Vintner’s Voyage: Discovering the ‘Sligro Wine Experience’

Vintner’s Voyage: Discovering the ‘Sligro Wine Experience’.

On the 10th of October we ventured to Veghel, the epicenter of food in the South of the Netherlands. Reason for our trip was a yearly event organized by one of the country’s biggest wholesalers, Sligro. The Sligro Wine Experience promised to be a collecting of professionals from the hospitality industry, enjoying the best food and wine Sligro has in store. 

With over 350 wines from 40 wineries and 7 masterclasses we focused on the wines at hand, but it soon became clear to us that the food element was another success factor in this yearly experience. Join us on a tour through the Sligro isles and learn what makes these guys unique.

A Blend of Food, Wine, Education and Personal Attention

Some of you might know Sligro as a wholesaler, with long isles of food and non-food products, but your average Sligro store certainly has more to offer. With in-house specialists in every department they are never shy to share their knowledge, and their food and wine assortment has something to offer for everyone. And this form of partnership extends all the way to their head-office in Veghel.

Here Sligro has a beautiful experience center, their ‘ZiN Inspirationlab’, where they frequently organize events to educate their customers and present their latest offerings. This in-house event location has everything you need to house a big event and even includes a food theater, and of course a professional kitchen which is to be used for demo purposes.

Another great value-add of Sligro is their account management team, that helps restaurants and other customers with their wine-choices. This form of personal extension might not be the first thing you think of when envisioning a wholesaler, but it surely works in their favor! The team even has an extend offering of wines to their disposal, which is not available in the self-service section.

The Wine Experience, Taste and Learn 

Now let us discuss the event at hand, the Wine Experience. Sligro opened up their whole facility to accommodate a couple of 100 customers from all over the country. Professionals working in bars, restaurants, catering and retail roamed the floor, getting a taste of what was on offer. During the whole day Sligro hosted seven masterclasses, of which we attended three, discussing various wine and food related topics.

Spread around the floor there were booths, where one had the opportunity to engage with producers, or Sligro staff, presenting a wide variety of food and wines. A great way to discover the portfolio at your own pace.

As mentioned three masterclasses caught our eye and we eagerly signed up to attend these sessions. First of all, there was a cooking class dubbed ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ focusing on the art of food and wine pairing, next to that an informative session on sustainability in the wine industry and we ended with a trip to Australia hosted by Sligro partner Yering Station (The Rathbone Wine Group). 

Discovering Great Wines at the Wine Experience.

Jermain De Rozario x sommelYE x Famille Cattin, a Match Made in Heaven

This masterclass was bound to be a success if you look at the ‘actors’ on stage. Because, what do you get when you pair a rebel Michelin star chef, a classic Alsace winery and an unorthodox sommelier? Right, a Match made in Heaven. And that was exactly what was promised to us on stage in the cooking theater. 

First a little something about the star line-up.

Jermain de Rozario, owner and chef at Michelin Restaurant de Rozario

Jermain de Rozario is the cool head honcho and creative genius behind the Michelin-starred hotspot, Restaurant De Rozario. He’s kind of a big deal in the foodie world, thanks to his knack for whipping up amazing dishes that turn classic cooking on its head. His place is where you go to get your taste buds dancing with some seriously inventive eats. It’s not just about chowing down on great food, though; it’s about the whole vibe. Jermain’s all about pushing the envelope and delivering an eating experience that’ll knock your socks off. Dive into his world, and you’re in for a culinary adventure that’s as top-notch as it is totally unexpected.

Edgaras Razminas, former Michelin Sommelier of the Year (although he prefers sommelYE)

Edgaras Razminas is the wine wizard of Restaurant de Rozario and the dude who bagged the Michelin Sommelier of the Year title. He’s not your average sommelier; he’s a Kanye West superfan and has dubbed himself ‘sommelYE’—yeah, you heard that right. This guy lives and breathes wine with a side of Yeezy beats. When he’s not pouring the perfect glass to match your meal, he’s probably dropping Kanye quotes and planning his next wine list like it’s a platinum album. If you’re looking to sip some fine vino and maybe catch a few Kanye-isms while you’re at it, Edgaras is your man. He’s the heartbeat of De Rozario’s wine scene, serving up bottles with as much flair as a hit track.

