On any given day, a guest could open up the wine list at the prestigious 2 Michelin-Starred restaurant Anne-Sophie Pic at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel, and just randomly point to one of the three thousand wines on offer. And on any given day, Thibaut Panas will describe with great detail and passion what this wine has to offer, and whether it’s the right fit for the meal. This is just a small part of a greater role as Head Sommelier at the Beau-Rivage Palace, but for Thibaut, interaction with guests, sharing each wine’s story, and attempting to provide a bridge between his cellar and the table is what it’s all about.
We met with Thibaut on a sunny spring afternoon, excited to learn a little bit more about the world of the sommelier. We had recently watched an incredible documentary on Netflix called SOMM, which follows four individuals who are preparing to pass the Master Sommelier exam–a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. The film intrigued us; we couldn’t imagine having a palate so distinguished, having a memory so clear, and having the ability to navigate something so niche amongst a restaurant full of ordinary guests. We had heard about Thibaut through a chain of acquaintances (and a few other sommeliers at other restaurants spoke of him with reverence in their eyes), and when we learned that he was Gault&Millau’s ‘Sommelier of the Year’ in 2014, then BILANZ’s ‘Sommelier of the Year’ in 2016, we knew he was the one to talk to.
We found Thibaut to be charming and humble–it was clear from the beginning that he knew his stuff, but the more we probed him about best wines and personal preferences, the more he pushed back about the intricacies of the wine world…there was never a simple answer. For example, the same wine can taste completely different based on the time of day, the weather, the altitude, or even the music you listen to while drinking (we are being completely serious)–so for Thibaut, his daily challenge (and daily excitement) is encountering an eager diner with a vague sense of what he or she likes to drink, then helping them discover something incredible, keeping all of these variations, and more, in mind.
We did, however, get some interesting advice from Thibaut for the novice wine enthusiast…
- Did you know that most people serve their white wine too cold? You should always take your white wine out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before serving it, and NEVER put it in a bucket of ice. Drinking it too cold breaks down the aromas, so you end up tasting the vegetal but losing the floral. (Ideal serving temp: 10-12 degrees Celsius)
- Think twice before decanting into a carafe. Wine is so complex, that each stage must be tasted–from the moment you open the bottle and the liquid begins to oxidize, the taste will evolve. Try pouring yourself a small taste at the very beginning, in a glass. Then let the bottle aerate on its own for a few minutes, then pour the full glass–this way you’ll be able to experience each stage. (Side note: Thibaut admitted there are a few wines that he will use a carafe for, but most he would recommend against it)
So what are some wines we should be on the lookout for? Many from Switzerland–Completaire from Haut Valais, wines from Grisons, and wines from Daley in Domaine Lutry were a few on his list.
Thanks so much Thibaut for sharing an afternoon with us and letting us geek out a bit about your expansive knowledge of wine, oenology, and viniculture. We cannot wait until we can “formally” test your knowledge, but we may need a super special occasion to warrant a trip to Anne-Sophie Pic 😉
Open from Tuesday to Saturday.
Orders are taken from 12pm to 2pm
and from 7pm until 9.30pm.
Business lunch from Tuesday to Friday: 95 CHF
Emotions menu: from 210 CHF
Pic collection: 350 CHF