Our Sommelier of the month for April 2016 is Francesco Gabriele, Head Sommelier at Chewton Glen Hotel & SPA. Francesco has very kindly answered a selection of questions which are below along with his response.
How did you get into the wine industry?
Wine has been a part of my life since I was a kid, when my grandfather used to take me to his small cellar to show me how to make wine and he would also let me take a sip of the precious juice. Wine has always been an important part of the “mis en place” for my family so the presence of a bottle of wine soon became 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 so. I used any occasion to order something different or unusual and soon the wine world became more interesting than maths to me….I was studying Economy at University.
Why do you enjoy using Riedel glassware within your hotel/restaurant?
Glasses are a fundamental part of the equipment and when you like to do something right you have to have the correct tools. Imagine competing in a Formula 1 GP with your Fiat 500, you will sure go through the last round and finish but certainly you will not be the winner and most of all you will most probably not enjoy it that much.
What reaction do you get from customers when you serve their wines in different varietal specific glasses?
Curiosity and appreciation firstly, so the reaction at the beginning is most of the time: “oh! That’s a nice glass!” but it is when I give a few words about the importance of having the right glass that they start to be more intrigued; at that point we start a little tasting of the same wine from different shaped glasses and they feel amazed about how differently the wine performs.
What’s been your biggest ‘wine’ faux pas?
During a specific food tasting where I had to pair the wines but I had not been informed that one of the courses had been changed so I went to the table and started to introduce the wine spending a good 5 minutes explaining the match and then when the waiter put the food on the table… it was meant to be a fois gras with Sauternes and it ended up with a langoustine based dish…. I’ll let you imagine the rest!
What’s been the funniest ‘wine’ moment in your career?
Maybe not the funniest but certainly the one I enjoyed the most. During a big wine tasting event with more than 50 very lovely people where I had the pleasure of being able to be able to entertain them for a bit. Having a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot among the others wines I asked the guests not to drink all of the two specific wines, to keep a small amount of them; When I asked the guests to put the wines together explaining what was a blend and calling them Chef de Cave they just started to laugh.