On Wednesday evening, Agustina de Alba was crowned for second year in a row the Best Sommelier of Argentina, in the 5th edition of the contest “Argentine Wine Best Sommelier of Argentina 2012”, organized by the Argentine Association of Sommeliers and Mendoza Wine Fund.
In this interview, De Alba gives her view on the boom the profession is enjoying in Argentina and the future of the career.
- How did you introduce into the wine world?
My love of wine arose when I was 15, in a trip to Mendoza with my father. There, I toured wineries and see each of the processes of this product. When I went back to Buenos Aires, I realized that that was what I wanted to study.
Firstly, I started to study at Sommelier School. When I finished the career, I decided to specialize in England, in Gaucho company. Then, I worked in Mauritius Island in Africa, at a two- Michelin- star restaurant. Currently, I work at Aramburu (San Telmo, Buenos Aires), a place that offers cutting-edge food.
- What is your opinion about the growth the Sommelier career is experiencing in Argentina?
There is an increasingly number of sommelier, especially young people. This is a very important factor, as we see that this career is on the up and up, becoming a good option for people finishing the high school. Moreover, we are responsible for communicating about the Argentine wine.
Besides, this boom of the profession is also fuelled partly by the fact that restaurants are more and more demanding for sommeliers, and partly because consumers, mainly in more expensive places, want a sommelier to guide them in their food and wine pairing. In addition, wineries are valuing this profession. Today, a sommelier is well-regarded, demanded and many times hired to represent a brand.
- Beyond this boom, what do you think about the perception average consumers have of a sommelier?
Nowadays, the national market has not yet the familiarity with a sommelier. Most professionals, like me, work in premium sites that gather consumers who are generally international tourists.
We are not on a par with France, England, and Spain, where each restaurant counts on a sommelier. In Argentina, her o his figure is associated with a person in charge of selling Premium or Super Premium wines, but it is not like this. Actually, a sommelier suggests and recommends the best wine for a dish, occasion and pocket of each diner.
A sommelier is the great wine communicator. There are several young people hungry for touring the world. When traveling, they promote the wine in each of the places they visit, professionalize, and work.
Particularly in my case, for example when I worked in Mauritius Island, the wine list had only one wine of Argentina. So, I contacted distributors and a year later, there were 20 Argentine labels included in the wine list.