Alessandro Giani is the head sommelier at Angler, a Michelin-starred fish restaurant in London which is part of the D&D group. Originally from Campania, Giani grew up around food and wine and throughout his 10 year career in hospitality, has spent time working as a chef, front of house manager and a sommelier. In 2011 he moved to the UK to join the Swan Company at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, before joining the Angler, under the guidance of the then head sommelier Benoit Allauzen, in 2015.
What or who inspired you to become a sommelier?
It was after a series of wine tasting events that everything made sense to me, and I decided to embrace this path. Not long after that, I was fortunate enough to work with Benoit Allauzen, the previous head sommelier at Angler, and that was the moment I really understood that I wanted to become a sommelier.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Interacting with my colleagues and guests, and sharing my knowledge and passion. My wine experience is like a journey and I enjoy meeting people along the way.
What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?
Drinking during service – this most certainly doesn’t happen!
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
An ice-cold beer.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
I dropped four flutes of Champagne on a guest while they were having dinner – I felt like I wanted to disappear from the room.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a sommelier, what would it be?
Travel much more and explore more vineyards in different countries.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
When I was younger we would have a big family roast dinner every Sunday, which I would wait for excitedly each week! My uncle would send me to pick up the wine from the family cellar and make me read the information on the label of each bottle, then I would be allowed to enjoy a glass or two.
I still remember discovering the richness in flavours of these full-bodied wines, with firm tannins and high acidity, mostly local, from Aglianico, perfectly matching with the rich style of the southern Italian cuisine my grandmother would cook.
What to date has been your most memorable wine experience?
In the city of Porto, I had lunch at the Graham’s Port Lodge, and tasted the “Ne Oublie”, a very rare and old port that dates back to 1882, accompanied by blue cheese and quince. It felt like time stopped while I enjoyed the spectacular view over the city of Porto and the Douro river in the September sun.
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
If you look through the wine list with dirty hands.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
My grandfather – he is the one who inspired me to pursue a career in hospitality.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Salted anchovies from Cetara on the Amalfi Coast in Italy served on a warm bruschetta bread with Normandy butter, paired with a refreshing sparkling wine. A wonderful appetizer, that matches perfectly with Champagne, such as the 2008 Sanger Triangle Minéral Blanc de Blancs or a more local choice like an Asprinio d’Aversa Brut.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
In a biosphere – an artificial structure enclosing a self-contained ecosystem, potentially on a space station or on another planet.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing and why?
I think I would be a music producer because I love music.
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
I am still a bit skeptical about orange wines.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?
Our general manager Susanne Traudt at her wedding. I had the honour to organise the wine pairings and to enjoy an unforgettable day.
What makes you most proud to be a sommelier working in London?
To live and work in one of the greatest cities in the world and the wine tasting capital. To be part of a dynamic company like D&D and to offer such an incredible experience to our guests.
What’s on your wine bucket list?
I would love to go back to Italy, to make my own wine with my family.
Finally, what wine and paired plate would you pick from your list and why?
Cornish mackerel tartare, a signature dish by executive chef Gary Foulkes, paired with the 2018 Rivaner, Clos des Eglantiers, Mathis Bastian from Luxembourg, a lively and mineral refreshing white wine with balanced acidity, delicate grapefruit aromas and a slight off-dry finish.
The pairing enhances crisp, citrus and green apple notes, brightening the dish and perfectly matching with the creaminess of the diced raw mackerel.