Name: Davide Di Bella
At the moment: Denmark
Director of Club København – Associazione Italiana Sommelier – Sommelier – Wine Consultant
Website: BD Food and Wine
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I was born in Rome, not so far from the “Castelli Romani” zone. When I was a child it was a very active wine production area, where it was possible to smell the “scent of wine” in the air. I remember that the children could go and play in the vineyards of DOC Marino, very close to the school. Anyway, my passion for wine started when I was thirty. At that time, I worked as a chemical laboratory technician in a large industry near Rome. During our free time, with some colleagues we started to taste some bottles of wines from Lazio, and read books and magazines about wines. Since then I began to participate to many wine tastings (Living in Rome helps, because there are a lot of choice between various events …). A few years later, the factory where I worked closed, and I decided to invest my time (and some money) to attend a sommelier course. I chose to start to study at AIS, Associazione Italiana Sommelier, the oldest and most renowned sommelier association in Italy. From there we can say that my path started as a professional sommelier. I had no particular mentors, but of course I have to thank all my friends sommelier of AIS’ staff, that I met along the way, and from which I had the pleasure of learning many things about wine and service!
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
A sommelier must always behave in an elegant and professional manner, must put a lot of passion in what he does, has the “obligation” to stay up to date on the latest trends in wine, must have good communication skills, but above all (on my opinion) must remember, that there is always something of beautiful and new to learn about wine … and a little humility never hurts!
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
The advice is to evaluate carefully the course of study, in order to have a good basic knowledge about wine… Then you need to practice a lot on the service!!
Currently in Italy, I think, it is very difficult to find work for a novice sommelier, obviously much depends on personal professional skills.
Abroad, the situation can change, for example here in Copenhagen it is a professional figure, that has several possibilities in many restaurants, wine bar and wine shops.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
On my opinion and experiences, it depends on who have in front of you. Some kind of customers have very clear ideas about what would like to drink, so the selection is quite easy. Others need a small helping hand. Besides you have always to try to suggest what is the best food /wine pairing (and don’t looking for sell an expensive wine in the list, because makes your boss happy!). Anyway, the last word is at the customer … after all, he will pay for the bottle!
What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
The glass, in which is served the wine, certainly has great importance. Every kind of wine has its personal and specific glass, a wrong glass can “kill” a good wine!
More than select a specific “brand”, always I try to make sure that the glasses are in good condition, i.e. perfectly clean and without residual odors. Anyway I don’t like glasses that are too big or with strange shapes. For my experience I consider very well the glasses produced by SPIEGELAU and BORMIOLI, but of course I’m open to know all the news on the market, if they suggest something of new and interesting.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
On food / wine pairing there are very specific methods, such as those taught in the AIS sommelier courses, and in my work I always try to stay on this path, but of course I’m not a “fundamentalist” on this …So (unless you commit atrocious crimes, like drinking a great Barolo on a pizza Margherita) if some customers want to try some creative combination between food and wine, certainly I will not complain.
We are in 2018 … the way of cooking food, the various types of wines and the demands of the customers, are constantly in evolution, and we have to deal with them.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
My personal opinion is: The sommelier HAS THE DUTY to taste the wine before serving it to the customer, ONLY if he suspects (after visual and olfactory analysis …) that there is some quality problem. I find unpleasant to taste what the customer has bought, maybe to satisfy a sort of “professional curiosity” about that rare and expensive wine …
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
I think that LinkedIn and Facebook can be a powerful way to get in touch with potential employers, anywhere in the world.
Regarding websites, can try for example with:
For Italy: www.winejob.it
For Denmark: www.gastrojob.dk
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
It is evident that, the wine list should try to reflect, as much as possible, which kind of restaurant or wine bar would like to give as image and atmosphere, and want to be.
In my opinion a good wine list must:
– not miss (where applicable) wines related to the territory
– have an adequate selection of wines by the glass
– have an adequate presence of rosé and dessert wines
– have a certain balance and attention to the customer, including on the list, wines with different price range
The mark up on the wines should not be exaggerated! The customer starts to be informed on prices (dedicated websites, apps for smartphones), and paying too much for a bottle of wine, doesn’t predispose it to return in the next time…
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I update myself reading books and magazines and surfing the net. Social media like Facebook allows me to stay in touch with the “world of sommeliers” and with different wine producers, especially in Italy. But there are also a lot of good blog and websites to browse.
Everyday I try to learn something new about wine … it’s a very broad Topic!
Annual events regarding wine, such as Vinitaly, that takes place every year in Verona, are for me an important moment to keep up-to-date on the latest news, and to meet colleagues and friends.
Visits to wine producers are also important moments of professional growth and an opportunity for taste some news products and discover new wines.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
Effective communication, trying to convey the passion you feel for your work, and the quality of your product, is the best way for a wine producer to get noticed.
Doing this, it’s a very useful tactic to get my (and my colleagues) attention.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?A Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), but that one that some wine producers are making on Mount Etna, in Sicily, because it must be very fascinating for a wine to be “born” on the top of an active volcano, eheheh!And also because my parents come from that zone of Italy, and I think that I should feel comfortable there.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
As you have certainly understood, I’m a huge fan of Italian wines. Mainly from those made from Nebbiolo grapes, and not only from the Langhe (Barolo and Barbaresco), but also from areas of production less known outside of Italy such as Alto Piemonte (Gattinara, Ghemme, Lessona, Bramaterra) and Valtellina. Then I love the extraordinary wines that are produced in the Amalfi Coast, under cultivation conditions that are, sometimes, very difficult due to steep terrain, but for this reason they produce exciting wines. In recent times, I am thrilled by the quality of many “Metodo Classico” sparkling wines, coming from the TRENTODOC area in Trentino. As an Italian sommelier, who lives and works in Denmark, I made mine the mission… to promote and communicate the many quality wines, often unique in the world, that are made in my homeland.
On a desert island I would really enjoy a “FIORDUVA” Furore Bianco, Cantine Marisa Cuomo.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Most online platforms I consult, are written in Italian: INTRAVINO and PERCORSI di VINO are very interesting for example. When it’s possible to find them here in Denmark, I like to read Wine Spectator and Decanter.
And I would like also to mention the “Vitae” magazine and the annual wine guide published by AIS, Associazione Italiana Sommelier.
Davide Di Bella
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommeliers.at