Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Diego Arrebola

Today we take you to sunny Brazil to introduce to you sommelier Diego Arrebola. Some people follow the classical path towards a working life in “HoReCa” by studying at Hôtellerie School. Others just roll into it, just because they wanted to earn some extra money during weekends or just because they didn’t find a job in the sector they were specialized in. In many cases both of these groups will begin a career in world of hotels, restaurants, etc… and for some that passion even because bigger making it almost a life goal. In the case of Diego, he is from the 2nd group. He started working at a restaurant just because he needed to pay the bills, but many years later is a highly educated sommelier who competed in international sommelier competitions, who won the Title of Best Sommelier of Brasil, who has worked in highly recognized restaurants, who has travelled the world to learn more, that has obtained divers national and international recognized diploma’s in sommellerie like WSET level 3 and an ASI diploma.

So you could say that the ‘temporary’ job has changed his live. After working some years at restaurants Olivetto and Pobre Juan (that are both very well-known for their incredible wine lists – and have been awarded for this), Diego decided to go more into consultancy and coordinate events and help out/train colleagues into becoming better sommeliers with his own company Entrecopos.

You might also recognize Diego from his participation during the Best Sommelier of the World competition in Antwerp in 2019 where he defended the Brazilian pride. Diego is again a wonderful example that passion is the best stimulation for a happy and successful life. Please let me invite you to get to know Diego better in the interview below.

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Certainly Bourgogne. The enormous variety of terroirs and subtleties you can find within the boundaries of a relatively small region, with only a handful of grapes and myriad of delimited vineyards always offers to the sommelier an ample field to both work and study.

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

Resilience to keep studying trough all you professional life, an open mind to new trends and tasks that might be not directly linked to the wine world, generosity to pass on what you learn and humility to know that you will always be an apprentice somehow.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

In many markets, as is the case in Brazil, yes, it is. Many employers look to hire sommeliers as not much more than a wine steward and many customers have the same understanding. It takes years, maybe decades, to change this, with a strong work from veteran professionals, national and regional associations in promoting the profession as a whole.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I've started in the restaurant industry just to pay my bills. The restaurant where I worked wasn't very close to home, so during my breaks, I used to go to a nearby bookstore to read, both literature, cook books and wine books. At that point wine captured my attention, but I've also made a pragmatic choice, seeing the many possibilities I had to grow as a professional, in a country where sommeliers were still not that common.

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

Gerard Basset, the one and only.

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

I start with a very traditional and ‘cartesian’ approach, looking for alignment in weight, flavour intensity and structural elements, followed by similarity in flavours and aromas. But, when I have the chance to make multiple tests, I always like to try some odd, like a sweet, or fortified, or any kind of wine I wouldn't expect to work easily and, many times, those odd pairings end up surprising me.

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

Well, there are many wine regions I haven't visited yet... But among those I've already visited, I definitely recommend Jerez. There's no better way to comprehend and to taste this wine than being there, breathing the local culture, tasting local food and, of course, getting first hand info straight from the producers.

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

It depends of the sacrifice... hahahahahahaha But I would go great lengths for old bottles of Barolo, Bourgogne, Port and Madeira.

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

For me at least it is hard to pinpoint one memory. The whole process is what allures me. For me, the most precious moment is when you realise that you fully understood a topic and was able to communicate that to students and novices in an approachable and understandable way.

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

Drink ‘copitas’ of Jerez and eat tapas at any tablao in the city of Jerez de la Frontera. You don't need fancy restaurants or expensive bottles to experience something really special, such as a true connection between wine and food as it is originally intended to be; plain, simple and delicious.

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