Interview with the Sommelier of our Luxury Lucca Villa Cooking Vacation

A meal in Tuscany isn’t complete without a glass of wine, and no one knows that better than Larisa, a sommelier. She, along with her chef husband, run our new wine and culinary vacation, Luxury Lucca Villa Cooking. During a stay with them in a historic villa just outside Lucca’s city walls, you’ll learn how to make traditional Tuscan dishes and how to pair those dishes with wine. In this interview, Larisa shares a bit about why she became a sommelier, and why she thinks wine is an integral part of any meal.

A sommelier in TuscanyHow did you first become interested in turning wine into a career?
I decide to transform wine into a career while volunteering. At the time I didn’t know that is what I was going to do. When I was 23, a good friend of ours that was a Master Sommelier saw me interested and suggested me to follow the Sommelier course to find answer to all my questions regarding wines!

Please explain the process of becoming a sommelier. Where did you learn about wines?
The process to became a Sommelier is to follow a 3 levels course divided into theoretical lessons, didactically visits to the wineries and many, many tastings. The first level is dedicated to arguments as viticulture and oenology, the technique of wine tasting and service that are the bases of the Sommelier profession.

The second level: explore the world of wine bringing special knowledge on the Italian production of wine and worldwide, too. Basic knowledge also on beers, whiskey and liquors. And improving the wine tasting through sensorial exams.

The third level: deal with the technique of food tasting and above all the wine-food pairing. A qualifying examination at the end of 3rd level gives the title of Sommelier. I participate to all 3 levels here in Lucca (Tuscany) during 2004, 2005, and 2006. In this last year I obtained also the title of Sommelier.

A food and wine pairingWhat is your favorite wine in general? Favorite wine produced in Tuscany?
My favorite wine in general is dry, non-aromatic and possible with grapes cultivated in cooler climates. What I taste depends where am I in that moment, with who and what I eat. My favorite wine in Tuscany is a Chianti Classico Riserva, Barone Ricasoli.

What do you teach your guests about wines, and food and wine pairings during your culinary vacation in Lucca?
What usually happens during a wine tasting with my guests is a re-education of the senses and learning to be aware of them. We do this through an evaluation of different types of wines using our senses: sight, olfact and taste. Once we understand what a glass of wine has to offer in terms of sugars, alcohols, acidity, tannins and minerals, and also the bouquet we can pair with local dishes.

We have a perfect pairing when our mouth is clean and balanced and the wine sensation don’t cover the food sensations or vice versa. We can make pairings using the principle of concordance – sweet wines goes with desserts or the principle of contrast- for example if a wine is too dry and tannic we pair it with food with a good level of fat and tendency to sweat as a salami.

Why do you think it’s important to understand the flavors of wine?
Is important to understand the flavors of wine to enjoy better our wine and gastronomic adventures and day by day life. And to be able to get the most of it!! A life time is not enough to taste all the wines in the world or at least all different varieties of grapes, But we should be aware of the one that we have the opportunity to taste because wines represents different cultures, territories and people!

Anything else you’d like to share with clients of The International Kitchen?
“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine!” “The water divides people, the wine keeps them together.” “Never open an important bottle of wine by yourself!

Experience Lucca, and learn about Tuscany wines – and more – during one of our newest programs, Luxury Lucca Villa Cooking. In addition to four wine tastings, this trip includes 7 nights of accommodations, five cooking classes, and excursions throughout Tuscany.

By Liz Hall

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