A Close Up Of Some Leaves

On the Vine

FESTIVE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM TUSCANY

Conversation 4 minute read

This festive season, enjoy insider recommendations on Italian wines from Annarubina Cateni, our sommelier at Castello del Nero in Tuscany.

A Pair Of Glasses And A Lamp

Ever since our mixologists made a name for London’s Met Bar in the 1990s, we’ve put more than a dash of innovation into our COMO drinks. You can taste the difference, from our healthy COMO Shambhala juices, to our Bhutanese whiskies served ‘on the rocks’. Annarubina Cateni, 23, is one of the youngest sommeliers in Italy, heading up a one-star Michelin restaurant – La Torre at COMO Castello del Nero  – in the heart of the Chianti region. She also holds a degree in Cultural Heritage from the University of Siena, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in History of Art. We speak to Anna about her unusual entry into the world of wine, and how you can enjoy Italian wine whether you’re an amateur or connoisseur. 

How did you get started as a sommelier?

I was born in Tuscany, in the Chianti Classico area, so I grew up amongst vineyards. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated about this red juice swirling in the glass and the friendly atmosphere it creates between people. When I was eight years old, I attended a wine tasting with my parents. I asked them if I could smell the wine and then I just started to describe what I was feeling. There were some wine journalists at the event who overheard and were surprised at my analysis. They suggested that I should attend a sommelier course when I was of age.

That was the beginning of my journey. Once I turned 18, I began a sommelier course in Colle Val d'Elsa with FISAR (Italian Federation of Sommeliers Hotels & Restaurants), graduating in February 2019.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of becoming a sommelier?

Trying to remember the different kinds of classification of all the grapes and different terroir of the world – that was difficult, but also fun! In the beginning, I was very shy because I was the youngest student; on average, the others were 15 years older than me. However, we found great camaraderie and had a lot of fun during lessons, visiting wineries and the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona, which is the most important annual wine fair in Italy.

A Tree With A Bunch Of Grapes From It

I attended a wine tasting with my parents. I asked them if I could smell the wine and then I just started to describe what I was feeling. There were some wine journalists at the event who overheard and were surprised at my analysis.

A Couple Of People Sitting At A Table With Wine Bottles And Glasses

The festive season is almost upon us. What do you recommend we drink?

With traditional turkey feasts, I suggest a full-bodied red wine, smooth but at the same time with good acidity and not so high in tannins. Perhaps a Nebbiolo wine from the hills of Langhe in Piemonte. My wine of choice is the Sperss 2011 from Gaja. Christmas time gives us some great  opportunities for pairings thanks to various creative recipes.

The typical Italian aperitivo of potato chips, olives, Parmesan cheese, and quiches with vegetables work perfectly with a sparkling wine. My choice would be the Franciacorta Riserva DOCG Quintessence Extra Brut from Antica Fratta, which is characterised by bread and vanilla notes that gently hold your nose, the same way the ‘perlage’ or effervescence does in your mouth. 

The unmissable Christmas Tuscan dish is Lasagna made with ‘besciamella’ (bechamel) and meat sauce. This is delicious when matched with a bodied and classy Sangiovese. In my mind, the Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione San Lorenzo 2015 from Castello di Ama has the perfect level of tannins balanced by the alcoholic notes that help the main flavour of cherry and plum, mixed with tobacco and leather in the long aftertaste.

A Table With Plates And Glasses Of Wine

What about dessert?

I'm glad you asked. Italian houses are usually full of local sweets and pastries like panettone, pandoro, panforte, cavallucci, ricciarelli, cantuccini, and panpepato, so we’re also used to pairing them with sweet wines like Vin Santo and Colli Euganei Fior d’arancio sparkling. And finally, for New Year’s Eve, I’d suggest pairing spaghetti with seafood and a Costa d’Amalfi DOC Furore Fiorduva — a lovely, gold wine with apricot, broom and exotic fruit aroma, which reveals a long aftertaste that ends with candied fruit.

If you like to follow Italian traditions, at midnight we eat ‘cotechino’ sausage and lentils as an auspicious beginning for the new year. This goes wonderfully with a gently sparkling dry red wine such as a Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna. The Pruno Nero Lambrusco from Modena Dry 2021 Cleto Chiarli Tenute Agricol would be my choice.

You must have tasted many wines in your profession. Do you have a favourite?

My favourite wine is from the Chianti Classico area but it is not a Sangiovese. In fact, it’s a 100 per cent Merlot called L’Apparita and is produced in Gaiole by Castello di Ama. The name of the wine refers to the fact that on sunny days, the city of Siena shimmers in the landscape like an apparition. In my opinion this is a very elegant expression of Merlot that at the same time respects and brings out the characteristics of its terroir, where the soil is rich with clay.

A Person Standing In A Field Of Plants
A Landscape With Trees And Grass
Luca Ribezzo Et Al. Looking At A Menu
A Man And Woman Holding A Glass Of Wine
Wine Glasses And Bottles On A Table

COMO Castello del Nero is the perfect base for you to discover the wines of the Chianti region. Book a wine tasting experience with Anna, or ask our concierge about our wine tours.

W. COMO Castello del Nero   |   E. castellodelnero@comohotels.com   |   T. +39-055-806470