Meet maitre sommelier Mara Vicelli
Having grown up and studied near picturesque Lake Maggiore, Mara is a proud ambassador of Italian wines. She also been awarded the prestigious Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, for her diverse knowledge of fine wines from around the world.
How was your passion for fine wines born?
I studied at a hotel school in Stresa, to the North of Milan near Lake Maggiore, and started my first hotel job nearby. I was invited to study alongside their resident sommelier and seeing his passion and knowledge I decided to train as a sommelier myself. Even now, as a maitre sommelier, I find I’m still learning new things every day which is wonderful.
What you are most proud of at Acanto Restaurant?
We manage a carefully curated wine list, which for the past 15 years has been awarded recognition by Wine Spectator for reflecting both modern and traditional wine-growing regions. This is something I’m really passionate about. We regularly change certain wines on our list because whilst we’re proud to be a historic hotel we’re also innovative. In all, I manage a cellar of around 650 different wines, so there really is something for every taste.
What makes Italian wines so special?
Italy is the country with the most indigenous vines in the world, with 75% of the vineyard area growing 80 different vines. With so many different varieties and wineries to choose from it’s a delight to share this rich heritage and the unique stories behind them, celebrating the craftsmanship that goes into producing every single bottle that can be enjoyed here at Acanto Restaurant.
Tell us about your wine pairings
Generally we choose wines to complement chef Alessandro Buffolino’s style of cooking. However, when it comes to our specialist gourmet dinners and wine events, the starting point is the wines and our talented chef creates a bespoke menu designed specifically to enhance the wines we’ve selected for our guests to sample.
What do you like most about your job?
The most beautiful and satisfying moments are when we meet new people who, seeing our extensive wine list, seek our advice. I love that we need to quickly get to know their preferences and suggest a great wine for the menu they’ve chosen. It’s really rewarding when halfway through dinner they call you over to thank you, and sometimes to ask for another bottle because it was so delicious.
What’s your advice for choosing great wine?
My advice is to keep an open mind and to give every wine a chance. Be open to trying new things and listen to recommendations because it’s a great chance to learn something new. I also think it’s really important to get to know the stories behind the wines. Just like our guests at Acanto Restaurant, family and friends love to hear a little bit of background on what they’re drinking as it really adds to their appreciation and enjoyment, and that’s what drinking great wine is all about.
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