A veteran sommelier with experience in legendary restaurants such as El Bulli and Etxebarri, he has redefined the wine list at Refectorio and is behind the liquid choices in the rest of the Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine dining spaces.
«Virtually, most things in life involve inertia, a sum of mechanical movements. For me, tasting is really a state of consciousness. Things have to emerge from within,» Agustí Peris says as he explores the expression of Godello Winemaker’s Collection, a wine that is only available in the dining spaces at Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine or in the store (both onsite and online). He finds fine herbs, wet wool… «A wine with subtleties,” he notes.
Agustí Peris is not your average sommelier. Difficult to pigeonhole and often elusive, he avoids boring technical descriptions —he prefers to fly and suggest with his words. Indeed, it was poetry that drew him to wine («words are what make us human,” he says). He has been working at Refectorio restaurant since March, where he looks after the dining room and the wine list. In addition to his expertise and skill, Peris brings sensitivity and his personal vision. He sees wine as a journey of emotions.
Perfume, gastronomy and vignerons
With an innate inclination to engage with the senses, he remembers being fascinated by scents even as a young man. He used to spray on eau de cologne just for the pleasure of its smell and, in fact, his first professional steps were directed towards the perfume business. From there he moved on to the Barcelona School of Hotel Management and Catering and then gradually gravitated towards wine, although he has always considered it to be part of the culinary experience.
He has visited the great European restaurants in their heyday. He fell in love with Alain Ducasse’s Louis XV «for its aura and luxury,” but Peris has fond memories of Michel Bras for the way he demonstrated how to eat gargouillou, the now legendary dish made with seasonal vegetables, flowers and tender shoots which introduced him to the world of textures. He found the ideal wines to complement both the technical virtuosity and sophistication of Ferran Adrià and the simplicity and essence of Basque restaurant Etxebarri. At Refectorio, he has fallen in love with the place, its light and the way in which art coexists with an intimate atmosphere steeped in history.
As far as wine is concerned, he admits that visiting wineries has been a great help to further his knowledge: «Having that moment with the vigneron, the intimacy of being in his home, being able to talk to them face to face…,» he points out.
Caring for the smallest detail
At Refectorio, wine seeks to convey the same sensation of territory and proximity as the new culinary experience. «Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine must champion the wines of Castilla y León, rewarding small producers who are starting out and who are committed to terroir,» explains Peris.
At Refectorio, wine seeks to convey the same sensation of territory and proximity as the new culinary experience. «Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine must champion the wines of Castilla y León and reward small producers who are starting out and who are committed to terroir,» explains Peris.
There is something for everyone in the dining room, even for clients who are not keen on wine. The ice-breaker is the white LeDomaine, which is served in the underground cellar with an aperitif. «When you arrive at a restaurant, you need a little stimulus; we don’t want customers to sit down and be confronted with a menu straightaway.”
Afterwards comes the beauty of the dining area, the perfect place to serve a thoroughly redesigned and balanced menu of Castilian dishes. «We want our clients to taste Castilla y León produce served with care and attention to detail,” adds Peris.
He is not just the sommelier who orchestrates the wine list; he is also the sensitive soul who fetches flowers to put on diners’ napkins.