Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Ellen Franzén

Girlpower!! Please allow me to introduce to you the 2019 Best Sommelier of Sweden Ellen Franzén.

You would think that a person who studied economics at University would end up working for a bank or a high profile job, but definitely not working in HoReCa?? Well, that’s exactly what Ellen did :-) . Initially, when she was doing seasonal work at ski resorts, she tried to ignore the fact the she actually liked this kind of work. You can run, but you cannot hide AND then If you decide you do want to continue in that of job and you end up working under the wings of a multiple time World/ European champion coach and Internationally admired top sommelier (and very humble) like Sören Polonius … I guess your passion for the profession or wine in general will not become less. So we could say without exaggeration that her time at Michelin starred restaurant Esperanto has been an important one for her further career or rather for expanding a passion that was already hiding somewhere.

Despite her young age Ellen has already done her fair share of competitions, with results that one doesn’t have to be ashamed about. In both 2017 and 2018 she became second in the Best Sommelier of Sweden championship and won it in 2019. The same goes for Ruinart Nordic Challenge where she became 3rd in 2018 and won it in 2019. During the Best Sommelier of Nordics she became 2nd in 2018, so I’m pretty sure the title will be hers this year :-) and who knows what more??

Today Ellen works for the 2 Michelin star awarded Swedish restaurant Gastrologik and we are pretty sure there is a very bright career in front of her

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I’m always grateful when I find regions that really offer so much drinkability without too high price tag. Even how much I do love working with great burgundy wines for example, the cost is not always the most fitting for wine pairings. For the last years Hungary has been one of my ‘go to’ countries to find food friendly wine without getting ruined. In the Tokaij area you have the diversity, of course the sweet wines, but even more approachable also all the dry ones, but with a bit more generous fruit, harslevelu and ferment blends. Works magic in the pairings!

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

I’m still trying to figure it out, but for me it’s the combination between passion, knowledge, service minded, hospitality and the urge to create a unique experience for every guest. If you have the knowledge it’s easier to guide the guest, but I think the passion about wine is as important. I really love to see that spark in the sommeliers eyes when they talk about wine! In the end it’s also important to remember that your most important job as a sommelier is to make the guests happy, it’s not a one-man show.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

I think we have seen a great change the last, let’s say, ten years and now I think it’s a job that gets a lot of appreciation. Finally the restaurant business has really understood the value of a good sommelier, and there are more that are willing to pay the price for one.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

When I grew up I never had the idea to work in the restaurant business, but I just fell in love with it. I tried to leave the business once and studied economics at the university, but I missed it every day. So when my bachelor was done I thought that if I’m going back to a restaurant I need to do it all the way and really excel. I did a short course at sommelier school and started to work at a Michelin starred restaurant, Esperanto (now closed), and the rest is as we say, history.

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

One of the most important persons close to me is Sören Polonius, coach for Swesomm, the Swedish national sommelier team. He has been my mentor since I started at Esperanto where he then was the head sommelier, and he is also the reason why I started to compete.

If we’re going broader I think Gerard Basset has been a great inspiration to me as well, and still is after his dead.

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

For me harmony and balance is key. When I’m doing the wine pairings at work I always try to put the food in the center, and giving the wine a supporting, but as important, role. When I’m doing pairings privately or at home I would say the opposite, putting the wine in the center and then make food that can brings out the best from the wines!

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

Is it boring to say Piedmont? I just love to visit wine areas where it’s not only great wines in different styles, but also great food!

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

Ah, that was a tricky one. I actually can’t say a specific wine cause for me it’s often the full experience that makes a wine fantastic - the company, food, the place etc.

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

Most of my wine studies has been outside school, because I just took a short sommelier course, and been studying other stuff most of the time in school. I don’t have a specific memory, but every time I’m out traveling and meeting the passionate people behind the wines I get a reminder of the beauty in our profession.

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

I still having one of my most loving memories from a sunny day in Paris where me and some colleagues had a picnic in Buttes Chaumont. All the goodies we could find in the deli store accompanied by some really great wines, drunk in plastic cups. No rules, no requirements, ….that was a true pleasure!

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