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Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Joseph Ruiz Acosta

The reason why we started with the series of interviews, is because we are of the opinion that sommeliers play an equal role in the world of gastronomy and that it are not only the chefs who should be in the spotlight. So we decided to put sommeliers from all over the world in the spotlight. Our following interview takes us to meet Peruvian top sommelier Joseph Ruiz Acosta.

To think that this young sommelier’s initial dream was to be manager of a chain of hotels/resorts. This dream brought him to restaurant Central in Lima, which is one of Peru’s leading restaurants (also listed on the San Pelegrino 50 best), where he only planned to stay a little while and afterwards travel the world and maybe even work in France. But his plans were changed as his job as waiter got extended with a part of wine service and inexpertly he had found himself a new passion. A passion that is still continuing today.

Until a year ago Joseph was working for restaurant Central, but as head-sommelier. He did also get to travel, but it was to visit wineries or participate in International sommelier contests :-) so his dreams only got changed a little bit… Over the past few years Joseph obtained a sommelier diploma at the IDVIP (Wine and Pisco Institute-Lima, got to the second level at Court of Masters Sommeliers in New York, attended international seminars and events not to mention being a 3 time winner of the ‘Best Sommelier of Peru’ contest.

Today Joseph work as maitre and head-sommelier for restaurant Don Nico in Lima and created a wine app called Rewiner that currently is only available in Perú (but not for long)

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I don't believe in a specific wine region to work with, I believe more in the diversity of grapes and producers, styles, etc… I love Rieslings from around the world, like Chile and Australia but also the classic ones from Germany and Alsace for example. And I also like working with regions that do development of their native grapes.

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

Discipline, time to follow the process and not skipping it! Investment in travel, for example in Perú we can't always find all the wines you need to practice, so it takes a little more effort to get wines/spirits.... Focus on your service at your restaurant day by day so you get used to perfection.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

In Perú yes, it's kind of a new profession. We still have to learn a lot in our gastronomy, it's about time that owners and chefs believe in us and give us space to manage the wine list and not the administrators or importers (which is a common thing here).

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

2011, I was working as a waiter at restaurant Central in Lima and they needed an assistant for the head sommelier, and they choose me (Gregory Smith the wine director and José Miguel Burga the chef sommelier at that time). I was surprised because at that time I didn’t know anything about wine. They said they believed in me and gave me the opportunity anyway. They also gave me the time to learn and taught me a lot. It was hard because it was and still is a world that never ends and you always have to learn something new. But with time you realized that it’s your passion.

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

There are lots of top sommeliers that I follow, but my n°1 is definitely Gerard Basset!! I met him during the ‘Best sommelier of Americas’ contest in Chile in 2015. Gerard was just as humble and open as I read about him. What I mostly admire is the fact that he never gave up when wanting reach goals, it was hard for him but effort and persistence give the victory

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

Lots of contact with the chef and follow the concept of flavors. I like to use different beverages, not only wine to make it fun and mostly diverse, which is exactly what our profession is all about, diversity. Making risky pairings and surprising new taste combining both liquid and solid.

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

There are still lots that I need to visit, but the ones that I did visit really impressed me like Mosel in Germany, Douro in Portugal, Ribera Sacra in Spain, Salta in Argentina, Maule profundo in Chile, Piedmont Italy and Steiermark in Austria. I know I’m recommending lots of regions, but they all have their own charm. Also a new project in the Highlands in Peru near Cusco called Apu Winery

Apu winery

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

Many :-) :-), I can’t deny that each wine has its own mystic, I love all vintages of Burgundy white and red, Riesling from Mosel are stoning, Port and Madeira… so not really one wine in particular :-)

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

All my classmates :-)

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

Austrian wines paired with their local dishes was an experience that I can still taste in my memory. Also the simple but delicious Piedmont dishes and their wines.

Last but not least, Peruvian food diversity with wines from all over the World that arrive in Lima

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