What Sommeliers Say – Marie-Agnès Labopin, Ewineasia.com
We introduce Marie-Agnès Labopin, the in-house Sommelier of Ewineasia.com, who hails from Burgundy, France and is armed with the experience of working in several Michelin Star restaurants worldwide, including the 3 Michelin Star Joël Rabuchon Restaurant in Resorts World Sentosa.
Why did you decide to become a sommelier?
I believe that it was my 2 grandfathers who instill their passion to me. Even though I am from Burgundy, I was not from a family of winemakers. We are simply wine lovers. I was drinking a “Goute D’Or from Les Comtes Lafon” and it was then, I discovered my undying passion for wines.
At a young age, I have always been impressed by the service team of restaurants. It was because of this that one day, I declared during a family dinner that when I grow up, I wanted a career in F&B. And I was only 10 at that time.
I have always been supported by my family.
Which country are you from and how many years have you been a sommelier?
I hail from Burgundy, France and obtained my Sommelier certificate in 2006 from Tain-l’Hermitage after 6 years of study.
What do you think makes a good sommelier?
Being a Sommelier is a career; it requires me to be a student all my life, to be practical, and I always need to build on my experience. It takes a lot of time to become sommelier.
It is definitely not after weeks or months in class, that you can become a good sommelier.
A good sommelier shares, listens, interprets, and translates what guests are looking for. This is not just about what the sommelier likes, but what he/she understands about the customer and his/her preferences. A sommelier transforms a dining experience into something special
Many people are more impressive on paper than in real life. There are also people who know a lot about wine but can’t perform on the service floor or have never been in a vineyard. They tend to spend more time participating wine competitions and studying wines than working with and for costumers. They may become a wine educator, but not a sommelier.
There are plenty of professional sommeliers who don’t do competitions. Sommelier defines the combination of hard work, punctuality, consistency, humility, and be an undying passion to be a humble connection between winemaker and wine-drinker.
Tell us one thing about yourself that others may not know?
I was 14 years old when I decided to send a letter to the 5 best restaurant/chef in France to express my passion of wines and the F&B industry.
It was very ambitious, but fruitful, as all of them replied to me with encouragement and they even invited me down to meet them in their restaurant. It’s how I Meet Alain Ducas in his personal office in Paris at the 59 POINCARE, the previous location of the palace Plaza Athénée
I visited all restaurants of Michel Troisgros and Jaques Lameloise, with their Chef Sommelier. I even had a coffee with Goeorges Blanc at Vonas after getting his autograph for his book.
Finally, I was of age to join the F&B the year after. 10 years later, I found myself working here, in Singapore for Joël Robuchon.
What are the perks and challenges of being a female sommelier?
Yes, it is indeed challenging to female Sommelier, but I prefer to focus on the positive points rather than its difficulties.
Everyone can learn from books but I believe that being sensitive, delicate and attentive to detail are the natural qualities of a women. These qualities are extremely critical in a job when senses and a personal touch make a huge difference in the customer’s experience.
Which is your favourite food and wine pairing?
I believe that Food and wine pairing is like art, it is subjected to many factors and very personal.
Being from Burgundy, I always enjoy a Chardonnay with some cheese. I do find the Chasagne-Montrachet from Domaine Philippe Colim extremely enjoyable. This wine is the perfect balance between elegant freshness and a rich, without being excessively unctuous.
Though I am from Burgundy, I studied in Rhone Valley and during my time there, I always appreciated a Cote Rotie with a powerful dish. Today, I like to drink the wines of Yves Cuilleron and his Cote Rotie Madiniere.
I believe that wine should always tell a story and come from a specific place.