Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Valeria Gamper
For some reason people think a sommelier or the job of sommelier is mostly held by men, which is true, but luckily the tables are turning and more women are finding their way to this wonderful profession. It has also been proven that women have more refined taste buds, so technically they might even be better tasters :-). Today there are many great female sommelier role models across the globe like Veronique Rivest, Julie Dupouy, Paz Levinson to name only a few. Therefore we are very happy to present yet another wonderful female top sommelier, please meet the 2019 Best Sommelier of Argentina Valeria Gamper!!
After obtaining her degree at the hotel management school Valeria started her working career at the luxury Four Seasons hotel in Buenos Aires were she was able to develop herself in various areas. Although she liked many of the tasks/jobs she performed, the interest for wine started growing. This interest eventually (after a few years) lead to following a professional sommelier course and working as assistant sommelier at restaurant Hernan Gipponi. A job that on its turn lead to level 1 and 2 diplomas (with a best score) at the Court of Master sommeliers. So as you might have already figured out, a passion was growing :-)
She kept working as sommelier or head sommelier for the upcoming years in various refined Argentinian restaurants like Cabaña Las Lilas. But at a certain point she decided to exchanged the work at restaurant for more commercial positions and working as sommelier and brand ambassador for divers wineries and wine import companies. In between all of that she also found some time to obtain the WSET Level 3 degree and the introductory degree for Master of Wine.
Today, as Valeria also felt the need to start sharing her knowledge, started working as teacher for divers Argentinian hotel management schools or professional sommelier courses like CAVE, IAG and UADE. So you can definitely say that she is a person with many different talents and ambition with hunger for knowledge and spreading the knowledge :-) She combines the job as teacher with the job as Freelance Sommelier and wine consultant.
Please join us in getting to know this wonderful sommelier a bit better.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
I am in love with a lot of regions, and depends what I am looking for. I really love whites, but if I have to choose one place, I stay with Argentina as a whole. It is such an amazing country! We have everything there, different climates, regions, many styles of wine. It is so exciting what producers have to offer nowadays!
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
There isn't just one way to be a good sommelier, involves both knowledge and also soft skills. It is important to know about regions, producers and products as well as, being curious, staying humble, and having the desire to keep on learning. Must know how to communicate well and be accessible, as well as move the guest or audience and be inspiring.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
It depends on the country and the restaurant. Usually the best restaurants in Argentina have at least one Sommelier, or student, as part of the crew nowadays, that did not happen a few years ago in my country. Some of them are more wine focused and all the service staff has to have studied for sommelier or have knowledge about wine. Unfortunately, in others, Sommeliers are not part of the team.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
I started studying Hotel Management immediately after school when I was 19. In the first year of my studies, I took a Bartender course, which included a few classes of wine. The bell rang, I felt in love immediately with beverages, wine and gastronomy. The same year, I should had to start with my practices, so I decided it will be in Food and Beverage Department. A few years later, when I was 24, I started my studies to become a Sommelier.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
I really admire Paz Levinson. I see her always researching, visiting producers, tasting and working very hard with a big humility that is a model to me. The way she approaches wine, service, and education is inspiring. Also, Maria Barrutia and Flavia Rizzuto are great examples for me. Both are sommeliers and chefs and have founded CAVE, an institute dedicated to training sommeliers. I consider them my mentors.
Besides these great persons, we must always mention the institutions that are dedicated to promoting wine and the profession in general. Like the Argentine Sommelier Association, where I am part of its Board of Directors and in which I have been a member for several years. In this sense, the association develops concrete actions that serve sommeliers to be better every day. They carry out tastings with local wineries, they have developed a virtual Master class program in these times with very professional content and luxury speakers, and they are the ones who allow sommeliers in Argentina to access certifications such as those of ASI or those of the Court Of Master Sommeliers. And of course there are the best sommelier competitions in Argentina, which allow us to measure ourselves and improve every day in what we do.
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?
I think a pairing should be memorable and capable of emotion. With that premise It is important to consider the guest you have in front of you, and the type of restaurant and style of food is served where you work.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
That is a really difficult question! There are a lot of famous regions not to be missed, like Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rioja, and many more. But if sommeliers are traveling to Argentina, my recommendation is to visit Salta. The old vines, people, food, history, the unforgettable landscape make it definitely a unique place
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
May be a really old Madeira or Sherry. I love evolution in wine.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?
I have studied in CAVE, and in order to get the diploma you should go on a trip that they organize every year to Mendoza to meet a lot of producers in one week! That was such an amazing experience! Until then I had never visited a vineyard before. I still remember the feeling of joy and emotion I felt.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
I think that a simple but fascinating experience to recommend would be a big and relaxing end-of-harvest barbecue in Mendoza with producers. Of course, with ¨empanadas¨ and Torrontés included.