(En castellano abajo.) Every three years, the Argentine Sommeliers’ Association (AAS) holds its best somm contestÂ to fine the country’sÂ best nose and palate. And there’s plenty of inspiration: Paz Levinson has not only taken the Argentina and Americas titles, she also ranked fourth in the world in 2016.Â
Regardless, Paz â€“ and other former Argentina winners â€“ cannot compete, opening up the field to the next generation in a bid to create additional local references. Competitors include MartĂn Bruno, Tegui’s former wine guru, RestĂł’s Camilo LeaĂ±o Ferreira and Clusters Wine distributor’s Valeria GamperÂ among others. Here, competitor Camila Lapido from Alo’s Bistro in La Horqueta, San Isidro, who work at Virtus in Paris with Paz, tells me about her career and prep work. En espaĂ±ol abajo.Â
What triggered you to become a sommelier?
After many years in service, I started to understand what it meant to maximise a restaurant experience, besides great food â€“ and it was beverages. I started to pay attention to the tiny details on each bottle, origins and methods, and that allowed me to get to know almost the whole world and its customs, and the infinite possibilities with regard to combining food and drinks. The cellar where I worked at the time, Sucre, made me understand the beginnings of the world of wine.
What does being a sommelier mean to you?
The instructed person who accompanies you when it comes to choosing the adequate accompaniment for each situation. I believe that we are story-tellers, but that there is also technical knowledge behind each decision, that we have to simplify with our words, ensuring a wine dazzles even the greatest of connoisseurs. There are a lot of new regions in Argentina (and the world!) and part of our role is being up to date so we can present it all at the table.
And, we’re the right arm of thekitchen! Without doubt, that closes everything to create a great symphony!
What was your last pairing?
The last one to really surprise us was at one of the first coursesÂ at a dinner we did, Alo’s and Friends, with Chila. Beef tartare with oysters together withÂ Finca SuĂˇrezÂ Zero Dosage 100% Pinot Noir, delicately crazy on both sides!
How are you preparing for the contest?
Studying a lot, everything related to wine and gastronomy in general that you can think of. The most essential part is to have a list of priorities and place them between wine and geography with other subjects such as spirits, waters, coffee, tea, cigars… I’m training for the service side, blind tasting a lot and practising service techniques. It’s a lot of ground to cover but from day one it’s been very enriching.
Which wine region in the world, would you love to visit?Â
If I could get a direct ticket right now, I’d go to Georgia. That part of the world fascinates me and to see [wine’s] origins and such well-maintained customs hat have stood the test of time fascinates me. But it’s hard to pick one, I’d choose 10! Austria and Germany are two places I also love!
Un Ăşltimo acuerdo que mas nos sorprendiĂł fue uno de los primeros pasos del pasado en Alo’s and Friends con Chila. Un tratar de lomo con ostras junto al espumante Zero Dosage de Finca SuĂˇrez 100% Pinot Noir, una locura de delicadeza de ambas partes!