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Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Paolo Basso

For the first sommelier we put in the spotlight via our brand new website we could not just pick anyone, it just needed to be somebody special!! We did indeed found the perfect sommelier to put in the spotlight on the first release on our new website, it is none other then Mr. Paolo Basso!!! Paolo Basso won the 2013 Sommelier World Championships in Tokyo. In 2010 he won the title of Best Sommelier of Europe and the list goes on and on. We have also already had the honor to have had Mr. Basso as honorary judge during the contest of Best Sommelier of Belgium in 2015. So basically a sommelier of the top shelf :-)

The reason I wanted to have Paolo Basso as first on our new website is (next to all his wonderful acomplishments) that we have a 'personal' connection that I only found out recently. I found out that Paolo Basso has done his Hotel management studies in Valtellina (Italy) in a town called Sondalo which is the town where my whole family is from and most of them still live :-) What are the odds :-) :-)

After his hotel management school Paolo his build up his experience in many top Michelin awarded restaurant in Switzerland and abroad. He also specialized himself over the years in fine and rare wines, especially in old vintages from Bordeaux and Burgundy and also has a very deep knowledge on Italian wines. Nowadays Paolo runs his own wine consulting company Paolo Basso Wine consulting for Air France airline, Nespresso, Acqua Panna & S.Pellegrino and helps to promote Swiss wines in collaboration with the organization Swiss Wine Promotion. He does this on top of his seminares, classes, jury memberof the most prestigious international tasting competitions, etc

Paolo currently started a new activity as wine producer in Switzerland with his two first wines dedicated to his daughter “Il Bianco di Chiara” and “Il Rosso di Chiara” and launched a line of Italian wines with its own labe

I was more then honored to have interviewed Paolo Basso and to have him as our first sommelier in the spotlight on our new website!!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

There are lots of nice products to work with, but as I like working with local products I'd say Il Ticino. A wine I've also started making myself recently in the honor of my daughter . His own vineyard

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

A good sommelier must first of all be somebody very open minded , both for wines as for people. He must not have preconceptions with regards to particular names and for example just serve a particular wine just because he's from Bordeaux. he must dare to try new things and taste a lot.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

In general I would say underestimated, especially in 'Paesi Latini' like Spain, Portugal, Italy, etc...the main reason for this is that in most of those countries everybody thinks they know everything better and they're a specialist in everything :-) and therefor don't need a sommelier to help them . An exception in all of this are maybe countries like Japan and France where they get valued how they supposed to.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

It was during my years in hotel management school where my interest in wines grew. It kept fascinating me how is was possible for a product to be able to age that long and still be drinkable and in some cases even be spectacular. Although I must admit my grandfather is also in it for something as he used to make his own wine (for own consumption that is) and transmitted that passion over to me.

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

Gerard basset... he's the most qualified and awarded sommelier in the world and on top of that a very humble man.

What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?

In my approach for pairing I think I'm rather 'classic' as I want wine with food and not necessarily the other way around as that's how I've been educated during my years in school. I I also always to work as much local as possible;

The first step I always do is comparing the intensity of the wine with this intensity/complexity of the dish. For example I won't be serving a grand cru Bordeaux with a sausage.

The second step is the 'technical' step. I mean when a wine with lots of sugar should go with a sweet dish; If a dish is very aromatic I'll be going for a very aromatic wine or if a wine has lots of alcohol it goes with a very savory dish like a good piece of meat.. it's just they way how they teach it in Italy in school

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

Switzerland!! Not because I'm from this country, but because it is an upcoming region. The passed 20years lots of efforts have been done by all wine growers to uplift their quality. Especially the last few years I've tasted some remarkable wines that are of TOP level.

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

Romanee Conti would be my first choice, but chances to taste it are few. On the other hand the price of a wine should still feel and be morally acceptable. Once that balance is not correct anymore the feeling in general won't be the same anymore.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

If I would compare hotel school with my period in the military, I would consider my time in military as holidays :-)

Another great memory was when meeting Paolo de Marchi who is a very renowned oenologist. During a course of a few hours what I had been reading about for days (maybe even months) in books. A very interesting person who I really learned a lot from.

Paolo Basso with Paolo de Marchi and his wife

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Everybody should at least once in their life eat at a gastronomical restaurant.

I once had a very big lesson of life when I was working in a very renowned restaurant close to Lauzanne. At a particular day there was a couple eating at the restaurant with their children and you could clearly tell it was something they didn't do very often... you could tell because they were enjoying it much more then the most people coming to the restaurant who are there because it is a x star restaurant and they can brag about their visit to it, The couple with their children on the other hand where there because they wanted to have the 'experience', I even overheard the mom tell her children "enjoy it as mommy is not able to make such great creations". To think years after that day I can still picture those people, so you can imagine the impression it let on me. We did also spoil those people a bit extra that day :-)

The most remarkable dish I ever had was maybe even the simplest dish ever.It was during a meal at a 3 star restaurant that I was served was poultry with peas and mashed potatoes. I admit when they served it seemed rather simple for such a high class restaurant, but after that first bite that opinion changed instantly and it was one of the best dishes ever! Which also shows that simplicity rules...

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