Name: Valter Chiabolotti
At the moment: Italy
Currently: Sommelier, Wine Writer, Wine Taster, Olive Oil Taster
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
When I was a child my father sold food and wine in his shop. I became Sommelier when I was around 50 years old and I soon went at “VERONA-VINITALY”, the biggest wine’s market exhibition in the world. My first mentor, after my dad, was the President of the Sommeliers in my region, UMBRIA (ITALY).
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
1) to know very well the history of the wines in the region where you are working and living;
2) to know personally, face to face, the winemakers, the vineyards and the wineries;
3) never prevail our owner taste, personal and subjective, but feel and try to understand the tastes of the other people.
4) pay attention to the prices and looking for grow the market’s wine.
I much admire young and old producers who invest in research and experimentation about natural wine, but always being careful to the quality. Natural is for me a reduced employment of chemical products and, above all, the minimum quantity of sulfites, without any extremism.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
I suggest to the young Sommeliers to taste wines together with an expert Sommelier, also both visiting a winemaker. They have to do the same training, when you want to work abroad.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
Always ask the customer what kind of wines he knows and he prefers, finding his tastes and then with which food he wants to pair wines.
What's your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
All the glasses are around 25/30, but essentials are only 3 or 4 : 1) for sparkling wines; 2) medium for white or young reds; 3) large for aged red wines; 4) for distilled. You can’t bring on the table 10 glasses : it will be a difficult choice for the customers and less space for the dishes.
I’m working with everybody, well known brands and less known or small winemakers : my choice sure depends on my taste, but above all on the taste of my customers/buyers.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Pairing depends on some rules more or less definite, but absolutely never strict.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markup?
I think that the wine list in a restaurant should have not more than 100 labels, if it is a little restaurant also 30/50 labels, divided among territories and different range of prices, for every pocket. The choice of wines depends on the menu, but also on my direct knowledge of the cellars, on my confident relationship with the producers and on the right connection price/quality. (following wine list)
The price of a wine in the restaurant doesn’t have to pay the low gain of the food : it could in my opinion 1,5/2 times the price of the bottle at the cellar. Too often is 3 or 4 times the cellar’s price ! Some restaurants, especially in USA, authorize the customers to carry their wine from home for this reason. Anyway it seems a good idea that the customer may bring home the wine left in the bottle, already payed.
Sommelier doesn’t have to force the quantity of bottles to the customer, but to balance quality, prices and tastes, so he can offer some various and acceptable options.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
To be on top of the changes in wine industry, I’m visiting many wineries, attending at fairs, taking part of specialized groups on Internet, almost following the excellent advices and recommendations of Dominik and his friends.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what's the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
It’s easy to know producers who make good wines along by word of mouth, or collaborating with a Sommeliers Association, or entry in a group of a Wine’s Guide. I’m working since 5 years for a famous italian guide “SLOW WINE” (translated in small version into English and German). It’s easy for me to reach new products. Then I hear careful the advises of the most expert Sommeliers, who know quickly the news. Last but not least, going to the national and international fairs is a must, trying to discover the new things and writing some reports about your tasted wines, being prepared with a plan for every visit (also consulting the best guides).
It’s important to have good relationships with the owners of restaurants and wine shops of high level, having from the managers fresh news about the recent wines they suggest, even better if they are Sommelier.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I prefer indigenous varieties, growing into every countryside and regional “terroir”.
Then if I were a wine, I’d like to be these varieties :
Nebbiolo, Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Merlot, Pinot Noir for the reds.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what's your desert island wine?
Pinot Gris, Chardonnays, Trebbiano Spoletino, Grechetto, Malvasìa for the whites.
The favoured wines in my home collection : Barolo, Sagrantino, Champagne
My desert island wine : Sauternes
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at