Meet the Expert - Paz Levinson
ASI 4th Best Sommelier in the World, 2016; Best Sommelier of the Americas, 2015.
Descended from a long line of winemakers from the Mendoza wine region, Paz is the first Argentinian to receive the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced certification AND the first Argentinean to be named Best Sommelier of the Americas.
Favorite wine region? Difficult to say! The more I travel, the more I fall in love with different regions. I would say Cornas in the Rhône; the vineyard area is magic. Also Gualtallary in Mendoza for its extreme wild beauty.
Favorite wine story? Roberto Cipresso and Santiago Achaval found an abandoned Malbec vineyard of 80 years old. There were chestnut trees that consume great amounts of water. When Roberto saw that the non-irrigated vineyard had survived being co-planted with these trees he couldn’t believe his eyes. They embraced the vineyard and it is now produces one of Argentina’s most amazing wines.
Light-bulb moment? When I tried Dom Perignon 1996 on my first day of studying to become a sommelier. In Argentina we taste mostly local wines and this was beyond everything I knew.
Last meal? Oysters and Salon 1997, Quails with a Domaine Leroy Richebourg 1988, and Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 1976.
Desert island wine? Probably La Romanée 2002 from Liger-Belair — the perfume is so perfect that I would never get bored.
If you could live anywhere in the world… I would like to live near the sea.
Bucket list? Travel to the wine regions that I haven’t been, go to Japan to make Sake in winter, and own my own vineyard in Patagonia…
If you ruled the world, what would you change on Day 1? Eliminate the word “failure.” I am convinced that it doesn’t exist and that we always learn from our decisions.
Greatest achievement? After living in France I now speak and understand the language. It was one of my dreams!
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I would love to be a folk singer. I still have time!
THEN Paz comes from a long line of winemakers from Argentina’s Mendoza wine region. While studying at the University of Buenos Aires, she worked in a small — yet gastronomically celebrated — restaurant called Restó. It was a perfect environment in which to broaden her wine knowledge. As a budding chemist, she learned how molecules react under varying conditions; as a server and later wine steward, she gained an understanding of wine and its intimate relationship with food and people’s enjoyment.
Paz set her sights on becoming a sommelier, and after training went on to teach and write on wine as well as to head up the wine program at the Buenos Aires’ restaurant Nectarine. In 2013 she left Argentina with her husband, a Mandarin Chinese translator, to consult for restaurants in Paris and Shanghai, returning briefly in 2014 to make a selection of premium wines for La Cabrera, the high-end steak house in the capital’s trendy Palermo Soho district.
That same year — and for the second time! — she was named Argentina’s Best Sommelier by the Argentina Association of Sommeliers (she had first won the award in 2010). The following year, while somming at the Michelin 3-star Epicure restaurant in the illustrious Hôtel Bristol in Paris, she earned an even bigger prize: the Association of Sommeliers International title “Best Sommelier of the Americas.” And in April 2016, the ASI ranked Argentina’s best-known wine maven “4th Best Sommelier in the World.”
NOW Early in 2016, Paris’s hip new temple of gastronomy, Restaurant Virtus, snapped up Paz to become its Head Sommelier. Although she has now mastered both French and English, she says that her study of the language of wine is never-ending: “The favorite part of my work is that I’m always learning. I’m always absorbing knowledge. It is an endless world for those who like research and to move to a next level.”
NEXT Paz knows that at some point she’ll return to her home country to share what she’s learned with a new generation of Argentine wine lovers, as well as to explore the potential of Argentinean wines.