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Meet the 2020 LWC Judges: Antonio Palmarini

LWC interviews Antonio Palmarini, the wine judge at 2020 London Wine Competition which is going to be held on Mar 24, 2020, in London.

Antonio.Palmarini with a bottle of wine

Currently associated with the Gordon Ramsay Restaurants group, Ast. Head Sommelier Antonio Palmarini is a motivated and hardworking personality. His deep love of food and wine has brought him to the hospitality industry for over 14 years. Since the start, he has worked with high-profile on-premise channels such as Skylon, Piccolino, Royal Themes Yacht Club, and Gordan Ramsay Restaurants.

Antonio Palmarini is a part of 2020 London Wine Competition judging team. He will be judging wines at this event on March 24, 2020, in London with his fellow wine judges on the team. Below is a small interview session with the LWC judge Antonio Palmarini.

  1. Tell us about yourself.

I am Antonio Palmarini, coming from the central east side of Italy, in the Abruzzo region. I was born and grown upright in the centre of the DOCG area of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane. 

During my childhood, I was regularly eating local sweets with Montepulciano jam, and my first sip of wine was at an early age when my grandfather used to give me local Montepulciano d’Abruzzo mixed with a sort of lemonade and since then my love for this grape started and never finished

In 2005, I started working in the hospitality business and with it, I have started to study wine buying second-hand books of the main Italian wine school, the AIS, specialised in Italian wines. 

In 2010, I moved to London where my real career as a sommelier begun. I have studied for the WSET school for wine, spirits and Japanese sake. During my studies, I have travelled all around Europe visiting wineries in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, and of course in England and Italy visiting also a surprising winery in Belgium along with distilleries in London, Scotland and Japan where I have also worked for Dassai sake brewery.

Every trip I made let me gain knowledge and experience in the alcoholic beverage and all of it made me reach, not only popularity on Instagram under the name of Palamavini_wine_doctor but also work for prestigious restaurants and as a wine judge in various wine competition of which the most modern, the London Wine Competition.

  1. How has the role of the sommelier evolved?

The sommelier role evolved as the consumers have wider and wider knowledge due to social media, the trend of having wine tastings in bars and restaurants, to have proper wine trips in wineries. Moreover, nowadays so many countries make good wines and the sommelier must evolve in knowledge if he wants to survive. 

So, the role is getting as harder as exciting 

Where Are the Opportunities in the On-premise UK Wine Sector?

  1. What you look for when you plan to buy wine for your business? (If applicable)

I do look at everything, from the provenience, styles, grape varieties, to the cost price, if it well suited with the food menu of the restaurant I work and of course the quality of the wine. 

Also, the packaging is very important, so I do consider even that when I choose the wine in order to make it suitable for the wine list of the business I work. 

Antonio.Palmarini  juding wine at LWC

  1. What is most challenging about what you do?

Most of my guests think that the Sommelier job is just about service and is the greatest job ever because I get paid to taste wine! Yes, I must admit that this part is superbly exciting, however, is not just that, ordering wines, keep track of the cellar of which wine is missing and which one is coming, track the vintages, keep on track the endless paperwork in the office, managing and training the team, be up to date on trends on wine, spirits, beers, cocktails and soft drinks (also Japanese sake even if I don't work with that at the moment) and last but not least are the long hours and dedication this job takes. So, all of it is challenging, not just one thing in particular.

  1. Have you noticed any change in the preferences of wine consumers?

Consumers yes, are getting more influenced by social media. I see lots of guests browsing the wine list and at the same time researching wine on apps like Vivino or WineSearcher before choosing the wine. 

They want to check if the critic scores are high and basically take ideas of the best value for money is in the list without consulting the Sommelier. 

In social media they don’t see just the quality score given by critics or regular people like on Vivino, but also how much is the mark-up of the restaurant and being aware of that consumers tend to buy higher-end wines more on wine shops on-line rather than on- and off-trade. 

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  1. Which regions and varietals should we be on the lookout for over the coming year or two?

I believe, on two Italian varietals and both white: The Timorasso from Colli Tortonesi in Piedmont and Pecorino from Abruzzo.

They are both having a rising success in the UK and abroad. I can see much appreciation even if both the varieties are not well known, especially the Timorasso which is very rare to find but the acidity of these two grapes and the characteristic of giving a wine with well-defined fruit profile will lead to expanding their popularity in the near future. 

  1. What do you see as the most important skills a sommelier can have?

Passion, knowledge and teaching skills.

These 3 skills are equally important. The sommelier needs passion to express better from its heart, needs the knowledge to answer all the questions but need the teaching skills to transmit knowledge and passion of wine to the guests in the most simplistic way.

The guest must understand what the sommelier is saying about cru, the clone, the fermentation, maceration and batonnage for instance. So, inform the guest in the most simplistic way, during a busy service, about the wine suggested, is equally important as having knowledge and passion.

  1. What’s a Wine trend that you’re currently excited about?

I really do not follow trends, but I am excited about a different wine every time someone asked me this question or asking me what my favourite wine is. 

I don’t follow trends as I don’t have any favourite wines but for me now it is again the moment of the Brunello di Montalcino. It is exciting for me the history of the wine, the evolution that it has gone through since Biondi-Santi “invented it” at the end of the 1800s, the loss of credibility during the Brunello-gate in 2008 and how many producers raised the quality even more after that scandal. 

  1. If you could only buy one bottle to drink in December, what would it be?

That’s a very hard question really. I have tasted recently a Champagne Krug 1995 and I absolutely loved it. I think I would buy that, as tasting it was enough to understand the calibre but not enough to enjoy in full.

The 2024 London Wine Competition results are out! View the list of winners here.

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