Chef Sommelier, Le Bernardin
As wine director of Le Bernardin, New York’s longest rated four-star restaurant, Aldo Sohm oversees a wine collection consisting of 15,000 bottles made up of 900 wine selections from 12 countries with vintages that date back to 1875. In addition, he trains the sommeliers to offer guests enticing food and wine pairings that range from classic to daring. Sohm joined the team in May 2007 and under his direction, Le Bernardin won the 2009 James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service.”
Sohm’s fascination with wine began at the age of 19 after visiting an Italian vineyard with his father. Captivated with what he encountered and learned, he knew right then and there that he wanted to pursue a career in wine. Soon after, Sohm attended tourism school in Saint Johann, Tirol, located near his hometown of Inzing. The combination of study and experience enabled him to observe first-hand the skills of some of Austria’s most accomplished sommeliers.
Following his 1989 graduation, Sohm spent the next 15 years working at restaurants throughout Austria, only taking a break to fulfill military duty and to study Italian in Florence. While working at Steigenberger Alpenkönig restaurant in 1998, Sohm passed the official Austrian sommelier exam. He then worked for four years as a sommelier at Robinson Select Alpenkönig restaurant, while simultaneously teaching at the tourism school from which he graduated in St. Johann in Tirol. That same year he attended, but did not compete in, the World Sommelier Competition with his friend Norbert Waldnig, who won third place. Sohm later entered the competition and won, being named “Best Sommelier of Austria 2002.” He upheld this title for four consecutive years, a feat never before or since accomplished.
In July 2004, Sohm relocated to the United States, partly to perfect his English in order to compete in national and international sommelier competitions. He soon began working as wine director at Wallsé, Blaue Gans and Café Sabarsky and in 2006, New York magazine voted him “Best Sommelier in New York.” The following year Sohm joined Le Bernardin and also competed for and won the title of “Best Sommelier in America 2007.”
Sohm reached the pinnacle of wine competitions when he was awarded the highly-coveted title, “Best Sommelier in the World 2008,” by the World Sommelier Association. He is the first representative of America to win this title. The two-day competition was held in Rome in May 2008, and consisted of food and wine pairings, blind tastings, a written exam, editing a wine list and performing table service in a mock restaurant. In 2011, Sohm was voted “Wine Person of the Year” by “Wo isst Österreich”, one of Austria’s renowned food and wine guide.
In 2008, Sohm partnered with the famous Austrian sweet winemaker Kracher, to create a dry Gruner Veltliner from the Weinviertel region in Lower Austria. The first vintage, 2009, will be released in spring 2011 following the launch of Sohm’s custom wine key made in collaboration with Château Laguiole. Additionally, Sohm serves as Brand Ambassador for Zalto, an Austria-based glassware manufacturer known for their carefully crafted products, and conducts wine seminars, offers competition training for sommeliers and curates wine cellars for private clients.
Throughout his career, Sohm has never altered his signature approach to wine: infectious enthusiasm and abundant knowledge with no hint of pretension. Food and wine pairings are a passion of Sohm’s and a trait for which he has become well known. His favorite pairing at Le Bernardin is scallops with morels and Chablis ler Cru Vaillon, Defaix 2000. Sohm regularly appears on AVEC ERIC, chef Eric Ripert’s Emmy Award winning PBS series to discuss wine and food pairings and has appeared on the Today Show, CBS Early Show and is a frequent “Winesday” guest on Martha Stewart Radio’s “Living Today.”