When Pablo Rivero teamed up with his family and friends to open a restaurant in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires in 1999, little he could have expected how events would unfold. What started as a humble family parrilla (a typical Argentinian steakhouse) was voted the No.1 restaurant in Latin America in 2020, embodying the idea of a ‘new luxury’ in gastronomy that nailed the basics – in Don Julio’s case, great steak, outstanding service and fantastic wines.
Famous across Latin America as the restaurateur who brought Don Julio to life, Rivero also trained as a sommelier – he was among the first generations to graduate from the Escuela Argentina de Vinos in 2006. Under his charge, the restaurant’s cellar has been progressively expanding over time, going from 700 labels in 2017 to over 12,000 in 2022. Each year, Rivero and his team get together for a series of blind tastings to determine which new labels will be added to the prized collection – this selection process can take up to three months.
As Don Julio built up its reputation for serving the very best grass-fed Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cuts, this went hand-in-hand with the development of its wine programme and culminated in the launch of Don Julio’s online cellar. This one-stop-shop is a physical embodiment of Rivero’s passion, with special boxes that aim to introduce enthusiasts to the various terroirs and climates of Argentina as well as an extensive library of content shining a spotlight on the wine producers.
As the restaurant grew and became more popular nationally and internationally, Rivero also started a tradition that would come to define it: whenever diners order a special bottle from Don Julio’s cellar, they get to write a message on it before it joins hundreds of others lining the walls of the dining room. The sommelier calls them ‘moments lived that are trapped here’ – a perfect representation of how for Rivero, wine is emotion, terroir and landscape.
Widely considered the leading expert in wine across Argentina, and having become an influential figure that those in the trade across Latin America look up to, Rivero is the deserving winner of the inaugural Beronia Latin America’s Best Sommelier Award 2022.