To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts deciding this year's best wines.
Italian-born and based in Switzerland, Paolo Basso has worked in hospitality for over 20 years. Read about his life as a sommelier in this interview.
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in Lugano, Switzerland and I have my own wine consulting company, Ceresio Vini. I also still work in a restaurant: Conca Bella in Vacallo, Switzerland.
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
After the hotel management school I was seduced by the complexity of wine, and so my interests turned towards wine and I became sommelier. This was about 20 years ago.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a Sommelier?
Once I poured a sip of wine for a customer in order to let him taste the wine and he said to me: “I’m here to eat, and to drink a good wine, not to taste it. Tasting is your job, not mine. I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate a wine, so please taste the wine for me and if you consider that it is fine, serve it and I will drink it. I pay to have this kind of service!”
This was a great lesson! The sommelier tastes the wine and the customer drinks it!
What are your most memorable wine moments?
It was thirteen years ago, when I opened an 18 litre bottle of red wine during my wedding dinner.
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention?
As always in a sommelier role: pay attention to high quality, value-for-money wines.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
As I’m always learning, I taste wines from all over the world even if I live in a wine growing region (Ticino in southern Switzerland), where responsible wine consumption during meals is part of our lifestyle and culture.
What’s your desert island wine?
Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, Tuscany, 2004. In this wine you have all you need on a desert island.
What single piece of advice do you have for people just starting out in wine?
Learn to taste wine well, because behind a bottle of wine there is a year of hard work in the vineyard and the cellar.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Good intensity, supported by balance and harmony, and a long finish.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I look forward to tasting a lot of wines with character and personality, which give real pleasure when drinking them.
Written by Decanter.com