Our Sommelier of the month for February 2017 is Vittorio Gentile, Head Sommelier at Theo Randall at the InterContinental. Vittorio has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.
How did you get into the wine industry?
I had just arrived in London when I started working in the hospitality industry. As a curious person, I realized how little my knowledge was about wine, and how big and fascinating the topic is. I started chasing the Head Sommelier of the restaurant where I used to work bombarding him with questions all the time, until he asked me to join his team. From there I began to discover one of the most amazing and passionate jobs.
Why do you enjoy using Riedel glassware within your restaurant?
Good equipment is essential to deliver a great experience and customers know that. Whenever they find Riedel glassware on the table, their expectations are very high.
Having grape specific glasses allows me to meet those expectations with all of the different styles of wines that I have on my list. Also, it opens up my possibilities of wine-food-glass shape combinations to maximize everyone’s experience and make it unique every time.
What reaction do you get from customers when you serve their wines in different varietal specific glasses?
There are two of them. From one side there is always curiosity. People want to understand why we are using some glasses instead of others (Chardonnay instead of Riesling for instance) and this quite often starts a conversation with the sommelier.
On the other side, you can feel the guest’s appreciation for paying attention to his experience. When I place the first glass on the table (perhaps the Veritas New World Pinot Noir / Nebbiolo) everyone sits straight-up on their chair, focuses and is ready to taste the wine.
What’s been your greatest wine experience?
There are many great experiences! But the one that to this day still gives me the goose bumps is the mesmerizing taste of Romanée st Vivant, Hudelot-Noëllat 2004 on a busy night, at the peak time in a noisy/music-pumping dining room, I quickly inhaled but was able to call and focus all senses as I was alone, in total silence, a second was stretched as it was one hour and I felt like watching a movie in the glass.
What’s been the funniest wine moment in your career?
During a visit to an important wine producer with other sommeliers. We spotted four corked wines during the tasting, after being shown and explained, for almost half an hour, a machine that was supposed to check and discard all the potentially taint corks two hours earlier.
What’s been your biggest wine faux pas?
At the beginning of my career, during a busy service, I realized that I was pouring a white wine at the wrong table because the wide-eyed host at the next table (who was drinking that wine) was staring at me. After a moment of embarrassment, I replaced the wines at both tables (but both left very happy, at least).