If Adrian Marquez (BA 2008 Woodsworth) were a type of wine, he’d be a southern Italian red, something that “initially seems a bit too funky and out there, but that you learn to appreciate as it is.”
This ability to make connections between wine and people has served Marquez well in his 10-year career as a sommelier. For Marquez, who majored in anthropology, the study of humankind paired perfectly with his oenophilia.
“It was a natural match,” he says. “Everything you eat and drink is culturally determined.”
As an example, Marquez cites how a culture’s food affects its wine preferences: “In Mexico, tomatoes are a dietary staple, and highly acidic wines are also valued.”
As the chief wine officer at Toronto-based Milan Wineries—purveyors of maple wine—and at his own company, Maple Wine Japan, Marquez imports and sells Canadian maple wine to the Japanese market. He realized that experimental wines from emerging regions would fit Japan’s predilection for exciting, well-crafted products. “The Japanese are very keen to try new things. They appreciate unique wines because they also look for that quality in other areas, including design and fashion.”
Marquez trained at the International Sommelier Guild in Toronto, and now works as a sommelier for Charlie’s Burgers, an underground supper club in Toronto. Working in restaurants, he learned the mysterious skill of deconstructing wine’s taste elements. “You imagine the flavours in the food, put them together in your head, and narrow down the wine choices,” he says. “Sometimes it’s improvising, like jazz. Sometimes it’s just blind faith.”
With his anthropology background, Marquez also appreciates that Milan Wineries sources the sap for its maple wine from a Mohawk First Nation in Quebec. Wine commerce helps the community preserve its cultural heritage.
“An honest wine will tell you a story about the people, the culture, and the land it came from,” he says. “If a wine has character and history, you’ll remember it for the rest of your days.”