Now we know who the finalists for the title of Best Sommelier of Belgium are it is time to get to know them better and have a sneak peak in their life as sommelier. The second semi finalist I want to put in the spotlight is my dear friend Gianluca Di Taranto. I met Gianluca a few years (I think about 5 years) ago during Apéro Vintage Leuven an event from Bordeaux wines and we’ve had lots of meals together ever since 🙂 :-).
At that time Gianluca still worked at his dad’s restaurant. Which I think that was one of the reasons (next to our love for good food and wine and the fact that we’re both Italian 😉 ) why it connected between us…my dad also used to have a restaurant where I worked every weekend. After having gotten a good base at his dad’s restaurant (Spiga d’oro aka one of my preferred Italian restaurants in Belgium) for a few years it was time for a new challenge . This new challenge brought Gianluca to the 2 Michelin starred ‘t Zilte where under the leading hand of Sepideh Sedaghatnia that knowledge he gained at his dad’s restaurant was taken up to the next level. I personally think that ‘t Zilte brought lots of great opportunities to Gianluca (visits to great wineries, new styles of food, etc…)
Nowadays Gianluca is the head-sommelier of Sergio Herman’s Antwerp 2Michelin starred restaurant The Jane. Something I admire about Gianluca is motivation and dedication of wanting to achieve the maximum by giving the maximum. While other people go on holiday, Gianluca has done internships at top restaurants like Piazza Duomo ***, Osteria Francescana *** or visit vineyards or give wine courses at his dad’s restaurant… basically everything is related to his work with maybe sometimes 1 or 2 days to rest…. then again if you do something with passion I’m sure it doesn’t always feel like work.
I wish Gianluca (just like all other 2 contestants) the best of luck on 16/10/2016 during the finals.
Let’s see what Gianluca answered at the 10 questions:
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
Immediately a difficult question! The answer really depends on my “mood” and on the season. My favorite region could very well be Piedmont (for both emotional and qualitative reasons) but I find it really, really harsh to not mention the incredible versatility of the Loire (my fav. region of the moment), the thirst-quenching whites of the Mosel, the fragrant reds of Beaujolais or the complexity of Burgundy..
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
A combination of passion, knowledge and understanding the guest you’re serving. The way you communicate and “feel” your guests is nothing to be underestimated, especially today. On the other hand, the financial side of our job and managing the stock in a successful way is no less important.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
Perhaps it used to be but I think times have changed, or at least they are changing. The sommelier-scene in the USA is on fire (thanks to Somm the movie) and sommeliers are becoming as important as chefs and rock stars over there. We’re still some way from that here in Europe but I clearly feel sommeliers are being appreciated more and more since a few years.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
My father is a sommelier and he’s the one who took me to several wine regions and winery visits since I was little. He’s the one who pushed me to the studies of sommelier when I was 19, albeit involuntary back then.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
Obviously a very special mention goes to my father. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Nationally I have a whole lot of respect for Steven Wullaert, one of the most talented people in our scenery here in Belgium. Internationally I’ve been following Arvid Rosengren both on Twitter and on his blog since 2012 now, even before he became the Best Sommelier of Europe in 2013. His talent is unparalleled and even while he’s on top of the world, he’s still very humble. I’d love to see him at work on the floor one day!
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
I don’t like making things too complicated. Usually the most traditional combo’s are unbeatable. When people have been serving a certain wine with a certain product in a certain region for decades, there must be a certain logic behind that.. But besides that I try to work without blinders and to be open to everything. Going wild and contrasting can be fun at times but I still prefer the old-school way of harmonizing wine and food. Or food and wine!
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Piedmont, in autumn. A myriad of colors, vineyards and hills combined with countless aromas which prickle your senses. You have to experience at least once. Unforgettable.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
The 1982 Monfortino from Giacomo Conterno. The Barolo which put Barolo on the world wine map.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?
Hotel management school? Which hotel management school? 🙂
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
The Etna. It’s a mysterious and dramatic place with a landscape which resembles to the moon. Even though it used to be a very important wine region in the 19th century it is now reinventing itself. We are witnessing a rebirth. Think of a cross à la Piedmont x Burgundy with a dash of the New California! The viticulturists/oenologist are only now starting to discover the huge potential all the different Contrada have to offer. Tons of vineyards which are more than 120 years old combined with uncountable different soil compositions and structures. It’s a region buzzing with life. Visit it now while it’s still “underground” and practically undiscovered. 20 years from now you’ll tell your friends that you knew that exciting DOC long before them..