Thamara Mbomyo wine and spirits sommelier at the Latin American restaurant Paladar
Tell us about when you first became interested in wine
I grew up in Zaragoza (Spain) and wine has always surrounded me as part of the local culture. My interest in wine as a career began over 10 years ago when I considered taking a sommelier course. I contacted a prestigious wine school that used to be near my home. In the end, I didn’t sign up for the course, but I had the opportunity to visit Segura Viudas in Penedes and learn how cava is made and taste a selection of different wines.
Tell us about your wine list at the Paladar
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that Paladar’s roster is exclusively Latin American, and all spirits and beers are sourced from the region as well. We have around 50 wines on the main list and end bin list and another 12 on the premium list. The wine list is as varied as Latin America itself and includes a wide range of different grape varieties, including some you might not expect to find in Latin America.
During your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
I learned by heart four years ago how important it is to keep and serve a bottle of wine at the right temperature. The team at the time threw away a bottle during a tasting because it was kept so cool that it dulled the wine and gave us a different profile; it was not pleasant. I like to give wine a second chance, so I took the bottle home and let it warm up a bit… the wine blossomed beautifully. What a pity.
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
La Prensa Zaragoza in Spain, Quintonil in Mexico and Noble Rot in London.
Who do you respect the most in the world of wine?
Fernando Mora MW. I crossed paths with Fernando during his humble beginnings in Zaragoza (Latinos de Vino). Watching someone from my hometown become WM made me believe that anything is possible.
What’s the most exciting wine you’ve ever encountered?
I’ve come across many exciting wines, so it’s hard to choose just one. I recently came across a nice blend of Carménère Merlot and Nebbiolo from Chile Pedregal Estate Origen Assemble II. I tasted it with people who don’t like Carménère and they liked it. I would also mention an orange wine we have on the list – Bizarra Extravaganza from the rather unconventional Uruguayan winemaker, Santiago Deicas.
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Medium body, great acidity and minerality.
What is the best wine on your list?
All of the wines on our bin ends list offer excellent value for money – and we update this list regularly. Beyond that, I might mention our full-bodied Mexican LA Cetto Petite Sirah – which is very expensive. Our entry-level sparkling wine is Casa Valduga Brut from Brazil, and it’s definitely too much for the price. Finally, I have to mention the wonderful Albarino from Bodega Garzon which is just a delight.
What is your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Sushi and off-dry Riesling.
Old World or New World?
The very nature of our list means that I must be biased in favor of the New World. With climate change and much more mobile talent these days, the difference is becoming less and less apparent. It can even be said that more and more certain styles of New World wine are reverting to Old World styles.
What does your pet hate about serving wine at other restaurants?
Dirty glasses and decanters.
Who is your favorite producer right now?
The Greek winemaker Chloi Chatzivaritis is very interesting. I’m no grower very closely, but when I first tasted Aplo 2017 (an Assyrtiko), I wanted to know more about Chatzivaritis Estate. She is a great example of the new generation doing a great job trying new techniques while keeping the tradition and sharing the culture behind it. In Latin America, there are many passionate small winemakers who are reinventing wines from old vines in southern Chile and parts of Argentina – for example Bouchon Family Wines.
As a sommelier, what is the question that customers ask you the most?
“What is your favorite wine? I always joke that it’s not about me…it’s about them!. In this situation, my job is to help customers verbalize what they want and find the wine that suits their needs.
Which wine region/country is currently underestimated and why?
I’m very excited about some wines produced in countries like Brazil, Uruguay – and even Mexico and Peru (actually the top wine producing countries in Latin America). Many of our customers have no idea that these countries produce wine and are often impressed with the quality.
It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
Massaya Cinsault Rosé from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, I enjoyed this wine during confinement. I pass judgment on rosé wines but this one really impressed me. They really believe in their product and I respect producers who don’t make pink just because it’s trendy.