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Interview with Enrico Bernardo

Best Sommelier of the World 2004

 Enrico Bernardo

Enrico Bernardo first became enamoured with wine as he sipped his first glass, even before he knew about wine’s infinite culture or the many encounters he would make while travelling across vineyards.

After studying at Milan’s hotel school, he spent twenty-five years working in the restaurant industry at the highest level: first in the kitchen with the Troisgros family, then as Head Sommelier of the Cinq, restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel Georges V in Paris. He opened four restaurants Michelin-starred venues, Il Vino (in Paris and in Courchevel) Goust, also located in the City of Light and La Villa Madie in Cassis.

Enrico Bernardo was elected Italy’s Master of Port at 19 years old, he was named Lombardy's then Italy’s Best Sommelier when he was 20, Europe’s Best Sommelier when he was 25, and was crowned Best Sommelier of the World at the age of 27, in 2004, becoming the youngest person to be awarded such title in the history of four championships.

He also has authored several books on wine and has partnered as glass designer with the House of Puiforcat and Zwiesel 1872.

In 2017, he set himself a new challenge as he embarked on a four-year long world tour of vineyards, which allowed him to ultimately enhance his skills. Through this long journey he was able to experience and gain an even deeper understanding of the identity of wine, with all its former and new players, thanks to the exchanges and encounters he made. His experience is recounted in his latest book La sagesse du vin – Flammarion 2021 that will be presented at the Umea Food Symposium in Sweden.

This book stems from Enrico Bernardo's desire to make people discover the beauty of the terroirs and to share his experiences and his knowledge of wine with enthusiasts from all over the world. Just as there are no limits to the quality of wine, nor are there borders for those who know how to appreciate it.


1. What did becoming the Best Sommelier of the World mean to you?

I was 27 years old, became Best Sommelier of the world meant for me a great satisfaction, I studied and worked very hard for 10 years to achieve this result, so of course I was very happy. First of all, winning the title was a recognition of the work done. Secondly, it gave me the energy and the drive to continue working in my chosen profession. The possibility of representing a profession in the world, therefore the desire grows. The victory for me, did not constitute a point of arrival but on the contrary a real new starting point. The relationship with customers, with the wine producers, with the personnel has been a challenge in constant evolution.

2. How do you see the competition today, compared to 2004?

If I consider the three competitions following my victory in 2004, , I think that the competition and the situation has not changed much, because the 3 following candidates that won the title, were already participating when I won in 2004. Subsequently, there was a generational change, new young people, with big motivation, this is extremely important. The standing of the competition is always very high and a great opportunity for sommeliers from all over the world to compete and to have a chance to compare with other colleagues. I see very positively that there are new young sommeliers, with high motivation keeping going around the world.

3. How would you describe modern sommellerie?
    What fundamentals and differences do you see?

If we analyse the study and the way to be prepare on the profession, it is certainly easier today to study. Finding information on wines, production region, wine producers is really easier today, therefore you save a lot of time for better study. On the other hand, today the sommelier face the responsibility of being well prepared, he need to know more and more, he has to be precise in his explanation or suggestion to the client, because customers are much more prepared than before.

Travelling is easier today so another good aspect is to have the possibility to visit and test wine on side, with the producer. This experience gives an extra point and increases the knowledge of the sommelier and consequently his capacity to well suggest the client at the restaurant. The market of wine today is much more accessible to everybody and in different way, so the sommelier has to improve his commercial skill, and his capacity of find an extra value for the client.


4. BONUS: your favorite food and wine pairing?

I love food and wine, so to choose one is difficult. For this occasion I would like to remain in Italy, I choose: tajarin home made pasta with Alba white truffle pairing with a nice 10 years old Barolo.

Interview by Sandy Bénard-Ravoisier / Photo : Bernardowine