Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Richelle van Gemert

Imagine, the day before the ASI Best Sommelier of the World contest you get called to say that you have to fall in for the 1st candidate of your country as he got sick. Sounds like a crazy experience and something you don’t want happening!? Well that’s exactly what happened with the next sommelier we are presenting to you, Richelle van Gemert. Last year (2019) she had to sub for Lendl Mijnhijmer who got sick and had to cross the torch over to Richelle, who from her side jumped on the first train towards Antwerp. She ended-up amongst the 20 best (out of 66) which an amazing result for having to perform this last minute… hats off for that!!

Richelle is classically trained at the King Willem I College after which a bright career in the HoReCa starting with a position as sommelier at restaurant de Negemannen. From that point on there was only 1 way… up!! She continued her career at top Dutch Michelin star awarded restaurants like de Karpendonkse Hoeve * and Cordial * to eventually cross the channel and start working for one of or if not THE most well-known private wine club 67 Pall Mall and top London restaurants like Adam Handling Chelsea and currently at the Core by Clare Smyth**. Not too shabby :-) :-)

As if working the HoReCa is not challenging enough, Richelle also found the time to get a degree as advanced sommelier at the Court of Master Sommeliers, she got certified by the SVH (Foundation for Catering Competence) in divers topics, became certified Sake Sommelier, obtained the ASI Sommelier diploma and participated in divers national and international contests and winning the 2019 South African Sommelier cup. Not forgetting the travels across the globe to visit wineries, etc… So we are basically talking about a person who likes to keep things busy and keep on learning.

Please join us in getting to know this classy sommelier some more! Enjoy the read

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I do not have a specific region that I love working with. There are so many wine regions all over the world. All regions have their best wine areas with different terroir and experienced winemakers that create a delicious wine. All depends on the style of wine I am looking for.

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

To be a good host(ess). On top of that we need to be able to understand what a guest is asking for when making a recommendation. That will help you with recommending the right wine your guest is looking for. Do not force your 'own taste' on a guest.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Underestimated by some, valued by some. A part might think it is an easy job and only consists of recommending and serving wine, tasting a lot of wine and going on wine trips. It is so much more than that. Some others really value the job and know what is behind that romantic idea of being a sommelier.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

At the Hotel school I started to learn a bit about wine and the more time past, the more I started to like it. But the bug really bit me when I started to work at a restaurant where the owner and sommelier sat down with me after service teaching me more about specific styles and food ... that's where the lightning bolt hit me and I fell in love with wines. After that I continued following an education to become a sommelier.

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

Of course my mentor Roy Pelgrim, he has taught and trained me for years and prepared me for competitions too.

I just take in as much as possible from colleagues I have worked with. I was lucky to have worked in companies together with some top sommeliers. Now I take in whatever I can from Gareth Ferreira.

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

I have followed a sommelier education in the Netherlands at the Academie voor Gastronomie by Peter Klosse. They have a separate 'certification' or programs for food and wine combination. I'm still following it actually. It is based on an objective technical tasting profile of food and wine. It helps you to explain how a product tastes to someone that has never tasted it. These profiles generally seem to match when they are the same. Combinations can be made according the same tasting profiles using Sake, beer, tea and other beverages.

It is all about the balance.

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

South Africa, Western Cape wine lands. Beautiful nature/wine regions and lots of different styles of wines to find.

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

I was very luckily to have tasted wines I thought never to be able to taste.

I am interested in some wines from the Massandra Cellars.

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

Tasting wines with food, I loved those lessons! Also doing a harvest at De Linie in Made, North Brabant, between drunken wasps. That was a very adventurous harvest!

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

Chambers of flavor by the Gingerline,’the Multi-Dimensional Dining Experience'. On a secret location, I may not tell more as I sworn to keep it secret… (Chambersofflavour.co.uk)

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