Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Roy Pelgrim

The most successful people in life, are usually very modest people! A great example of a modest top sommelier is Roy Pelgrim. I can say for a fact that there are lots of sommeliers (or people in general) with faaaar less accomplishments that start flying and lose control, but not Roy he is modesty itself with his 2 feet on the ground. RESPECT!

Next to his 2 victories of the title of Best Sommelier of The Netherlands, Roy has done his fair share of International competitions with results one can be very proud of. He is WSET level 3 and 4 diploma holder, has got for the previous the Weinacademiker Award (because he had best WSET results from the BENELUX), has obtained his ASI diploma, has been awarded by the Dutch State as SVH master in wine and the list goes on and on… and I’m not even talking about his professional career he build up next to that?!!

After finishing his studies at the Hotellerie school at Apeldoorn, Roy started working as assistant manager at hotel ‘De Gouden Leeuw’ , to eventually become food & beverage manager at hotel Lapersbroek. The next step in his career was a very crucial or important one as he stayed at Michelin star awarded restaurant Cordial for over 20years :-) so he must have liked it there. Today (since very recently) Roy works as maître and sommelier for the 2 Michelin awarded restaurant Tribeca in Heeze that is considered as one of the Netherlands’ best restaurants.

I repeat what I said before, there are many that start flying for less :-) Please enjoy his interview and I’m sure you’ll agree with me.

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I know it’ll sound like a political answer, but………. I have no particular preference for region or country, but to me well-made soil-oriented Bourgogne- and Champagne Wines are incredible.

And what about 'a-point' high class Bordeaux ….?

In addition, we should not forget Italy's diversity in grape varieties with great grapes such as Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Greco, Garganega and Verdicchio. There are also great developments in Chile and Argentina at the moment. And then I forget the great Rieslings, Sylvaners and Spätbrugunders from Germany or the smaragd and 1 ÖTW from the powerful, spicy and ginger-like Grüners from Austria. So basically, if the grape and wine show definition and character, I am satisfied as a sommelier :-)

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

  1. Listen to your guest and interpret what he wants to drink!! To sell an expensive wine you do not have to be a good sommelier… Ask yourself 2 or 3 references of what he normally drinks, so that you can distinguish the taste profile and spending level of this guest. Always consult whether your choice is the right one and be discreet. You should also advise your guests and NOT obligate.

  2. I also think that a sommelier, like a good chef, has to put together his own wine list with his choices. So do not make a copy from or like many other sommeliers, but choose your own way. Of course this is in balance with the guests and the level of expectations of the restaurant (or other establishment) you are working for.

  3. A sommelier is always open to new developments in wine and beverages, so he never stops learning.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

The role of a good sommelier is increasingly seen as added value for a restaurant in our country (The Netherlands). The disadvantage is, however, that there is no official title sommelier in the Netherlands. So unfortunately everyone can call themselves sommelier here…

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I have been passionate about wine since my youth at the Hotel School. I still remember how my first (affordable) bottles tasted ….

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

I know it might sound funny, but I actually have huge respect for 2 former students of mine.

The first one would be Richelle van Gemert who today is Advanced sommelier and works at 67 Pall Mall in Londen. The guts and courage that she shows as a young lady to make the transition to a Walhalla for sommeliers in a foreign country and develop herself enormously. I’m very sur we will hear a lot about her in the future.

The 2nd one would be my former sommelier Adriaan Visser. He has managed to develop enormously as a starting sommelier. Adriaan has concluded WSET level 3, CMS Introductory and Certified in one year!?! WSET passed with excellence and CMS with an Otto Hinderer trophy for most successful. In the same year, he also won his ASI sommelier diploma (golden pin) and as frosting on the cake he won second place during the Dutch Championship for sommeliers. And this in only 1 year?? In French they would say ‘des perles rares’ with a bright future ahead!

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

A wine a court must ALWAYS serve a dish rather than dominate. The dish must remain in balance with the wine. The wine may change with the food, but then must come back to its original shape. Be careful with too much wood and phenolic bitters with dishes.

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

My suggestion would be that every sommelier should rent a bike in Beaune and then cycle, with guidance of a good wine list, through the Cote d'Or.

Only then you slowly learn to understand how the complexity of vineyards in Burgundy fit together.

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

Older vintages from Bordeaux 61 and 45 or from Burgundy 1990.

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

…...

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

I have had some great experiences, drinking wine in the vineyard with the producer. Some examples are a great Riesling in the Moselle and Adeneuer Garkammer at their own vineyard. These are mighty examples to be able to drink the wine while listening to the producer.

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