Talking Wine With...

Talking Wine With...

Heleen Boom, co-owner and sommelier at Restaurant Bouwkunde in Deventer, The Netherlands

In our interview series Talking Wine with... we talk to famous people from the international wine and food scene about their love of wine.

How did they get into the world of wine? What are their favorite wines? Which producers or appellations do they recommend?

This time, we are talking to Heleen Boom. Heleen is co-owner and sommelier at Restaurant Bouwkunde in Deventer. She recently received the title Sommelier of the Year by Gault & Milau and her wine list was named the best in The Netherlands several times. Needless to say, we want to know all about that! So, we asked for her thoughts about the key to a good wine list. She also talks about her most memorable wine moment and shares her favorite (wine) restaurants in the Netherlands with us. Read all of this and more in this interview with Heleen Boom.


Favorite winery: Domaine J.L. Chave, but I have several, to be honest


Favorite wine region: Bourgogne, Rhône, Loire, Germany, South Africa, Piemonte and Champagne.


Favorite music to drink wine: Erik Satie, Leonard Cohen, Pergolesi, Prince and Ben Webster.

Favorite of Best of Wines:

Domaine j.l. chave hermitage 


Soldera cassa basse toscana igt 


For more than 40 years now, you and your partner Pieter van de Pavoordt have been present every single day in your restaurant Bouwkunde in Deventer (formerly Theater-Restaurant Bouwkunde). That’s such a long time! But before that, you worked as a psychiatric nurse, something completely different. What made you decide to venture into the field of culture and gastronomy?

Well, literature and theatre will forever be my first loves, even though I have a degree in psychiatric nursing. I used to visit Theatre Bouwkunde – that was in their early years – on a regular basis in my free time, and I often used to eat at the theatre’s café. After a while, I agreed to volunteer and help out now and then, which gave me a chance to do something with literature and theatre outside of my work. It started with a few hours a week, but over time, it grew into more and more, and then I got a relationship with Pieter, who by then already was the owner of Bouwkunde and so, what can I say, one thing led to another… and the rest is history!

The (Dutch) wine world is constantly changing due to trends and developments. What do you think is the biggest change in the wine industry since your career began?

Uhm, the biggest change must be the price developments of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, for sure. Back when I started, these wines were a lot more affordable, but now the prices just keep rising and it keeps getting more and more expensive… you must have noticed this over the years, right? As well, in my restaurant and all around me I see that many more people are becoming interested in wine. They look for new flavors, they opt for different things, they don’t shy away from tasting new wines and they also educate themselves more. I think it's a great movement!

In the hospitality industry you sometimes have to deal with peculiar wine requests from your guests. Do you often get strange requests and what would be the strangest?

Actually, we don’t get too many. I never really get outrageous requests, fortunately. Except, I do think it’s a bit silly to have a special glass for the designated driver. If you're the designated driver, you simply shouldn’t drink at all. And also, I don’t quite understand the desire to drink small splashes of many different wines, instead of one good glass. I'd rather drink one fantastic wine, and really enjoy it, than having a little sip of many different wines.

You have been called the wine-conscience of Restaurant Bouwkunde. And as a crowning achievement, you have been named Sommelier of the Year 2022 by Gault & Millau. When did your love for wine start? Was it part of your upbringing?

No, there was never any wine at all at home. My father used to drink beer, or jenever, or cognac at times. My mother was only an occasional drinker. She would enjoy a little glass of ‘advocaat’ once in a while, or berry jenever. Very Dutch!

I really got my taste for wine when I started eating out and going to restaurants. This is how I got to know different wine lists and talk to other sommeliers. There was also a wine supplier at Bouwkunde when it was still a café. This supplier let us taste all kinds of different wines. This is when I really discovered the versatility of the wine world. These tastings really sparked a love for wine and after that, I wanted to know and learn more about it.

You are also a board member of the Wine Academy, and you are the chair of the Dutch Guild of Sommeliers (NGS), which is also affiliated with the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). Two important organizations that are committed to quality and knowledge within the wine industry. The NGS website states that you mainly focus on diversity. What exactly does that mean within the guild?

