Amanda Fraga is no stranger to competition. For the third consecutive year, our now sommelier at Amara at Paraiso has been invited to participate in Cochon 555, the heritage hog, chef and wine professional bout of brains, brawn and creative brilliance. This is great news of course, since we get to come along for the ride not only at the event, but for the training in preparation which we found is just as strategic and mind bending as it is for their culinary counterparts. Amanda’s mission: select any wine she’d like, unhindered by sponsorship obligations, that will pair best with the presentation plates of each of the 5 chef candidates. Yes, here’s the catch. She won’t know the dishes her wine needs to work with until she’s vying for attention to pour it amidst her four peers.
“For me, my job lies in how I figure out where my wine can be highlighted on the playing field and how I can get these judges to try it with what I think on the fly it will work best with. Under the clock, of course,” she explains. “You want to pick a pig-friendly wine that will play well with an array of dishes. It has to be versatile, but to a large extent you are playing the odds. What you can control, you try to.”
It’s all timed. Every 10 minutes, the pack of judges descends on each station and systematically hears the chef’s point of view for their offering, tastes through the dishes and also is approached by the sommeliers, who are also judges of the competition. Everyone has an agenda and everyone votes on everything.
“I try to not stand next to the same people the whole time, and it’s not easy because the focus is on the pig and the chef,” Fraga continues. “I haven’t won yet, but I do think it’s important to find something in your approach that’s memorable.”
Fraga decided to pick a Cava in méthode Champenoise — Juvé y Camps “Brut Nature” Reserva de la Familia. This is the real, old school deal, a grower Cava from a family-owned house making wine since the 1700s. When a Juvé married a Camps in the early 20th century, this sparkling was born. A 40th anniversary edition, the Reserva has two years age and is made from the Spanish grapes traditional to its sparkling wine. It is bright with a little green apple but with some gravitas and toastiness thanks to the time in the bottle.
“Even the label is super classic,” she notes. “It is even rumored that Dom borrowed the shape. The family cares about tradition and have kept the label. Chefs are so visual, and this is the OG. I also wanted to honor the heritage aspect of what Cochon is all about.”
Clearly Fraga’s not concerned about showing her hand which is one of the many reasons we love her. To support our fearless super somm and to partake in the pigging, grab tickets to the main event in Miami on June 10, with winners advancing to Grand Conchon finale, here.