General manager and wine director at Auckland’s contemporary Italian restaurant and bar Andiamo, Francesco Albano spoke to WFW about his Italian background and love for the wine regions Veneto and Tuscany, the challenges of being a sommelier in New Zealand, organic wines Down Under, and much more in our recent interview.

What is your favorite part about being a sommelier? What do you think are the most challenging parts that customers aren’t aware of?

My favorite part of being a sommelier is that I get to try new wines and understand how the winemaker makes the product; all of them use a different style and method, which depends on the area they come from, and the grape variety. One of the challenging parts that customers aren’t aware of is getting the customer to try something different to what they usually have. It’s really hard, especially in New Zealand, to get them to try something new, so part of my job is to ensure they understand how many fantastic choices a person can have with wines, even if all of us have a different palate. 

What countries or regions inspire you, and why? Are there any up and coming regions you find influential?

I’m Italian so I really love Italian wine, especially wine from Veneto and Tuscany. It’s amazing to see how they make their wine. Many are small family business, and those are my favorite, because they put love into everything they do and in the end it makes the difference in the final product.

What is your go-to bottle of celebratory sparkling wine/Champagne?

Dom Pérignon forever.

What are the fundamental elements to an award-winning wine list?

I think a great wine list is one that finds a balance between personality and pair-ability. We also have to remember the seasons, as seasonality is not just for food. The most important thing is that every sommelier or wine director should put “love and passion” [into their work].

What wine trends did you see in 2016? Did you discover anything new, personally or tendencies of your customers?

In 2016 I saw lots of people interested in organic wine. Organic wine I think will be the future.

What trends do you anticipate for 2017?

As I mentioned before; organic wine will be the best option for most customers.

Which wines did you enjoy during the winter and cooler months?

In winter I really enjoy full body red. My favorite wine is the Amarone costasera, made in the Valpolicella in Veneto. It’s made with three different grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara; to make this particular Valpolicella they use 100% semi-dry grapes. The result is aromas of black fruits, and palate featuring coffee and chocolate.

What do the WFW Wine List Awards mean to you? How has it affected you and your establishment?

The wine awards are a good thing to show to our customers; it shows how professional we can be and is good marketing for our business.