What do you do?
I work in the Urbina Wine Shop in Cuzcurrita, a fourth generation family business. I have a Bachelor of Business Administration and I studied Viticulture and Oenology in the
What is a Sommelier for you? What represents for you the figure of a Sommelier?
The sommelier is the professional responsible for everything related to wine in a restaurant. Their functions range from the preparation of the wine list, purchase, management of wines and drinks, giving advice and customer services, prepare tastings at wine shops and creating wine tours.
The sommelier has the mission for transmitting and passing on to the clients that enthusiasm to taste good quality wines, prolonging the pleasure that provides eating food and drink well, for the delight of the senses.
What led you to be a Sommelier? At what age and how?
What finally hooked me to this profession was the opportunity to learn the entire process of wine, from the vines growing up, the distribution and sale of the bottles, in addition to the exchange of information with the world of wine enthusiasts.
It is nice to be here to see how gradually the customers become more frequent and regular. There is exchange of views on our tastes in wines and they start trusting you to choose wines for them, for a celebration, a special occasion or simply to keep learning.
The relationship established with customers becomes very special because at the end of the day we are selling a little bit of happiness.
What quality will you highlight in a good sommelier?
It may seem a cliché, but humility, humility and humility.
A professional sommelier must be honest and sincere; you have to learn to listen to customers to be able to give them what they want and with the ability to communicate all the information effectively. In short, give them a good service, serving the wine and drinks with style and working with good humour.
Let the customer speak so you can have as much information as possible about his taste and preferences. Immediately after we can offer suggestions based on the dishes ordered and context (time of year, price, menu order, family meal ...), and suggest a wine or, in some cases several, giving concise but effective explanation of why the wine is been recommended to them.
The psychology is very important to fully know how to interpret the wishes of your customers and advise them not only a wine that goes well with a certain dish, but with his personal taste, and even with his personality and the price level at which they want to or can move.
Recommend a Chateau Petrus or a Vega Sicilia has no merit, nor requires excessive knowledge, and no psychology, or four wines to recommend a meal consisting of appetizer, first, second, and dessert. The merit, what is really difficult is to advised a wine that goes well with the whole menu, without firing the bill at sidereal prices.
What do you need to study or what kind of education you need to became a sommelier?
Although it is important to take professional sommelier courses, practice and continuous wine tasting are essential to stay update and current. Discretion, psychology, smell, taste and memory are some key qualities.
Continuous progresses and changes are happening in the areas of catering, food and hospitality: changing in taste and changing in the type of consumption. It is necessary that the sommelier is aware of these variations in taste and the different types of restoration. All this knowledge requires an in-depth theoretical preparation and constant updating.
Are there special conditions needed to become a sommelier?
Any person with a minimal training in catering, with a predisposition to customer service and vocation can be sommelier. Later on, his dedication, passion and abilities will position him in one way or another.
Since I began my training I didn’t stop from learning and being always alert of all the new innovations and developments that are been released.
To become sommelier or a professional wine taster you do not need to have special conditions is something that is learned and perfected with experience.
To become good at anything it requires a lot of dedication, sensitivity, putting a lot of effort, excitement, restlessness and lot of passion.
Do you think restaurants should have a sommelier?
I believe that every restaurant should have at least one person in order to advise, guide and provide minimum services to customers regarding the service of wine and drinks, whether you want to call them sommeliers, waiters, etc.
Is it true that a fish should always be accompanied with a white wine and red wine with meat?
White wine with fish is not always in use since we found very light and fruity red wines, such of those made with carbonic maceration. Red wines are great with meat, but there are great white wines that may be fine to, although in this case is more difficult to give examples or to persuade customers.
How many matched wines and food dishes had ended into a divorce?
I believe that matching wine with food should not be something dogmatic it is subjective. There are some parameters, yes, but everyone should follow the matching according to their own taste and common sense, as in life itself.
Sommeliers first aim should be to please the client and surprise him with his proposal of food and wine. Matching wine and food is our daily challenge, and we must know how to transmit it. A good service of wine is not giving the best wine but the one that gives you the most pleasure.
A happy match between wine and food can be a unique experience and produce a lingering an unforgettable pleasure.
What are the wines that are appealing and fascinating customers?
The wines that are truly breaking the ground and drawing the attention of customers, restaurants, critics and fellow wine sommeliers are completely natural and pure single state wines, produced by small producers.
A good wine is synonymous of an expensive wine?
An expensive wine is synonymous of pounds, euros or dollars or wines selected for a few humans that can afford them. However, a good wine is one that, depending of the price or the place where it comes creates enjoyment and pleasure to the customer and it will linger in the memory.
