Head Sommelier at The Dylan
Can you describe your role at The Dylan?
I am the sommelier, meaning I am responsible for all the wines at the hotel. My main focus is Vinkeles, our fine dining restaurant. During the day I create pairings based on dishes and during dinner I serve these wines along with selections from our à la carte menu to our guests.
Sounds like you’re always busy!
Indeed. On top of my role at Vinkeles, I am also in charge of ordering wine for groups and banqueting events. I also take care of the smaller wine selection at OCCO, our bar and brasserie. Here we offer our unique High Wine experience, where we serve four small dishes, each accompanied by a matching glass of wine.
What does your creative collaboration with the chef look like?
The chef actually tells me quite early when he is thinking of a new dish. He will approach me and say he’s thinking about something with seabream, olives and paprika, for example. Immediately I am curious to see what he is coming up with. Sometimes during his creative process, I have the chance to take a small bite of something. Luckily we have a good partnership, so I can be honest with any feedback. When the dish is almost fully developed, that’s when I come in with a wine suggestion. Sometimes I know exactly what is needed, other times I have a few options that would work. At that point we sit together with the dish and a selection of wines and taste everything together.
Do you travel a lot for your job? How do you decide what to stock?
Most of the wine from our suppliers comes directly to me in Amsterdam. We work with more than 20 suppliers. Some only bring Madeira, for example, or only Champagne. Many bring a selection of new wines. We take an hour to sit together and sample different things. Our suppliers know what kind of cuisine we do at Vinkeles and what works well. When I do travel, it’s upon invitation from wineries – like in Spain or South Africa – to go and stay with them, spend time in the vineyard. Talking to the winemakers and being in the vineyards is to me one of the most beautiful experiences.
Is this what inspired you to become a sommelier?
Actually my decision to work in hospitality happened while I was studying Biochemistry. I was in my laboratory and feeling a bit lonely. At the time I was working part-time at a restaurant, and I saw myself being really good at it. I thought, if I am going to work at a restaurant, then I want to be the best I can be. So I went to the Hotelschool Ter Duinen in Belgium and after that I started working at fine-dining restaurants. I realised quite soon that wines are really half of the dining experience: they can make your evening complete. So I decided to focus on wine.
How do you help guests who don’t know what to order?
When you have guests who are a bit intimidated by the wine list or by the wine-drinking experience, I always ask them what they like to drink. People know more than they think. So I start with: Do you like white or red? Then: Do you want something with a fresh character or perhaps with more of an oaky character? A little bit rounded? Something with fruit? We endeavor for our guests to find something that they will enjoy. If they don’t like it, we will find something else.
What’s currently your favourite wine to recommend to guests?
For this menu we have a white wine, Lindie Carien made by Franco Lourens from South Africa, a blend of four different grapes from all over the Western Cape. There’s the minerality from the grapes from the coastline, the riper fruit of the ones from warmer regions. It’s complex without being too heavy. I love serving it with our seafood courses.
For your job you have to stay informed about what’s currently happening in the world of wine. Can you give us some insights into what’s trending?
There was this trend recently, “the funkier, the better”. There was a special group of people who really dove into it and only drank funky wines. But besides that, natural wines, so wine made without any additives, are really in and can be quite interesting.
And what is your all time favourite wine?
That’s impossible to answer.
Do you ever drink beer or cocktails?
Beer not so much, I had to learn how to drink Heineken. That took me a while. When I do drink beer it’s special craft beer. Cocktails I like. They can be like a small party in a glass.
Besides The Dylan, what wine places would you recommend in Amsterdam?
Café de Klepel is one of my favourites. I love the relaxed atmosphere. This is where you go with your partner or friends for a cosy evening. And for great wine I go to 4850. Here you can go with people who appreciate good wine and want to taste something new and different.