Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Ricardo Grellet

For our next sommelier we're staying in Latin -America, but this time no lady sommelier :-) Please meet Chilean top sommelier Ricardo Grellet

Ricardo is a classical trained (meaning he did hotel management school) sommelier that crossed the Ocean after finishing his studies to follow a specialization course in accommodation and catering at the official tourism school in Madrid. As his love for wine and his country was too big he returned to Chile to get a degree in ‘vino Chileno’ at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a diploma from WSET Intermediate and advanced courses.

I’m not surprised that Ricardo is a well respected man/sommelier in Chile as he has done so much to lift up the recognition of sommeliers. He has amongst many other things founded the Chilean Sommelier association, he is academic director at the Sommelier school of Chile for many year and the list of initiatives from his hand go on and on

Today, after a long career from over 20years in HoReCa and of many highlights like winning the title as Best sommelier of Chile (2008), Ricado works as freelance sommelier consultant, wine educator, president of the Chilean sommelier association, trade manager de DIAGEO Chile and production manager of Hill & Knowlton Captiva.

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Difficult question as it is impossible to only choose one region :-)

It speaks for itself that I always prefer recommending wines from my own country like the wines from 'Maipo' that are a must to try! Although I must admit that the new wines from the southern Chilean border are finding their way more frequently towards my glass, especially the lighter wines that can go with a wide variety of dishes and therefore can be shared easily by an entire table of guests.

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

Take a big step in life: Understand that the customer is the focus and that no matter how much you know, it is the customer who should feel comfortable and well attended. If you do not forget this ‘humility’, you can be a great Sommelier.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Sommeliers must understand that we must show what we are capable of before we are well or poorly evaluated. Today there are many critics and people who call themselves Sommelier, but very few work in restaurants or hotels where they really need help. As long as we do not show the great difference we can make, we will never be evaluated in a different way

The Sommelier should be placed in between tables again, not in the management

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

In my family wine is and has always been a very important part of life. My dad only started buying Coca Cola because my children asked him, otherwise it would have never entered our house. My dad used to invite lots of people, while the table was set everybody was impatiently waiting for the food to being served. During this waiting the wine was served.

That's what I'm missing, I think, more families where education is included at the (kitchen) table. This is not the fault of any government or political thought: That's education and cradle. More parents should be concerned about teaching their children about the food culture and that wine is an important part of the food culture

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

For this questions I'll have to answer with 3 names:

  • Héctor Vergara my teacher

  • Andrés Rosberg 'mi hermano'

  • Gerard Basset the sommelier I would like to become (the most International awarded sommelier)

What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?

It depends on the situation: if I am ‘in charge’ of a vineyard or its wines, I will build the pairing thinking of the wines. If I'm in a restaurant, I will make the list or wine selection considering the dishes. The important thing is that your choice makes sense.

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

Solo una??? Not enough :-) :-)

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

Solo uno???? It seems to me that today, and only today, I have Priorat in the head, but I’m also thinking of the Rhône, or Champagne, or southern Chile, or Patagonia Argentina .... I repeat myself when I say that it is very difficult to chose only 1 bottle as there are thousands I want to try, re-try or discover.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

Once in California at a blind tasting where I identified two wines out of six to perfection. Something that rarely happens :-).

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Uncork a magnum bottle of champagne with a saber (and it works out as planned!!). Eat Calbuco oysters in southern Chile by the sea with a Sauvignon Blanc from Paredones (VI Región de Chile). Eat Foie gras in the city center of Bordeaux with some beautiful Sauternes. Enjoy a barbecue in the Vineyard Zuccardi in Mendoza given by the best hosts of Argentina: Seba Zuccardi. Or even going to Bar 878 in Buenos Aires for a couple of ‘Negronis’ with Andres Rosberg… Again here a one single experience is not enough

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