Born in 1992, sommelier since 2013, Stefano Berzi has just won the AIS 2021 best sommelier in Italy competition, Trentodoc award. We asked him how you get to that podium. Here is his interview!
Last November 21st, in Bologna, in the context of the 54th AIS National Congress of Bologna, Stefano Berzi was awarded as the best sommelier in Italy. Second place: Davide D'Alterio , of the AIS delegation of Livorno; third ex aequo : Massimo Tortora (of the AIS delegation of Livorno) and Simone Vergamini (AIS delegation of Lucca).
Here is the story of Stefano Berzi , and how he became Italy's best sommelier.
How do you feel after the victory?
Perhaps the strongest feeling you experience is that of the advent of the unexpected . Studying, for me, has always been a lot but when you really compete with the best sommeliers in Italy, and you win, in the end the amazement at having made it is great.
How did your passion for wine begin?
Mine is a rather classic story: my father has been a sommelier for 30 years and has always had a family tavern since 1860. I was born at the Hosteria Del Vapore and even though I had other ambitions as a child, over time I became closer to this world with a new awareness and I began to love the world of wine. In fact I would say that I couldn't help but love it.
How do you study for the best sommelier competition in Italy while having a restaurant?
With the help of a great team . I am the owner of the Hosteria but I couldn't have done anything without my mother and father, Monica and Paolo, and our lovely team. They allowed me to dedicate myself to studying, but also to move and travel around a lot - the other important aspect of this job - knowing that I was covered and in excellent hands.
The restaurant is a great field of research: it allows you to always stay updated on the world of wine and also gives you identity, allowing you to make precise choices. Selecting wineries and wines does not mean choosing someone better than someone else but selecting the most representative realities for you and your place.
You open your wine list and what do you find there?
Our choices are all in the direction of small artisans , to give a voice to those who have none or in any case have much less resonance than others. Deciding to work with small winemakers has a lot of meaning especially in a small town (the Hosteria is in Carrobbio degli Angeli, in the province of Bergamo), where our customers cannot happen by chance but rather come specifically. For us at Hosteria it makes more sense to give reasons to come and visit us through gems and selections that are difficult to find elsewhere, always with the utmost respect towards the great names who have made the history of wine.
How do you become the best sommelier in Italy?
With three qualities. The basis is passion , then there is the spirit of sacrifice and continuous study . Today the sommelier is a 360-degree figure, who always studies everything, even moving away from the pure environment of wine and service. So you need to be interested in the history of the producers and the territories, in the cellar techniques, you naturally need to know how to talk about wine, as well as study grappas, spirits, but also tea, for example.
Stefano Berzi's future projects?
As the best sommelier in Italy 2021 I want to work as hard as I can as an ambassador for Trentodoc and AIS : this year will be entirely dedicated to this.
My life goal is continuous training, constant growth by working on myself. Improving by knowing and learning is something I will do by studying but also thanks to people.
Your advice for those who really want to understand wine
Allow yourself to be conquered by this beautiful world, made up of study and knowledge, but also of people, areas and history: wine is a beautiful mix of culture and passion. The advice is to dedicate yourself fully and never give up, continuing to keep up to date. I talked about it with many colleagues during the days of the competition: that of wine + an area of pure passion, sometimes almost an obsession, the one that makes you get up early on Sunday morning to go and visit a producer, the one that never makes you feel full.
Your advice for those who want to participate in the competition for best sommelier in Italy
To follow the choice to the end: the competition is a wonderful experience for your personal training - because you prepare by studying a lot - but it is also from a human point of view. It involves getting involved together with excellent professionals and great people. It is a challenging choice for those who have ambition and are not afraid to test themselves.
The experience gives a lot in human terms and growth: the competitors are first of all friends and the outings together, in which we compete to bring things to taste while exchanging opinions, remain among the best memories .