The Winemonger Interview - Alessia Botturi: Sommelier, Regional Manager Southern California, Italian Wine Portfolio Selector

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, and understanding that this isn't a holiday you grew up with, can you give us some wine pairing ideas that would work well with turkey?

Alessia Boturri

The very first thing that comes to my mind is a wine I didn’t grow up with: a Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, maybe from the 2006 vintage, intense and delicious.
But, as Italian wines are my first love, I would definitely go with a big red: Sforzato di Valtellina or Amarone della Valpolicella would be my first choice.
If I felt more “exotic” I would pick a Malbec from Argentina or a Rhone blend from France.

What is the process involved in becoming AIS certified?

It’s an intense process that last about 3 years: I have been studying in Italy and they divide the course into 3 levels (one a year) where all the wine-related topics are deeply analyzed: from tasting technique to winemaking, from wines of the world to viticulture. The third level is the most fascinating because you learn to master the food and wine pairing technique: learning that really made the difference in my job and you have the knowledge to pair any kind of food and wine. After the 3rd level you have to pass 3 exams: a wine tasting, a written test with 50 open questions (in one hour time!) and a food and wine pairing test. At the end, you get the professional certification but you feel as you don’t know anything: the wine world is so vast that it takes a whole life of studies to know a little bit about it.

Describe your favorite traditional Italian meal and the wines that you would pair with it.

This won’t sound sophisticated but my favorite traditional meal is the one my grandma used to cook for the holidays. Everything was homemade and paired with the local wines.

agnolini in brodo not made by grandma

The appetizer was very simple: Salame from Mantova enjoyed with a light white, usually Soave or Lugana, or a sparkling Lambrusco from Mantova.
The first course was an amazing “agnolini in brodo”: agnolini is a kind of tortelloni, very small and filled with meat and prosciutto, served with broth (home made, of course!). No doubt about the wine, Lambrusco dell’Emilia was mandatory!
The second course was usually roasted or braised pork with potatoes and spinach and the red was again from the area: Sangiovese dell’Emilia.
The dessert was a meal itself: a choice of cakes, pastries and chocolate and there was only one wine needed: a delicious Moscato from Piedmont.

People everywhere are feeling the pinch of these tough economic times. Can you suggest some good everyday wines that cost in the $10 range?

Wholesale or retail? ☺

Amazing wines for $10 simply don’t exist, if you want a good wine you have to pay for it. Especially these new world wines, they cost nothing and they seem intense and beautiful as soon as you open the bottle, but after 10 minutes there is nothing left. Or what about the headache the morning after you drink only a glass? Bad wine, chemically manipulated…

I am more for the old world: Loire wines are delicious, unique, and totally affordable. Sangiovese from center Italy (avoiding Tuscany) it’s smooth and inexpensive. Spain produces excellent wines for the $10 price range, both whites and reds and Malbec of Argentina can be your best choice!

I couldn’t afford to drink expensive wine every day, but there are some benefits in working in the industry….

can you see Russia from here?

You are on a deserted island. Which two grape varietals do you plant?

If I am on a desert island I hope it’s somewhere in the tropics and not close to the coast of Alaska…. So I would bring warm weather grapes and, as I am nostalgic, they would be from southern Italy: Gaglioppo for red (grown in Calabria) and Greco for white to make both a dry and a sweet wine! I am sure I won’t get bored with these two “multi-dimensional” wines…


work, work, work

Alessia Botturi is a professionally qualified sommelier of the Italian Sommelier Association, with an additional master in professional wine tasting techniques. She is currently pursuing the CSW qualification of the Society of Wine Educators.

Alessia was born and raised in Italy, where she started her career working for various years in tourism and event planning, cooperating in the meanwhile with various restaurants, hotels and catering companies.
She speaks several languages, including English, Italian, German and French and has traveled in four continents, always researching and learning from the different traditions and cultures.
Wine and food have always been her greatest passion and she has been a professionally qualified Sommelier (AIS - Italian Sommelier Association) since 2004, having completed the 3 year school in Milan, Italy.
In 2006 she took the master as Official Technical Taster, with the ability of professionally rating wines and finally in 2007 she translated into English the course book "Food & Wine" for the Italian Sommelier Association: the book is used worldwide by the association for courses and seminars.

She has been living in Los Angeles since 2006 where she is the Southern California Sales Manager for Winemonger. She also selects her own portfolio of Italian wines for Winemonger, called the Alessia Botturi Selections.

5 thoughts on “The Winemonger Interview - Alessia Botturi: Sommelier, Regional Manager Southern California, Italian Wine Portfolio Selector”

  • Dan Abshere

    I am an American living in Southern Germany for the next year. Do you know if there are any AIS courses I can take in English in Italy. I'd like to start my Sommelier certification then finish it when I return to the states.

  • Alessia Botturi
    Alessia Botturi April 29, 2009 at 4:55 AM

    Of course I can suggest some good Gaglioppo, the best actually!
    It's from a small winery called San Francesco, they make a great entry level Ciro' and a Riserva called "Ronco dei 4 Venti", one of the best expressions of Ciro'
    ...and just happened we are about to import these wines so they will be available soon, check again the website in a few weeks!
    If you want to taste something sooner, I would suggest Terre di Balbia or Statti, both good producers, but you might just decide to wait for the best...

  • fabio

    Hi, I am going to start the first level in two weeks and I am really excited! Gaglioppo is interesting, can you suggest some good Gaglioppo wines?

  • Alessia Botturi

    Hi Frank,
    I am not calabrese but my parents have a summer house there, I love everything about the region.
    My favorite Greco is from Bianco, especially the passito from Vintripodi it's outstanding! It's almost impossible to find it in Italy but last week I ran into a small wine shop that had a couple of bottles!
    I don't have a favorite wine from Italy, I think I like them all...

  • Frank Gerace

    I loved her desert island response. I am of Calabrese (100%) heritage. She wanted a Greco. Too bad she didn't make it more explicitl I am told Greco di Gerace is one of the best. My family always made their own wine with zinfandel grapes but as we grew up to yuppiedom, we learned that it was terrible. My favorite Italian is from neighboring Sicily, the ViNO NERO D'AVOLA

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