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A Sommelier's Advice on Soft Skills, Unusual Pairings, and More by Nello Gatti.

Photo for: A Sommelier's Advice on Soft Skills, Unusual Pairings, and More by Nello Gatti.

31/12/2023 "The Ambassador of Wine: A Multilingual Professional with Expertise in Hospitality, Sales, Marketing, and Management."

Meet Nello Gatti, a multilingual wine professional with extensive knowledge of hospitality and marketing. Known as "The Ambassador," Nello has an unparalleled level of communication skills and awareness of events, blending a creative mindset with new discoveries to stay current and innovative. With a proven track record in sales, marketing, and management, Nello has successfully sourced, negotiated, and closed contracts with leading trade companies. Through his connections and experience with wine events, he has contributed to major wine exhibitions and has built his reputation on trust, culture, and professionalism.

As a sommelier, what's the most important skill you think one needs to have to succeed in this industry?

First and foremost, people need to listen. Training is important as visiting wineries too, but a good professional needs to be more than a well-skilled wine expert. Counting the few good changes we had since Covid, we have to mention these soft skills getting more important and valuable in the industry. So I suggest improving yourself by taking advantage of all opportunities you cross, from tasting to sharing.

Can you describe your personal style as a sommelier? Do you have any signature techniques or approaches? 

I do prefer a more reasonable approach, merging together culture and fun facts in order to get wine matters closer. We have to keep this amazing wine World polite but inclusive, keen to all societal changes, and more connected to all types of people.

What's the most common mistake you see people make when selecting wine, and how do you help them avoid it?

People are not aware of many occasions we have to discover interesting things, thanks to the connection of wine. People are mostly attracted by brands, labels, or known regions but we have to promote wine consumption as a matter of culture and discovery. We see a lot of mistakes every day, and we also do a lot, nobody is perfect in a subject where nothing is fixed.

Nello Gatti

Image: Nello Gatti

How do you approach building a wine list for a restaurant, and what factors do you consider? 

You should match many factors, not only food pairing. Format, cuisine, service, and average client are some of them. If I'd run my own restaurant here in Italy, I'd go with 1/3 of local winegrowers made by my own research, 1/3 of national producers where to combine known and unknown grape varietals, and 1/3 from all over the World, including New World and Ancient World. At the moment, besides the confusing list made by some restaurants, I see many mistakes in the pricing, which is also vital if we want to improve consumption and brand identity.

How do you balance your personal preferences and tastes with the needs and preferences of your customers when making wine recommendations? Everyone’s taste is different, so we do care about everyone's opinion. We all have different stories and so the key is to find your own path, which would be ideally led by curiosity.

What's the most unusual or unexpected wine pairing you've ever made, and how did it turn out?

I used to travel a lot and so I love to try different cuisines. Sometimes I also try to pair it with wines and sometimes the results are not that satisfying! Anyway, we're also improving spirits, sake, beer, and water knowledge in order to get a wider overview of food pairing. Sounds strange, but an unusual pairing can be interesting (or at least funny) with a good couple of friends! 

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Can you share with us a particularly challenging food or flavor profile that you've had to pair with wine, and how you approached it?

Once I moved back to Italy from London, I was so keen to pair international cuisine with national wines. So I started with Poke, something very popular in the UK but still unknown in my Country. So we had a range of wines to try with different combos of poke and in the end, we matched a Tuna recipe with Soave Classico made by 100% Turbiana grape, what a pairing, oceans, and volcano in your mouth!

What's the biggest challenge you face when dealing with a difficult customer, and how do you handle it?

Difficult customers are like unpolite people, very hard to handle. We need to understand first if it's a matter of personality, or feeling, or if we should stay silently on our own. Our mission is to raise our costumer's feelings but it depends on both sides. One very tough situation is to deal with people who are convinced of false things, but in this case, the easiest is to say "yes Sir".

How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and innovations in the wine industry, and incorporate them into your work?

I love to attend all the exhibitions, trade, events, masterclasses, and tastings I can. I also get info from websites, podcasts, never stopping learning, and drinking. One more thing I consider vital is to improve our wine skills to other industries as everything is strictly connected and some topics such as climate change and trends are also related to other businesses. Our daily job is to faithfully represent all that we recorded, thinking about what kind of output it will have given outside of sharing your passion.

Nello Gatti

Image: Nello Gatti

What's the most valuable lesson you've learned during your time as a sommelier, and how has it influenced your work?

I've been very lucky as every day I  face different types of people, from traditional farmers to recognized entrepreneurs. What keeps me doing what I am doing are these wonderful people I have the luck to cross paths with, and I'll never forget the moment I spent with the Irpinian winemaker Luigi Tecce and the positive mind of successful restaurateur Roberto Costa. I dream to be a mix of them, with a little touch of myself... l'Ambasciatore!

Interviewed by Raveena Patel, Beverage Trade Network

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