Marco Rossi, Co-Owner, Enoteca Pomaio

The Staff Canteen

Marco Rossi co-owns the London based craft wine bar, Enoteca Pomaio with his brother Iacopo.

Born and raised in Tuscany, Marco’s foray into wine came about during the global financial crisis back in 2009. After agreeing to help his brother out with some branding for the launch of his natural wine company, Podere di Pomaio, Marco fell in love with the alcoholic beverage deciding to train to become a sommelier.

Together Marco and Iacopo brought their craft wine bar concept to London, one of the city's first independent craft wine bars.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Marco to talk about giving a voice to smaller wine producers, being inspired by his father and why getting the right pairing will always remain a challenge.

How did you get into the industry?

I'd say that I have to thank the financial world crisis for getting me into wine. I studied luxury goods marketing and after working in the real estate and fashion industry I found myself unemployed in early 2009. At that time Iacopo wanted to launch Podere di Pomaio and he asked me to help him out with a bit of branding and communication, I remember telling him that I was not going to stay for long, well I was totally wrong! I fell in love with natural wines and quickly became a sommelier, a representative of the local wine maker association and Podere di Pomaio co-founder, now I'm happily stuck in the industry!

What is it about wine that you enjoy?

Besides being a time capsule able to tell you the story of the vintage and terroir of a specific harvest, a bottle of wine also embraces the energy of the person who made it and of his idea. Wine is something alive that evolves during years thanks to a bit of its own will and to a ‘pinch’ of the winemaker's soul. I see wine as a triangle composed by time – terroir – wine maker, in any way you look at it, it is a perfect dance between nature and man.

Can you tell us more about Enoteca Pomaio 

Enoteca Pomaio is actually a spinoff of our sustainable and natural wine company in Tuscany. We felt that it was right to give a voice to all those small producers like us who represent the new wave of craft (organic, natural, biodynamic, sustainable) that find it difficult to sell abroad due to lack of selling skills as they're focused on making amazing wine and don't have time to think about the rest. Looking around our ‘clan’ we had friends who produced amazing wines and food including one of Italy's top sommeliers, Luca Degl'Innocenti; a great chef, Francesco Mastronard;, a top level natural architect, a professional food buyer, an interesting and rewarding wine company and most of all, we had a vision given by our family. Blending it all together resulted in Enoteca Pomaio.

Why choose London?

London is a big challenge! If you want to do something in a proper way you need to compete with the best and try to avoid swimming in a small pond. London is dynamic and exciting, and historically it has always been the most important market for wine. We love and respect its tradition and history. Being quite young it was the right place to grow in experience and to see if people enjoy our small world of craft producers.

What has the reaction been like?

It is strange, we had to face so many difficulties to open Enoteca Pomaio but we have been supported all the way by old Italian friends and new London based friends. Somehow there was already a bit of expectation in both countries and the moment we started with the soft launch, even if it was right before Christmas, we were able to get many people to pop some craft bottles and taste some of our dishes. People are curious and I have to admit, we're curious too!

Why do you think there’s been an increase in interest in craft wines and beers?

We ask ourselves this all the time, I think people are a bit tired of commodity products and prefer to have a real story behind what they are eating and drinking. Social media apps and flight rates make communication and information faster and way more accessible tickling people's curiosity and palate for research for taste and flavours that we somehow forgot.

Info Bar

‘Kitchen Nightmares’ 

If we talk about wine tastings, the worst customer was probably the one complaining about the acidity in our Sangiovese (which by the way we are very proud of) and trying to teach all of us how to taste and rate a wine. Of course we all kept quiet as there are many even a non sommelier who can taste at a top level, but that was not exactly the case.

Regarding the Enoteca, I’ll keep quiet for the moment, it’s too soon!


Why should more people look into craft wine?

