A new wine cellar with some of the most exclusive wines in the world is one of the main developments at Chezz Gerdi this season. Claudio Passiatore, its managing director, explains that his clientele is open to quality wines which is why this year he wanted to “give his bodega even greater prominence”. To do this, Chezz Gerdi has invested in a new space run by the person Passiatore considers to be “one of the best sommeliers and head waiters in the Balearic Islands”: Marco Assennato. We talk to Assennato to find out all about the new Chezz Gerdi bodega.
How did your passion for wine begin?
I studied at catering school and even then I was the ‘wine guy’. I didn’t really like being in the kitchen with the smells, the dining room never stopped, and I discovered that the sommelier was the person who talked to the diners’ tables and played a very important role. After that, I began working as a wine assistant in Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy when I was just 16 or 17 years old. I’ve been fortunate to work in London, Miami... And everything I know is thanks to what I learned in London, where I did a sommelier course. Thanks to London’s international customers, I came to Formentera in 2013 with some very solid knowledge.
How do you know which wine to recommend to each customer?
Hospitality is pure psychology. You need to know what to recommend, and what to avoid, depending on the person in front of you. How they speak, move, what they say, where they’re from... Those are all indicators that tell me what type of wine they might like.
Hospitality is pure psychology. You need to know what to recommend, and what to avoid, depending on the person in front of you
Tell us about the new wine cellar at Chezz Gerdi
We’ve made significant investment to give the customer greater importance because he or she is one who tells us what they’d like to drink. The project aims to give the wine list greater depth. Before we had 30 to 40 wines under 60 euros, and now we have 30 or 40 wines above 200 euros. But it’s not just about the price, these are exclusive, hard to find wines.
What is the wine selection process at Chezz Gerdi?
To select wines for our wine list I travel to places like London, I contact suppliers in Italy, the United States... My aim is always to find the best wines at the best price.
How many wines do you have on the wine list right now?
We’ve got 140 wines, and a further 100 in the “Chezz Gerdi wine selection”. Those are Chateaux or Italian wines that have been bottled for 30, 40, 50 or 100 years – we have 19th century wines. They’re like the “jewels of Chezz Gerdi”. Our prices are also very competitive, especially for top level wines. I’m a special expert in champagne and sparkling wines, which is why we have over 40 champagnes on the menu.
What would you say is the jewel in the crown of your wine list?
Perhaps the most prestigious bottle I have is the first harvest produced by Giacomo Conterno de Barolo, a 1937 reserve. I don’t think I’ll sell it; I’ll open it in 2037. We have other particularly special wines, like the Domaine de La Romanée-Conti, the most expensive wine in the world (it’s listed on the menu at over 20,000 euros). But I always say that, to know how to sell a Ferrari, you have to start by selling an Audi or a Mercedes. That’s why we’re currently focusing on selling Audis and Mercedes and, before too long, my aim is to have a list with the finest international wines.
How do your customers react when they go into your bodega?
I think that the world is now full of restaurants that have luxurious bodegas. When a customer enters my bodega, he or she sees the love in my eyes and the chance I offer to negotiate the best price. It’s a very personal process and helps us to win customer loyalty, although sometimes we don’t make a great profit.
What do you expect over the next few years?
I’ve got lots of wishes, but the main one is definitely to continue with this life. I’m still here thanks to Claudio, my original goal was to change course towards Michelin-starred restaurants in London or Miami... But Formentera has given me the opportunity to live freely, away from a big city, an hour from my home and meeting the best people in the world. Formentera is a place where I feel really great.