The Somm I’ll never forget.

Picture Galway. Galway in the winter. Picture me in Galway, in the winter. It’s cold and grey and I am feeling it. 

When I travel, I like to discover the local food and drink scene. No shocks there. A pint of Guinness and steaming hot bowl of seafood chowder would never normally feature in my diet. Except when I’m in Galway. And what do you know? I enjoyed every bit of it. The way I see it is that so much of the local culture is front and centre in the dining scene. We have to eat anyway, so why not make it a genuine part of the experience, more than just calories and sustenance. Do you think that is more satisfying? More memorable? Well, I do. 

It’s not just knowing that you have experienced the local food that makes the moment memorable, it’s the locals themselves. The people that provide their service in welcoming you, taking your order, checking on your enjoyment, are what make the moment… you guessed it, magical. You know I love to chat to anyone and everyone. It’s in my blood. Mum. ha! Well, Galway was no exception. Damn I’m glad. My conversation with one particular gentleman took my relationship with the town to a special and to be honest, unforgettable place. As a solo traveller, that was priceless. 

So, let’s go back to story-telling. I was cold in Galway and on the hunt for a cozy and quiet wine bar. At the bottom of an unremarkable office building, I found one. LOAM.

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Walking in, I felt instantly welcome. The aesthetic was 1960s functional and chic. There was toasted pine furniture and wild botanicals. The setting was idyllic. The lighting was soft, pumpkins were dotted about, Reidel glasses were stored nicely in the corner. The greenery was matched with peaceful 70s music and modern welcome washed over me before the first hello. It was all very nice, all very comfortable. 

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Straight away, the team asked if I would like a seat. Little lonely me was very grateful for the warm welcome. I knew I was in a happy place. Skip forward a few minutes and I was telling the server that I was really impressed by the wine list. There were so many funky and organic options, from all over the world. After drinking exclusively French wine, from exclusively French wine lists, the international and creative list appeared forward thinking. Yes, I was excited. So, the server sensed my enthusiasm and did the greatest thing.

He called over the somm. 

Nerves kicked in. How could I hold a one on one convo with a fancy somm at a fancy wine bar? I got all up in my head, worrying about the judgement he would slap on me, or the inevitable rubbish that would mumble out of my nervous mouth. It was a full attack of somm stress ha! Five seconds later, I was at ease. The somm (who I will forever regret not asking his name) was an angel sent from above. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a somm, I think of a snooty French guy (sorry France, I still love you), with a snooty attitude. This somm, my somm, was the opposite. From the first instant he was open, humble and just really really friendly. We were equals. I never knew a somm could be like that. 

Our conversation now feels like a warm blur. I was so in awe of him that I remember thinking “you have the remember this”, “take mental notes”. It was a spur of the moment lesson in wine. More than that, it was a lesson in life. A priceless encounter with a once in a lifetime mentor. Naturally, I quickly scribbled down notes while I enjoyed each sip of wine. Here is what I am left with:

  • Decide to be happy. 
  • Pretentious people actually know very little. There is no room for snobbery and closed mindedness.
  • The best wine experts are humble and keen to learn more. Every day, say yes to something new.
  • Trends are moving away from old world rules. People are doing their own thing. I translated this to something along the lines of ‘be yourself in life and be yourself in wine’. Hello, lightbulb moment. 
  • If it hasn’t been done before, or is rare, that is actually a good thing, not something to be afraid of. Find your niche. 
  • If you remain humble and passionate, anything is possible. 

Overall, he reminded me that the best things about the world of wine are the same as the best things in life. To be grateful, to be open minded, to be creative, to be humble. These are what will bring joy. That’s what it’s all about.

Yes, I got all this from a gentleman that I had just met. A gentleman who just needed to recommend a decent drop. If that’s not impeccable service, I don’t know what is.

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He was so open to chatting, sharing, teaching, listening. That kind of generosity is rare. He respected me, a wine beginner and was generally interested in my opinion. It’s as though he could tell that I was eager to learn. He gave me his wisdom and time. I will forever be grateful. Even more, he suggested an unexpected wine. Of course his recommendation was delightful. What was I drinking? A rare Slovenian white wine called ‘Zelen’. It had notes of quince and jasmine, with a powerful palate. Just like my somm, the wine was humble, open and unforgettable. A magical moment indeed. xx    

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