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A drink with… Josep Roca

Catalan Josep Roca was recently named World’s Best Sommelier 2022 by World’s 50 Best Restaurants. He talks to Sorrel Moseley-Williams about the art of hospitality and favourite vintages.

Josep Roca is the self-professed ‘wine waiter’ of three-star Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca that he shares with chef siblings Joan and Jordi. He was named World’s Best Sommelier in July this year in the inaugural prize launched by World’s 50 Best Restaurants. He is the author of Tras las viñas. Un viaje al alma de los vinos (Behind the Vineyards. A Voyage to the Soul of Wines) published in 2016.

‘I was practically born into the world of wine because, from a very young age, I was the one in charge of filling bottles with wine from the barrels to be used on the menu of the day at my parents’ restaurant Can Roca. I’ve always been fascinated by the world of wine, the aromas coming from the barrels in the cellar of our mother’s kitchen. I’d go down that wooden staircase and it was a mysterious space, whose scents would lure me in…’

‘My earliest wine memory is one that I enjoyed aged 10, when I’d go fishing with my older brother Joan and our uncle to Cala Rostella, a bay close to Cala Montjoi – the name might ring a bell, because El Bulli restaurant used to be based there. It was a white made by our uncle’s family, from the area of Calonge in Baix Empordà, in Girona.’

‘One exciting region for me right now is our very own Empordà, because of the generational change in viticulturists, the way the territory is being brilliantly interpreted, and how they are capitalising on the three Cariñena and three Garnacha varieties in white, grey and red. But a part of my heart is also set in Jerez, Priorat, Jura and Auvergne.’

‘One of the most special bottles I’ve enjoyed is a Domaine Pierre Overnoy Vin Jaune from Arbois-Pupillin, Jura, with Pierre Overnoy’s family at home, with friends. It isn’t just the wine, it’s the prelude, the path of learning, the person, what that person represents and what it means for me to be close to a legend who I esteem and admire. Sharing it with people with whom you treasure means filling your soul with inner happiness thanks to the soul of a unique wine.’

‘At home, I always have Jerez, Champagne, Riesling and wines from Empordà chilling in the fridge.’

‘At El Celler de Can Roca I enjoy recommending wines from our territory to guests and, based on the information they share with us, we can refine, specify and analyse in greater detail the best suggestions for that specific moment.’

‘In order to ensure outstanding hospitality at El Celler, there are three rules I adhere to: hospitality begins before the customer asks for it; contact with a person is an opportunity to improve your life; and impossible means that you haven’t yet found the solution.’

‘I’m grateful to be named the World’s Best Sommelier 2022 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Behind this prize and in the restaurant, there are hours of effort, passion and complicity with winemakers whom I admire. I try to guide people in the best possible way so they enjoy wine and all the people behind it.’

‘My advice to the next generations is to make their passion their profession. In wine there is a space of fullness for life, embracing the tree of life, the tree of science, and enjoying the value of time, senses and feelings, with just a few drops of wine.’

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