“Wine should be heard and felt” – philosophy, plans and practical advice from the world’s best sommelier

Josep Roca, one-third of the gastronomic holy trinity behind the legendary Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, received the Beronia World’s Best Sommelier First Prize in the 2022 edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. In this interview with William Drew, 50 Best Content Producer, Roca shares his emotions after winning this accolade, working with his brothers and his enduring passion for wine.

Congratulations Joseph! How does it feel to be named Beronia’s World’s Best Sommelier by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants?

It is a great joy! It is also an opportunity to share this with all the sommeliers, waiters and waitresses in the restaurants; those of us who work indoors have a precious job, not always recognized, but which allows us to grow. I am delighted that 50 Best has included this distinction which will help to make our profession more visible. Being the first to receive the award makes me very proud.

Take us back to the beginning: where does your passion for wine come from?

My fascination with wine started before the age of 10. When I was very young, I was in charge of filling the bottles from the barrels that my parents had in the basement of the Can Roca kitchen. It has always fascinated me. By enrolling in the hotel school, I realized that it was also possible to study wine. This is where I began my apprenticeship, which still continues: to interpret wine from a scientific and philosophical point of view.

Receive the Beronia World’s Best Sommelier Award at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022

How would you describe your role at El Celler de Can Roca?

I like to call myself “Sommelier” because it brings me closer to many people, like me, who are dedicated to taking care of people in restaurant dining rooms. My role is to manage emotions in the dining room, both for external customers and for internal staff. I feel immersed in the emotional revolution and the need to ensure the well-being and progress of our team and to achieve the best possible experience for the clients who offer their time to us.

Creativity at El Celler de Can Roca is atomized and my role also finds its place in the innovation spaces of La Masia, our interdisciplinary centre; in Tierra Adentro projects for seed recovery; Tierra Animada, with which for ten years we have been cataloging and using the flora of our local environment; or Esperit Roca, with whom we will soon share the work on distillates and liqueurs that we have been carrying out since 2015. Training the team and sharing my passion for wine with those who visit us also constitute an important part of my time at El Celler de Can Roca.
The exterior of the best of the best restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona

Quick questions with Josep Roca
Countries to watch for winemaking:
Argentina and Chile. Every year it is more and more exciting to taste wines that are no longer homogenized and that show the recovery of diversity, authenticity and naturalness.
Countries you most want to visit:
Armenia, Moldova and Crimea.
Underrated wine:
Sherry. I have a fascination with the wines of Jerez, which has a rich history and is now in full creative ferment.
Advice for young sommeliers:
Be more ready to listen than talk.
Notice to wine lovers:
Let your tastes guide you and think about the values ​​behind the wines you drink, rather than the price. Dare to discover new wines – and have a good crystal glass at home to enhance the experience.

Visiting your cellar in the restaurant is an extraordinary experience. What can customers expect?

The intention is to share the passion and approach of the men behind the wines, to show that wines can be drunk, smelled, but also heard and felt. I am fascinated by the dialogue between human beings and nature. It may not be the best cellar, but it is an authentic cellar, where you can feel the love of wine. It’s a way of showing myself through wine as my brothers show themselves through their dishes.

The relationship between you, Joan and Jordi is critical to the success of the restaurant – and Jordi was the first to celebrate when you won the award…

Jordi is pure sensitivity and positive energy. The prize closes a circle with Jordi who was the first to be awarded as the best pastry chef in the world [in 2014] and Joan who also received the Chefs’ Choice Award [2016]. With this recognition, all the sweet, salty and liquid worlds are recognized. Jordi is now immersed in the salty world and brings more than ever his leadership in catering. His genius fills everyone on the team at El Celler de Can Roca with enthusiasm, not just the dessert team.
At #50BestTalks: Bring the Magic, Roca hosted a wine tasting from the stage

As part of your presentation at #50BestTalks in London, you detailed the emotion and meaning that wine can convey. Can you summarize this?

Wine is the soul of life, a landscape in a bottle, a way to energize time. It is a drink that connects us to our emotions and also creates a dialogue with past generations and past centuries. Wine is the material, the spirit and the soul of an ancient culture that deserves to be perpetuated.

Can you describe the new upcoming projects in Girona?

We are going to create a cultural and gastronomic center in El Castell de Sant Julià de Ramis, 10 minutes from El Celler de Can Roca. This will be our place to follow the progress and new challenges of conceptual, human and recreational growth – a space where we can develop our teams, activate internal talents and build a gastronomic, cultural and environmental hub.
Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca are the legendary trio behind El Celler de Can Roca

You also opened Normal in the historic center of Girona in 2021. Why?

We wanted to share something normal after Covid – rediscover normality through direct and spontaneous cooking, tasty, understandable and predictable. It’s about remembering where you come from and reinforcing the intuitive gesture of cooking over high heat, simmering in a casserole dish, old-fashioned dishes. If in El Celler de Can Roca we offer goldsmithery, in Normal we offer crafts.

Will you ever open a restaurant outside of Girona?

It is very difficult to share the idea of ​​El Celler de Can Roca – with such a particular, original and fraternal story – without the brothers. We know that it is possible to take advantage of the notoriety of our restaurant in other parts of the world, but “the truth” does not travel. And we want to live in Girona; it is a very privileged region from a gastronomic and quality of life point of view… and it is our place in the world. We are extremely grateful for the effort of customers who travel from all over the world to live our gastronomic history as a family one hundred meters from our birthplace.

Do you cook?

I like to cook, yes. In the early years, I was in charge of setting up. If I weren’t a waiter, I would be closer to a chef than a winemaker. I was born, raised and live in a restaurant. The restaurant is my place in life.

Finally, what is your favorite dish at El Celler de Can Roca and what wine to serve with it?

A truffle, cocoa, hazelnut and liver turron; it’s the first course where Jordi’s sweet cuisine meets Joan’s savory cuisine. González Byass’ Palo Cortado 86, produced the year the restaurant was founded, would be a perfect fit.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 list, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, was announced on Monday, July 18 during a live awards ceremony in London. To stay up to date with the latest news, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.