Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Diary of a Sommelier Student-My first lesson with Ais Napoli

LA FIGURA DEL SOMMELIER- translated literally means 'The figure of the Sommelier'.That was the topic of Monday night's lesson.  I arrived a little late (thanks to Naples traffic and my refusal to use a GPS), but I was ready when Antonio Del Franco (President of Ais, Campania region) arrived.  Who better to welcome our class of 45 or so students into the world of Ais.  On hand as well were Tommaso Luongo(President Ais, Napoli) and Franco De Luca (Secretary, Ais Napoli). 

I happily received the 'Ais briefcase'.  Inside were three glasses which we would need for our weekly wine tastings.  Pen, notebook, and  From Vine to Wine, an italian/english glossary (thanks Manuela). I was ready to go.


I was attentive to what  Mr. Del Franco had to say and I'd like to share with you a few points that hit home.

Ais Campania President Antonio Del Franco

He listed the requirements that a sommelier must have; these include class and style, an open mind, and humility.  Humility...hmmm. I like that.  He said it would be nearly imposible for someone to know everything about every wine in the world.  We need to keep it real.

He discussed the professional requirements such as knowledge and skills, tasting technique, and communication.  Communication is particularly important because to understand wine, you just shouldn't just drink a glass of it.  You must get out to the wineries...meet the producers...walk the vineyards.  This,  Mr. Del Franco said, will help you understand the wine better.  A sommelier must have interesse e passione, interest and passion. Additional musts-tact, courtesy, a good sense of humor.  Precision, punctuality, ambition.

A brief overview of the various sommelier positions in the restaurant as well as other occupations a sommelier title could give you such as managing an enoteca (wine shop), wine bar, or a little wine consulting followed.

He encouraged us to think of 'sommelier school' as a preschool to winetasting.  We need to train as an athlete would train for any sporting event.  Degusta ogni minuta della vita-'Taste' every minute of your life. This goes for whatever we bring to our lips to eat or drink...not just wine. Three factors go hand in hand-sight (visual examination), smell (olfactory examination) and taste.


A quick introduction to the sommelier's tools ; tastevin ( the shallow silver saucer worn around the neck on a chain-can be used to check the color, odor, and flavor of wine), corkscrew, wine glasses, serving basket, carafe or pitcher, stopper, and a thermometer.


Antonio Del Franco shows us the tastevin

Sommelier and 1st level course assistant, Luca Massimo Bolondi

Then the moment of the wine tasting arrived.  This being our first lesson, the tasting was informal, so I won't include wine tasting notes this time.  We will learn in great detail the three steps to wine tasting in April ( complete schedule).  Our sommeliers poured our the following wines for us.



Franciacorta brut-Ca' del Bosco Cuveè prestige 2009 (75 % chardonnay, 15% pinot nero, 10% pinot bianco)

Donna Paola-Marino DOC 2006, Azienda Vitivinicola Paola di Mauro (50% malvasia, 35% trebbiano, 5% semilon, 10% others)

Barbera D'Asti DOC-Camp Du Rouss-Coppo 2006 (100% barbera)

Lesson over, we filled out paperwork and were on our way. 
The next lesson, Monday the 15th. 
Stay tuned...









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