Chilean Hector Vergara is the only Master Sommelier in Latin America and has had a long and enviable international career. With 30 years experience, he has successfully become one of the most influential people in the wine industry in Chile and many other parts of the world. Read on to discover more about this wine personality from the other side of the world.
Despite his extremely busy schedule, Hector Vergara always finds time to talk about wine. The minute we are together, he automatically opens up several bottles of wine and starts talking about his career, his passion for football, gourmet food and… planes.
Hector Vergara: childhood and youth
His life has always been linked to wine. As a young child, he began helping his father in a minimarket on the outskirts of Santiago de Chile, where they sold wine in bulk for daily consumption by local residents. All the family meals were accompanied by a bottle of wine, and from a very early age, Hector was responsible for serving wine at the table.
Subsequently, after a brief stint with the Chilean air force, he intended to continue his studies at university and joined the young Communist movement. When Salvador Allende was deposed by Pinochet in September 1973, he was forced into exile in Argentina after taking refuge in the Swedish embassy for 9 months.
Hector Vergara : exile and success
After a few months in the land of the gauchos, Hector Vergara arrived in England in 1974. He moved to Bradford, in West Yorkshire, and began working as a labourer for Canada Dry. Wine was still part of his life, though, and he soon began working in the catering trade where he asserted his passion and his interest in gourmet food, ultimately deciding to make it his career. In 1978, he began his Sommelier studies at the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) and graduated with a diploma. In 1980, he took part in England’s Best Sommelier competition and came third. He then decided to move to Paris and got a job at the prestigious Hotel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde.
In 1986, he left Paris for Toronto, Canada, where he became the only Master Sommelier, also winning Canada’s Best Sommelier competition.
Hector Vergara: returning home
In 1991, with democracy now re-established in Chile, he decided that it was time to return home. Chile was slowly becoming internationally recognised for its wines and Hector Vergara had an overwhelming need to return home to help his country’s efforts.
Initially working in stores helping consumers choose wine, he was subsequently hired as a wine consultant for the Chilean National Airline LAN; and in 1998, he finally achieved one of his greatest dreams - to found his own company, which is how ‘Mundo del Vino’ (the World of Wine) came about. The store revolutionised wine consumption in Chile by offering a wide range of international wines in all categories and price brackets. In 1999, together with his partners, Hector Vergara also opened ‘Cavas Reunidas’, a distribution company aimed helping small producers who didn’t have a distribution network.
Hector Vergara: the future
Hector Vergara continues to enjoy unrivalled prestige in Chile. He is guest of honour at all wine-related events. When asked about the future, he freely talks about his aspirations and future plans. He is passionate about wine, but also about football, the Beatles and aeroplanes.
He is a great man who single-handedly epitomises Chile and its wines.
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by Evelyn Israel