Joseph Cattin, owner and winemaker at Alsatian Wine Icon Joseph Cattin

Joseph Cattin is the maestro behind the well-loved Cattin winery, a family-run affair that has been pouring heart and soul into glasses in the Alsace region for ages. This place is not just a winery; it is a tradition, where every bottle tells the story of the Cattin family’s love affair with the vine. With a knack for balancing age-old methods with a dash of modern savvy, Joseph ensures every sip is a tribute to the rich Alsatian terroir. Swirl a glass at Cattin, and you are not just tasting wine; you are getting a taste of history, craftsmanship, and the Cattin clan’s dedication to making every harvest better than the last.

A Match Made in Heaven.

Steak Tartare by Jermain de Rozario and Village Steinbach 2020 Pinot Noir by Joseph Cattin, paired by sommelYE Edgaras Razminas.

In a bold departure from tradition ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ started off by pairing Jermain de Rozario’s Steak Tartare with a Village Steinbach 2020 Pinot Noir by Joseph Cattin. A daring choice to open a masterclass with a red wine. This Village Pinot Noir hails from Alsace’s warm southern reaches, bestowing a juicy, full-bodied embrace to the nuanced tartare.

The tartare itself is a tapestry of flavors, with ginger-tomato gel adding zest, and sesame, almond, and caramel providing a satisfying crunch. The clever use of piccalilli ice cream brings a refreshing twist, while a green vegetable garnish lends an earthy balance. This culinary composition, crowned with the spiciness of piccalilli, offers a lively interplay of acidity and richness.

The chosen Pinot Noir, light yet rich with red fruit and balanced acidity, complements the dish’s complexity. The wine’s vivacity cuts through the tartare’s depth, delivering a heavenly match, curated by sommelYE Edgaras Razminas. 

With this little ‘mindfuck’ we started off on the edge of our seats.

A rebel Michelin star chef, a classic Alsace winery and an unorthodox sommelier.

Indonesian Rendang by Jermain de Rozario and Grand Cru Vorbourg 2019 Gewürztraminer by Joseph Cattin, paired by sommelYE Edgaras Razminas.

What followed was a de Rozario classic. Jermain de Rozario’s Indonesian Rendang is a marvel of culinary creativity, blending traditional stew meat with unexpected elements like mango, small lotus biscuit, and French-influenced vadouvan spice. The dish’s complexity is further enhanced by a shisho-based ‘garden’ and a creamy coconut chili sauce with Thai basil. The surprising addition of ice cream, melting over the meat, creates a delightful contrast.

The bold decision to pair this rich dish with the Grand Cru Vorbourg 2019 Gewürztraminer by Joseph Cattin, an Alsatian white wine known for its full, rich profile, is a masterstroke by Sommelier Edgaras Razminas. This white wine, balancing dryness with a sweet undertone, complements the Rendang’s creamy spiciness perfectly.

This pairing is a celebration of contrasts: the traditional, rich heritage of the Joseph Cattin Gewürztraminer, established in 1720, alongside the modern, innovative approach of Chef de Rozario. It’s this blend of old and new, tradition and innovation, that makes this pairing a match made in heaven. It’s not just a meal; it’s an experience that unites diverse flavors and histories, appealing to lovers of both spicy dishes and nuanced wines.

Sustainability: Facts, Fables & Commercial Opportunities

The next stop on our journey was a session on sustainability in the wine industry.

It is impossible to imagine any sector without the concept of sustainability. For the wine sector this topic has been linking people and nature since the beginning of wine. Being sustainable in a vineyard also means taking care of your vineyard, which is something that every wine grower takes very seriously. An unhealthy vineyard means a lot to the yields and quality of the wine that derives from it. But with all the emphasis on sustainability in recent years, the concept of sustainability seems increasingly difficult, and hard to encompass. What exactly is sustainability and how do we recognize real sustainability and avoid greenwashing? 

