Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.
Roberto Della Pietra is head sommelier at Champagne restaurant and bar Tirage in London. He joined the new venture in 2013 after working as head of Gauthier Wines, the retail side of Michelin-starred London restaurant Gauthier Soho. Della Pietra began his career in hospitality in 1993 and has worked in restaurants in Italy and the UK.
Read our interview with Roberto Della Pietra below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
I’m from the 70s and loved it! I started to taste and drink wines in the second half of the 80s and I tasted some great wines, and great vintages. I guess that in the last 20 years or so there has been more consistency in vintages, better winemaking and knowledge. In the past you had great bottles only in the great vintages. Oh and my other passion is music, and what music there was between the 60s and 80s!
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
I was around 17 and working weekends for a little restaurant in my hometown in Italy. The owner opened a bottle of Mumm Crémant de Cramant.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
I have around 80 to 100 bottles, and I just added Gosset Celebris 1998 Extra Brut to my collection. I want to keep it for a few years and see its evolution.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
Specifically as a sommelier, it has been around 18 years. My first job was as a helper in the kitchen when I was around 17, as I was following in my mum’s steps (she was a chef).
☆ Which wine do you wish you’d bought a whole case of?
Sassicaia 1985 and 1988 – if I only I’d known! We were serving it in a little restaurant in Italy in about 1992 and the price on the list was around 60,000 Italian lire, which at the time would have been about £20/30€.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
Chardonnay/Pinot Noir… in bubbles. Due to the opening of Tirage, I’ve tasted a few hundred Champagnes.
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I’d say I re-discovered Champagne. The search for small growers to include in my list at Tirage was fantastic and exciting. The challenge of matching Champagne with dishes such as venison and beef is just amazing.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
I have two, their undisputed knowledge and humility is there for everyone to see: Gerard Basset MS MW and Gino Nardella.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
I’ve had many, but what really almost made me fall off my chair was an unusual and still devastating match. We tasted Salon 1996 in 2006, and matched it with an Italian dish that you would only find in little and unpretentious trattoria in the middle of nowhere. It’s rustic food at its best: vitello tonnato (slices of roasted veal served cold with a tuna sauce and capers).
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
Sassicaia 1998, with my granny Virginia in a different plane of existence (since she passed away when I was a kid). We’d drink and I’d tell her all I have accomplished in my adult life.
☆ What’s the highest number of wines you’ve had on one of your wine lists?
Very close to 1,200 when I was working at John Burton-Race at the Landmark hotel.
☆ What is the oldest bottle of wine you’ve served?
Romanée Conti 1952. The very pale colour was deceiving and I was so worried, but once opened I realised that the life and intensity in that bottle was still amazing.
☆ What do you enjoy most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
The organisation is great, and the chance to taste and exchange ideas with most of the great tasters in the world is priceless.
For more information on this year’s competition, including how to enter, visit the Decanter World Wine Awards website
Written by Decanter
Roberto Della Pietra is a judge at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).