Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Dashamir Elezi

After the very interesting articles from our dear friend Andy De Brouwer about his wine trip to Lebanon it is time to put another sommelier in the spotlight. This time I want you to meet Dashamir Elezi from Albania.

What surprised me was to find out that Elezi graduated in Mechanic Engineering at the University of Tirana in 1988… a big change towards the world of wines I’d say :-). This does prove again that if you want something bad enough you can do it!! I know you might expect that Dashamir started his ‘wine/sommelier’ career in Albania, but being so close to Italy, Dashamir decided in 1997 to go to a Sommeliers school in Italy or better the AIS Marche – Ascoli Piceno Delegation to be more correct :-).

Italy has always played a big role in Dashamir’s life as after following sommelier school he stayed in Italy for many years and build up a nice career by work (amongst other places) as chief Sommelier at ‘La Fenice’ restaurant/hotel in Venice.

But at some point his heart wanted to be more in Albania and so he returned (with I’m sure lots of trips back to italy) to Albania where he is president of the Albanian Sommeliers Association. Next to that he also works Consultant and co-Organiser in ‘VINITALY’ fair in collaboration with the Albanian Agricultural Ministry. I also shouldn’t forget to mention that he also founded (in 2006) the Albanian Sommeliers’ magazine where he (with help from other great sommeliers and personalities in wine) writes many interesting articles on national and international wines.

In 2008 Dashamir also founded the Albanian Sommeliers Association didactic school. Basically opening up a wonderful world to many young people! I’m very pleased to add him to the wonderful list of sommeliers I was already fortunate enough to interview.

Leximi i lumtur! (Enjoy reading in Albanian )

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

My preferable regions to work with are: if we talk about Italy there are Toscana and Piemonte; and if we talk about France there are Alsace and Provence. If we talk about Spain there will be Alta Rijoja. These are the European ones, but of course it doesn't stop there :-) as I also love Australian wines (Barossa Valley) and Chilean (Colcagua Valley) wine I would recommend to everybody no doubt about that.

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

To be a good sommelier it is needed to have precise science knowledge about vineyards, oenology, wine terroir (worldwide), good knowledge about cuisine and a very good knowledge about spirits and distillates. And above all it is needed to continuously be up to date with the changes in drinks and food.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

The profession of Sommelier is partially underestimated because when someone hears “sommelier” he only understands 'someone who knows wine', and they can’t imagine that a sommelier is a person who knows and also gives advice about beer, distillates, water, tea, coffee, chocolate and tobacco and also for pairing food and drinks together.

The profession of sommelier is not too much valuated in Europe and even less in the other parts of world. Maybe it is needed to excluded America and Japan. Sommelier is a connecting person between the client and the product and like his profession he consults the client for the product needed for any occasion.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

My big example in the sommelier world is Gerard Basset, because with his insistence, after several times he became champion of Europe and champion of world. He is an excellent sommelier and has very good knowledge about worldwide gastronomy. He always tries to stay up to date regarding food and wine and tries to pass on this information and in his restaurant advising his clients.

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

Wine and food should be in harmony with each other. It’s not recommended that wine or food to be 'overpowering' each other. The link between both is made by understanding the meal structure, taking the seasons in consideration and also the traditional and terroir division.

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

I would recommended everyone to visit the region of Bordeaux, because of its diversity in areas and subareas, diversity of grape varieties and techniques of producing wine make it possible for everyone and every taste to be satisfied. The next to visit would be Toscana for similar reasons.

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

Chateau Mounton Rothchild 2000. :-)

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

The best memory from school was when I could practice the flambé technique in the hall of the school restaurant. I got lots of compliments from the special clients and from my chef.

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

A special experience everyone should have on his bucket list would be a “Chianina fillet with rare balsamic vinegar sauce and black truffle”. This is an explosion of tastes, excellent balance and a very good persistence. Just the idea makes me want to eat it...

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