MEET OUR HEAD SOMMELIER, GIOVANNI FERLITOGiovanni Ferlito, the Head Sommelier at The Ritz London, recently relaunched the hotel’s wine list, which now features approximately 800 wines. We wanted to discover what motivated him to become a sommelier and the inspiration behind his new wine selection for The Ritz.
Giovanni has been Head Sommelier at the five star hotel, The Ritz London for over 18 months. His French and Italian background gave him the passion for authentic food and fine wine.
Giovanni started his career in 2004 in Italy as a barman but his devotion to wines made him want to become a sommelier. After attending the AIS (Italian Sommelier Association) wine course in 2009 he decided to move to London for a new challenge. Experiencing some of the top venues in Mayfair after four years he then joined The Ritz in 2014.
The job of the Head Sommelier at The Ritz is very varied and ranges from organising the vast wine cellar to ensure the correct quantities and vintages are in stock as well as managing and training his team of six sommeliers. Giovanni’s first project at The Ritz was to maximise the space in the cellar in order to expand the wine list significantly. Giovanni felt there were key wine countries missing from Le Livre Du Vin, and needed representation, so he made it his mission to develop the existing wine list. He spent a year re-organizing and clearing the cellar to make room for the 150 new wines he wanted to add to the wine list. The relaunched Livre du Vin now includes listings from other important wine regions across the globe such as Languedoc, Jura, South West France, Corsica and Central and Southern Italy, Portugal, Georgia, Slovakia, Greece, as well as some new world wines from the regions of Washington and Oregon in the US to complement the existing list which focused on traditional wine areas such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. Giovanni has added a selection of orange wines which is a cutting edge addition to the traditional wine list. Orange wine has a bright amber hue as it is made using a different technique. Normally white wine is made from fermented grape juice but the skins of the grape are discarded. However, orange wine is fermented with the skins so the grape juice takes the colour and the tannins during the maceration. Orange wines are fashionable at the moment but in reality in Georgia that is the traditional winemaking method which is the oldest wine making technique in the world.
When Executive Chef, John Williams, MBE creates a new dish Giovanni studies the philosophy of the dish, he tastes it to understand its components. His job is to select a wine that will lift the flavours of the main ingredients without overpowering them. He has to find the right balance between the dish and the wine; if it is delicate scallops or salmon then he selects a wine with a good acidity but a subtle taste. It is also important that the ingredients of the dish also match the aroma and flavours of the wine.
A very important part of Giovanni’s job is to travel to the wine regions to meet the producers and understand the terroir. Giovanni is able to visit key Champagne Houses to experience behind the scenes and understand the pivotal role of the Cellar Master. He has also travelled to South Africa, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Hungary to discover new wines.
Giovanni has selected his three favourite dishes from our menu and suggested his wines to accompany them.
• LANGOUSTINE, Celery and Lovage
2009 Nuits-Saint-Georges Blanc, Philippe Pacalet Burgundy, France
• LOIN OF LAMB, Cous Cous, Aubergine and Black Garlic
2012 Barbaresco, Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
• VANILLA MOUSSELINE, Blood Orange and Grand Marnier Ice Cream
2008 Vin de Constance, Klein Constantia Costantia, South Africa
Giovanni is excited by the growth in English sparkling wines and he thinks these will be the next trend in the wine world, due to the number of international wine awards they are receiving. Next time you visit The Ritz Restaurant, Giovanni and his team will be more than happy to share their passion with you and take you on a journey of discovery around the world of wines.