A sommelier speaks: Mariano Rodríguez

Mariano Rodríguez is head sommelier at Arzak, Avenida Alcalde Elosegui 273, 20015 Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain; Tel: +34 943 278 465; www.arzak.es

What’s your earliest wine memory?

When I was a boy, I used to smell my father’s wine glass at lunch and try it when he wasn’t looking.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever try and why?

It’s really hard to pick just one wine, but it was Burgundy as a region that made me fall in love with wine.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on the job?

I get a lot of famous people who come in and have our tasting menu with Diet Coke. One of them asked for Vega Sicilia Unico mixed with sparkling water. It was painful to have to kill the wine like that.

And the biggest faux pas you’ve ever made?

I once spilt red wine all over a customer’s white shirt.

Have you ever served anyone famous, and if so, who and what?

I recommended Chivite colección 125 Chardonnay from Navarra to Michael Douglas and when he got back to the States his secretary called me to ask where could he buy the wine – a personal triumph!

What’s the hardest food and wine match and how do you overcome it?

Salads with artichokes and asparagus or anything served with vinegar are always a tricky match. The best way to get round it is to go for a Fino or an Amontillado.

What’s the most annoying customer habit?

It really annoys me when customers fold my wine list or spill olive oil on it.

What wines are you buying for personal consumption at the moment?

I’m really into modern Spanish wines at the moment. I‘m also buying Burgundies from small producers. I try to taste new wines from all over the world as often as I can; the best wine experiences come from being open minded.

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