Best sommelier in Italy in just a few months, the Venetian Gian Maria Maitan takes first place in the most important Italian FISAR competition. We had the pleasure of interviewing him and discovering his talent: here's what he told us.
How do you become the best sommelier in Italy in 5 months? Gian Maria Maitan tells us about it.
How did your passion for wine begin?
In a certain sense, I took a reverse path to the classic one. I have always been interested in the world outside Italy, which is why I have a degree in Foreign Trade. Even in wine I started from foreign oenology, which I didn't know but wanted to discover. The occasion was favored by the fact that my fiancée's parents are Argentinians, sommeliers and great travellers: I wanted to fully understand the wines I heard so much discussed.
I then started attending the course, where I found very smart friends with whom we tasted a lot, sharing a common passion: spending entire afternoons tasting Chardonnay from all over the world (from Burgundy to California, up to Sicily) is priceless.
This curiosity for the unknown is very Venetian…
Living in Veneto was certainly fundamental to my familiarity with wine: here you taste a lot and there is a very important winemaking history.
What is wine for you?
I see it as a way to discover the world , as a continuous journey, and I do it with great passion.
For example: I wanted to understand why in the southern hemisphere the wines are more fruity so I studied and did research understanding that the most important influence is given by the longer vegetative cycle; same thing for the influence of the soils, the differences in acidity.... These things fascinate me a lot.
Which wines are you most passionate about?
I'm always looking for particular wines: it excites me to have an Argentinian product in my glass, a piece of that wonderful terroir , like tasting a glass of a wine made in South Africa and discovering the Spanish production methods... I don't have a favorite wine , but I live by specific passions: for a year I only tasted sweet wines, then I moved on to French and Piedmontese reds, my last "mania" is certainly for fortified ones.
The more particular a wine is, the more it intrigues me, and I never have a monothematic approach to wine.
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How did you prepare for the exam for best sommelier in Italy?
It was all very fast. At the third level exam, last May, I was advised to try the competitions and so I did, immediately competing for the title of best sommelier in the North East, and from there I passed the national one.
Do you have a secret for winning the best sommelier competition in Italy, in just a few months?
I never thought about winning. Personally, I have always experienced wine as a continuous discovery, even going beyond the classical canons . I think this made a difference.
Then, I was able to count on a group of friends with whom I shared passion, opinions and experiences.
How was your exam in the competition?
I have a particular belief: in the food-wine pairings I used all foreign wines.
At the oral exam we started from Madeira and from there we continued discussing the Classical Methods of South Africa, to go to New Zealand, Chile, France and then to Italy, to Collio.
Especially at the end I went around the world to the sound of Sauvignon . It was nice.
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Do you have any advice for those new to the world of wine?
The way I experienced it, wine opens your mind and I advise everyone to understand it this way, breaking the mold and always trying new, even unconventional, products.
So don't always drink the usual, always try and discover new things: if on a wine list there is a Tempranillo made in an amphora who knows where I recommend trying it, understanding where they produce it and how they make it, what stylistic characteristics and particularities it has …that's the beauty of wine.