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Interview Paolo Basso - Best Sommelier of the World 2013

article Paolo Basso I by Peter Keller
1. Tesi: Paolo, you have been awarded “Best Sommelier of the World” in 2013 and “Best Sommelier of Europe,” which are outstanding achievements. Can you tell me more about you, your daily work, and your love for wine?
Paolo: The working days of a “Best Sommelier of the World” are very different. One day I can be in the winery with the winemaker to produce my wine, another day I can taste the wines to make the selection for Air France, another day I can taste and select wines for other customers or be teaching at Worldsom school in Bordeaux or in the École Hoteliére in Lausanne. Between all this, there must also be time for one of my main activities, which is bringing to life events and dinners for companies and individuals that center around wine. And, of course, travelling to reach all these destinations.
2. Tesi: I have seen that you also produce your own wine in the south of Switzerland. When did you start this journey, and what is your vision for your winery?
Paolo: The title of “Best Sommelier in the World” has opened up several job opportunities, among them was to begin producing wine. Today, I produce in the region in which I live a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux style to which I wanted to give the name of my daughter, calling it Il Rosso di Chiara in honour of her red hair. Being of Italian heritage, I will also start to select an entire line of Italian wines.
3. Tesi: Can you tell me about a moment when wine changed your life or when something special happened to you and wine was involved?
Paolo: I remember a customer who was in the restaurant where I worked who, not happy with the wine list, brought his own bottles. He was a connoisseur who allowed me to discover a new oenological reality. I was amazed by those wines, and with that discovery, I changed my career and dedicated all my attention to wine.
3. Tesi: Tell me more about the wine in your cellar. What are the bottles you are most proud of, and where are some hidden wine treasures?
Paolo: In my cellar, in addition to my wine that I’m proud to offer to my guests, there are wines that come from the most classic vineyards from the Old World. I like balanced, harmonious, traditional wines, where finesse and elegance match well with food. I don’t like too intrusive structures. There are several Tuscan wines made from Sangiovese, Piedmont Nebbiolo, the pearl of the Swiss vineyards in white, red and sweet, classic white Burgundy, and red Bordeaux. Obviously, there are a wide range of Champagnes. As my wine consumption is always linked to the food, the main thing is that a wine must have the balance you need for a great match.
4. Tesi: A young gastronome at the beginning of his career wants to start building his wine cellar for his restaurant but can only do it on a small budget. What would be your advice about which wine he should start with and how he should build up his collection?
Paolo: If a person wants to become a gastronome, I suggest setting up a good library before you build up a good cellar because books are the basis of knowledge, and do a stint of at least six months in a restaurant in order to understand what “gastronomy” is and what there is behind that. It’s too easy to watch MasterChef on television and improvise being a gastronome. After you do these things, then you can start to build up a good cellar. No need to spend a lot of money. If you have good knowledge, you can find excellent products at very affordable prices. The most important challenge is to be able to understand the quality of the wine, which is always connected to the producer, regardless of the region in which it is.
6. Tesi: What does good food and wine mean to you?
Paolo: I like serious cuisine and serious wine. For me, a good chef needs to manage two parameters: be able to find excellent raw material and manage cooking. Even if I’m open minded - and I try everything with a lot of curiosity – I’m not seduced by “new” or “unusual” or “fusion” recipes. At the end, I’m always seduced by classic cuisine and classic wines. What is a serious wine? A wine that comes from a “top terroir” and is produced by a skilled winemaker. One that, at the end of a two person dinner, you finish the bottle and you would like to have more.
Thank you,
Matthias Tesi Baur

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