Enjoying a glass of wine with your meal is one thing, but can a sommelier really improve your overall dining experience? For Sanat Kumar the answer is an unequivocal yes. Recently promoted to the position of Chief Sommelier at Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius, Sanat believes every dinner is an opportunity for the guest, chef and sommelier to explore a new collaboration of wine and cuisine.
Sanat’s own journey and passion for wine was sparked in Mumbai, India, and four years ago he began his career with Constance Hotels and Resorts as a commis sommelier in the Maldives. With constant support and regular training he progressed in his field to the role of Assistant Chief Sommelier and now Chief Sommelier, shortly after returning from an educational trip to Domaine Mas Amiel in France where he had the opportunity to meet the owners and experience the grape harvest first hand. Visits such as these are an opportunity for our sommeliers to increase their knowledge of the world’s wine regions, and understand more about the journey from supplier to guest – something we at Constance value highly.
North west of Perpignan in the heart of French Cathar country, the Mas Amiel private wine estate is the largest in Maury and sits in the heart of the rugged Agly valley. Characterised by extreme temperatures and schisty, heat-retaining soil, the region is known worldwide for its fortified wine, though Mas Amiel’s production is split between both fortified and dry table wines – a selection of which are featured on the Constance wine list. We caught up with Sanat to find out more…
Tell us something about the methods and philosophy of Mas Amiel. Can you explain why the wines are so disinctive?
First of all, there’s a philosophy of adding value to this unique wine growing heritage by protecting terroir, preserving the soil’s living organisms and employing only those farming practices which respect the environment.
In terms of what sets these wines apart, I would say it’s a combination of extremely diverse terroir, soil type and the overall wine-making and aging techniques. For example, the fruit is first de-stemmed, and then a practice known as mutage is employed where additional alcohol is added to the fruit. By allowing it to steep for 30 days, the aromas and polyphenols can be fully extracted from the grapes which provides a good balance of sugar, alcohol and fruit.
The wine is then aged in glass demijohns for a year, followed by several further years in 350-hectolitre oak casks. It’s certainly a very long aging technique, but it’s a key part of the Mas Amiel signature and an essential process for the wine to acquire its distinct mature body and aromas.
How has it made you think differently about the food and wine pairings you would recommend?
For a sommelier, it’s very important to understand terroir and the basic characteristics of wines. When you visit a vineyard and taste the wine and cuisine of the region, you gain an appreciation for the local culture and different styles of cooking. You’re then able to share the significance of this to your guests when recommending the perfect pairing. So many different types of cuisine are available here in Mauritius, we’re able to recommend wines from almost any region.
Did anything surprise you about Mas Amiel wines?
Yes, some of the dry wines under the Maury Sec appellation surprised me. Until recently the Maury appellation was reserved exclusively for vin doux naturel style, but the 2011 vintage saw the introduction of a new AOC designation of Maury Sec, to allow for dry table wines from the same grape varieties. I’d certainly recommend giving these a try.
Finally, can you explain how a world class sommelier can add to the dining experience?
To my mind, a sommelier holds a key role in any restaurant. They have the knowledge and understanding to add context to the meal, and suggest wines to guests which should elevate their dining experience above the ordinary. A sommelier undergoes intensive training to turn their passion into a career. At Constance, we’re always aware that every meal presents an opportunity to create lifelong memories for our guests, and this is what we always strive to achieve.
Finally, Constance is just back from the Cape Wine 2015 event – here’s what they found…
Jerome Faure, the corporate sommelier as well as five of his team attended the Cape Wine 2015 event in September. While they were there they discovered and tasted new wines, met the winemakers, and collaborated with associations including PIWOSA and The Zoo Biscuits.
This initiative reinforces Constance’s commitment and the philosopy of the group towards wine excellence. Participants from Constance were: Jorald Julie (Assistant Corporate Sommelier); Emmanuelle Lebacle (Assistant Head Sommelier Constance, Le Prince Maurice); Sathia Rau (Assistant Head Sommelier Constance Lemuria, Seychelles); Nirmal Seebundhun (Assistant Head Sommelier Constance Ephelia, Seychelles); and Cyril Lebeaupin (Head Sommelier Constance Halaveli, Maldives).
- Discover perfect wine parings with cabernet sauvignon
- Venture into the wine cellar for champagne tasting with Jerome Faure
- Find out more about wine tasting at Constance.