Mariano Braga is a wine writer and sommelier who has worked as a journalist, wine critic and judge, restaurant owner, counsellor and wine educator over the last 14 years. The wine list at his restaurant Pampa Roja is the most awarded wine list in Argentina, and he has over 5,500 students enrolled in his online wine educational program.
Braga has recently been announced as a shortlisted nominee for the IWSC’s prestigious Wine Communicator of the Year award, with judges describing him as "a passionate wine champion" with "an impressive list of achievements", as well as being "very dynamic on all social media channels" and "talking to people in a very modern way".
In celebration of his achievement, the IWSC caught up with Braga to find out more about his impressive career, and what he loves most about the world of wine.
How did you first become interested in wine?
No one used to drink wine at home, so my first approach was directly related to the pleasure of listening to wine people talk. In Argentina, at that time, there was very little said about sommeliers, but as I’ve been travelling around the world since I was very little, I was always interested in this issue, being aware that, worldwide, ‘sommeliers’ were well known. When I was 18, I enrolled in a small sommelier school in Buenos Aires, and since then I’ve never stopped.
How long have you been in the wine business?
I’m now 32, and I started at the age of 18, so it’s 14 years now.
Which is your favourite region and why?
I’m absolutely in love with the wines we produce in Argentina, and most of my job is focused on spreading the word about our wines. So if I have to choose just one region, I would say that high-altitude vineyards in Salta (where we have the oldest wineries of the country and the most high-altitude vineyards of the world) are my favourites. Extraordinary tannins, high alcohol, stunning landscapes, beautiful people and lovely cuisine. Nothing better than this.
Which winemaker do you most admire?
I must say that the best is about to come. I’m deeply influenced by wine trends, so I look very much to what New Zealand wineries do to understand the wine business. I’m also proud of the work that South American winemakers are doing right now; we’re seeing the best expression ever from whites and red from Argentina and Chile.
What do you do to relax?
Truly, my job is my way of relaxing. I’m also a scuba diver… and a travelholic; in my 32 years, I’ve been to more than 60 countries.
What’s been your greatest triumph?
Can I say my family? If we’re just talking about work, “Pampa Roja”, my restaurant, is my greatest triumph. Since we opened our doors three years ago, we proudly have the most awarded wine list in Argentina, recognised worldwide.
And what’s your most embarrassing moment?
Oops, I’m very clumsy, so I live embarrassing moments every day when I’m at work. But nothing that a big smile can’t balance, you know.
The IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year 2018 will be announced at the Vinitaly Gala Dinner on 14 April in Verona.