What wine do you still dream of adding to your wine list one day?
Well, my dream of course is to have twenty vintages of one specific wine. Of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, I would like to have not just one, but five pages on my wine list! Or, for example, the Rieslings by Keller or Schäfer-Fröhlich, how cool would it be if I could offer five vintages of one cuvée?
I would also love to be able to serve a few very special wines, really the outrageous stuff, by the glass. Yeah, I still dream of that.
Do you ever keep bottles - personal favorites – off the wine list, because you only want certain regular guests to have them?
Yes, I’ve got to, or else it will be gone before it even makes it onto the list! Take, for example, certain Weingut Keller cuvées, they are so incredibly popular. If I put it on the menu, it would be sold out within a week. A sommelier always wants to keep certain things in the cellar and give it some time to age. Especially Riesling. To be honest, I also think that people should have a real appreciation for something that special. So, I start a conversation with people and inevitably notice if there really is a true passion for wine. Only then do I take guests into the cellar to show them some things that are 'off the menu’.
Actually, the same happens the other way around. I was once at L'Épicerie au Bon Manger in Reims, by Aline Serva. That place is pure gold. I wanted to drink La Closerie “Fac Simile” there, a magnificent champagne. “We don't have any”, answers Aline… Alright, well fine, so we drank something else that she chose for us, also fantastic of course. But then we get into a really nice conversation about that wine and she says: 'Shall I pour you something blind?' Well, you don't say no to that, of course. So we have a taste and it was exactly the profile of La Closerie's Fac Simile, but she didn't have any, so it couldn’t be that, right?!
Of course it turned out to be that bottle, but she just wanted to make sure I was someone who deserved to have it, before opening something so beautiful. Someone with respect for the bottle. I appreciate that very much!
Of course, you serve the local wines of De Kleine Schorre; the pride of Zeeland and The Netherlands. Do you like drinking Dutch wines and can we find more Dutch producers on your menu?
De Kleine Schorre is certainly Zeeland’s greatest pride and I am happy to serve it. Especially the cuvée 'Barrique' is really a great wine. Anyway, I think we have a total of 20 Dutch winemakers on the menu. I am originally a proud Limburger, so I work mostly with winemakers from Limburg. I think the wines of Harry Vorselen of Wijngoed Thorn are fantastic for example, as well as those of Jules Nijst of Domein De Wijngaardsberg. I really like working with them. Likewise, a wine like the Kruisboom Chardonnay from Klimmen… It is made by a man who makes wine really just for fun. It is hardly available anywhere, but that wine sure is top quality, I love that. Or the rieslings from Hoeve Nekum, located next to the Apostelhoeve in Maastricht. In particular after a few years in the cellar, those wines really start to shine.
And I would like to mention Genoels-Elderen from across the border in Belgium, their “Chardonnay Blauw” is simply delicious. And last but certainly not least, the winery of Jeanette van der Steen, Château Bon Baron in Dinant. Their chardonnay, that's just like great Burgundy. Not every harvest of course, but in the good years it is.
At Interscaldes you also offer wine pairings, in addition to the wine list. Do you notice that people are ordering bottles more often these days, or are pairings still exceedingly popular in Dutch top gastronomy?
Yes, pairings are still very popular, here too. A wine pairing is something that allows sommeliers to really express themselves and I really like to put a lot of thought into it. As I said, I think it's very important to keep it light and digestible. So I serve a fresh Riesling mid-way through the dinner to shake things up again. Oh, and I'll never end with anything sweet. I really think it knocks you out: just close your eyes and off to bed! That is why I always try to end with an invigorating wine, so that the guests leave the door all energised.
And yes, fortunately there are also still plenty of people who prefer to drink one or more beautiful bottles. I think the ratio right now is 60% pairings, 40% bottles. Although the wines in our pairings are of very high quality, you still always get more wine for your money when you order a bottle.
What do you think is the best wine-food combination that we can try at Interscaldes?
We serve a lot of caviar at Interscaldes, which is quite a difficult product to pair, but I've found that caviar pairs really nicely with Manzanilla sherry. The sherry should not have too much acidity, of course, because that would clash. Similarly, young, fresh champagne with caviar doesn't work either. On the other hand, mature, rich champagnes paired with caviar: now that is a match made in heaven!
Beside caviar, you will always get a dish with duck liver at Interscaldes. And while acids don't go well with caviar, they certainly do go well with foie. For example, I now serve the Mertert Herrenberg Riesling from Aly Duhr from Luxembourg with our duck liver dish. Delicious!