- Name: Antonio Palmarini
- Date of birth: 26th October
- Place of birth: Teramo, Abruzzo, Italy
- Height: 168cm
- Eye colour: Brown
- Nationality: Italian
"My first sip of wine was at an early age when my grandpa used to give me Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and gassosa (an Italian version of sprite or lemonade) and I remember that I used to love it!!! I was less than 10 years old, and I could tell that this was the moment when my sommelier career began. In 2005, I got into the hospitality business by working at a modest 3-star hotel in the central East Coast of Italy, in the Abruzzo region and I started to expand my knowledge of food and alcoholic beverages.
It has grown even more since I moved to London in 2010. I have worked as a waiter and sommelier with different kinds of cuisine such as Chinese in a Michelin starred restaurant called Hakkasan, British cuisine in the Royal Thames Yacht Club, Japanese cuisine in Sushisamba and with various French dishes at the 3-star-rosette Skylon and the Michelin-starred restaurant of the Gordon Ramsay group where I currently work, Pétrus.
During these beautiful experiences, I had the opportunity to work with the finest alcoholic beverages as wines, Japanese sakes, craft beers and spirits. While studying, I got various awards that lead me to work as a wine judge in some very important competitions such as IWSC, LWC and IWC.
I have also been a semi-finalist in the UK's Best Sommelier Competition 2019 and I gained modest popularity on Instagram under the name of palmavini_wine_doctor, sharing wine reviews and everything else related to my passion, the alcoholic beverages world."
"Pétrus, the restaurant where I proudly work as assistant Head Sommelier, opened its doors in 2003 and is the second oldest restaurant of 7-star-Michelin-chef Gordon Ramsay.
Gordon Ramsay named this restaurant after one of the most iconic and expensive wines on the planet, the Pétrus.
Pétrus is a wine made by 100% Merlot in Pomerol, a small appellation in the Bordeaux region of France and has a history that goes back to the Roman times. We have 13 different vintages in our wine list that vary from 1978 to 2005 including magnums with prices that range from £5000 to £13500 per bottle, moreover, you can enjoy also by the glass with circa £850 for 125ml depending on vintages.
The restaurant has a Michelin star for French modern cuisine and has a wine list with over 700 bins where all the red wines are stored in a beautiful and unique cylindrical wine cellar placed in the centre of the restaurant (shown below)."
How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
As I said in my profile my interest in wine started at an early age, but the interest in Japanese sakes, beers and spirits came when I moved to London.
My passion for Japanese sake started when I met my wife. As she is Asian, she introduced me to many different kinds of cuisines. We would eat out at many different restaurants and this is where I gained a love of Japanese food and sake.
I also went to Japan and had an internship with the Dassai Brewery in Yamaguchi Prefecture. It was here I learnt by hand, all the steps of to making sake. I also had a great time with the other kurabitos (brewery workers). The love that I have for Japanese food goes hand in hand with the love of sake as I think sake it's the perfect beverage for that kind of food.
What do you think makes a good sommelier?
First of all, a good sommelier needs to be humble. Each sommelier knows something that another sommelier doesn't know! The alcoholic beverage is such a huge topic, the human brain can't know it all.
Secondly, you have to be curious. Invest in books and courses in order to learn more and more. Visiting wineries, distilleries and breweries around the world will help to solidify what you have learnt.
Lastly, be honest and judge the wine without thinking about the label. I see way too many sommeliers get overwhelmed by wines that have great marketing… a real sommelier must evaluate the wine regardless.
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
There are many that I love, generally, I like to pair and balance food with chilli heat alongside the sweetness of the beverage.
For instance tuna tartare with avocado, finely chopped red chilli pepper and soy sauce with a Mosel valley, slightly off-dry Riesling such as the Sybille Kuntz Mosel-Riesling Spatlese Trocken. I just find it gorgeous.
I also love truffle risotto with a high-quality, aged, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, like Emidio Pepe or Valentini. The earthiness of the Trebbiano develops with the mushroom flavour of the truffle, they are splendid together. The acidity of the Trebbiano cuts through the creaminess of the risotto. It also reminds me of the food in my home region Abruzzo.
Regarding other beverages such as Japanese sake, I love Alaskan crab with fennel, green apple salad with fresh green jalapeño paired with a Japanese sake Daiginjo style. With Dassai 23, it is an absolute delish pairing as the apple is the element gives acidity, and the sake is aromatic. Lychee, dragon fruit and honeydew melon lift the delicate taste of the white crab meat. Moreover, the sweetness of the sake compliments the jalapeño heat.
Pan-fried king prawns, sliced caramelised orange with saffron cream sauce pairs well with a strong hoppy India Pale Ale beer like the Brewdog Punk IPA. The grapefruit, bergamot, orange bud marijuana-like flavour of the hops really work well with the saffron and orange in the dish.
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
If you love food, the best way is to cook and play with pairings. Make as many little dishes as possible and try to pair them together with lots of different wines… don't be scared to pair red wine with fish and white meat with reds, you will soon realise if it's a completely wrong pairing or not. You play, you eat, you drink, you have fun with friends and last but not the least you learn and share opinions with your buddies!
However the most important thing is to enhance your sense of smell, and in order to do that, you must practice. You must smell everything including herbs and spices you have at home, smell inside your local butchers and florists, smell the corridor in a hospital, smell a steel needle before hammering it into a wall, smell the leather jacket you have in the cupboard. I can go on and on but all these aromas can be found in alcoholic beverages and you won't learn it if you don't start practising now!
Where do you see your future career path?
I see myself spreading out into many different solo ventures. One project I am currently working on will revolutionise the wine training sector.
It will be the only wine course that, in less than 50 hours, will allow anyone to take a seat in a restaurant and know how to:
- Easily choose the most appropriate bottle of wine for the occasion from any wine list.
- Learn how to taste the wine properly and recognise if the is a problem.
- Appreciate the many different characteristics of a wine.
And it will stop anyone being embarrassed in front of a sommelier even if they know nothing about wine, and in the worst-case scenario even if they do not like the wine at all.
It is an ambitious project which I strongly believe in. Many wine courses of today lack a connection between the school and the student. They don't simplify difficult topics and more importantly, students, that are wine lovers and having nothing to do with the hospitality business, are overloaded with lots of useless information.
For instance, most people that are not trained to go into the restaurant and chose a wine by themselves! All they need to know are the following things: 1. How to taste wine. 2. What to pair with it. 3. Recognise the most important wines in the world.
And my wine course will talk exclusively about these topics!
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
That's a difficult question to answer! I have cheated a little bit:
- Riesling for wine
- Gohyakumangoku rice grains for Yamahai style sake,
- Wheat grains for Belgian Witbier style and
- Sugar cane in order to produce molasses for Jamaican style rums
Who is the one person you’d most like to share a bottle of wine with?
It's Marco Montemagno! He doesn't have anything to do with the wine world, instead, he is an Italian entrepreneur. He makes videos for his social media channels and pages. He focuses on giving tips and great information about marketing in a simple and practical way. I have been one of his followers for a few years now. He has opened my eyes and has given me the basic knowledge and the strength to start to work on my solo projects. And for that, I would like to thank him by sharing a bottle of Champagne with him one day!