Meet the Team: Salvatore, the Award Winning Sommelier

Meet the Team: Salvatore, the Award Winning Sommelier

Meet the Team: Salvatore, the Award Winning Sommelier

In our Meet the Team series, we spend a bit of time getting to know the exceptional people that keep Friarwood moving and help us introduce our exceptional range of wine and spirits to our trade and retail customers.

Today, we catch-up with Salvatore, one of our on-trade sales advisors and assistant wine-buyer. He’s won the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa award and has honed his skills with the best, from Sicily to London. We caught up with him before a busy day, meeting clients, tasting new wines and sharing his expertise with our Friarwood trade customers.

You’ve been with Friarwood for a number of years now – tell us a bit about what you do? What does a normal day look like for you?

My main focus is my clients. I spend my days visiting existing and new customers, discussing our new wines and their new menus and how our products align with their ambitions for their business. And actually, even more importantly, making sure they get the wines they need when they need them! In between all this, I try to fit in tastings of new wines and spirits – I’m constantly looking for new products to expand our range and work closely with the rest of the team and Aurianne (Head Buyer) to help find these.

You grew up in Sicily, and now live in London. Tell us about your career journey so far?

I’ve had a passion for culinary excellence and wine culture since I was 18 – and that’s really driven me in my relentless pursuit of wine knowledge. I started off as a waiter, and then made what felt like the natural transition to a sommelier. A deep passion for wines is undoubtedly essential as a sommelier, but equally crucial is a profound appreciation for food. Understanding the nuances of food preparation and flavour profiles is vital for suggesting the perfect wine or beverage pairing – so my start as a waiter was so important in developing my knowledge of the culinary world. That interaction between foods and wine is where sommeliers really earn their money!

You haven’t mentioned it yet, but you also won the Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa award – this must have been extremely rewarding given all your hard work and passion?

It was, and it’s definitely a massive highlight in my career. I’ve worked hard to hone my skills, collaborating with esteemed sommeliers and working in renowned establishments across the globe. To then compete against the best sommeliers in the world was an honour. My very first competition I won 2nd Best Sommelier in the UK + 3rd best in Italy which was remarkable. I got a few more second and third places, before being awarded Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa – and it was hard work and passion that got me there.

I’ve heard you speak about humility a lot – how did you keep your feet on the ground after such an incredible award?

For me, without humility, we can’t grow and learn. The win was an honour and I obviously celebrated, but the world of wine and food is vast – there’s always something else to learn and an opportunity to get better. As I often remind my fellow sommeliers, while we may not hold the responsibility of saving lives like doctors, our role is nonetheless significant. We serve as guides, assisting customers in selecting the perfect wines to complement their dining experiences, and offer a gateway into the vast world of wine. I take that very seriously and it’s my job to work hard and learn more everyday.

You’ve touched on what sommeliers do and the skills required. As someone who has worked in various top hotels and restaurants around the world, how do you see the role of sommelier evolving in today’s global hospitality scene?

The role is already changing rapidly, mirroring the changes in our society and environment. As environmental consciousness grows, I’ve noticed a shift towards sustainability in the wine industry. More than ever we need to understand not just the wine in the bottle, but the journey it’s been on to get there and the sustainability and carbon impact of these wines. There’s also the rising demand for non-alcoholic beverages, so as sommeliers we need to expand our expertise beyond traditional winemaking. Crafting non-alcoholic pairing options and curating lists of high-quality non-alcoholic products has become an essential skill for modern sommeliers. I think these two things are going to be the biggest challenges and opportunities for sommeliers over the next few years.

Talking of skills, what’s changed for you since joining Friarwood? Is there anything in particular you’ve learned?

When I joined Friarwood, I switched perspectives. I went from a sommelier buying wines for a restaurant, to an on-trade advisor selling wines to sommeliers. I am obviously also still a sommelier and my knowledge of working in high-end restaurants really helps me give knowledgeable advice when selling wines to customers, ensuring they receive the best guidance and recommendations, as well as excellent value. And as an assistant buyer, I can use my knowledge of the UK market to help us choose the best products and most exciting products to expand our ranges ensuring we remain on top of new wine trends.

I know you’ve got a busy day ahead, but one final question. If you had to pick a product or region you were most excited about introducing to our clients, what would it be?

The emergence of volcanic wines is really exciting. Etna specifically is one to watch – they have rich flavors, complexity, and distinct minerality and are gaining attention and appreciation among wine enthusiasts worldwide. There’s a definite trend towards exploration and discovery in the world of wine, with people looking for regions beyond France and Tuscany, and I think Etna wines tick a lot of boxes for an exciting new region. Volcanic soils are rich in minerals, which contribute to the wines' pronounced minerality and depth of flavor and give really distinct characters to their wines. While altitude, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to volcanic activity further add to the complexity. Volcanoes can be such a violent force, but with that volcanic ash comes fertile soil and some incredibly old and hardy vines. They’re definitely one to watch, and I can’t wait to get samples to more of our customers!

Find out more about our fabulous Etna wines - and don't forget to get in touch with our expert team for trade pricing and more, with no minimum order and free next day delivery on all trade orders.