Town & Country (Philippines) - - OUT & ABOUT - Pho­to­graph by JL Javier

“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.” «


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