The industry used so many tags and labels making it difficult for people to understand what they were about to drink. Craft is a concept that natural, organic, biodynamic and sustainable producers all share without even knowing. There are old vigneron in Tuscany who don't even know that there are certifications and that there’s a globalized market, they just produce wine without adding anything as they have always been the first consumers of their products making them way more reliable. Somehow the concept of craft goes along with the word pure, and pictures that come to mind are of dirty hands and a lot of sweat in a vineyard.

Craft wine has a soul, they really represent the terroir, the Vigneron and the nature that embraces a specific vineyard. In conventional wines you can use so many ingredients but the law forces you to write just sulphites, this is actually how it should be.

How and where do you source your wines from?

We decided to cut out the middle man and we are importing all the wines directly. Me and Luca Degl'Innocenti, our top sommelier and restaurant manager, went around Tuscany and a part of Italy for over a year sampling wines from friends and friends of friends in order to come up with our first wine proposal that will be enlarged month by month. Most of the wines can be found only at Enoteca Pomaio.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Don't tell him, but I have to admit that it somehow comes from our father. He has always been an important business man but most of all a dreamer. 

Creating Enoteca Pomaio was an idea we had with a friend while talking over a glass of wine and looking at all the beauty that we saved thanks to our father's vision, we wanted to share that beauty.

You founded the business with your brother, Lacapo Rossi, is it difficult working with family?

Me and Iacopo are so different that sometimes people think we are kidding whenever we say we're brothers. It's not easy to work with your siblings especially when one is a Vigneron and winemaker who does not want to stay further than 100mt away from Podere di Pomaio's Vineyard, and the other is a marketer and sommelier who loves to travel around the world. Somehow we blend perfectly and have our balance. I’m sure he misses me whenever I’m travelling, but he will never admit it!

Who cooks the food at Pomaio?

Friends. It is important for us to be able to rely on the chef who has the key to our kitchen and cuisine. Sharing a vision and having our same commitment to craft and natural products is what made us decide to have our friend Francesco Mastronardi from Osteria Mest near Florence as our executive. Francesco designed the dishes that Simone Barsanti, our resident chef on Brick Lane, cooks every day adding his passion and thrive to the food. They are both young and perfect to be part of the family rather than just part of the team.

How do you work on wine pairings?

At first it was a matter of studying, devouring books and charts one after another, then I realised that experience was the main ingredient and I learned that what matters the most is if you are happy with what you are drinking and eating. Once I argued with my father for choosing a Bolgheri wine to go with a chicken salad but his naïve answer actually kept me quiet, in a quite humble way he said that he liked both and did not care much about the wine going over the food. Of course whenever I’m working I go with the professional approach, but I learned that at home I can just relax and let my father do the pairings, when it's a wrong pairing his smile just balances everything.

Have you ever got a wine pairing wrong?

Never! Just kidding, I got it wrong several times. Sometimes the wine doesn't behave as you would expect, especially if it is made in a natural and craft way. I like to think about wine as a person with its own mood and attitude. Other times the dish is slightly different from your expectations and there is a bit more of that ingredient or the cooking is slightly different from what is written on the menù. You can study and experience a lot both as a sommelier and a winemaker, but it will always be a challenge to get the perfect pairing, but to be honest I’m satisfied nine times out of ten and that time I’m not satisfied I just call Luca, he is ace with wine pairings.

What’s next for the future? 

First thing is to get things rolling at full potential with the London Enoteca Pomaio and maybe to implant a couple of white varieties in Podere di Pomaio to make Iacopo happy. Let's say that opening more craft wine bars is something that for the moment sits quietly in the back of our minds. There are so many amazing and exciting cities around the world that it would be great to open a couple of more Enoteca Pomaio’s. A new challenge, like a second winebar, would actually be a great excuse to keep wandering around different countries, I’m eager to learn and experience different food and wine cultures while giving a voice to Tuscan craft producers. 

>>> Read more in the Are You Being Served? series here

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Editor 9th March 2017

Marco Rossi, Co-Owner, Enoteca Pomaio