Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
I grew up in a 200-seater family restaurant in Serravalle Sesia (in Piedmont) and have been surrounded by vines and wine from the very beginning of my life. You could see the vineyards from the hospital where I was born. I was involved in the operations of the family’s restaurant from a young age and have always loved all aspects of hospitality - the food, the service and the wine. The restaurant is located about one hour’s drive from Barolo, with many DOCG and DOC on the doorstep including Gattinara, Ghemme, Boca, Fara and Sizzano. You could say it is in the blood.
Tell us about your wine list at The Colony Grill Room
The list is going through a very dynamic stage. When I joined, we had a small, focused list of approximately 180 bins, with a focus on North America and the Old World, with many classic wines from France and Italy, perfect for a meat-heavy menu. Since reopening and relaunching The Colony this summer, we have been building on this list, adding more bins, more premium and fine wines, and whilst not losing sight of our initial focus, trying to create a list that will appeal to a wide range of palates.
Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
Not many, thank goodness. Although I still remember with a shudder a wine reception we held in a previous job, when the entire table with all the opened bottles and glasses collapsed - quite an intense moment.
Name your top three restaurant wine lists
Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence; and Villa Crespi and Al Sorriso in Soriso, two restaurants that I worked at in Piedmont.
Who do you most respect in the wine world?
The farmers. Without a doubt those who touch the soil and the grapes are the most important people.
What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across?
When I was much younger, the very first wine that took me totally by surprise was a Barbera called Bricco dell’Uccellone because of the taste profile. I was not necessarily very experienced at the time and was astounded by the complexity, the balance and the smoothness. I had never tasted anything like it before. In Piedmont people believe that Barbera is the grape variety of the people and of the farmers, and I am very emotionally attached to it. Nebbiolo is more for celebrations.
What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Minerality; tropical fruits as a generic, confusing term for NZ Sauvignons; citrusy.
What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
LondonCru Pinot Noir Précoce 2020 because of the way it is made. It is like classical music, extremely well balanced, with the right intensity, the right complexity and the right length. We sell it for £53. It is not the least expensive wine on our list by any means but it is fantastic value for money.
What is your ultimate food and drink match?
The perfect combination for me is a platter of salumi (salame d’la duja and prosciutto crudo Val Vigezzo) and cheeses (Bettelmatt, Toma Ossolana and Toma Piode Valsesia) from three different valleys in the Piedmont region, with a bottle of Nebbiolo. This is home for me.
Old World or New World?
What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
I like to pour the wine myself.
Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why?
Vajra (a famous producer from Piedmont). From its entry level wines to the top, they are all beautifully made. In blind tastings they always stand out for me.
As a sommelier, what question do you most get asked by customers?
Is this wine dry? I don’t know what people mean by this – I find it a very challenging question for me. I also find it hard to respond when customers confuse fruitiness with sweetness.
Which wine producing region/country is currently underrated at the moment and why?
Portugal, primarily for marketing reasons. The marketing is not as good as the product. For a long time people thought it was a cheap wine country and that the consumer does not understand Vinho Verde properly. You can buy outstanding wines at low prices. I feel that Portugal has been overshadowed by Spain when it comes to gastronomy.
It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
Travaglini il Sogno – because I was born there and I played as a child in that soil. It smells like home. I makes me tear up just to think of it.