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Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Gennaro Buono

It seemed time to interview a sommelier from my beloved Italy. I was fortunate enough to interview the 2012 best sommelier of Italy Gennaro Buono who is currently the head sommelier of the luxury Aldrovandi hotel in Rome.

After graduating in 1984 at the hotel management school of Gromola Gennaro followed a very nice path to build up experience. During this path he worked in the top Michelin awarded restaurants like L’olivo** and Oud Sluis*** and at Il Pagliaccio** as restaurant manager. He also worked as wine consultant for the Dutch Hapimag resort group.

Besides being a passionate wine lover Gennaro is also a coffee lover and even a master trainer at the INEI which is the Italian national Espresso Institute. After winning his title of Best sommelier of Italy in 2012 Gennaro obtained his International Sommelier Diploma at the ASI, was contestant during the ASI world championships in Argentina earlier this year (2016) and is a certified Court master Sommelier. So I’m not exaggerating when I say that he’s a busy bee and somebody who seems to like to study :-)

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Tuscany for sure! It is the place where I’ve studied wine, fell in love with the vineyards there and Sangiovese grape.

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

For me personally it is not a job. I think it is a way of life! You have to be open minded, study and learn every day, have to discover new products as much as possible and the most importantly being able to communicate with your guest in understandable language about all of this.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Nowadays sommelier and service job in general is on the right way to be valued and appreciated as it should. People start to understand that a good sommelier and service is big part of the success of a restaurant. Some years ago it was the ‘chef de cuisine’ that was in the spotlight and on the first place, as for now I think they are getting more on the same level, and I’m very happy about that!!!

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Honestly I've already been passionate about wine ever since I was a child as my father had a little piece land with vineyards on it. On this piece of land he used to produce his own wine for the family. Basically this was my first connection to wine… after that is was mostly during the years in hotel management school my passion for the wine world grew every day and has never stopped growing.... :-)

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

I is difficult to only name one, but if I should say a name it would be mr Giuseppe Vaccarini, who is ASPI president and was best sommelier of the world in 1978 (ASI). He’ truly is a very big example of professionalism and source of inspiration (and for many sommeliers I think) as you can always learn new things from him.

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

This is one of the nicest part of sommelier job, you can express your professional skills and same time let your guest live a new experience. I don't follow particular rules as I always try to surprise my guests and therefor follow my feeling most of the time.

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

As I am Italian it won't surprise you if I say everybody should come Italy and enjoy our traditions :-) It is just fantastic to go to local producers and hear the real stories of the vineyards, of the vintages.. for me a big emotion every time I do it…

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

Well I have lots of wishes and therefor would have to sacrifice many many things :-) But on top of my list there would be the 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc …

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

I have lots of wonderful memories... Most of them were made after the school hours we my friends and I used to work at a nearby hotel during banqueting service…lots of joy and laughter, really some great memories

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

A few days ago I was fortunate enough to be part of a a unique event, a wine tasting of all the vintages of Sassicaia ever produced….this is a big experience I wish for you all!!

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