Interview with a Local Sommelier: Simone Varrassi

By October 22, 2015 Blog No Comments

This Thursday, 25 October, we’ll be launching our latest “Local Sommelier” special; an organic Morellino di Scansano from boutique Italian winery Poggio Nibbiale.

This time around, our special comes recommended by Shanghai-based sommelier Simone Varrassi.

We had a had a short chat with Simone about what he thinks makes this wine so particularly special, the unique story of the Poggio Nibbiale winery and how being a sommelier has changed the way he appreciates a bottle.

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BottlesXO: First off, why did you choose this wine for Shanghai?

Simone Varrassi: Some of the greatest wines in Italy come from Tuscany. It is well known abroad and has a very strong reputation all over the world. At the same time I wanted to make sure I was providing something very special and also offering customers a great price.

Morellino di Scansano is produced just a few kilometers from the Brunello area, one of the most famous wines in the world. The quality level is the same as that of its neighbor, but the price range is very different because the area isn’t known.

This wine is 100% certified organic, and I thought that Shanghai was now ready for this kind of wine. In recent years the culture and knowledge of wine has been increasing tremendously and people have started selecting wines more because of quality then because of their name. The trend for organic wines started a few years ago and I thought it might be the right time to introduce this wine to the Shanghainese market.

 

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BXO: Can you tell us more about the wine?

Simone: This organic wine is a DOCG, meaning it is under the strict control of the Italian government for what concerns the selection of grapes, the production and the volume of wine that can be bottled.

The harvest is done by hand during the night to keep the grapes at the right temperature and avoid an early fermentation. The wine stays in 2-year-old medium toasted French barrels for a minimum of 6 months before being filled in to bottles. It stays there for at least 6 more months before going on sale.

When pouring it into the glass you might want to wait for a while in order to allow the release of all the aromas that have been captured during the production process. It opens a red berry, leather and ink nose which recalls the Sangiovese grape and oak. The body of the wine is full and it gives you an immediate warm and dry mouth thanks to its strong tannins and the 14% alcohol.

BXO: What’s your background in wine?

Simone: I graduated in Business and Economics from an Italian university and started working in the wine industry right after my diploma. To be honest, my passion for wine was something that started years before when I decided to enroll in the AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) professional sommelier course.

In Italy wine is such a common and everyday product that you normally start getting in touch with it at a very young age. I wanted not only to enjoy wine as a generic product, but also to understand it while drinking it. This is why I became interested in the sommelier world.

I must say it completely changed the way I look at and the way I feel a glass of wine.

Thinking of all the years that the wine has spent inside a tiny bottle, and then finally opening it and releasing all of its aromas and unique flavors, makes me be enthusiastic about it. After working for 5 years as export manager at a winery in Italy and selling a portfolio of 27 wines to North America, Europe and Asia, I helped with the set-up of a market development project in China.

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BXO: Where can we find your wines in Shanghai?

Simone: I always provide my wines to private and special customers, wine shops, restaurants and distributors, but only for exclusive functions, events and parties. So only in selected and very secret places!

BXO: Finally, can you tell us more about the winery?

Simone: The winery is located on top of one of the endless hills in Tuscany. It’s exactly in front of the Isola d’Elba, and even being far from the sea, you can see the entire coast on clear days.

Niko and Elke Buchheim, a German couple, bought the land and the house in the early eighties. They then started planting the first vine rows from the top of the hill, to the bottom. It started as a hobby, making some wine for friends, but it rapidly became much more. By the end of the eighties they had built what would soon become their cellar.

Over the years, the vineyards reached a size of 11 hectares and in the late nineties the family decided to turn their passion into a business. So, in 1998, the official name of Poggio Nibbiale was given to the winery and its wine started to be sold on the market in Italy.

Poggio means “small hill” and Nibbiale comes from “nibbio”, which is a typical bird populating the vineyards in the area. The winery currently produces around 100,000 bottles per year and continues to keep its production methods and selection, very traditional. The biggest market for the company is Germany, but its wines have gained space in many other European countries as well as USA.

Want to try our new Morellino di Scansano for yourselves? Click here to download our app and start ordering.

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