One of the great things about the wine industry is that you hear a lot of interesting stories about people: what they do, why they do it, how they got to where they are now. True, some are more interesting than others and hopefully mine will fall into the former category rather than the latter (at least eventually), but if you want to know more about the origins of the JollyCellarMaster, this is where you start and you’ll have to read what I’ve to tell, so you only have you’re self to blame.
But seriously, I sometimes look back and think that it’s a bit tragic that I was born just that little bit too far from the famous wine producing regions of Germany, considering that I now bang on about how great wine is. You see, the Rheingau is a mere 70 km (or approximately 40 miles) away from my hometown, which always seemed to be deeply situated in beer country. Where I’m from, people drink beer. Or cider. You see we are more influenced by the Hassian Äppelwoi tradition (which is dialect for apple wine) with its capital Frankfurt though where I’m from we make pretty decent stuff, too. Unlike other kinds of cider you’d come across elsewhere -the French cidre, for example – the one from our parts, however, has a lot of acidity, so you need to build a stomach for it or be born with one, I suppose, because in combination with the local cuisine like hot cured cutlet with sauerkraut, it can cause a bit of reflux.
So, how did I get into wine? I sure was always interested in history and geography, so during adolescence I was intrigued by drinking Bordeaux (probably the cheap stuff but still) that came from a different country where they spoke a different language and so on, but still I found myself in a different cultural setting so I didn’t get here in a straight line. I’ve done a couple of things in my life and been in a few places, too. And there really have been some great places I’ve lived at: I lived and studied law (apologies) at the pinnacle of Italian culinary traditions in Parma (more apologies, now to the other culinarily amazing places in Italy), I worked in Milan, trained as lawyer for two years in Alsace on both sides of the border, and lived and worked in New York and London in finance (by now you will have lost all respect for me), two cities where they probably drink more fine wine than elsewhere. Yet, I have to admit that wine-wise I did not make the most of these stints and only back again in Italy (Milan again and Bolzano in South Tyrol aka Alto Adige, which I call home now) did I get serious about channeling this curiosity that has accompanied me all these years.
Yes, during all this time, I’ve been drinking wine with a great passion and curiosity. After all, what’s not love? There are so many reasons to fall in love with wine, aren’t there? It’s not just the taste – at least in most cases (no pun intended) – but the places a bottle takes you to. Wine is mostly produced in wonderful areas that in itself would be worth visiting. Just think of the rolling hills of Tuscany, the lavender fields or the steep Rhine Valley with the Lorelei are visited in a normal year by heaps of tourists. And now I live in the far-northeast of Italy in a region of South Tyrol, which, as you may know, produces some excellent white wine (and some red ones, too), but is more known for the surrounding picturesque Dolomite mountains. Thus, if you let it, a bottle of wine could take your mind to these distant places and share a tiny bit of its origin with you, but not until you start studying wine with seriously (which does not exclude the fun, of course – another reason to love wine as it even makes studying interesting), do you understand how little you actually know despite all what you thought you did.
That’s how I became a sommelier with the state-approved diploma according to the guidelines of the AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) in Italy and once I started, I couldn’t stop. We’ll get to the next steps on the educational ladder at a later stage, but just to give you an idea why I’m so intrigued by the learning curve. And then there are the other things that I’m interested in or know a thing or two about from professional experience like the regulation and economics or technological innovation and how it might impact the world of wine. And lastly there is, of course, the history, the different cultures, the languages. Wine truly is an amazing topic and now you probably understand why I read, write and talk about it so passionately. And that’s why I started the JollyCellarMaster because in the end it’s all about the passion we share for this wonderful liquid, isn’t it?