Today we have the honor of speaking to Lucas Payà, an independent wine consultant and ambassador that has worked with some of the most exciting chefs and restaurants in the world. Payà has his own company and works in collaboration with several world-class firms dedicated to wine, beverage and culinary culture.
He dove into the world of wine and service from a young age and his family was a big part of his inspiration. Payà says he inherited the love for wine at a very early age from his father’s appreciation for great wine and local restaurants, along with his mother’s natural cooking abilities and a classic love for food.
Payà also mentioned that the energy and enthusiasm shared around the dinner table during his adolescence spurred his keenness for anything related to the art of preparing a meal, hospitality, and all-encompassing culinary enjoyment.
His trajectory as a sommelier began at elBulli, under the direction and leadership of acclaimed chef Ferran Adrià. According to Payà, his experience with the well-known chef shaped his appreciation of wine and service. “Ferran’s vision, coupled with the mentorship of Juli Soler, expanded my comprehension of the artistry in gastronomy. This humbling and educational experience continues to be one of the most remarkable of my professional life”— he states.
Here are some of Paya’s tips for pairing and pointers on upcoming trends. He´ll also be sharing some of his favorite Spanish wines.
What was your path to becoming a sommelier?
From early on, I always loved the culinary arts and the restaurant industry. I studied cooking and hospitality in a specialized school in Barcelona who also provided a two-year sommelier/wine course. I took that and started to work in restaurants and wine bars.
You have worked for some of the most exciting chefs and restaurants in the world. How did these experiences shape your approach to pairing wines with food?
Some of the restaurants where I have worked offered very singular and avant-garde cuisines, while others, more traditional ones. Being exposed to that variety has certainly given me good experience. Fortunately, there are enough wines produced in the world to find suitable options for almost every dish, but other beverages can be useful too. Some styles of wines are easier to pair with food than others. Food and wine matching is an exercise that requires practice; there are a few rules to follow, but the potential for discovery and surprise is unlimited.
What are your ABC’s of wine service?
Restrained, attentive, honest, humble, efficient, time-sensitive, flexible, communicative, fancy…
What qualities must a wine have to capture your attention?
Balance, originality, drinkability, purity of flavor and beauty, among others.
What are your tips for pairing wines with cheese?
Pairing wine with cheese can be trickier than one may think. Many cheeses can ‘harm’ a wine if the choice is not carefully made. The texture, intensity of flavor, acidity level or mold presence in cheeses need to be considered. Very oaky or highly tannic wines may present more challenges. Regionality works in many cases but not all cheese-producing areas have a local wine to fall back on.
Most surprising wine and cheese pairing?
Spanish creamy “tortas” together with Moscatel de Chipiona are really magnificent.
Suggest three of your favorite pairings of Spanish cheeses and wines.
● Payoyo Viejo and Manzanilla Pasada
● Cured Manchego and matured Ribera del Duero
● Cabrales and old PX
What Spanish wine varieties, regions and/or trends excite you the most?
Sherry, Rioja (both red and white), Canary Islands, red varieties in Galicia, Cangas, Godello, Albariño, top Ribeiro, Priorat, artisanal cava, Vega Sicilia, Tondonia blanco, Garnacha from Madrid/Aragón, Monastrell red wines, Fondillón, Callet, Sumoll, Xarel.lo, Mencía, Prieto Picudo, Bobal, Listán Negro, Garnacha Blanca, Graciano…
Author: Laura D’Ocon