Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Fabio Masi

Most people who finished their studies at the hotel school start their careers in regular restaurants (nothing wrong about that of course), the following sommelier we're about to present must have thought 'the sky is the limit' and immediately started working for a 3 Michelin star awarded restaurant and has worked at the same level ever since. Please meet Italo-Swiss top sommelier Fabio Masi

After his studies at the Milan Hospitality school, Fabio set sail towards his first job as commis-sommlier at the 3 Michelin star awarded restaurant The Waterside inn in Berkshire at that time run by the famous Roux Brothers (now run by Alain Roux). If you start at the top, you might as well continue there, as Fabio's career followed by jobs at Le Cinq*** (Paris) , Daniel *** (NYC) , Enoteca Pinchiorri*** (Firenze) to eventually hold a position as restaurant director and head-sommelier at the Geneva Four-Seasons for nearly 12 years. Today Fabio works as restaurant manager and wine consultant for the restaurant of a private banking group. Good thing Giuseppe Vaccarini convinced Fabio when he finished school to pursue a future as a sommelier :-)

Having had such a nice career at the top level (which also meant almost sleeping at work), one would think there would be no time left for anything else... but Fabio did find some time to win the 2006 Best Sommelier of Italy Ruinart, the 2010 Best Sommelier of Italy (ASPI) and 2012 Best Sommelier of Switzerland. He was also amongst the semi-finalists during the 2007 and 2010 Best Sommelier of the world contests.

Have fun reading more about this top sommelier!!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

We immediately start with a difficult question. When it comes to reds I'm rather classic, I love working with wines from Piedmont! Not only because I love the region in general, but I’m a real big fan of the Nebbiolo grape, the power of the grape just fascinates me. For white wines I would say Burgundy.

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

A good sommelier must be humble and eager to keep learning as the world of wine keeps evolving. It is important that sommeliers keep learning and stay up to date as they are the link between the winemakers and the customer. Every year new wines are made that might be totally different than the previous vintages… You could see a sommelier as an ambassador of every wine he serves. A sommelier should also have respect in all senses of the world. Of course we should not forget that passion for the job is a must :-)

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Today in most countries there is a lot of respect for the job of sommelier. Of course there is always room for improvement, although I cannot complain about the situation in Switzerland. FurthermoreI do think that the situation we are in today doesn’t make it easy (except for maybe high-end/ Michelin starred restaurants) to only hire a person to take care of the wine/beverage service. I think today more than ever a sommelier has to be polyvalent and flexible

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

If I have to be totally honest it’s all Tom Cruise’ fault :-) as the film ‘cocktail’ triggered me to go to hotel school. But the passion for wine was passed on to me by Giuseppe Vaccarini.

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

There are a lot of people I admire and I keep learning every day from so many people, but the people that influenced me mostly and from who I have learned a lot are Giuseppe Vaccarini, Enrico Bernardo, Diego Masciaga and Eric Baumart.

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

I’m rather classical when it comes to pairing. I do think it is very important to create the perfect matches together with the chef. Every time we create a new menu (every 2 weeks) I sit down with the chef and I serve a few wines that would work for me and together we try to find the best match.

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

First I would say Piedmont, but my guess is that most people have already visited this region. Besides Piedmont, I would have to say the Etna region in Sicily. The Etna region is expanding in positive way and create some very big wines and I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of them.

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

Old Rieseling from Egon Müller. I’m a huge Mosel fan.

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

When I was around 16years old I won the Italian (junior) Côtes du Rhône challenge. As the winner of the Italian edition, I was allowed to defend the Italian pride at the International Côtes du Rhône challenge in Avignon. Wonderful moments!!

Another great memory would be the time I was asked to help at the Ruinart stand at Vinitaly somewhere in the 90’s. I opened dozens of bottles and I think I still have blisters on my hands from back then :-)

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

The melanzane alla parmigiana that my dad, who is a chef, makes. Every time he makes them I try to bring some home to enjoy them on a later date… the people who got to try them will confirm that they’re divine

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