Name: Francesco Gabriele
At the moment: United Kingdom
Currently: Head Sommelier
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
Wine has been part of my life since a kid when my grandfather used to bring me in his small cellar to show me how to make wine and letting myself sip the precious juice.
Wine has also been an important part of the “table” for my family so the presence of a bottle of wine became soon very familiar to me.
That’s possibly the reason why every time I have had the chance to browse a wine list in a restaurant I have done it having the great pleasure to order something to pair with food.
Not specific mentor but two times in the same week, when I was young and far away from my actual passion, I met 2 different sommeliers in 2 different restaurant and both times their attitude, elegance, knowledge, passion and so on blew me away.
So my question at that point has been: what is so special in a juice? Let me discover it…and it is still a mystery….how fascinating it is?
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?
I firstly like to say that a sommelier is a hospitality person, which already includes many skills:
How to greet people, to host, to let people feel comfortable …. to know about food ingredients and the way they combine and work together, to know about geography, history, politics, art, comics….a sommelier is a journalist and a joker, is an accountant and a showman…a sommelier loves people and enjoy making people happy sharing his/her experience, a sommelier is a dreamer and an optimistic person but most of all is a person able to get things right….maybe with the help of a glass of wine.
If I have to mention someone I would say Andrea…. Balleri with whom I have been honoured to work with.
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?
To keep smiling and enjoying the role would be the first but on a more serious note to think as you are the one who made the wine that you are suggesting… have the same passion and love.
Never stop to read about what it is behind a wine, history, geography, philosophy, the reason of the label, what makes the winemaker feels that wine so special.
To look for a place where an experienced sommelier is working and try to learn as much as possible with no rush is a tip…2 years at least?
Having an experience abroad is also an important part of the career because it opens your mind and permits you to learn at least a different language, so one more tool to use for communicating.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
To listen is the first thing and to understand whether the guest is looking for something new or for the “safe side” wine.
The guest is the one enjoying the wine so the wine needs to be an experience for the guest and not for the sommelier.
To make the guest feel comfortable is a must so no need to show your knowledge about residual sugar or wine making techniques but instead try to entertain with something curious, specific or unusual about the wine you are suggesting and, without pretending to teach anything, just offer your point of you with regards to the choice.
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?
Glasses are fundamental for a full experience and I believe that well-known brands are in their position for a good reason not forgetting that they also have been new brands at some point.
I don’t mind to try new brands and to consider them as a replacement.
I think that a good compromise is fashion and quality, to have a look what people like and also what is good for the wine and the sommelier.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
I am a quite big fan of traditional match because I believe that if in a certain place people use to drink that wine with that food it can’t be that wrong.
I also think that experience helps to find out the best match and finally I always look for the umami taste.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
I don’t think the sommelier should unless there is a good reason to ask the guest that something is not convincing you.
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 mark ups?
The Restaurant itself is the first thing to keep in mind:
Style, type of food, location, clientele to target, spaces dedicated to wine, wine staff.
Pricing wise I like to say that there are so many factors to determine prices:
A very important one is the size of your cellar.
To have some special wines in your cellar with a relatively slow rotation you need to organise the wine list accordingly;
But also important are:
The type of service you are delivering, the size of your team, how difficult is to have the wine in house, all the rest of the price lists ( i.e. if the restaurant is part of an hotel which is the average rooms rate, the price of the food, your direct competitors)
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Social media, magazines, books and very important being constantly in touch with colleagues from everywhere in the world.
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?
The best way is to organise a wine trip. There is no better way to appreciate a wine and a winemaker than touching with hand where, when, how, why, which….so many questions that just the winemaker in his/her own space can answer.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Versatile and rarely vinified as a single varietal because needs a lot of passion to show his best expression but even so important to have a fully balanced blend.
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?
In my cellar you would never miss a sparkling wine, a white from my hometown and a long aged red.
On a desert island I would really enjoy any of the Jacques Selosse.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Guild of Sommelier never stops to surprise me.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at