Antonio Di Schiena, head sommelier at private members club Oswald’s in Mayfair, discovered his love for wine during a stint spent working at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tuscany while still at school. Since then, he has worked in London, Monaco and Ibiza before joining Oswald’s in 2017.
What or who inspired you to become a sommelier?
When I was chef de rang at Zafferano in Knightsbridge, I decided to become a Sommelier in order to improve my skills as they had an amazing cellar.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
To make people happy and to see them enjoying the wines that I suggest to them.
What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?
Some people think we are just making things up, especially in London. Nowadays there is a high demand for professional sommeliers as they improve the quality of the service and with numbers on hand, we can make a huge impact in the overall aspect of the business, with both buying and selling.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
It depends, I love to drink Champagne in good company in some fancy bar.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
I keep it for me!
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a sommelier, what would it be?
To work in the best places with the best wine lists and maybe spend one year in a top restaurant in France.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi, when I was 16 and at school I was sent to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tuscany.
What to date has been your most memorable wine experience?
I had a great time in Burgundy tasting several different crus straight from the barrels with iconic wine growers.
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
When they ask two different people the same thing.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
I have always had great mentors and managers. My uncle was F&B Director at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm and he gave me some pieces of golden advice. To study wines was one of them.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Tagliolini with white truffle paired with Barbaresco Asili Bruno Giacosa 1996.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Chianti Classico, the countryside there is second to none and I really love Siena, Sangiovese is my everyday wine. I also like the idea of making my own olive oil.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing and why?
I would be a restaurant manager or own a wine bar.
Which wine do you find it impossible to get along with?
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?
Mario Balotelli: he is so funny.
What makes you most proud to be a sommelier in London?
You have the chance to open the best wines in the world. I don’t think there is another city with a similar passion for drinking wines. In Italy, France or Spain they tend to drink mainly local wines.
What’s on your wine bucket list?
Henry Jayer Cros-Parantoux.
* Oswald’s was ranked 7th in Wine List Confidential’s 2019 guide to the best restaurants in London for wine. To see its full review, please click here.