The art of wine: interview with Olivier Paret, sommelier at Ikanos
“I try to make it so that wine encourages dialogue around the table.”
Ikanos: How do you create your wine & food pairings?
Olivier: First of all I taste the dishes! It’s paramount. Even if the menu is written on paper, sometimes the dish can be very different from what one imagines. I take first into account the protein, be it white or red meat, fish or crustaceans, but also what comes with it. What will enhance it! The spices, the sauces, the side dishes…
Next, I build the pairings according to the global experience. By taking into account all of the meal’s dishes, so that if I drink a certain wine, I won’t regret the earlier one. I’ll try to go crescendo: to start with some acidity, next with lighter reds, then more full-bodied, and to close with a sweet wine.
Ikanos: Does it take you a lot of time to create these pairings?
Olivier: Sometimes I find pairings immediately, but sometimes I search for a long time! Up to a week! But in the end, I listen a lot to my instinct. It’s my instinct and my gustatory remembrances which will guide me towards certain wines, certain flavors.
Ikanos: Are there only Greek wines in your selection?
Olivier: I like having many Greek wines to propose since they represent the house but if need be, I go to other countries. I rarely go away from the Mediterranean, however!
Ikanos: Do you adapt according to the person? Is there a dialogue between the guests and you?
Olivier: Once I’ve found the pairing, I have to justify myself: either I wanted to go in the sense of the aromas of the dish, either I wanted to go towards the opposite to create an interesting imbalance. But all this must be explainable! My choices aren’t necessarily someone else’s. It’s very personal. So for each dish I have different wines off my head.
In the end, I also try to make it so that wine encourages dialogue around the table. So that it’s a sensory experience about which people can discuss amongst themselves. There lies my success!
For over 35 years, Olivier Paret has travelled the world through gastronomy and wine. Our sommelier grew up in the south of France, where his family worked in restaurants. He got his wine education at the prestigious Les Frères Roux, holder of three Michelin stars, in London. He met Pascal, our maître d’hôtel, while working in the great Parisianbrasseries and decided to follow his friend to Montreal.