That’s right, I am involved in diversity at ASI. Within the NGS these tasks are even more extensive. If we need people to represent us somewhere in the Netherlands, I always make sure to select both a man and a woman. Equal gender distribution within the industry is important to us. So, we keep a very close eye on that!

We are also concerned with behavior and conduct. The ASI ensures that proper training is provided. One of those training courses teaches about people who have a disability and who work as a sommelier, which calls for a different approach. This is how we bring attention to these kinds of topics and provide information about the right adjustments. As well, training is given on how to recognize inclusive or exclusive language and conduct. This is how we ensure that everyone is aware of their conduct and that the workplace is a pleasant place for all sommeliers.

In 2018, your wine list was voted - also by Gault & Millau - the best in the Netherlands. What do you think is the secret of a good wine list?

A good wine list does not have to be long. It is important that there is something on offer in various price categories, along with a choice from different regions. Furthermore, both the cheapest and the most expensive wine must be of good quality. I also think it is a bit too easy for an establishment to offer all their wines from only one importer. This is often purely a financial decision. So, it always makes me happy to see people work with multiple importers or suppliers, because that is an essential point for me. That way you can offer your guests a diverse and varied wine list because each importer has its own focus, and you can use that to your advantage.

What do you think is the best wine-food combination for us to taste at Restaurant Bouwkunde?

You can drink the most beautiful wines at our place and that’s really what matters most to us, even more so than the most beautiful wine-food combination, actually. As I said before, I personally prefer to drink one good bottle or even just one glass, then many different wines, like a wine arrangement. This way you can fully enjoy that beautiful wine. After all, such a wine deserves time and attention and that’s exactly what you get at Restaurant Bouwkunde.

Besides Restaurant Bouwkunde, what are your favorite places in the Netherlands to eat out?

Oh, there are plenty! In Overijssel I have three favourite places: De Librije, De Groene Lantaarn and De Lindenhoff. The places that I like in other areas in the Netherlands are Zarzo, Fitzgerald, Lastage, Sync, Rijssel, Parlotte, Bokkedoorns, Domenica and Kaagman & Kortekaas. Apart from the food, I think – obviously – that the wine list is also very important. The restaurants I just mentioned have all paid a lot of attention to their wine list and that makes me so happy!

I can imagine that you have tasted a lot of beautiful wines, having worked in the wine world for so many years, Nevertheless, every wine lover has a desire to taste a certain wine. Which wine would this be for you?

That’s true, I have been able to taste many fantastic wines, not in the last place because of our own extensive wine list, but there are so many more beautiful wines that I would like to taste! The wines that are still on my wishlist are: Pétrus, Soldera and Lalou Bize Leroy. To me, these all seem exquisite wines because of their unbelievable quality, complexity, aging potential and of course their almost mythical status.

Could you share your most memorable wine moment with us?

That still has to be the moment on the day of my first exam for the Vinologists' course at the Wine Academy. Before the exam, we went to De Echoput with our tasting club, where I got to taste an Echezeaux from Henri Jayer, and it was truly amazing. Right there, I had an epiphany about what Pinot Noir could be. An unforgettable moment!

Finally, what is the most prized bottle in your collection and when will you open it?

Oh, that’s a difficult one, I have so many. It’s really impossible for me to pick one. In any case, I open my best bottles when I'm with my wine friends. The one stupid thing I sometimes do is after we've been at home all evening and we've already had some beautiful wines, I still have to get that one special Barolo, Hermitage or that beautiful Burgundy. I should just call it a night at some point of course, or it won't end well, and that would also just be a waste of good wine.

But to answer your question, I think Hermitage by Domaine J.L. Chave is one of the most beautiful wines on the planet, but also the Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Rayas, the Batard-Montrachet from Ramonet and the Palladius from Eben Sadie, to name a few beautiful bottles from the wine cellar.


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