Co-founder at El Baqueano in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, which ranks 15th in Latin America’s 50 best Restaurants 2015, sommelier Gabriela Lafuente is extremely fond of whites and says working at Sao Paulo’s D.O.M. has been a career highlight.
What was your last pairing recommendation?
At El Baqueano, we offer wine harmonisations that match our dishes on the menu, which can change according to availability and the seasons. One of the dishes I harmonised this year, which was hard and risky, was “the manioc”, a tribute we undertake in honour of Misiones province, which has an added emotive value as my mum is from there.
The plate consists of you harvesting your own manioc while the chosen wine is Via Revolucionaria Torrontés Brutal 2013, an orange wine by Matías Michelini, complex and also surprising in terms of its nose and structure. The greatest challenge was serving this harmonisation to Josep Roca when he visited Buenos Aires earlier this year.
What did you drink last night?
Last night… the last few days… lots of wine but I do have something very recent in mind. Vieux Télégraphe 2010, by Leo Borsi, an Argentine enologist who works at Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I had the chance to try his work from France.
What’s your favourite wine region in the world and why?
I have a particular weakness for white, and my favourites are from Chablis and Alsace, while Germany, of course, is also up there! I love their aromatic complexity, their different expressions, their versatility for food pairings and their perfect acidity!
What do you love most about your job?
I define myself as a sommelier currently working in service. I deeply believe that a fundamental part of being a sommelier is being able to express and share that capacity with diners.
The richest part of my work is getting to know a client and guiding them so that they complete that moment, and the most valuable part is when they thank you!
Name a gem in your personal cellar.
As a white wine lover, I have a few I’m saving for special moments.
Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2006
Alsace Klipfel, Klvener de Heiligenstein 2012
Krug Vintage 2000.
What’s the best thing that ever happened to you as a somm?
Lots of things but obviously my stint working at D.O.M. in Sao Paulo is one of those.
I started the same day that Alex Atala rose in the rankings of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants to fourth place. The restaurant exploded, people were queuing outside until 1am and his best clients took their finest, most special wines there to share. I remember one table in particular decided to drink all the wines that were the same age as sommelier Gabriela Monteleone (a great friend) so they opened a Lafite Rothschild 1983, Mouton Rothschild 1983, Château Margaux 1983, Echezeaux Grand Cru 1983 and we ended a great night with a Château d’Yquem 1983. There were just three of them at the table and they served themselves each a glass, one for the sommelier, one for Atala and luckily enough, one for me. The table had finished eating, the staff had gone for the evening… only Gabriela, Alex and I accompanied this really special table. Without doubt, an amazing night!
If you were a wine, you’d be…
Not just because it’s my favourite but Riesling, for being different, having personality, it can be nice and sweet but also acidic and complex, hahaha.