Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Simon Zimmermann

Please meet the next sommelier to put in the spotlight, 2 time Best Sommelier of Norway winner (2015 & 2017) and 2013 Best Nordic Sommelier Simon Zimmerman.

At the age of 16 Simon started to get lots of interest for spirits and mixing drinks (not sure if the movie cocktail is init for something ;-)), but quickly after starting his studies at the restaurant/hotelschool his point of interest started to move towards the subject that would change his life, wine… the interest for it never went away after that, it only kept growing (although we of course all know that a sommelier’s job is not only wine related :-) , but of course a very big part of it is). So after graduating from the hotel school the next step to take seemed logic, starting to specialize himself and following studies to become a sommelier at the Kulinarisk Academy inOslo .

It was during the years studying at the hotel school and sommelier school, or better during the internships/holiday work/ practice work at restaurant Bølgen og Moi working with Ørjan Lundmark (at the time best sommelier in Norway, he also got Simon into the competition scene) where the “winebug” started biting him harder :-)

After graduating it was time to start his professional life of sommelier, a career he started at the Lysebu Hotel. The hotel had a huge wine cellar with mostly classic wine collection, as he was following his sommelier training at that time it was a huge help for him discovering all those classic pearls. After 4 years the time for something new had arrived, Simon started working for the Michelin star awarded restaurant Ylajali . During that period Simon also did his fair share of competitions with many 2nd and 3rd places during both National and international competitions, but as mentioned above also with a few sweet victories in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Today he fills his days as head-sommelier at restaurant Happolati combined with lots of travelling and learning.

Enjoy the read!!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

This is a hard one, it all depends on the season and my mood J but two of my favorites right now are Swartland in South Africa due to its variation in classic grape varieties shown in a different light to what we’re used to. Steiermark in Austria because it’s a small area with very high quality wines from aromatic grape varieties which it seems like a lot of people underestimate.

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

You need to be humble and have a way of reading your guest to understand their needs. You have to work hard and read to keep yourself updated about new things happening in the wine world. In our line of work things tend to change and shift every day so it’s important to be flexible.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

In Norway a bit of both, Today everyone wants to be a wine expert and it’s a good thing that people find wine interesting and wants to educate themselves but that also means that some of those people think they know better than you while some of those people take the opportunity to discuss, talk and educate themselves even more.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Started already when I was 16 years old, reading everything I could about wine and spirits. My parents are originally from Austria and also have a big interest in wine. So during my childhood I got to go along for many winery visits in both Austria but also in Italy and Greece.

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

Arvid Rosengren because when I’ve been lucky enough to meet him lots of times. He has always been very humble and he always shows such extreme professionalism and skill.

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

I guess I use a pretty common approach, trying to figure out how both drink and dish can help each other to “shine” by taking all aspects of the dish and drink in consideration and making sure they don’t take anything away from each other. I also love mixing it up creating a dish together with my chefs for an already set beverage.

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

Hmm, I guess I would have to say Mosel. It’s an absolutely stunning region with a lot of history, and spectacularly beautiful (and steep) vineyards with some of the best wines in the world.

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

One of my favorites from Burgundy is the unicorn producer Rene Angel so I would love to taste my favorite vintage of the Grands Échezeaux 1996 at some point.

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

I have so many great memories from that time but I do recall the craziest one which was a train ride between Paris and Montpellier during a study trip in Languedoc with my sommelier class. We left the train for alcohol and arrived “a little” tipsy at the train station in Montpellier. We were very happy but the teachers who met us there were not. (I was 21 at the time)

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

Here in Norway the spring has arrived and the first green asparagus from Hvasser island in in season any day now. Blanch them and pour yourself a crisp Styrian Sauvignon Blanc

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