Colombia’s top sommelier Laura Hernández Espinosa on fermented fruit wine and a passion for pairings

(The World’s 50 Best) While a political science degree led Laura Hernández Espinosa to undertake diplomatic missions, her heart knew better and she ditched embassy life to fuse her real passions: social development and gastronomy. Since 2009, the head sommelier at Leo in Bogotá has also been executive director of FunLeo, a foundation set up by her business partner and mother, Leonor Espinosa, who last year was recognised with the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize. Here, Laura shares how combining her passion for the worlds of development and gastronomy is the perfect pairing to showcase the traditions of Colombia’s indigenous communities.

Laura Hernández Espinosa of LEO.

With a keen interest in food and wine from a young age – her first encounter with alcohol was as an 11-year-old, secretly trying Champagne under the table at her aunt’s wedding, she recalls, laughing – Hernández moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for university. With plenty of free time in the day, she used it wisely and signed up to take a sommellerie degree at EAS wine school. Twelve years on, pairings at Leo include a coca leaf liqueur distilled by an Afro-Colombian indigenous ethnic group alongside the Old World’s finest vintages.

“After tasting wine in that first class, I told my housemate I wanted to commit myself to wine,” Hernández says. “On that journey, I discovered sommellerie is a parallel to political science that also gives me the opportunity to be creative. It turns out international relations, geography, the study of cultures and humanities are all very complementary.”

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