We stay on the other side of the ocean again or better to Argentina to meet Matias Prezioso our next top sommelier and President of the Asociación Argentina de Sommeliers (AAS) to put in the spotlight
As you will read further on, Matias actually finished his studies in Political Science, but found his way to wine during a trip to London where he was introduced in the world of refined wines by a few colleagues. I never imagined a (city) trip could be this life changing :-)
After this 'historic' trip followed and obtained several wine related degrees like oa. a WSET level 3 diploma and a bachelor in marketing. The most logical next step was starting his career as sommelier for several restaurants, but after a few year I think he made the change towards the wine business and education part of wine holding positions as Business developer, Trade marketer, commercial, general manager and teacher at the Instituto Argentino de Gastronomía (IAG)... so basically a very diversified career which made him the expert he is today. Today next to being president of the Argentinean Sommelier Association Matias holds the position of commercial manager at Wine Idea y two colors.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
This is not easy to answer :-) In general sommeliers don’t have favorite regions or grape varieties as they all have such different characteristics. That's how great the world of wine is!! One is never bored, but one must constantly train and study because new wines, regions, styles of elaboration appear on the horizon.
However, I must say that I have special affection for Burgundy wines :-) It seems to me to be the region that best summarizes the concepts of complexity, terroir and producers in the world. BUT , (and I’m not the only sommelier) I have a fascination for the German Rieslings. And obviously, as a good Argentine sommelier I am an ambassador and lover of Argentine wines, with Mendoza at the top. Currently, I think the region that represents the elegance and personality of Mendoza at its best is the Valle de Uco, where some of the best reds and whites of our country are born…
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
I think he should be the combination of the following characteristics: to be knowledgeable, humble, to be a good communicator, to have versatility to speak to different audiences, ‘sensitivity’ to transmit the history behind each wine producer, consistency to improve every day to be a better professional . And finally, never stay away from the consumers. Also try to offer all types of wine, from basic wines for everyday to very ‘exclusive’ wines for special occasions.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
It depends of the case. In Europe I believe that there is a ‘concept’ similar to that of Argentina in seeing the sommelier as a service professional, in many cases with closeness to being a waiter who knows more about wines. On the other hand, in places like the United States and Asia the sommelier has a role with greater exposure and different profiles, even becoming "rockstar" of the wine.
To my opinion, although the way the profession was created is intimately related to service - and I believe that the service is fundamental for the training of a sommelier - its activity does not end there. Today we see how sommeliers also work and contribute in wine magazines, teaching and even in cellars to only name a few.
So, I think it's mostly a matter of time. 20 years ago a sommelier in Argentina could only work in a restaurant. Today, there are still many sommeliers that only work in restaurants, but there are those who advise multiple restaurants in how to create their wine lists, and those who hold other positions within educational institutions, specialized magazines, distributors / importers and even wineries. I celebrate this growth!!
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
I studied Political Science. At age of 19 I decided to take a trip to London to improve my English. During this trip I met some Swiss colleagues who drunk good wines every time we went out for dinner, so I started to get more and more interested in this subject. London is a fantastic city for wines and drinks as you can find everything you would want to taste in this city. Upon my return to Buenos Aires, I decided to start a wine course and I liked it so much that I started my career as a professional sommelier. I decided to leave the career of political science and since then my life revolves around the world of sommellerie and wine.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
Many of the professionals I admire are Argentines because I have been more contact with them then with others. But if I must choose, I would choose the following 2 sommeliers. The first would be Gerard Basset for his enormous talent combined with his great humility. I had the opportunity to share several meetings with him, although the one that most marked me was the organization of the Best Sommelier of the World 2016. Gérard participated in the Technical Committee that organized the tests and I was the representative of Argentina that had to help them. We had days of very intense work, but we always prevailed respect and constant search for the highest standard.
The other sommelier would be Paz Levinson, who is not only an excellent professional but a great person on top of that. I was fortunate to study together with Paz for the first national contest that she won in 2010. Then her career had an incredible success and I was always happy because she is a person who tries to be a better professional every day, fighting a lot for to achieve her dreams.
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
For many years I believed that the dish and the wine had to be complimentary, that is to say, to proclaim the marriage by analogy. However, over the years I began to like to make the most daring pairings in which the explosion of flavors in the mouth that let to unforgettable moments and experiences.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Outside of Argentina I would say Burgundy to understand the concept of terroir and how each producer has his vision behind each single wine. But, without a doubt, I believe that a unique region is Cafayate (Salta, Argentina), a valley that not only is the cradle of some of the greatest wines of Argentina but also represents a landscape and culture never seen in other parts of the world.
The Northwest of Argentina should be on everybody’s list when visiting our country!!
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste? There are many wines - or at least harvests - that I like to try, although I do not have one in particular. But not to leave this questions unanswered I would say some very old vintages of DRC orJean Louis Chave.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
I didn’t go to Hotel management school, so no memories for me to share :-)
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop,etc…?
Grab some bottles of wine, breads and rich cheeses and share them with friends in the middle of a wine region or vineyard. No matter what or where, it could be in Alsace or somewhere in the mountains of Mendoza, the important thing is to enjoy that moment in the land where the wine is born.