“Not only restaurants need sommeliers, but also wineries, specialist shops and distributors”
There are some very good sommeliers in Catalonia. One example is Ferran Vila, the maître sommelier of La Banyeta restaurant in Palol de Revardit, who was named the Best Catalan Sommelier in 2018 and last year won the Spanish Sommelier Tierra de Sabor Championship. In the same competition, Anna Casabona of Juve & Camps and Audrey Doré of El Celler de Can Roca (Best Catalan Sommelier in 2017 and 2019) came third and fourth. Another Catalan sommelier who was champion of Spain in 2016 is Josep Pelegrín (Best Catalan Sommelier in 2014 and 2015).
Who is the Best Catalan Sommelier?
Ton Colet, head sommelier of El Cigró d’Or restaurant in Vilafranca del Penedès. He will hold the title until the end of March, when the next contest to choose the 2023 Best Catalan Sommelier will be held. The trials will take place in Reus and the award ceremony will be during a dinner at the Club Nàutic Salou in Tarragona.
What does the contest consist of?
It’s not just about a good sense of smell and detecting the nuances of a wine. A good sommelier must know the land, the wineries, the history. In the competition, there’s a written part on the culture of wine and gastronomy and it can include olive oils, foie-gras or even coffee. Then there’s an oral wine tasting, a trial with an erroneous wine list, an identification of spirits and liqueurs and trials of decanting and serving wine, and so on.
More restaurants have a sommelier.
Yes, and not just top restaurants. Many see that having an expert to advise customers on wines is a good option because there’s more demand and wine culture is more widespread and people have more knowledge. It’s a good time for sommeliers because there’s a lot of work. It’s not only restaurants that need sommeliers, but also wineries, specialist shops, training centres, wine distributors, the media... It’s a highly sought-after profession.
What does a sommelier do?
Recommend, advise, compose the wine list, buy the wines, take care of their rotation, and so on. The sommelier organises tasting sessions, which there are now more of because of wine tourism and the many people who visit wineries. Tourism has become an important pillar of the wine sector.
Where do you study to become a sommelier?
There’s no certified training, something we’ve demanded for years. At the moment, we recognise the courses at the CETT School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy, attached to the University of Barcelona, those at the Eshob School of Hospitality and at the Jesuits’ Sant Ignasi School. We also recognise the Wine Tourism School of Catalonia in Vilafranca, the Joviat School of Hospitality in Manresa, Tarragona’s Rovira i Virgili University, and the University of Girona. We demand 400 training hours, which is what is established by the OIV, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.
The wine industry in Catalonia is increasingly important.
Yes, people come from abroad to eat in our restaurants. We have great restaurants, great cuisine, great chefs, and wine’s part of that. The boom in wine tourism and sommeliers goes hand in hand with gastronomy.
Are Catalan wines now well-known around the world?
More so because of the improving quality of our wines. Today, Catalonia is very competitive in terms of quality and our highest quality wines are increasingly popular abroad. There are DOs like Priorat that have worked hard to become very well positioned in the middle and upper segments of the international market. This has helped open the doors to medium quality wines. Catalonia’s Mediterranean climate and landscape make it ideal for producing all kinds of wines.