Giampiero Cordero, 35 years old, best sommelier in Italy for the Guide of L’Espresso 2021 and already a lot of experience behind him, he is the floor manager of the family’s starred restaurant, Il Centro di Priocca, in the Roero of Arneis and Nebbiolo . He has a very specific idea of cuisine, room and territory:

«We are lucky enough to live in a piece of land kissed by Bacchus and it is useless to make distinctions, or worse still competitions, between Langhe and Roero. We simply have to tell the many facets of these hills, their diversity and riches».

How do you build a valid wine list?

«First of all, a premise: the wine list is a tool that can allow the restaurant to do very well, or weigh it down and put it in difficulty. The necessary investment is significant, for this reason it is necessary to be careful and avoid it becoming a showcase of self-satisfaction for the sommelier. The first thing to do is to establish an annual budget and not deviate from the figure. Then a careful geolocation of the place must be made: if I open a restaurant in Milan it is different from Montalcino, where priority must be given to local wines for at least 70 or 80%. Then there is the 33% rule».

What is it about?

«33% of each list must be made up of wines that must always be available. There is a part of the clientele who likes to stay in their comfort zone and looks for already known and consolidated labels. Iconic and almost habitual wines that cannot be missed, whether they are sparkling, white or great reds. Another 33% must propose a focus on the territory in which they operate, giving priority to producers with whom good collaboration is established through mutual esteem and common vision. Only the last 33% can be granted to the inspiration of the sommelier, to his creativity and desire to characterize the list. The wines must rotate, otherwise they become an anchor that weighs down».

What are the current trends?

«There are restaurants that focus on broad horizontality, others that are more vertical and focus on older vintages. In an area like the Langhe and Roero it is important to give the opportunity to drink a piece of history and you need to know how to do it. The work of the sommelier in the dining room is delicate, he must be present with discretion, giving the customer the opportunity to have fun. I believe that the right attitude is humility, necessary to never embarrass those who choose. When a relationship of trust is created, then you can be more daring. Here in Priocca, 70% of customers tell me: “Let me drink a nice bottle” and I choose based on tastes and previous experiences. Tourists and international customers are very interested in local production, while those who live here want to discover other Italian and foreign wine-growing areas».

A few months ago you turned your passion into a second job. Can you tell us about your project?

«I created a small company, Cordero Distribuzione, with which I import and distribute French wines in Italy, with a specialization on Burgundy. I have had this project in mind for some time, putting to good use the relationships and friendships I have nurtured over the years. It is an adventure that aims to please both small producers and restaurants that love to carefully select their bottles».

Any advice to those who want to take their first steps in the world of collecting, or even just have a good personal cellar?

«To those who want to try to fill a few shelves, my advice is not to start buying wines, but use the available budget to visit cellars and taste them. Only after understanding what your palate loves you can start buying your first bottles, taking care to bring home only wines that you really like. Otherwise, the risk is to leave them there to age too long. The best thing is to get to know the producers personally, because beyond the scents and flavour, every time you taste a wine you drink a territory and get close to a story made up of people».

by Roberto Fiori