Interview with Sommelier Ludovic Anacleto of Azul Beach Hotel - Riviera Maya, Mexico

October 2006

Jim Clarke: Your family owned a vineyard in Champagne while you were growing up; what did being in such direct contact with winegrowing teach you?

Ludovic Anacleto de Montfaucon d’Argone: One of the best lessons I learned is that only 90% of a wine is made in the vineyard and the more respect you give to the vine, the more rewarding a wine will be.

JC: Having grown up in Champagne and studied Port at La Quinta do Noval, you seem to have a specialty in the wines that open and close a meal; what especially attracts you to these “bookend” wines?

LA: Wine is like a love story: you always remember the spectacular beginning and the (hopefully) happy ending. For me, Champagne is like the blissful beginning of a romance and port is the happily-ever-after ending.

JC: What drew you to study Port so intimately?

LA: I was drawn to studying Port as a result of the mysticism of this wine and the weight of the traditions. For me, Port is in a category all its own and incomparable.

JC: You’ve worked with two chefs with very contrasting ways of working – Alain Senderens is known for being intimately involved with wine-pairing, whereas Ferran Adriá’s dishes seem to stand on their own and defy traditional pairing expectations; what did you learn from working with each of them?

LA: From Mr. Senderens I learned that a meal is like a wedding and you need two people in love with each other to make it happen. Mr. Senderens taught me to marry the cuisine and the wine. From Mr. Adria I learned that textures are the pairing dictator. Tastes can be very different from one person to another but a texture, like crisp, is crisp to everyone. By blending crisp, ice, and fruit, for example, you create a concerto for your palate.

JC: After years working in France and Spain, what drew you to Mexico?

LA: I was drawn to Mexico by the challenge of working with Karisma: a group of hotels where a passion for food and wine are of the utmost importance – so much so that Karisma has pioneered a new concept called Gourmet Inclusive. Of course, I was also attracted by the idea of working in one of the most beautiful spots in the world and a country blessed with amazing culinary culture and traditions.

JC: What different demands do guests make at European restaurants and at the Azul Beach Hotel? Do resort guests have a different set of expectations?

LA: I have found resort guests are more “technical” than European city restaurant guests. Often in major European cities the customers are major business clientele, who expect the sommelier to help them to seal a deal. Here at the resort, people have time to be surprised and are pleased to discover and savor new things. Our team of sommeliers at Karisma is dedicated to selecting wines that go beyond expectations.

JC: Your hobbies include golf and medieval history; I can see how you could keep up your golf game at Riviera Maya, but how do you indulge your interest in medieval history?

LA: Thanks to the miracle of the internet! Seriously, I am very into European medieval history and here in Mexico the Mayan culture is as interesting as medieval times in Europe. Additionally, here at Azul Beach, we are surrounded by the mystic and magic of the Mayan world with such jewels as Chichen Itza and the Coba pyramids. This is a wonderful place to live.