Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: George Loukas
The reason I put all these wonderful sommeliers in the spotlight, is because to my opinion they deserve the same attention as chefs do. Sommeliers are an important part in giving guests a complete gastronomic experience! The sommelier I want to introduce to you today is Greek top sommelier George Loukas (not the Star Wars guy :-))
In 2002 George was nominated as ‘Best Greek Sommelier’ and also participated to various International sommelier/wine competitions both as contestant as judge. During his career George worked at several highly rated restaurants and hotels all over Greece and has travelled a lot to learn as much as possible about wines... no better way to do this then by visiting vineyards and feeling/seeing where/how everything is made.
Today George is working as wine consultant for restaurants/hotels inside and outside of Greece and coaches young sommeliers preparing them for National and International Competitions. This year they even took it to a next level by having Sören Polonius helping a hand. In 2010 George founded a company called ‘Genius in Gastronomy’ that provides training seminars on wine, beer and spirits to both private consumers as professionals. So basically spreading the knowledge about wine and educating the Greeks more in refined wines and beverages.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
When I was young I was fond of the Burgundy and Riesling wines... like many young sommeliers I think. Nowadays however I like to explore more like the 'magnitude' of wines from the Northern Rhone. The beautiful Syrah from the Côte-Rôtie , Hermitage, the best value/quality wines from St.Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage but also the complex white wines from Viognier and Roussanne. I like their wide character when they are young and how beautifully they age, giving overwhelming moments and the ability to pair them with great gastronomic dishes.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
I think first of all a good sommelier has to have the willingness to keep on learning new things because it is a profession that is always evolving. Furthermore I think a good sommelier has to have a gastronomical culture, politeness , the talent of communication and the agility to move in a restaurant .
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
In Greece the job of a sommelier is underestimated and misunderstood. For many years the gourmet restaurants used to hire sommelier just for the status and not for the essence of the job. Luckily the quick development of tourism and gastronomy in the touristy regions but also in Athens changes that scenery . Resulting into more and more restaurants/hotels that are looking to hire professional sommeliers in order to share their knowledge and to serve the growing well educated crowd.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
I studied Technology of food and when I was looking for seminars on food 'tasting' someone proposed me to attend a wine tasting seminar. After that I fell in love with wine. The only job that combines communication, wine, hospitality and gastronomy all together in 1 job aka a sommelier.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
I admire a lot personalities in the world of wine whose characters and careers have influenced me. A great example of that would be Jean Delmas of Haut-Brion who I had the honor to meet personally a few years ago. In the 'sommelier world' I admire Enrico Bernardo who was and still is the best 'performer' and sommelier for me. As a coach I think there is no doubt there is one sommelier that jumps out and this is my good friend and one and only Sören Polonius.
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
The texture ,sweetness and complexity are elements that I take into account when I have to do wine and food pairing. My goal is to give a unique combination of tastes that is why I love to experiment a lot without forgetting the basic rules of pairing but just giving them a new twist .
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
It is a difficult question because if you love wine and food you can find so many places and countries that will blow your mind. I adore Bordeaux, Alsace, I had an exquisite road-trip in Spain, every summer I go to Provence and I love weekends in Tuscany. But if I have to make a recommendation I would recommend you to explore Greece, the sun ,the sea , the fast growing wineries, the indigenous grape varieties, the local gastronomy .I think is the perfect place to be and to taste great wines.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
I would travel everywhere in the world to take place in a vertical tasting of my all-time favorite Château in Bordeaux , Château Latour with its best vintages started from the beginning of the 20th century for example of 1916-1920-1924-1926-1929-1945-1949-1955-1959-1961-1964-1970...
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
I didn’t do hotel management school... so unable to answer this questions :-)
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop,etc…?
I think everybody should have a dinner at “ l’ Atelier de Jöel Robuchon” I like the concept of the stunning Japanese-inspired counter, the superb food and the great wine list.