Mugaritz has won the Forward Drinking category, which focuses on fresh ideas in liquid refreshment.
Pioneering Basque Country restaurant Mugaritz has had all the superlatives thrown its away over the 21 years of its existence. It is, variously, “the most important gastronomic phenomenon of the world in recent times”, “the most adventurous restaurant in the world”, “the most experimental” and “nothing short of inspired”. Credit for that belongs not only to the restaurant’s founder and disruptor in chief, Andoni Luis Aduriz, but to the entire team at Mugaritz.
And that includes its sommeliers. Mugaritz’s wine programme is singularly ambitious. The restaurant’s cellar holds around 1,600 wines and some 90 sakes. Tasting menus, delivered over two-and-a-half hours, will often involve 20 or more dishes, each one paired with a liquid counterpart from a choice of three flights. With 35 diners in the dining room, that means as many as 800 glasses will see action during service. Sommeliers need to be nimble: supplies of top tier, vintage and short run wines are by their nature limited. Wine pairings can, therefore, change from week to week, day to day, service to service.
Dishes, paradoxically, don’t always begin in the kitchen: they come into being in Mugaritz’s famed multidisciplinary research and development department, where sommeliers and chefs collaborate to rethink the possibilities of the menu.
For the restaurant’s 20th anniversary in 2018, under the umbrella theme of ‘creativity’, the restaurant pursued its obsession with what it dubs the “emotional harmonies” between food and wine. This goes beyond traditional pairings into a place where “solid and liquid are unified into a single element”.