Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.
Paz Levinson is the wine director of Food and Fun, a Paris-based consultancy. Levinson commenced her wine career in her native Argentina where she worked as head sommelier for a number of top end restaurants. In 2010, Levinson was named Best Sommelier in Argentina by the Argentinean Association of Sommeliers and she recently became the first Argentinean to pass the Advanced Sommelier Certificate.
Read our interview with Paz Levinson below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
I have ambivalent feelings about my birth year. On the one hand, I like 1978 because it was a great vintage in Burgundy; on the other hand, Argentina was being governed by dictators and it was not a good year for my country. If I were to choose another year, I would say 1985, which was a fabulous year for Vintage Port, and also the year the Argentine dictatorship ended. All in all, though, I am happy with 1978 as I get to experience an extremely broad spectrum of winemaking. We can still taste great vintages from the last century and also enjoy wines made using the latest advances in viticulture and winemaking.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
Wine was always part of our meals at home but my first wine ‘moment’ was when I was already 23 years old. I tasted a 1977 Weinert Malbec Estrella and realised just how well an Argentinean wine could age. Then came wines like Petrus 1988, Dom Pérignon 1970, Viña de Dávalos 1999 that also made a great impact on my palate and my mind.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
My cellar in Paris is very modest because I only recently moved there. Back home in Buenos Aires, I have about 100 bottles. My most recent addition was a 2010 Hirotake Ooka Saint Joseph.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
I have been working in this industry for 11 years. My first job was as a waitress at Restó in Buenos Aires, a beautiful little spot run by Michel Bras disciples, Maria Barrutia and Guido Tassi among them.
☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
1947 Domaine Huet Vouvray.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
Lots of wines from Jura, made from Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir. Jura is a tiny appellation with very local wines as well as Chardonnays and Pinots similar in style to those of Burgundy.
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I have re-discovered the Loire Valley for its huge diversity of wines. The Loire is a wonderful region producing wines of great quality at good prices. The Cabernet Franc from Chinon and Saumur particularly captured my attention with their aromas reminiscent of soil, chalk and ashes. They are inspiring wines as are the Chenins from Saumur, the wines from Vouvray, and the wines from the less known appellation of Montlouis.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
Gerard Basset MS MW, Véronique Rivest, Rajat Parr, Isa Bal MS, as well as all those wine personalities associated with Dustin Wilson at 11 Madison and Pascaline Lepeltier at Rouge Tomato. All of these people are equally generous and talented.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
It was a very simple yet very complex pairing of Burgundian escargots with herbs and tomatoes confit with a 1998 Penfolds Semillon.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
I would like to drink a wine from Madeira from the 19th century with my husband and friends.
☆ What’s the highest number of wines you’ve had on one of your wine lists?
At a restaurant called Nectarine, I had nearly 500 wines even though the restaurant only seated 40. Wine had a very important role to play and the chef really knew and enjoyed his wines and thought carefully about food and wine pairing.
☆ What is the oldest bottle of wine you’ve served?
In Argentina it is difficult to find very old wine but I was lucky enough to be serving at Michael Mina when my colleagues sold some 1929 Lafite, 1947 Lafleur, 1955 Ausone and 1962 Latour.
☆ What are you most looking forward to about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I am looking forward to meeting other judges, seeing former colleagues, and tasting a lot of different wines.
Written by Decanter