Kitchen Talk: Mikel Garaizabal Pildain

This post forms part of the Kitchen Talk – Conversations with Chefs interview series.

Mikel Garaizabal in Bogota, Colombia

Mikel Garaizabal Pildain is a busy man. An expert sommelier, since 1996 he’s given more than 800 wine tastings around the world. He’s a teacher at the Escuela de Hostelería de Gamarra in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain and he’s also an enologist at the Mendraka Txakolina winery.

But that’s not all. He presents and coordinates a TV program, Yo Con Vino (Wine and I), as well as radio programs. He’s also found the time to write four books, two of which won Gourmand Awards in 2003 and 2013 as best books in their categories.

While he was visiting Bogota in November of 2013 I had the chance to talk with him about wine and wine culture in Colombia.  (Click here to find out a bit more about the wine tasting at the Club El Nogal where I met him).

He’s visited Colombia several times and has noted the progress in wine culture in this country where wine consumption is just beginning to take off. He observes that in Colombia, “There’s a real boom in knowledge.”

But he adds, “There’s still a huge potential for growth.”

“In Colombia and many parts of Latin America wine is for the elite. But the world of wine should be open to everyone. In Europe, in the poorest households and the richest, there’s always wine.”

And for those of you who are wondering why wine in Colombia is so expensive, you’ll be comforted to know you’re not alone. Mikel brought it up, saying; “Why is wine so expensive here? I don’t understand the prices, I really don’t.”

Interview with Mikel Garaizabal in Bogota
Interview with Mikel Garaizabal in Bogota

He also commented on the important work of sommeliers. When the service is inadequate in a restaurant, the work of others in the chain of wine consumption is lost. The sommelier’s work should focus on the consumer’s enjoyment, which begins with education.

“The consumer has to be educated so he can demand the best service in restaurants. He’s paid a lot for that bottle, so he should demand good service.”

On the pleasure of drinking wine, he added, “Behind every wine bottle there are stories and cultures: there’s a long history, and each vineyard has its own culture. The idea is to transmit that to the consumer. That’s why a wine tasting should be enjoyable, because drinking wine is enjoyable.”

Mikel Garaizabal in Bogota, Colombia
Mikel Garaizabal in Bogota, Colombia

Click here to read about the visit of four chefs from Basque Country to Bogota. Warning: this article is in Spanish, originally published in the Colombian culinary magazine Casa Viva Cocina.

Click here for a behind the scenes look at that visit of four chefs from Basque Country. This post is in English.

Have you had any wine tasting experiences in Latin America? Tell me about it!


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