Which one is the best wine?
Balanced, original, lingering, and affordable. That should be a wine almost perfect.
Behind a bottle of wine there is not only one man or a superman there is hundreds of authentic professional, vine-growers, winemaker, wine experts, ect.
What do you think of the wines of today?
I think that today thanks to technology and the new generations of winemakers and vine-growers which are better prepared than ever making better wines, but more homogeneous and similar to each other, more concentrated and with more alcohol.
The most popular products on the market meet only half the pleasure they are chosen so as to be suitable for the wider number of population as possible, and therefore are less personal and distinctive.
How do you explain the taste of a wine?
In many ways. A wine can be light, delicate, silky, elegant, balanced or meaty, voluptuous. And all this combined in many ways.
What are your tastes?
I do not like the mythical super-expensive wines, which have access only a few humans. I like the wines that can be enjoy by a greater number of people. Never look at a wine by the bottle or the brand, but through a glass and try to assess if it is transmitting something.
What can you see and discover in these wines?
Well, the same as when one is speaking with a person of eighty or ninety years of age, all the wisdom and the history behind it, it still alive, that wine is not dead. When you taste a very old wine somehow transports you to another era.
What happened in the world of wine in the last fifteen years?
There has been a radical turn;
The consumption of wine is smaller, but increasingly of higher quality. The customer demands quality, seeking a balance between quality and price. The Spanish wine market at the international level has a long way to go. The quality of some of our wines is extraordinary.
What did attract you to the competitions of the "Golden Nose"? How did you decided to apply? When was it?
"The Golden Nose" each year gathers about 500 sommeliers, making it the most prestigious competition.
We taste 50 – 60 wines a day out of 1,000 Spanish wines to choose the top 300.
Three days of healthy competition with educational sessions on different wine making areas, regions and grape varieties, it is also a meeting point to find wine lovers and sommeliers.
The contest has two decades of history, is the oldest of the national competitions and every year is getting more media attention. To participate in this contest is synonymous with wanting to improve and keep learning.
I went with the intention of spending a day with colleagues and friends. It is a wonderful opportunity to sample a significant number of referrals and new wines, exercise tasting abilities and exchange opinions and share views with other professionals and people like me, who love wine.
It is the hour of truth, to sharpen up your senses "The Final Challenge The Golden Nose 2009 " of being the best sommelier of Spain the challenge that all sommeliers want to reach, but only one can reach the glory.
How feels being the best sommelier in Rioja this year?
Imagine. For me, it is very important because you are tasting wines all day long and it is important to be able to show that you are good at what you do.
Do you train to become the best? How do you do, follow some method?
The smell is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. The senses are instruments that need to be tune. It is a work of practical training. The more you taste the better.
It is essential to study the different varieties of grapes and wine areas to understand the feelings and sensations that brings the different regions and each glass of wine.
And now you should prepare for the semi-final?
People on the streets ask whether you have to study or prepare for the contest, but the truth is that you already have been training all your life for this. The day of the tasting the only thing to do is relax and taste the wines. The hour of truth has arrived.
Do these competitions, open you doors or is just personal satisfaction?
Taking part in a competition means to question your knowledge and foreground, face candidates from around the world to acquire in the confrontation and challenge a clearer perception of your own preparation.
Ultimately you always win in a competition like this, you always return home with new knowledge, sharing of information and with more friends.
Tell us a little bit more about your experience in any of the tasting and challenges that you did on this contests.
The semi-finals began with an activity in which participants became judges, scoring and giving points to select the best wines.
Tasting at high speed about fifty to sixty wines delivered daily by many wineries. We analyzed and valorise the different stages: visual, olfactory and taste of each wine, but with an added difficulty: all the wine bottles are hidden under a cover cloth that prevents us from receiving any information, either the label form the bottle or any external sign that might give clues.
The truth about blind tasting is that it is the best way to realise what you still need to learn and realice all of the surprises that can came along. Is the most challenging and, at the same time, the more fun and complex challenge of all.
The final challenge consisted in tasting six different wines, a Garnacha, a Graciano, a Tempranillo, a blend of 60% Tempranillo with Garnacha, 60% Tempranillo and other Graciano mixture and the last three varieties of 60% Tempranillo 20% Garnacha and 20 % Graciano. After tasting the six wines participants left the room and then return to it and found a dark glass on each table and by only using the smell they start describing the variety of the wines previously tasted.
In this competition, we must identify the wine, not the brand or label.
It's different. When you go to a restaurant you quickly notice who understands about wines and who understands about brands. To me, what I really like about this competition is that you have to identify the wines. You have to find out the differnt components, the years, how it is been made.