Every bottle of wine is like a time capsule and Italian sommelier Giorgia Scaramella loves nothing more than uncorking a wine's history and sharing it with her clients at Marc Fosh's restaurant in Palma.
Giorgia was born and raised in one of Italy's most famous wine regions; wine is in her blood. Her home town of Friuli, in northeast Italy, ranks among the best for producers of white wines, but curiously so. Friuli recently made the top ten most coveted Italian red wines. This was thanks to winemaker Enzo Pontoni from winery Miani with the local red variety Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. She admits that she loves nothing more than a full-bodied and well-structured red wine, whatever the season, hot or cold.
Friuli is divided in as many as ten DOC and four DOCG areas that grow some thirty different wine varieties, often in small quantities, and this is one of the many things she loves about Majorca.
"I quite simply grew up surrounded by vineyards and the whole culture of wine and became fascinated with the world of wines; it became my passion. While I was studying Classics, Latin and Greek at university, I used my spare time to study wine. I have continued until today and will carry on because one can never stop learning about wines; there is always something new out there.
"My first proper qualification and training was from the Italian National Wine Tasters Organisation and I then began working as an air hostess, which enabled me to combine my love for travel with furthering my wine studies. I graduated in a number of courses at mounting levels at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London, which is highly respected by the world’s most recognised drinks organisations. I have a Masters in Sherry tasting from Jerez and I am now preparing to take my Sommelier Masters, the highest qualification, as well as attend a very unique and select course on Cava tasting in Catalonia."
However, despite her Italian background, a chance visit to Palma while working as an air hostess some six years ago opened up a whole new adventure for Giorgia.
"I had never been to Palma before but I immediately fell in love with the city and the island so I decided to move here. I immediately began working in the hostelry sector, it was easy for me to find quick work in the sector with my experience. Three years ago, while continuing with my wine, business and marketing studies, I began working with Marc Fosh when he had the Fosh Laboratory. We were a small, experienced and experimental team so I was working front and back of house and that is when all my studies and training as a sommelier really came to fruition.
"Since then I have been able to seriously expand my knowledge of local, Spanish and international wines, spirits, beers and non-alcoholic drinks. While it may be a global industry, it is extremely complex and diverse, especially here in Majorca, which has a deep-rooted wine history that dates back to when the Phoenicians were here, or even earlier. Plus, the Majorcan wine industry is booming.
"It has grown and expanded so much just during the six years I've been on the island and it's a very exciting time for Majorcan wines; in fact wines on all of the islands.
"Apart from Majorca's famous vineyards which dominate the market, both domestically and overseas, there are so many new vineyards being opened. There is a massive amount of foreign investment being ploughed into local wine production with the emphasis being very much on local grapes and reviving grapes which have nearly become extinct. Wines which have not been produced for decades are now being made again, while there are some experimental small vineyards around the island producing new and innovative wines with local grapes.
"There is an increasing number of vineyards which are not only using traditional methods but also championing ecological methods by opting against using additives, etc. Majorcan wines have changed, especially red; they are not as heavily structured with a high alcohol content as they used to be. Vineyards, especially those which are well known overseas, have adapted to the changing market and demands of wine drinkers. People are more health conscious now when it comes to food and alcohol. Producers have to take this into account, as do chefs and sommeliers.
"On the whole, people are drinking less wine. Consumption has fallen by a third over the past ten years, but it is of a better quality. There has been a swing away from strong heavy wines to lighter refreshing ones, be they red, white, rosé or sparkling. So, vineyards across the Balearics and mainland Spain have adapted to the changing market, and an increasing number of good vineyards means that the competition gets tougher and that benefits the industry and the client.
"Obviously, because of the geography of Majorca, the amount of wine which can be produced is limited, but when one looks at the number of international award-winning wines which are produced here, it is very impressive.
"Every bottle of wine has a story and that is what I love to share with my clients. One has to take into account that from the moment someone planted the vine, various people over the years have tended to it, harvested the grapes, taken those grapes through the process from vine to the bottle and then finally to the table, be it in a restaurant or at home. And every year, no wine is the same.
"One has to factor in the effects of climate change, for example. Unexpected heavy rains or droughts can wipe out a harvest. For small producers, this can be very costly and damaging, These are all the facets which fascinate me about the whole industry, not to mention discovering new wines and vineyards, especially here in Majorca.
"Choosing or selecting a wine is very subjective, each one has a different palate. The old saying about red wine is best with meat and white with fish is rubbish. Have you ever tried a Jerez sherry with meat, for example? They make a delicious partnership.
"One also has to take into account that a certain type of wine may have been used as an ingredient, so that also has to be considered when recommending a wine. But at times wines spark wonderful discussions. At a Michelin Star restaurant like Marc's, the clients tend to have a relatively good knowledge of wines, not to mention food, and some come with a good idea of which kind of wine they would like. However, and it is one of the things I love most about my job, I try and introduce clients to a different wine. Lead them on an unexpected culinary journey which they will always remember."