HOTELS Interview: Italian sommelier shares wine trends

Milan’s Hotel Principe di Savoia has a new chef sommelier for its Acanto Restaurant: Alessandra Veronesi. Veronesi is a veteran of the Antico Caffe Verona Dante and served as wine manager at Arquade restaurant in the Villa del Quar, also in Verona. HOTELS caught up with her recently to get her take on the latest wine trends.

HOTELS: What trends do you see right now in hotel wine service?

Alessandra Veronesi: An Acanto customer expects a well-stocked wine list in accordance with the reputation that precedes our hotel. Often, given the amount of labels they ask for and corresponding advice, in a sense we create the “trends” themselves.

I see that white wines with a medium body and a well-founded reputation (such as a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay) are always in high demand. Local wines or nearby regions such as Barbera or Barolo are in great demand.

But the real trend is not only the type of wine, but also the possibility of being able to taste by the glass. As a result, I put great care and attention in having an array of selections by the glass of a good standard, and that can change from week to week in order to intrigue our guests.

HOTELS: What is helping your team sell more wine?

Veronesi: I must say that having an excellent and young second assistant sommelier and a dynamic staff makes it easy to intrigue and educate them on new entries in the annual wine list. For example, I have received many questions from the staff regarding RM producers of Champagne (récoltant-manipulant, meaning no more than 5% of the grapes were sourced from other vineyards and the grower also produced and bottled the Champagne), which is not known to the general public, but is of the highest level among wine lovers.

Further, there is great interest in organic/biodynamic/natural wine that has led to requests for the best combination to meet the customer’s needs.

With globalization as a factor, the customer is much more informed about producers and labels, which helps with recommending wines. Sometimes it can be forgotten that Italy is genetically rich. The recovery of grape varieties makes Italy’s history interesting, and the fact that a customer asks for information about the Uva di Troia, Nerello Mascalese or Durello makes you proud to be able to respond with a prompt explanation.

HOTELS: What are the best-selling wines in your cellars right now?

Veronesi: Without a doubt, Italian wine (second only to sparkling wine) is certainly the most sold. There is high demand for red wine (to accompany fish dishes) with famed reputations: Amarone, Super-Tuscan, Barolo or companies with a recognized brand like Gaja and Antinori. As for white wines, Pinot Grigio is the master, and the most in demand of this variety is Friuli (Collio and Isonzo to the Eastern Hills), followed by a good demand for Italian wines such as Soave or fresh and fragrant wines from Alto Adige, such as Muller Thurgau and Pinot Blanc. For sparkling wines, Champagne is still the leader, often used as an aperitif.

HOTELS: Is there a wine you love that you just can’t get guests to order?

Veronesi: Personally, I never recommend what I do not like. When a customer asks me for advice, I want them to feel confident that what I am going to serve is certainly the best choice — regardless of price. If a customer can feel the passion and the research and work that is behind a wine, he knows that he can trust the advice, and that the wine has been chosen with love just for him at that moment.

HOTELS: What is your impression of things like iPad wine lists? Do you think the technology is worth the initial investment for a hotel restaurant?

Veronesi: I love technology and think an iPad wine list is a wonderful opportunity, perhaps especially when related to photos and links that show the company itself. I wish I had the opportunity to be able to create something like this, because I think the initial investment of time and money pays off, and because it is spreading very quickly among consumers. One advantage of the iPad wine app is that it makes it easy to see immediate and detailed information, such as the alcohol content. 

Alessandra Veronesi
Alessandra Veronesi