5 Minutes With… Jonathan Jønsson
Jonathan Jønsson is the Resort Head Sommelier at Adare Manor, joining last year from Alchemist, the two-star holistic dining experience in Copenhagen where he was a core member of the restaurant’s sommelier team, as well as simultaneously leading the direction of service since 2019. Prior to Alchemist, Jonathan began his career in hospitality in Copenhagen’s iconic 5-star Hotel D’Angleterre. Soon after he joined the Noma family, working as a floor manager and sommelier in Restaurant 108 during the time they won a Michelin star.
Enjoying the changing dynamic of the wine industry, Jonathan has continued to explore and keep up to date with the latest wine trends and developments, having obtained certifications from the Danish Wine Academy, WSET Wine Level 3, Danish Sommelier Association and ITA Tea Sommelier over the last three years. We caught up with Jonathan to discuss unusual pairings, tips for your first wine tasting and his future plans for Adare Manor’s wine list.
How did you get started as a Sommelier and how did you learn?
I started out in early in my career with classic wine courses and progressed over time into upskilling on all liquids, alcoholic or not. I was living in Denmark at the time and it helped that expenditure on specialized training was tax deductible there! I became obsessed with obtaining knowledge and I went on to study coffee, tea and Japanese sake.
What’s the best way for a wine lover to learn about wine?
Travel! The world is full of good wine, but the most special feeling is drinking a bottle of wine from a producer you have visited. I think a drive through the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco in Italy will teach you more about wine than any book on the shelve.
A tip to understand and differentiate wines from each other is to fully conceptualise and predict the wine and its flavours before taking your first sip. Then remember how it differed from your initial idea of it and what stood out about it.
What is an unusual pairing that really works?
Fried food and Orange wine.
Have you ever visited a vineyard if so, which one was the most memorable?
I have been fortunate to visit many vineyards. The one that stands out was in the back garden of a German wine producer called Von Winning. After tasting samples for an hour directly from the barrels stored below ground, we took a lift up from the cellar. I thought we were going back to the main floor, however we went up to a rooftop terrace overlooking the all the Grosse Lages (Grand Cru’s), or vineyards, of Pfalz. That moment will be imprinted in my memory forever.
What would be your best piece of advice for someone who wants to understand wines more but doesn’t know where to start?
I would recommend tasting through the classic combinations first, instead of going with adventurous blends with an exciting label. Start with Chardonnay from France, Riesling from Germany, Tempranillo from Spain, Sangiovese from Italy, and perhaps even a Malbec from Argentina. I think you need to celebrate the traditional regions and styles to understand where the inspiration for all the new things that is happening in the wine world.
What is an unusual and relatively unknown wine that one must try on the Adare Manor wine list?
I am extremely fond of the wines from the mountain regions between France and Switzerland. White wines from Jura or red wines from Savoie in France are very special and some of the best examples of these are on Adare Manor’s wine list at the moment.
What makes you so passionate about wine?
I like to use wine to cement a moment in time or a particular event through my senses. This means that you can relive that event later with strong emotional call backs when you taste and smell the same wine, similar to your favourite perfume or cologne. The opportunity to help someone freeze an emotional moment in time through the person’s senses is very special for me. That’s why I try to handle the wines and the interactions carefully, as it is a way to recreate that special memory in the future.
What is the oldest wine you have tasted and what was it like?
I have been fortunate enough to taste wines, both Port and Madeira, dating back to the 1800s. Over a century of ageing makes the intensity and colour fate away and leaves you with a mild glass full of complexity and history which is hard to describe.
What tips do you have for someone going to their first wine tasting?
Ask all the ‘stupid’ questions you can think of and try to debunk as many wine myths as possible. At the same time don’t get caught up in specific tasting notes, like sweet liquorice and green apples. I would rather see a new wine drinker focus on how the mouth feels and what you would remember the wine for, if you should tell a friend how it tastes.
What is the best thing about being a sommelier in Adare Manor?
The trust and faith in my abilities that has been shown by everyone to me and the support for my ideas and the changes that I am implementing. My colleagues are all very curious and keep me sharp and on my toes all day long, with their many interesting and complex questions.
What is the best type of glass to serve wine in?
Most different styles of wine have a glass they do well in. If I should choose one glass for all wine I would go with my favourite, which is a Riedel Performance/Veritas Syrah glass. It is shaped similar to two halfmoons put together, is tall, and makes the wines very focussed in their expression. At the same time it gives the drinker confidence and makes you feel good.
If you were a wine, what would you be and why?
This is a hard question haha! Maybe I would be a powerful Riesling from the south of Germany.
I know who I am and I am honest about where I come from. I honour and celebrate tradition but I am not afraid of change. Easy to approach, flirtatious in its youth, and brings great complexity and strong honest opinion over time. Probably best with 40-50 years of age…
What would you recommend to look for when purchasing a wine?
I am a traditionalist after all, so I suggest that classic regions combined with their native grapes will never let you down.
What has been the biggest change in the wine world since you started your career?
The availability of screw caps and how they have gone from looked down upon to be generally accepted and understood as a quality standard.
What do you hope to bring to the wine list in 2022?
There will be additions of more farmers and less castles generally speaking. We have beautiful collections of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines that we will keep expanding. However, throughout 2022 I will focus on adding small fun producers that make extremely high-quality wines out of the limelight. Our guests will then be able to enjoy wines at the highest level from producers and villages that they never knew existed before visiting Adare Manor.
Describe the wine list in Adare Manor in 3 words.
Honest, exclusive and fun.
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