El Celler de Can Roca, Girona
If Josep Roca invites you for a tour of his wine cellar, there is only one viable answer. The temperature-controlled room, built as a central part of the modernist converted building that is home to El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, contains treasures beyond most wine-lovers’ oenological fantasies. But it’s not the thousands of bottles – both classic and unusual – that are there to savour, it is the chance to listen to Josep imparting his passion for particular grapes.
Josep is the middle of the three brothers who oversee the former two-time World’s Best Restaurant, sandwiched between older brother Joan (head chef) and younger tyro Jordi (pastry chef). He runs the establishment’s triangular dining room with a cool, never overbearing hand, maintaining a level of hospitality rarely surpassed even in the upper echelons of gastronomy.
But it’s as a sommelier that Josep truly stands apart. He has been described as possessing “an almost infinite associative suitability between dishes and wines”. His knowledge is the result of 40-plus years of experience (he first served wine as a child in his parents’ simple restaurant, Can Roca) combined with an insatiable curiosity to explore, learn and develop.
Typical of the way the siblings interact, in many cases dishes are inspired by wines, as opposed to the drinks simply being paired with the dishes. In the dining room, Josep will happily engage with diners on his favourite subject, but equally he is not one to impose his views or tastes on others. His dedicated team is typically well-informed but equally modest.
But once Josep starts talking about his love of Riesling, his passion for sherry, the brilliance of Burgundy, the delights of Champagne or his belief in local Catalan grape Priorat – often accompanied in the cellar by music, images and textures to help convey further meaning – then you understand the deep passion of the man.
He shares his learnings, observations and wine wisdom not only with those who work with him or dine at El Celler, but also with the public through a regular newspaper column and books, with students at the University of Girona and with an international audience through speaking engagements and tours.
Josep Roca has received accolades a-plenty over his career, but in 2022 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, supported by our wine partner, has created the first Beronia World’s Best Sommelier Award. There can only be one winner.