As Chile’s most-talked about young sommelier, Marcelo Pino is making a name for himself in the industry after winning Best Sommelier in Chile in 2011 among other accolades. Born in the coastal surf town of Pichilemu, Marcelo started his journey into wine through food. After training as a chef and swapping food for wine with the sommelier at work, he decided to study as a sommelier in 2007. Marcelo is now head sommelier at the Ritz Carlton and was a guest judge at this year’s Annual Wines of Chile Awards. Amanda Barnes sits down with him to talk about water, wine and famous dinner dates.
What do you most enjoy about being a sommelier?
I meet a lot of people from around the world. That, for me, is amazing!
What is the hottest trend in Chilean wine right now?
We are trying to make wine lower in alcohol, not with too much oak and with more freshness. I think we are trying to make wines that are not too heavy.
You advise a lot of people what to drink with their dinner, what do foreigners most enjoy drinking here?
It depends on the season. In the summer they drink more white wine and Pinot Noir but of course there are the classic people who always just want to drink Cabernet Sauvignon!
What is your top all round pairing wine, a no fail option?
I would say Carmenere is a very versatile wine. It’s a great variety with a medium body, so you can go with stronger structured or lower structured food. Carmenere is in the middle, you can pair it up or down, with lighter or heavier dishes.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing of all?
I love oysters. My favorite pairing is a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc with oysters, a coastal Sauvignon Blanc of course.
You are an expert in water and about to publish your third book on it, what is water tasting all about and how did you get into it?
For my thesis I decided to find all the bottled water we produce in Chile and all that we import and I did a blind tasting with winemakers, chefs and journalists with sommeliers.
When you try to find the difference between one water and another it is the place the water comes from. In the north it rains barely twice a year, so you have a lot of minerals and you feel the calcareous soil in your nose and mouth, it has more structure and concentration. In the south where it rains three times a week you have the soil cleaning itself out regularly which makes a more balanced water which is not too hard. When you have that difference with soils, weather and geographical area you can find the difference between the waters.
How do you taste water?
It’s the same way to wine – you see the water, you smell the water and you taste the water. You follow the same steps for wine. You chose a water with a low minerality for light food, medium minerality for medium structured food, and for high minerality water you need dishes with more structure.
Who are your wine heroes?
Gerard Bassett. I was working with him for 6 months, and I love him, he’s an amazing guy. He’s one of the biggest references in the wine world.
If you could have one person for dinner, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you serve them?
I think Jancis Robinson. I think she’s one of the most interesting wine journalists and because I can ask her about everything and she can tell me everything. I would serve Chilean oysters with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and then something very typical from Chile -a pastel de choclo with a classic Carmenere. Then another classic Chilean dessert, torta hojarasca, with a classic pisco aged in oak.
In the end, what really matters?
My son, of course.