Sommelier with a smile, Fernanda Gimenez

By Tristan Ralston on 9th May, 2016

Sommelier with a smile, Fernanda Gimenez

Sommelier with a smile, Fernanda Gimenez

With her friendly, unpretentious, and easygoing manner, Fernanda Gimenez is not the stereotypical intense sommelier. She is a certified wine expert, eager to share her knowledge, whether it is through culinary tours, seminars, workshops, special events or just in a one-on-one social situation.

Explains this smiling 33-year-old graduate of the Escuela Argentina de Sommeliers and the Escola de Restauracio i Hostalatge de Barcelona.

Fernanda also taught viticulture, wine making and sensory analysis at Aconcagua University in Mendoza, Argentina, and took postgraduate courses in winery operations. Hailing from Mendoza, one of the wine capitals of the world, where her father owns vineyards and she worked as the tourism manager of a major winery, Fernanda was not a wine aficionado at first but grew to love it. “You don’t need to have a good nose or palate. You can develop this; wine is an acquired taste. Wine appreciation is a matter of connecting to your senses; become a child again and be curious,” she advises.

As the sommelier at the Aruba Wine and Dine Group of restaurants, Fernanda has her work cut out for her. “We select particular wines according to the menu and style of each restaurant. Our main focus is on quality and what the consumers want to drink. At our restaurants, we serve predominantly American tourists, but we also receive many European and Latin American guests, too. This reality challenged us to create a balanced wine list to please everybody’s palate.”

Sommelier with a smile, Fernanda Gimenez

Sommelier with a smile, Fernanda Gimenez

“In general, Europeans focus more on terroir wines while American and Latin consumers prefer varietal wines. The concept of terroir refers to the combination of natural factors such as soil, climate (sun, rain, wind), the slope of the hill, and altitude of a particular vineyard. The combination of these natural factors affects the quality and style of the wine in a unique way.”

“Most European wines are named for the region rather than the grape variety itself. Many of these European wines come from exactly the same grape varieties as New World wines such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, but the labels say Burgundy, Bordeaux, Sancerre. In the Old World system, what matters is the place where those grapes grow. This has not been a popular concept among non-European consumers, but nowadays more Americans ask for the origin of the wines.”

“When recommending a wine for your guests, consider important criteria,” Fernanda advises. “It is important to have an in-depth knowledge of the ingredients and cooking methods of each dish. Yet, there are no fixed rules for pairing wine and food, leaving a lot of room for creativity. However, one must follow certain guidelines for harmonious combinations.”

“With a green salad, a wine light in color, flavor and aroma is best; consider wine with a singular profile, such as Sauvignon Blanc. Salty foods are best with slightly sweet wines and make fruity flavors stand out. With foods rich in protein and fat, such as red meat and Parmesan cheese, wines rich in tannins such as Malbec or Cabernet are good choices. An Argentinian steak combines perfectly with the bitter tannins in red wines. Fat encourages salivation; the astringent tannins coagulate the saliva and clean the palate. For local fish such as mahi mahi, grouper and wahoo which are soft in texture and flavor, mild light-bodied white wines work well. But sauce also plays an important role; creole sauce with a tomato base goes well with Pinot Noir. For dessert, wines should be even sweeter than the dessert itself. If not sweet enough, there will be a bitter sensation. Dessert wines are late harvest wines made from dehydrated grapes; as a result the grapes have a higher sugar content.”

At Salt & Pepper, where tapas and burgers dominate the menu, warm, easy drinking, uncomplicated, fresh and fruity wines work best, such as Pinot Grigio (Santa Margarita, Italy) and Malbec (Trapiche, Argentina). At MooMba, the choice ranges from easy drinking Chardonnay (14 Hands, USA) or Sauvignon Blanc (Ferngreen, New Zealand) to Pouilly-Fuissé (Louis Jadot, France). Though there is also an interesting selection of reds, Fernanda prefers rose and white wines in the informal beachfront setting. At Cafe the Plaza, aromatic wines such as Moscato d’Asti (Italy), and Rose wines (Aix-en-Provence) are popular choices to accompany the strong flavors of Dutch snacks, such as herring, sausage and aged cheeses. Hadicurari has one of her favorite wine lists, with good, well-balanced house wines and an exclusive wine list including emblematic wines such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, St Emilion, Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé, and high-end New World wines like Cabernet Sauvignon (Don Melchor, Chile) and Caymus (California) – all perfect for the different fish and steak selections.

At Fishes & More, California wines dominate, including Pinot Noir (Meiomi and Rodney Strong) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Raymond and Duckhorn). In addition to Sauvignon Blanc (Nobilo, New Zealand), there are fine Chilean selections including Montes. “South American wines in general deliver great quality for the price you pay,” Fernanda explains. “At Tango, there is a fascinating collection of Argentinian wines. The French have a theory that the best combinations are created among local ingredients, thus Argentinian meats with Malbec,” she explains.

How good is Fernanda at recognizing grape varieties in blind tastings? “I can recognize reds and whites and even distinguish the grape variety; I always know in general what I’m drinking. Though I come from a red wine country, I also love white wines because of their freshness.”

“Discover the great variety and quality of wines on Aruba; you will enjoy them as much as I do!”