Interview: Esteban Acosta, sommelier

Originally from Buenos Aires, Esteban Acosta started his Ibiza odyssey in 2002 and made the move to year round resident in 2006. His passion for wine took him from working a juice bar to studying in Barcelona and ultimately becoming El Chiringuito’s original sommelier. Today he divides his time between BEACHOUSE Ibiza and El Chiringuito where his favourite pursuit is to share his knowledge and love of wine with diners. Here he talks travel, trends and of course, the good drop.

How did you become a sommelier?

I came to work a summer season in Ibiza and funnily it was for the previous owners of El Chiringuito. At the end of that summer I went to Barcelona and started to get to know more about wine, eventually working at [famed two Michelin star restaurant] ABaC. I worked very closely with the sommelier there and I knew it was a career I wanted to pursue. Eventually, I came back to Ibiza with my wife and approached Olivia and Jonathan [new proprietors of El Chiringuito] to propose a more comprehensive wine list. And so, I became the sommelier. I saw it as an important addition to the El Chiringuito experience. But I was still learning so I split my time between working in Ibiza and going to hospitality school in Barcelona so I could become qualified.

How was your time studying?

It was spectacular – I tried so many wines, had amazing teachers and oenologists. I studied with people who worked in excellent restaurants; it was a really great experience to get to know that world more deeply, to learn so much.

Does your native country influence your taste in wine?

I am from Buenos Aires but everything I know about wine I learned here in Europe. Argentinian wines are very good, of course, but I don’t think it influences my taste. It’s an international language; there are no borders in wine. I like wines from all over the world.

Have there been any wines you will never forget?

The last time I tasted a wine that will always stay with me was last winter in Champagne. You could taste the landscape in it, the region, the person who worked the land… it was all in the glass. It all transfers to the glass.

Are there any regions you think are overlooked?

There are lots of small regions that don’t get the same attention as others. At the moment I am interested in Terra Alta in Aragon, near the Ebro River. They have a white Grenache, that’s not so well known. It’s very fresh, fruity and dry. We are all about finding wines from small regions and small vineyards for our clients.

How do you go about pairing a wine with a dish or making a recommendation to a diner?

First and above all, you always have to be humble, to interpret the psychology of the client and to know the dish, of course. There has to be good communication between the chefs and the sommelier. From that point you move forward. It should be playful, in a way. Pairing is pretty complex, because it’s very personal. I had the opportunity to learn a lot about pairing in the winter when I did a stage [sommeliers working as interns in renowned restaurants] in La Rioja. We talked a lot about the art of it, that each pairing is a work of art; each pairing has its own energy. I love it when people discover something new that they’ve never tried before. Here, it’s all about making it a whole experience.

Do you have a wine philosophy?

My passion is that I continue to learn – it’s infinite. I am a bit obsessed. Wine permits me to travel, to experience different cultures, countries, foods and different ways of making wine. I love the history of winemaking, everything. I get so much out of it.

What wines are you enjoying personally at the moment?

I am really enjoying wines from Charlus [Bordeaux]. The white Grenache from the really old vineyards in Terra Alta are very interesting. I am fascinated with Champagnes too at the moment from really small viticulturists, with hardly any sugar, or yeast. You can really enjoy the fruit – it’s so smooth and clean. With wine you are always growing, learning and discovering.

What trends are you seeing in the world of wine at the moment?

Spain is having a renaissance. People are really experimenting, trying new ways of fermentation and using different materials. It’s an era of investigation and it’s really exciting. Indigenous varieties are coming back and people are making really great wines. Some people are working without sulphites or preservatives and creating really beautiful wines. There is a lot of consciousness when it comes to working the land; they are looking after it much better than before, and this all adds to the flavour. We’re seeing cleaner, more pure wines. It’s spectacular what’s happening in Spain at the moment. For me working as a sommelier here permits me to offer wines to foreigners that they will never forget. It’s a good moment in Spanish wine culture.

If you had a ticket to anywhere right now where would you go?

I would go to Graves in Bordeaux to try white wines, such as the sauvignon blanc and semillon fermented in barrels and then of course to Sauternes because it’s right nearby. And then to Buenos Aires, naturally!