La Paz Welcomes the Masters of Wine
Images: Tourism Development Agency ‘La Paz Maravillosa’
Wine, food and tradition on high for the best sommeliers in the world
There are only around 390 sommeliers in the world accredited by the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wine in England. On a recent Sunday night, 11 of them, all of different nationalities, are at the mirador Jacha K’ollo in La Paz, receiving the blessing of an Amauta who shakes maracas and, with a feather, dispels bad energy that could affect these experts. It is an evening full of culture, cuisine and wine for these masters of wine.
In Bolivia for eight days, these wine luminaries have been visiting the vineyards in Tarija and Samaipata, tasting culture and observing tradition, and on this night their journey ends at the seat of the highest government in the world. It is an evening which promises to unite the best wines, produced at heights of 1,700 to 2,900 metres above sea level, with the best dishes prepared with local products harvested from lands higher than 3,600 metres above sea level.
While a fire consumes an offering to Pachamama, the 11 masters of wine raise their hands to receive the cosmic blessing of the Apus and the Achachilas, and of Mama Phaxsi, who shines fully, revealing herself amidst the mountains and joining this unforgettable welcome.
‘We learned about Bolivian wine, about Bolivian culture. We had this amazing ceremony and the view of the city. We felt completely at peace.’
—Master of Wine Cees Van Casteren
After a short 20-minute trip by bus to the city’s Zona Sur, the landscape is transformed. The masters of wine find themselves in the modern Hotel Boutique Atix, surrounded by artwork by Gastón Ugalde. They talk and laugh amongst themselves and enjoy several innovative meals that José Carlos Sanjinés, the hotel restaurant’s young chef, serves them. Quinoa French roast, llama stew and chaqueño carpaccio cured in k’oa are just some of the dishes on offer. Wine educator and writer Cees Van Casteren chooses the wine accompanying each meal to create an unforgettable experience. ‘We learned about Bolivian wine, about Bolivian culture, and the peak has been tonight, because we arrived here and were well received. We had this amazing ceremony and the view of the city. We felt completely at peace,’ says Van Casteren as he savours a potent tarijeño Riesling.
During the toast, Patricia Grossman, the director of the Tourism Development Agency and the event’s hostess, thanks the masters of wine for coming. She emphasises the importance of these movers and shakers in the food and wine industry, who demonstrate by being here that La Paz, City of Wonders, is a vital tourist destination for people from all over the world.
Midnight approaches and the evening comes to a close. With friendly smiles, the renowned sommeliers express their desire to return to La Paz, to uncover more of its marvels. Before retiring, they enjoy a chamomile ice cream flavoured with quirquiña and recall the earlier scene of the setting sun transforming the colours of the Andean mountains.
A spectacular night in tribute to the good nature of the highlands and Bolivia’s mystical scenery.
Within four hours, these luminaries have descended from the heights of the mirador Jacha K’ollo at 4,300 metres above sea level and its panoramic views, full of stars in the sky and sparkling lights on the ground. They have arrived at the modern city that shelters luxurious hotels featuring gourmet dishes to captivate even the most demanding palates in the world. All in all, it is a spectacular night in tribute to the good nature of the highlands and Bolivia’s mystical scenery.
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