Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Daniele Arcangeli

A sommelier, or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing… or at least that is the general view people have on a sommelier. Of course we can’t ignore that wine is an enormous part of the job of sommelier, but we all know there is much more then only wines. That is why we want to put the sommeliers and their job in the spotlight.

The next sommelier we want to put in this spotlight is the 2015 ASPI Best Sommelier of Italy Daniele Arcangeli.

Daniele was classically trained at the Tuscany (seaside) scuola alberghiero G. Minuto, after which he started his career in HoReCa like any other student graduating from a hotellerie school. Not long after graduating he started specializing himself in Bartending by following and certifying himself both in Italian as in international bartender courses. But being from an important wine region like Tuscany, wine basically runs through your veins and over the years Daniele’s interest in the subject started growing and in 2004 he decided to engage himself in professional sommelier courses and become an Italian certified sommelier. We are sure that both the bartending specialization as the sommelier specialization have made Daniele the all-round top sommelier he is today, allowing him to work in some of the best restaurant/hotels around the globe.

Daniele’s career started at his home region, Tuscany, where he started working as bar manager at one of the leading hotels in the world Bagni di Pisa, followed by jobs as F&B manager at another leading hotel of the world Principe in Forte dei Marmi and as head sommelier restaurant Il re della busa, but soon Italy was getting too small for Daniele and he descided to spread his wings and explore the world with jobs as sommelier at some of the best restaurants in Switzerland, Italy, France and the UK like 2 Michelin star restaurants like Il Piccolo Principe, Pierre Gagnaire and 3 Michelin star restaurant the Fat Duck. Jobs where he somehow still found the time to compete in both national and international sommelier competitions (representing Italy) and become a certified sommelier at the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Today Daniele works as senior sommelier in one of the most famous private wine clubs in the world 67 Pall Mall.

Enjoy the read!!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I really like wines from Burgundy and Piedmont for the great diversity of crus, expressions and wine producers; Tuscany as well, such as a beautiful Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino. Do not forget wines from Greece, Portugal or Hungary, for instance Xinomavro or Assyrtiko are absolutely amazing as well as Baga from Bairrada or dry Furmint from Tokajer. Every part of the wine world has a hidden gem, I like also lead the guest in discovering wines even from not well known wine regions; drinkability is the secret, very traditional wine-making style. Often behind a label there is a tale to

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

Love your job and you will never work a day in your life: be passionate, curious and humble in what you do, inspire people around you. For instance being a good taster is great but not the most important thing; there are for sure many skills but some of them are the key like knowledge, sales skills and be able to build a sort of empathy with the guest, which means understand what he likes, if he is open in accepting suggestions, discovering new wines or wine regions as well as be able to sort out any issues that may occur during the service.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Having worked in different countries in Europe I could say even though in Italy there’s a great interest around the wine, there is much to do yet in term of profession; Italy has a very significant position in the world as wine producer, our wines are highly appreciated all over the world as well as there are so many very good Italian wine tasters.

A sommelier should have at least 5 to 10 years of experience on the floor in fine dining or hospitality; for this reason I don’t feel like calling Sommelier a person that never worked in the hospitality.

The role of the Sommelier is actually misunderstood and underestimated for many reasons; firstly the Sommelier is a profession, he is not just a taster but the person that runs all the beverage business operations in a hospitality environment in a restaurant, hotel, wine bar and any other outlet involved in promoting and selling wine and beverages. Most of the times as wine buyer could be in charge of many outlets, dealing with suppliers, selecting wines, training a team and dealing with guest. Secondly the role of the Sommelier is taken into consideration only in few fine dining environments such as for instance Michelin starred restaurants where there is an important gastronomic offer and a dedicated staff.

Many owners usually forgot that the Sommelier is really the person able to bring profitability to the restaurant and see this position as a cost and not as investment for the own business, for this reason they prefer to cut this role off; labor taxes unfortunately are very high as well. Finally there isn’t actually a real professional register that acknowledges, supports and protects this role but a significant number of associations that organizes wine courses for wine lovers and releases Sommelier certificates to everyone even those really have nothing to do with it making business just for themselves instead of supporting the profession, this is the situation In Italy; I hope in the future something should be done for this beautiful profession.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

Being from Tuscany is almost easy, wine is part of our culture, but while I was working behind the bar as bartender, I really felt that my knowledge about wines was missing, so I decided to attend a Sommelier course; I completed it but at the same time I realized that there was still much to do in terms of knowledge, experience on the floor and tasting. I started to work in fine dining restaurants, work along with great professionals and took inspiration from them. In 2015 I won the title of Best Sommelier of Italy for ASPI the Italian Sommelier Association member of ASI. After this I got the certified degree at the Court of Master Sommelier, participated at the 2019 Best Sommelier of the world that was hosted in Belgium. Now I am still studying, never get down, I am preparing my upcoming Advanced Sommelier exam.

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

For sure on a global level that would be Gerard Basset for the huge amount of acknowledgements in the wine world that he has obtained and for being a humble person at the same time inspiring plenty of Sommeliers around the world.

In Italy Giuseppe Vaccarini for the never ending commitment to promote the profession, he actually has dedicated his whole life in teaching, writing books, he has inspired and coached many young sommeliers because he strongly believes in the profession. Many Italian Sommeliers should be grateful to him for what has done in his country and for his country.

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

First of all I try to collect as much information as possible. Most of that info should be collected during the reservation and spread them out during the staff briefing.

Is the visit for a special occasion? Is it a business lunch? Do they have a pre-fixed set menu? Do they prefer to have a wine flight or are they going to order the wine on the spot? As host, does he want to impress his guest? How much does he know about wine? Is he a good spender? Obviously if he is a regular guest, it is much easier to manage it.

I would like to point out that a good Sommelier never imposes his personal taste, he should listen and understand the situation in front of him. It’s very important if you want to make your guest happy. Anyway having a bit of psychology skills always helps and this happens only with the “matured” experience on the floor.

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

Please come to Tuscany!! Especially from April to October as that’s the period it is the most beautiful and the locals are very welcoming. I would suggest to visit all the Communes of the Chianti Classico, which is the area between Florence and Siena, they are so charming… I Love them

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

From France that might be Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet 1961, Mouton-Rothschild 1945, Châteauneuf-du-pape Rayas 1978. From Italy very old vintages of Tenuta di Terlano from Alto Adige, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990 Soldera or Biondi Santi 1955, Sassicaia 1985 from Tuscany but Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi and old vintages of Monfortino from Piedmont.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

For sure when I started in attending the very first course in Vienna organized by the Court of Master Sommelier.

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

As culinary experience : “Trippa alla Fiorentina” that is an amazing Florentine dish made with the stomach interior part of the beef, a sauté of vegetable mirepoix, stewed with tomatoes and served with Parmesan Cheese and a very good extra virgin olive oil; “Cacciucco alla Livornese” a tasty and spicy slow cooked fish soup made with many kinds of fish. Absolutely to try if you come to Tuscany.

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