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Meet the Judges: Paolo Basso

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.

The Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 is now open for entries. Click here for more information and to enter wines into this year’s competition.

Written by Decanter.com

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