Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Samuil Angelov

I have the pleasure to introduce to you Finnish top sommelier Samuil Angelov. I’m always surprised when I do the interviews with all of these wonderful sommeliers that many of them just rolled in to the role of sommelier :-) Some are professor, have PhD, mechanic, etc… but somehow decided to make a big career switch and follow their passion. With Samuil this ‘switch’ might have been smaller, but he did studies to become a chef and also worked a while as chef… but somehow he found his way to his actual passion. Which is great because you can only do a perfect job it passion is there!!

The least we can say is that Samuil is a highly regarded sommelier and wine educator in Helsinki. He has won the title of best sommelier of Finland 3 times and has competed in several International competitions (ASI European and World Championships, Ruinart, etc…) where he was always amongst the 10 best. Today he still is present at many national and International competitions, but now as judge instead of participant.

During his career Samuil Angelov has worked in some of Finland’s best restaurants like Savoy, Palace, Sundman’s and Kämp. In addition to his distinct knowledge of wines and other beverage, he is known for providing a refined very qualitative service.

Today Samuil is the owner, sommelier and consultant in/of a few restaurants in Helsinki like Muru, Pastis and Finnjävel. He combines these jobs with being president of the Finnish Sommelier Association and teaching many wine/gastronomy related (master) classes where again he wants to inspire as much people as possible. He inspired me… hope he’ll do the same to you

Hyvää käsittelyssä!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Oh my… the obvious answer would be Bourgogne as it’s my love, but to be completely honest I would have to say Loire because of its diversity of wines. Loire has a lot of hidden treasures with Chenin and Cabernet Franc, dry and sweet the perfect combo with traditional Finnish dishes that are actually quit light flavored dishes.

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

He or She should be a super team player, not only with the kitchen but with the entire staff. A sommelier is taking care of 'educating' the staff and letting them know what to be serve. A sommelier is humble about what he knows but eagers to learn. Sommeliers are top 'floor servers'.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

It all starts how you value yourself! The main question in valuation is who do you want to value you? The big 'audience' , in that case I say no as sommeliers are still seen as servers and they don't get the correct recognition, or not yet :-). We need to be humble and proud of our profession and try to to create shining stars ourselves. That’s how service will be evaluated and respected. And of course this is how I see this in the northern corner of Europe, Finland.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

It was more or less to be able to pleasure my guest better. Finland is not a wine country and 20 years ago there was a only little/select population of 'wine connoisseurs', The growth of the wine culture has been huge the last few years both as market as on knowledge about wine.

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

There are many, Mr Jussi Ansaharju who Sommelier at Michelin star awarded G.W. Sundmans in 2000 when I worked there as commis. He introduced me in the world of refined wines. Of course the world of competitions it are Mr Dubs and Mr Basset who inspirited me a lot. But the person who I look up the most is my very good friend Veronique Rivest. Vero adds a humane touch to this profession, and the passion that she has and gives it the others. She is a SUPER-STAR!

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

I graduated as chef and although I only worked a few years in kitchen, I still SEE myself as a chef who is finishing off the dishes with a 'sauce' aka wine. I try to extend the chef's dishes with my wines. Playing with acidity and fruit is 'my thing'. I love full flavors, but it must be said that the small and long lasting flavors are giving the biggest satisfaction.

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

You cannot pick only one. Everyone should visit as much as regions as possible and as much as they can. Everyone has their one specialties. For me the most eye opening was probably Robertson in South-Africa, but this is just a personal choice as I did not know what to expect... it was just amazing!

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

Burgundy and Armand Rousseau. For me that is perfectionism combined with elegance. Nothing else just that ;)

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

There are many, but I remember during a class about wineries from and in Puglia we went to a nice restaurant. At this restaurant there was a bottle from Castel del Monte that had a price of 100€., as this was (still is) a lot of money we decided to share the bottle (we were 10 and everybody chipped in). When we got the wine we noticed it corked. I said to the waiter that it was corked, but he did not understand me :-). I then tried to explain him in my best Italian: "questo vino e buchone, problema di tapa, no Bueno…" at that moment I was of the idea that he understood me as he said “no problemo”, but instead of bringing us another bottle he opened the doors and windows of the restaurant :-) :-). I guess my Italian wasn't how I imagined it to be ....

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

There are so many memories of having an super culinary experience in different locations, but there is one common thing in all, and this is being in good company of a good friend(s). I have been thinking this for many days and come to this conclusion that it doesn't matter what you eat or drink if you’re not surrounded by good friends. ... But if I need to give one its breakfast at the fish market of Tokyo, it’s worth the visit.

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