Sommelier Aldo Sohm shares tips for serving wine in the sun and fighting hangovers

Strolling past Aldo Sohm in a baseball cap, donning a half-buttoned shirt over swim shorts and sandy-colored flip-flops, and holding a glass of rosé, the decorated sommelier is almost unrecognizable. He puts the moment into context and says, “That wouldn’t happen in New York, but it’s awesome right now,” with a laugh and a clinking glass.

Sohm has returned to the Cayman Islands for the 14th Annual Cayman Cookout, a four-day food and wine festival hosted by Executive Chef Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, trading in his all-black suit and clean shave to fit in well with the island lifestyle. “I smoke a cigar and drink rum down here,” he explains. Sohm believes good food and drink choices require context. As a result, he rarely brings a wine list to dinner guests at Le Bernardin or the adjoining Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. He says his job is to read people’s palates, not decide what they find delicious, and that depends on a number of factors.

“You can have the greatest bottle of wine, the greatest meal on your own, but it’s not that good,” says Sohm. “I think the best bottle of wine, the best dish is always shared — and that’s what the world is about.” Below, Sohm expands on that notion, highlighting the importance of food and wine festivals, sharing his signature hangover meal, and forecasting emerging wine styles for 2023.

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1. What do you like most about the cookout? What’s stopping you from coming back?

First of all, escaping New York in mid-January is great. Second, it is a food and wine festival that brings many chefs together. And if I’m just a spectator, I can meet José [Andrés], I can meet Daniel Boulud. when does this happen It is not possible! It’s a super high profile event and yet here we are in flip flops, shorts and shirts, straight from Stingray City.

2. Why do you think these events are so important to the industry?

Food and wine – that’s the magic that got me into the industry from the start – connects people. In today’s world people are so angry about things [but] After two glasses of rosé, I could talk to you about just about anything. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and I think that’s the fun part.

3. So wine connects?

food too! You come across different cultures, and that’s super interesting. Five or six years ago [here], there was that one day we got clam ceviche and there is that moment in life when you taste this dish and it transforms you; it changes your life. I sound like a hipster, but I’m not a hipster at all! It was in that kimchi broth and I was like, “Oh my God.” Fast forward five years; I had it again yesterday. I brought five friends, a bottle of wine – we had some leftovers from our Meursault event, so I brought Domaine Roulot in 2018 – and they said, “That’s off the charts.”

4. In previous interviews, you’ve said that your favorite wine pairings change all the time. Do you have a favorite couple at the moment?

I’m not a moody person, but I’m a very moody drinker. Down on the islands I prefer white wines because I’m looking for crispness, freshness and elegance. I love white burgundy. I make Grüner Veltliner and I think it’s a perfect island drink because it’s crisp and fresh. Yesterday we had this perfect Red Snapper ceviche, and the wine just plowed into it—it cut it, it enhanced the flavor of the fish, it enhanced the flavor of the lemon, and it just moved on. It was the perfect match.

5. What is one misconception about wine that you wish more people could understand?

People think it’s so valuable – that’s why I wrote “Wine Simple” because I was annoyed. People look at me, I’m dressed in black, I’m a white guy, old, which doesn’t really help things – you know, when you talk to wine people, they want to share. It doesn’t matter how much this wine costs. Who cares? Do you date a person what is their net worth? How cruel would that be? It does not matter.

6. What is the first thing you do when you go to a restaurant?

I love sitting at the bar for 15 minutes to relax in the situation. When I get home from work, I order a beer because I’ve been tasting wine all day, so I order something that cuts it: a crisp, fresh lager. Here below [in Cayman]i love caybrew…the first three sips.

7. Then it gets too warm?

It’s 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit down here and the humidity is around 90 percent. It’s a bit of a hostile environment to drink wine. Why? Because the alcohol shoots up immediately and when you smell the wine – whether white or red – you notice it immediately. On the islands you should serve much shorter affusions; You might think you’re cheap, but the fact of the matter is that you need to keep brushing it up.

8. What do you eat when you’re hung over?

I get on my bike. I’m an active cyclist and the first half hour is very painful but it’s a bit like your punishment. But to answer your question, when it comes down to it, I’d have a bratwurst with freshly grated horseradish and a beer to go with it. I’m in Austria. If ever there was a perfect hangover that didn’t exist, this would be it.

9. Which wine do you think will take off in 2023?

The classic French wines are a benchmark, but the price trend is high. I think Spanish wine, Portuguese wine, Austrian, German wine – once people get over the language barrier and the intimidation – offer great value.

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