María José Vázquez

Sommelier at La Viña del Ensanche in Bilbao (Basque Country)

 

María José defines herself as “hard-working, sociable, responsible and tenacious.” We would add energetic, dedicated and curious. She has a great feeling for the symbiosis between wine and food.

 

 

María José's relationship with wine began in the kitchen. “I found my passion years ago, around 2003–2004,” she recalls, “At the time, I was assisting the head sommelier at the Guggenheim Bilbao restaurant. We worked on a tasting handbook together, along with another colleague who was studying to become a sommelier at the time and is now an important sommelier in Bizkaia.” Subsequently she completed her official sommelier training at the Escuela de Hostelería (hospitality school) of Artxanda. From there she went on to prestigious restaurants like the Guggenheim Bilbao and Nerua, and in 2009 she received Spain's Nariz de Oro (Golden Nose) Award.


 

Today she is the official nose and palate at La Viña del Ensanche, where in 2014 she embarked on what was initially meant to be a short term assignment...

 

La Viña del Ensanche, Bilbao.

 

La Viña reached out to me to consult on wines, menus and courses for its staff, both on a new project called Taller de Cocina (La Viña del Ensanche's gourmet restaurant) and in the bar. It was only supposed to be a few months, which then turned into four wonderful years.”

 

 

 

Generational spirit and dedication: concepts, values and life circumstances that La Viña del Ensanche shares with Familia Torres. “It is one of the few family-owned businesses that remain in Bilbao's city center,” María José remarks, “By now the third generation is at the helm.”

 

 

 

“Familia Torres has been with us since the beginning. The winery also participates in our tastings every year, which always have a waiting list. We have customers who are regulars of the wine range.”


 

La Viña del Ensanche, Bilbao.

 

 

The culinary options are varied and tempting, bolstered by the restaurant's relationship with Joselito Ibérico ham. It is a must for Bilbao's hedonistic souls and their international kin who believe that a good bite demands an equally excellent wine.


 

Given our shared eagerness to improve and push ourselves in the search for excellence, we ask María José what she expects from Familia Torres in the future: “It's tricky because the winery already has so much to offer. Plus, I know about the work being done in terms of researching and reintroducing indigenous ancestral varieties. Perhaps what I would like to see (and this goes for all wineries) is the wine world making its culture more accessible to young people, our future customers.”


 

María José and La Viña del Ensanche represent the kind of relationship that transcends the merely transactional. We give each other our best and as a result our work becomes all the more meaningful.

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