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Confessions of a sommelier: Stefano Petta

Decanter talks to sommelier Stefano Petta about Swiss wines and lessons he's learned over his career. As published in Decanter's January 2013 issue.

Stefano Petta is sommelier at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern, Bahnhofplatz 11 3001 Bern, Switzerland Tel: +41 (0)31 326 80 80; schweizerhof-bern.ch

What’s your earliest wine memory?
A Valpolicella Classico, out of my grandfather’s glass, at the age of six.

What was the wine that got you serious about wine?
Bibi Graetz’s Testamatta from Tuscany. It’s a very powerful Sangiovese with incredible density. It was the first time I tasted perfection – I can still remember it. The label is also unique – Bibi is the artist.

Since then, what’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk?
Domaine Olivier Bernstein’s Les Champeaux 1er cru from Gevrey-Chambertin.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on the job?
A very confident customer wanted to impress. He ordered Roero Arneis from Piedmont. I brought the bottle and he started laughing at me: ‘…and why are you serving the red wine in an ice bucket?’ He was very embarrassed to discover it was a white wine that he had ordered.

… and your biggest faux pas?
While decanting a Château Montrose 2001 over a candle, the label caught fire.

Have you ever served anyone famous?
The F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher. I served him 1993 Roederer Cristal Champagne as an aperitif.

What’s the hardest food and wine match?
Blue lobster ravioli. I chose white Châteauneuf-du-Pape: very elegant, to marry the power of the lobster.

What’s the most annoying customer habit?
People who won’t try new things.

What do you buy for yourself?
Swiss wines. A favourite producer is Gantenbein in Fläsch. I was one of the lucky few to get some of Thomas Studach’s Completer – from some of the oldest vines in Europe. Also Clerc Bamert’s Sonnenrain Scheurebe.

What’s the most valuable wine lesson you’ve learned?
Having wine without food just for the love of it. It widens your horizons and keeps your palate fit.

Written by Decanter

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