One of Argentina’s brightest young wine talents, Valentina Litman was a sommelier at Martín Berasategui restaurant in Lasarte-Oria, Spain, for five years; in 2018 she was named best sommelier in the Basque Country. Since January 2019, she’s been leading the wine team at Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires.
What was your last pairing recommendation?
Vía Revolucionaría Criolla Grande 2018, Passionate Wines, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, with grilled prawns, beetroot and peanut purée and an acidic grapefruit sauce.
What did you drink last night?
La Linterna Chardonnay 2015, Bemberg Estate Wines, Finca el Tomillo, Gualtallary, Mendoza.
What’s your favourite wine region in the world?
Tenerife in the Canary Islands. I love the great volcanic expression of how El Teide and the Atlantic Ocean can express themselves so clearly through the wines. I can still remember the first time I tried a wine from this region: Trenzado, a white, from the Suerte del Marqués cellar, produced by Jonatan García.
Trenzado is their village’s white wine, mostly made from Listán Blanco, but also includes other native varieties such as Pedro Ximenez, Albillo Criollo, Gual, Marmajuelo and Malvasía. It was at pre-dinner service night at Martín Berasategui’s restaurant and became a total fan.
The name of the wine comes because of the way the vines are held between each other forming a sort of braid (Tr: trenzado in Spanish), protecting themselves from the harsh Atlantic winds, which are very close to the vines and are able to destroy them.
What do you love most about your job?
Being able to communicate the wonderful job that’s done in the vineyards by amazing people, and transmit the unpredictable forces that Mother Nature exposes the fruit to.
The reason I became a sommelier is to become an educator and use this voice to show what wine producers are doing in the field, in our world. I feel very lucky as well, because I can open a bottle of wine, pair it with food and share it with friends and that way, I become part of something way bigger than me. I can be part of a movement.
Name a gem in your personal cellar.
I had a Château Grillet 1982, a wine that was still produced when the Neyret-Gachet family owned the cellar. This cellar is located in the northern Rhone valley and is the only one in this appellation origin (3.8 ha),which produces whites with Viognier. Nowadays, François Pinault, also the owner of Château Latour and Domaine d’Eugenie in Vosne-Romanée are the new owners of the cellar. I saved it for a couple of years then decided to open and share it during a special moment with a group of colleagues this year in Buenos Aires. I don’t regret it!
What’s the best thing that ever happened to you as a somm?
The first time I tasted a great glass of wine, was given to me by a customer at Martín Berasategui’s three-star Michelin restaurant in San Sebastián, where I worked for the past five years. This customer really empathised with me and gifted me with a glass from the bottle he had ordered. It was a Fondillón Casta Diva Monastrell 1987, from Alicante, Spain. I was very lucky to drink this wine: at the time, I was an assistant sommelier, just starting my career in the wine industry.
This glass made me realise I was drinking history, sun light, I could feel in that glass, that, I could be transported back to that moment in time, and I realised wine could transport you somewhere when is done and grown in the right way. That was my experience, and I realised that being a sommelier could give me the chance to later share that experience with others.
This took me on a very long journey. I started travelling, I got to visit amazing cellars. Wine producers opened me the doors to their houses, I met their families, got to know them, and of course, they gave me some very interesting old vintages to try.
When I become head sommelier of the restaurant, Joan, my old partner and I, made our own wine list.
Seventy percent comprised organic, biodynamic and natural wines. But it’s not my own work that was awarded, it was the work undertaken by farmers and growers who took me all the way. The biggest thing was that this wine book was undertaken according to our own experiences. Every bottle on that list was picked for a reason, and this reason was backed up by a moment.
If you were a wine, you’d be…
Riesling, because I love the fact it is one of the most aromatic grapes in the world. It has a perfumed character that distinguishes from any other grape in the world.
I think that being a Chardonnay could also be very interesting because it’s a grape can travel to almost every wine region in the world and adapt to each terroir in a different way. I would like to personify myself with this grape because I want to travel and experience different cultures.