Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
I grew up in Zaragoza (in Spain) and wine has always surrounded me as part of the local culture. My interest in wine as a career began more than 10 years ago when I considered taking a sommelier course. I contacted a prestigious wine school that used to be near my home. In the end, I didn’t enrol on the course, but I got the opportunity to visit Segura Viudas in Penedes and learn how cava is made and taste a selection of different wines.
Tell us about your wine list at Paladar
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that the list at Paladar is exclusively Latin American, and all the spirits and beers are also sourced from the region, too. We have about 50 wines on the main list and bin ends list and a further 12 on the premium list. The wine list is as diverse as Latin America itself and includes a wide range of different grape varieties – some of which you might not expect to find in Latin America.
Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
I learned by heart how important it is to keep and serve a bottle of wine at the right temperature four years ago. The team at that time discarded a bottle during a tasting because it was kept so cold that it toned down the wine and gave us a different profile; it wasn’t enjoyable. I like to give the wine a second chance, so I took the bottle home and let it warm up a little… the wine bloomed beautifully. Such a shame.
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
La Prensa Zaragoza in Spain, Quintonil in Mexico and Noble Rot in London.
Who do you most respect in the wine world?
Fernando Mora MW. I crossed paths with Fernando during his humble beginnings in Zaragoza (Latinos de Vino). Seeing someone from my hometown become an MW made me believe that anything is possible.
What’s the most exciting wine you’ve ever come across?
I have come across many exciting wines so it is hard to pick out just one. I recently came across a beautiful blend of Carménère Merlot and Nebbiolo by Chile’s Pedregal Estate Origen Assemble II. I tasted it with people who aren’t fond of Carménère, and they liked it. I would also mention an orange wine we have on the list – Bizarra Extravaganza from the rather unconventional Uruguayan winemaker, Santiago Deicas.
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Medium body, great acidity, and minerality.
What is the best value wine on your list?
Any of the wines on our bin ends list offer great value -and we keep this list refreshed regularly. Beyond that, I could mention our full-bodied Mexican LA Cetto Petite Sirah – which is very keenly priced. Our entry-level sparkling wine is Casa Valduga Brut from Brazil, and this really over-delivers for the price. Finally, I should mention the wonderful Albarino from Bodega Garzon which is just a delight.
What is your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Sushi and off-dry Riesling.
Old World or New World?
The very nature of our list means that I have to be biased towards the New World. With climate change and the talent much more mobile these days, the difference is becoming less and less apparent. We can even say that increasingly some New World wine styles are reverting to Old World styles.
What does your pet hate for wine service in other restaurants?
Dirty glasses and decanters.
Who is your favourite producer at the moment?
Greek winemaker Chloi Chatzivaritis is very interesting. I don’t follow any one producer very closely, but when I first tasted Aplo 2017 (an Assyrtiko), I wanted to know more about Chatzivaritis Estate. She’s an excellent example of the new generation doing a great job trying new techniques while keeping the tradition, and sharing the culture behind it. In Latin America there are many smaller passionate wine makers reinventing wines from the old vines in southern Chile and parts of Argentina – for example Bouchon Family Wines.
As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers?
“What’s your favourite wine?” I always joke back, saying that it’s not about me… it’s about them!. In this situation, my job is to help customers verbalise what they want and find the wine that fits their needs.
Which wine-producing region/country is currently underrated at the moment and why?
I am very excited at some the wines being produced from countries like Brazil, Uruguay – and even Mexico and Peru (actually the first wine-producing countries in Latin America). Many of our guests don’t imagine that these countries produce wine at all and are often impressed with the quality.
It’s your last meal, and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it, and why?
Massaya Cinsault Rosé from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, I enjoyed this wine during the lockdown. I’m judgemental regarding rose wines but this one really impressed me. They really believe in their product and I respect producers who don’t make rose just because it’s trendy.