Master Sommelier & WSET Level 4 Diploma graduate - DipWSET
In 2007 Aristide Spies not only became ‘Best Sommelier of Belgium’; he also won the ‘Premier Sommelier de Belgique’ of the ‘Club Gastronomique Prosper Montagné’. In 2008 he represented Belgium at the ‘Best sommelier in Europe’ competition, where he reached the semifinals. In 2013, he won the bronze medal at the ‘Best sommelier in the world’ competition in Tokyo. Aristide Spies graduated from WSET and MS in London.
He currently runs ‘La Cave des Sommeliers’, a chain of wine shops in Belgium and Luxembourg.
Can you give a snapshot of your current professional life?
After years in the hospitaly industry (sommelier in star Michelin restaurant), I had the opportunity to join and become a partner in a wine importer company named ‘La Cave des Sommeliers’.
Today we have 4 shops (2 in Belgium and 2 in Luxemburg) and a webshop selling in these 2 countries. We also sell wines to restaurants and hotels. I am responsible for buying the wines, organising the sample tasting sessions, visiting producers and trade fairs. I also explain the wines to the team, manage the shops and portfolio and advise the customers in the shops.
Would you tell us a bit about your background and what sparked your interest in wine ?
When I was 12, we were on a family holiday in France – Perigord. We visited Bergerac, St. Emilion, Bordeaux,.. I loved the atmosphere, the vineyards landscape, the stories told by producers, the food pairing and of course, the tasting. I was lucky my parents allowed me to taste. Back in Belgium I started wine tasting courses at Arlon evening school and I loved it. I loved it. I didn’t have to study. I learnt just by listening to the teacher and I really became passionate.
How did your WSET education help you with your career?
The WSET courses helped me a lot because it taught me the English way of tasting. After all, this way is very different from the French method that I had already mastered. The WSET education was therefore very complementary. As a result I now developed my own tasting method which is probably a mix of both. WSET provided me a lot of theory and very interesting information; the manual is absolutely fantastic. It allowed me to understand a topic in the whole context with some history, social or scientific facts
After the WSET study I became Best Sommelier of Belgium and I won the bronze medal at the World championship. I am also very grateful that WSET created a precious network and introduced me to many people in the wine industry.
What challenges did you face during your studies at WineWise?
The study itself was very well organized; a nice location, good classroom, nice food and excellent hotel. As I was working in a restaurant at that time, I used to finish very late the day before the courses and had to wake up early for the 3 hours drive to the venue. I was a bit tired, but it was definitely worth doing!
Which wine book(s) would you recommend?
Definitely ‘ The Oxford Companion to Wine’. I often consult the Guildsomm website too.
Do you intend to study any further?
Maybe in the future when kids will be a bit older. I now want to make time for my family.
Are you specialized in a certain topic/region/other,… ?
Elzas, Jura, Bourgondië, Loire and fortified wines. I really appreciate these wines.
What was the last wine you drank?
Château Chalon 2007 Jean Macle. Tastes (now 2021) fantastic! Soft and rounded texture. Intense and very long aftertaste. Goes well with some cheeses such as Comté.
Did Covid-19 change your wine habits?
I travelled less, I missed the vineyards a lot. I am definitely going to do more wine trips. I did some virtual tastings but I am not really fond of it. I am definitely looking forward to go back to real tastings.
What makes a wine great?
3 things: balance, complexity and length
What was your most impressive wine trip and why?
Three weeks Australia. Interesting wines, beautiful scenery, good food and nice weather. In short, a journey I will never forget.
Which wine region to visit is on top of your bucket list?
Madeira. I like these wines a lot, and I would love to go to the island to discover some more.
Which graduate do you think we should interview and why?
Pedro Ballesteros. I am impressed by his knowledge, his capacity to explain things in a simple way, and his accurate tasting. He is also very kind and passionate.
Website La Cave des Sommeliers: la-cave-des-sommeliers.com