During his most recent trip to South Africa, we were fortunate enough meet with Luk de Rooze, the youngest sommelier to ever be bestowed the honorary title as ‘Belgium’s Best Sommelier’, at De Toren. In this interview, he shares his passion for fine wine, especially South African wine, with us.

Luk, we would love to hear a bit more about you and your life in Belgium?

I have a wine distribution company in Belgium named Uncorked and a wine bar and shop named Blend, in the historical city centre of Bruges. Before I started these companies, I worked as Head-Sommelier in a 3-star Michelin restaurant named, De Karmeliet, and a 2-star Michelin Restaurant named, Horseele.

The year 2002 marks a fantastic milestone in your career, the year you were awarded the prestigious title as ‘Belgium’s Best Sommelier’. Tell us a bit more about this journey of yours into the world of wine?

I was the youngest sommelier ever to win the contest. I studied every day whilst working 15 hours a day in the restaurant. I went to every tasting and visited as much wineries as I possibly could. When I look back now, winning the title gave me confidence, but most of all motivation to continue and the humility that I only knew a fraction about wine.

As you mentioned, today you are one of the founding partners of Uncorked, an importer of the greatest selection of fine wines from around the world. What was the vision behind it, why did you and your partners start this company?

When we started Uncorked we wanted to bring wines to the sommeliers of high end restaurants that we thought they would like. In fact the type of wine we as sommeliers ourselves were looking for. For us that meant wines that meet the following 3 criterias:

  • the wines need to stand for something, for example a typical grape variety, a specific region, a special vinification…
  • the value needs to be great
  • and last but not least; you have to be able to drink a bottle easily between 2 people

We hate concentrated wines, but we love flavour intensity.

You travel quite regularly and must have seen some remarkable places. Which country is on your list to visit again in the near future?

I was in South Africa in 2002 and now again in 2017. I have the feeling that a lot has changed. In 2002 there were a handful of top wines and it was relatively easy to get an overview of South African wines. Now in 2017, I realize that I have discovered a lot of top wines on my trip, but that there are still many more to discover. The most remarkable thing I take home with me is that every winemaker I met does not take anything for granted and keeps questioning everything in order to make a better wine each vintage.

We would love for you to share some of your favourite restaurants from around the world, with great wine lists of course…

One of my favourites is La Ciau del Tornavento in Piemonte. They have a cellar of over 60 000 bottles and Piemonte is one of my favourite wine regions. In my hometown my favourite is Bruut -incredible food with a small but balanced wine list.

When you dine out, what do you look for on a wine list in a restaurant?

I look for diversity in regions, grape varieties, prices and vintages. That last one is rare to find. Not many restaurants invest in great cellars anymore, often for financial reasons.
A restaurant with a diversity of vintages on the list – that is my favourite.

How did you come to know of the De Toren wines?

A friend of mine gave it to me in a blind tasting. Always the best way to discover new wines.

Do you have a personal favourite within the De Toren wine range and if so, why that specific wine?

That would be the De Toren Fusion V. What attracts me in the De Toren Fusion V is the combination of body, complexity and finesse.

What is the perfect meal to pair with this wine and why do you think it works so well?

For a young vintage, I would choose a duck breast because of the juiciness, combined with a créme of carrots to match the fruit flavours, some wild mushrooms to match the complexity and the body of the wine

When a wine is aged on new barrels you always need something crispy on your plate for example chips of salsify.

For an older vintage I would prefer game.

What are the things that one should consider when selecting a wine?

There are many reasons that can be of influence, for example: food or no food to go with it, the type of food, the time of day, the weather, the people you drink it with…
But always make sure to serve the wine at the right temperature and in a nice glass.

In your opinion, are the considerations any different when selecting a South African wine?

No, there is no difference. South Africa has a wide range of wines. For every moment or meal there is a range of South African wines that comes to mind.

We are honoured that De Toren was on your list to visit on your recent trip to South Africa, we truly hope you enjoyed the tasting…

I enjoyed every moment of the visit, and this is why – everything you see, hear and taste at De Toren is quality driven, brought in a personal way, with passion in combination with knowledge.

Luk, we wish you all the best with your future undertakings and we look forward to your next visit!