicity! He is a beast of life and his personality is very inspiring.
On the wine side, Alphonse Mellot in Sancerre ( Senior and Junior ) proved that the best terroirs can always be pushed further when you take the time to sit and understand what you do. Too many winemakers follow trends not understanding if they can fit into it. Mellot always reconsidered their position and made their wine evolve to the best they can be.
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
As much as a great wine can help a pairing, by overshadowing the dish, I always go back to basics to make the dish shine. As an example If you want to enjoy the subtle side of a crayfish you can get a mature grand cru from Chablis, but for the dish itself, an quality normal Chablis from a year which is not overripe would probably give better support to the crayfish than an over-shinning grand cru... Simplicity helps the pairing.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
The Mosel valley, because you can feel the power of nature tamed by man! It makes the wine we dream of.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
I recently paid myself a ticket for a dinner with Aubert de Villaine so I could taste the full range of DRC, including old vintages, and being sure they were genuine... as they all came from the estate.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
As started as apprentice at my father's restaurant, so not much time at the management school... I did political science later, but wine and sommellerie was always with me.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop,etc…?
I remember my first time at El Bulli, it was a revolution of how I saw food, and understood the term: experience! Although some chef now focus too much on the experience, and less on the quality of their production, it was a revolution then. I grew up classic with Bocuse, Troisgros and Guerard, and I still believe they knew the path to true pleasure. Ferran Adria know how to make a show out of it. Not all chefs are Ferran...