What are the wines you like to drink at home?
I am mainly a red wine drinker. I also drink white, but after a glass or two I switch back to red. I am a big fan of Spanish red; great Rioja or Ribera del Duero. Houses like La Rioja Alta (Rioja) and of course Vega Sicilia (Ribera del Duero) but also Tertre Roteboeuf (St. Emillion) and Grange des Pères (Languedoc) are my personal favourites.
I like to drink those Spaniards slightly chilled, at 15 to 16 degrees. That’s how they best come into their own. I am also a big fan of beautiful red Burgundy, which you could also serve slightly chilled, of course.
I understand that your personal taste actually matches the wines you have on the menu at Aan de Poel?
That’s right, although I have to say that, for 80% of my guests, I don’t even hand them a wine list at all. They are now all acquaintances. At today’s lunch service we had 22 tables, 16 of whom I know personally. I know exactly who loves what and how much they want to spend. Of course, I sometimes throw in a surprise, or I take it to the edge a little bit, people like that too. And for new guests, I try to get a feel for what they like, so that I can lead them to a certain wine.
I recently had a guest who said: 'I love Pouilly Fumé and Pouilly Fuisse...’ So, what to do? I try not to talk directly about it, because the last thing you want to do as a host is to correct people at their table. So I’d say, for example: 'For this menu, I would go for the Pouilly Fuissé, it is a little more robust...’ or I’d say 'In this warm weather I would go for the Pouilly Fumé, which has a somewhat fresher style…' That’s how I try to guide them a bit, but the most important thing remains: always respect the guest.
What is the best food-wine pairing that you have come up with at Aan de Poel?
To be honest, I'm not much of a wine-food pairing guy. Actually, I'm a little tired of those packages. Some only want white, others only want red, the next only want organic, or they only eat fish, or they want a Designated Driver package, or only a quarter of a “Designated Driver package” (really!)… With all these exceptions to consider, it’s hardly doable. And of course all those wines are searched on Vivino. And I have to explain why we charge €7 per glass for “a €12 wine”. Sometimes you just get a little tired of it…I've actually reached a point a couple of times where I was on the verge of quitting wine pairing altogether. At the end of the day, all I want to do is serve people a little white, and then a little red.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't any great wine-food combinations. My own best wine pairing was when Stefan (van Sprang, chef and co-owner Aan de Poel) and I were still working at Ron Blaauw. We were asked to invent a pairing with Château d'Yqyuem, but it couldn’t be a dessert or a dish with foie gras. So, we opted for a dish with IJsselmeer eel, coated with yakitori sauce and we served it with Yquem by the glass. That was really divine, unbelievable. Later, we also put that on the menu here at Aan de Poel. Great, of course, that people could go home and say that they had drunk Yquem at Aan de Poel. At the time, I paid €80 per half bottle and charged the purchase price. I think we charged €35 a glass at the time just to break even. Yquem has of course become a lot more expensive since then…
One thing that sometimes happened, by the way, was that after I had poured the glass and left the bottle on the table for a while, people would start pouring themselves. That’s fine of course, but then I do charge for another glass. If you have the slightest idea what Yquem costs, you’d understand why… But then when the bill came, I had to explain myself again. So at one point I thought, you know, that’s enough! But now that I'm talking about it, I think maybe we should just try it again. It was very tasty!
And what about the most beautiful wine-food combination you were ever served yourself?
That was without a doubt a dish I ate at Restaurant Da Vinci in Maasbracht, by Margot (Reuten). It was crispy baked sweetbreads combined with Vosne-Romanée from Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, one of my favorite Burgundy producers. An absolutely stellar combination!