GIGI VARUA SOMMELIER
“My career in wine happened purely by accident, I initially wanted to be a chef,” recalls Gigi Varua, sommelier at M. Dining. “Although my wine instructor at the Culinary Institute of America encouraged me to pursue a career in wine, I really didn’t think that there would be any jobs for me in the Philippines as a sommelier.” Certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Gigi currently holds one of the most coveted positions in the local dining scene—one that many young women today can only dream of—as she oversees one of the finest wine lists in the country. “It is a hard job with long hours but very rewarding as a career,” she says.
While a true sommelier culture has yet to take off in Manila in the way it has around the world in recent years, particularly in North America, Gigi still finds herself a minority in an industry that has been traditionally dominated by men, but she is not intimidated. “I think people are actually more open to female sommeliers because they are not as daunted by women. Sometimes when customers ask for a sommelier, and I approach the table, they are a bit surprised. It definitely starts a conversation and soon, they are more comfortable with me giving recommendations.”
Gigi feels that diners can enhance their exploration of wine by stepping out of their comfort zones and trying new things, whether that be a deviation from their regular Bordeaux, Napa cabernet, or whatever is familiar to them. What she loves most about her job, in addition to getting to try amazing wines daily, is introducing people to new bottles that they would not normally drink or buy. “When people ask me for a recommendation, I give them a safe option but I will also always give them an out-ofthe-box choice based on what their preferences are or what they chose from the dining menu. I am very eager to share my passion. All customers have to do is ask and I am always happy to help.” «