Interviews • February 6, 2018

Interview With Jordi Paronella, ThinkFoodGroup Sommelier

Wines From Spain recently spoke with Jordi Paronella, Sommelier with José Andrés’s restaurant group, ThinkFoodGroup. Paronella believes that going back to the roots of winemaking is slated to be one of the biggest trends of 2018.  He believes the younger generation is paying more attention to the land and making wine with less intervention and less oak.

Read more about this trend and how Paronella selects wines for Jaleo‘s three Washington D.C. locations in the full interview below.

 

  1. How did you get your start in the wine industry? How long have you been with ThinkFoodGroup?

I’ve been working in the restaurant business since I was 14 years old, and in 2000, when I was a 2nd Maitre in Barcelona, I decided I wanted to complement my wine knowledge and become a sommelier. I began working officially as a sommelier in 2002 with ABaC Restaurant. This February, I will have been with ThinkFoodGroup for five years.

 

  1. What is ThinkFoodGroup’s overall philosophy on wine and how does it reinforce your own?

Every restaurant has its own wine program, depending on the concept. For example, at Zaytinya, our Greek restaurant, 99% of the wines listed are from Greece. At Oyamel, a Mexican restaurant, mostly Mexican and California wines are available with a solid list of Mezcal and Tequila.

I run the Jaleo wine program. We exclusively carry Spanish wines at our 3 D.C. locations. In Vegas, because we’re in a hotel, the list is about 90% Spanish.

 

  1. What are some of your thoughts on the culture of restaurants, food and wine today?

Generally speaking, Chefs continue to be the stars of restaurant culture, but I see Front of the House teams becoming more important with guest interaction. Farm to table, local products, and a focus on old recipes or tradition are all trending as well.

The same holds true with wine: we are going back to the roots. There’s a young generation paying more attention to the vines, the land, and becoming farmers again. People are looking for no machines and no pesticides. It doesn’t matter to me what people call it, natural or biodynamic, for me, it’s about respecting nature. In winemaking there’s less intervention, less oak, neutral or 2/3 year-old oak, concrete, clay pots – all these things are part of a larger trend.

 

  1. How are consumers enjoying Spanish wine at ThinkFoodGroup restaurants – are there any trends that surprise you?

People enjoy Spanish wine a lot. The wines are pretty strong on quality/price value, local grapes, plenty of diversity and styles. I don’t see any trend in particular, but best sellers continue being Rioja/Ribera in reds, followed by Toro and Priorat, because these wines remind people of Napa Cabs. For white wine, many enjoy Albariño and Rueda.

I’m also seeing more curiosity in the wine business people for Sherry and Mencía grape, primarily amongst my fellow sommeliers.

 

  1. How would you define your approach to developing a wine program and specifically your approach to curating Spanish wines?

First I like to define climate as one of the most important characteristics of a wine, for example, Atlantic wines in the North of Spain (Galícia) have their own taste altogether. Styles of wine is next, like old Riojas, fortified wines from Andalucía, then Cava and finally, talking about the food of the region: Oysters/Albariño, Anchovies/Txakolina, Jamón/Sherry, etc.

 

  1. What is your favorite Spanish wine pairings?

It will be hard to pick one, but just a few are: Torta Pascualete with Amontillado, Uni/sea urchin with Manzanilla, Pulpo a la Gallega with Mencía, Anchovies with Txakoli, and Paella always with Cava.

 

  1. What is your single favorite Spanish wine and why?

It depends on the moment and the company but I’ll tell you right now I’m impressed with Galícia Reds, Canary Islands wines, new projects in Jerez like Ramiro Ibanez, Garnachas from Madrid, what Pepe Raventós is doing in Penedès, and the new Priorats with a Cariñena base.