I might seem biased to claim that Capella Pedregal’s Wine Director Juan Carlos Flores is the best sommelier in Mexico, but that is actually the title that Mexico’s Wine Association awarded him with! I met with Juan Carlos just a couple of days after he returned from the World’s International Sommelier Competition in London, where he represented Mexico and finished in semifinals! Yes, he is that good! Despite his flashing awards, Juan Carlos is very humble, pleasant to talk to, and very passionate about what he does. Here is my interview with Juan Carlos about his passions and plans for Capella Pedregal’s wine program:
Welcome back from London! I would love to hear about your trip.
Thank you! It was very exciting and challenging. This is my third time representing Mexico at the World’s International Sommelier Competition, and as each time, I loved being surrounded with world’s best sommeliers. I am so honored I get to compete with legends— many of whom were my teachers when I was still in school. It was a great honor and an amazing experience. I am already preparing for the competition in 2015 where I am aiming for the finals!
How did you find your passion for wine and how did it become a career?
Originally I studied hotel management in Mexico City, and during my last 6 months of school we started having wine classes, which I loved. I received a scholarship to work in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where I noticed that the Food & Beverage area of the hotel was among the most important functions. We worked the most important events in town—from Formula 1 to Tennis Monte Carlo. We even provided special services for Prince Rainier and Princess Caroline! I realized then that I wanted my engagement in hotel industry to be where the action is, not in the background. But it wasn’t until I worked at the 3-star Michelin restaurant Le Louis XV, that I developed a true passion for wine and decided to pursue it as a career.
What does it take to be a successful sommelier?
I believe you have to have a passion for terroir— that is the elements that reflect the characteristics of a specific place. You have to have a passion for tasting and smelling different aromas. My passion is not only for the wine itself, but for all the aromas – be it wines, coffee, teas, food or perfumes! My other passion is travel, so I always try to explore new and different wine locals.
What are your plans for Capella Pedregal’s wine program?
Our guests are both well traveled and have discerning palates. I love talking with them and sharing wines that they have tasted on their trips to Europe, South America or in the States. I am dedicated to building a wine selection with wines from the entire world. I also make an effort to surprise them with some wines they may not be as familiar with.
I heard you are working on an exciting and new experience for our guests. Can you tell me more about it?
Absolutely! You probably know that the more the wine breathes, the better it is. That is why I am preparing a wine list with recommended breathing times, so for example when you make your dinner reservation, you can already choose the wine, and on the basis of your choice we will open the bottle at the recommended time, so that when you come for dinner, the wine is already at its optimal taste. Our Executive Chef Yvan Mucharraz and the team will help us pair that bottle of wine with food as well. This is something completely new in the industry, and I am looking forward to introducing it to our guests and hearing their feedback on it.
What would you recommend to our guests who would like to pair their wines with food when dining at home?
Think of wine as just another ingredient of a meal. If your food is missing acidity, don’t add it to the food itself, but complement the dish with a more acid wine. The vertebral column of wine is its acidity. A well-balanced acidity is very important, it brings freshness and cuts the fat. Never discard any wine until you taste it with food.
FInally, how do you choose your wine, and what other beverages you like besides wine?
I choose the main bottle of the night based on the day, the company, and the occasion, but I always recommend starting the evening with a glass of champagne. Besides wine I love drinking beverages with great aromas, like coffee, tea, tequila, single malts, and I enjoy preparing different versions of gin and tonic.
Thank you Juan Carlos!
It is my pleasure!