Tim Monten, wine buyer for Sligro Food Group and Magister Vini, gave an enlightening look at the topic. Various examples of facts and fables were presented, with the starting point being to do your own research, and not to assume that something is sustainable if a party says so. During this master class, Tim made it clear that myths can be debunked and concepts such as organic, biodynamic, natural and vegan were clarified. Convinced that sustainability is not an empty concept, and is not going anywhere, Tim presented commercial opportunities for a more sustainable assortment. 

Sustainability is not going away, and that is a good thing, but read up on real sustainability!

Sligro’s Tim Monten Educating us on Sustainability.

A New Perspective: Cool Climate Australia 

We concluded with the masterclass ‘A New Perspective: Cool Climate Australia’ in which Sligro partner Yering Station educated us on Australia’s cool climate and their Yarra Valley wines.

Australia is renowned for its diverse and impressive wine offerings, and its cool climate wines are no exception. Cool climate regions, characterized by lower average temperatures, are ideal for producing wines with vibrant acidity and distinct flavours. One standout in this category is the Yering Station Vineyard, situated in the Yarra Valley of Victoria. 

Cecilia Gibbons is the Market Manager at The Rathbone Wine Group’s (RWG) Yering Station. The Rathbone Wine Group operates three high quality wineries across Australia. Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, Mount Langi Ghiran in the Grampians and Xanadu in Margaret River. In this masterclass we have focused merely on the beautiful wines of Yering Station and other wines from Margaret River en Yarra Valley that are in the extended assortment of Sligro. 

Yering Station, established in 1838, holds the title of Victoria’s first vineyard. The cool climate of the Yarra Valley provides an excellent environment for growing a variety of grapes, particularly those suited to cooler temperatures. This allows Yering Station to craft exceptional cool climate wines that reflect the unique terroir of the region. 

One notable varietal that thrives in Yering Station’s cool climate is Pinot Noir. The grape benefits from the extended growing season, resulting in wines with elegance, complexity, and a perfect balance of fruitiness and acidity. Yering Station’s Pinot Noir offerings showcase the craftsmanship and dedication to quality that define the vineyard. Yering Station is also celebrated for its Chardonnay. The cool climate allows for a slow and steady ripening process, leading to Chardonnays with crisp acidity, bright citrus notes, and a refined minerality. These characteristics make Yering Station’s cool climate Chardonnays a delightful expression of the region’s terroir. Furthermore, we have blind tasted 3 different Shiraz/Viognier blends do discover and learn what different percentages of Viognier does for the powerful fruit and spices, which was very interesting to discover. The different percentages had a huge impact on the floral aromas from the wine which made it, in our opinion, more elegant and added an outspoken perfume of violet to the Shiraz. 

In conclusion, Australia’s cool climate wines, exemplified by the offerings from Yering Station Vineyard, are a testament to the country’s winemaking prowess. The Yarra Valley’s cool climate provides an ideal canvas for crafting wines that capture the essence of the region, making Yering Station a standout destination for those seeking the best in cool climate Australian wines. 

Cecilia Gibbons, Yering Station.

Sligro Wine Experience 2023: A Culinary Symphony of Education, Innovation, and Taste

In conclusion, the Sligro Wine Experience 2023 was a harmonious blend of gastronomic innovation and educational prowess. Guests from across the hospitality industry were treated to an immersive journey through a tapestry of flavors, where each sip and bite was a testament to Sligro’s commitment to excellence. 

The event not only showcased an extensive array of wines and culinary delights but also served as a platform for knowledge exchange, sustainability discussions, and the exploration of new trends. With masterclasses that tantalized the senses and opened minds, participants left with a deeper appreciation for the art of food and wine pairing, and the intricate dance between tradition and modernity.

Sligro’s personalized approach to customer education and their impressive showcase of wine and food pairings solidify their position as a leader in the wholesale industry, and as the curtains fall on this year’s event, it is clear that the Sligro Wine Experience is an essential date for the industry’s calendar.

This event was covered by Nadine Massen and Niels Aarts for Dutch Wine Apprentice. We would like to thank Sligro, in particular Joris Aarts and Philippe Delleman, and all participating partners for this great event. Picture credits: Sligro and Dutch Wine Apprentice.