Anthony Giglio is a wine expert that wears many hats – he’s a sommelier, journalist, author and educator all wrapped in one.
Giglio currently serves as a wine columnist with La Cucina Italiana magazine, a writer with Food & Wine magazine, and a contributing editor with Wine & Spirits magazine. On top of that, he leads a number of wine classes and tours, has written a number of books and keeps a healthy list of side projects. No wonder he’s known as the “Wine Wise Guy.”
We caught up with Giglio to get his thoughts on the latest in wines and cocktails and to see what projects he’s working on lately. Check out the interview below.
You’ve written a number of books on cocktails. What’s your favorite cocktail?
I recently transferred my parents’ old Kodak 8mm films to DVD for their 50th Anniversary and discovered in one of them, entitled New Year’s Eve 1966, that my mom died her hair, smoked cigarettes and drank Manhattan cocktails — while eight months pregnant with me. This explains my proclivity for Bourbon. And Manhattans. And lately of Old Fashioneds. I got turned onto them while editing the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s and Party Guide (I edited 5 editions) with Jim Meehan, a gifted mixologist, historian and partner in the much-celebrated New York City speakeasy/cocktail bar PDT. Jim and I would brainstorm while he mixed me amazing Old Fashioned cocktails, and I have been drinking them consistently ever since.
Here’s how Giglio makes an Old Fashioned: In mixing glass combine 2 oz. Bourbon; .25 oz. Maple Syrup; 2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with one large cube. Garnish with an orange twist.
And what types of drinks are you concocting for this fall season?
Fall for me is a return to all the brown spirits, including dark, aged rums, bourbons and ryes, of course. You can find 50 great recipes in the Mr. Boston Holiday Cocktails.
One of your latest books is the Food & Wine Magazine’s Wine Guide 2011. What’s new with this year’s guide?
I finished the Food & Wine’s Wine Guide 2011 in the summer of 2010 (it debuts every Fall, in advance of the new year on the cover); the 2012 Wine Guide will be out any minute (and was compiled without me by a new team of editors). The 2011 Guide — still available! — reflected not just the “best” of the best wines from all over the planet, but, reflecting the economic mood, the “best values” from everywhere. We even tasted boxed wines to evaluate their quality and recommended at least a half-dozen of them because they were so good.
You seem to have a focus on Sicily. How did that come about?
I married a Sicilian! My ancestors were mostly Neapolitan. But I also focus on Italy in general because of my wine column in La Cucina Italiana magazine. I often joke that I’m a victim of ethnic profiling because people meet me and say: “Oh, you’re an expert on Italian wine!” And I say, “Why, because my names ends in a vowel?” I’d like to think that my 20+ years experience as a journalists, sommelier and author have given me a pretty wide spectrum of expertise throughout the wine world — not just my ancestral homeland. That said, I do love leading gastronomic tours of Sicily with my partners at Authentic Sicily. We have a tour planned for next summer (June 30 – July 7, 2012) and it sold out in two weeks!
I’m a big fan of Sicilian wines from around Mount Etna (especially Frank Cornelissen), and I hear you discovered some gems while writing F&W Wine Guide 2011. Tell me more! Which varietals and wines should we keep our eyes on?
You simply cannot talk about Sicily without talking about its native Nero d’Avola grape, which shows up in many of the wines. For me it has a lot in common with Pinot Noir in its juiciness, but there’s also an earthiness that reminds me of Sangiovese (from Tuscany). You mention Frank Cornelissen, and I just wrote about him last summer in La Cucina Italian. He and a handful of other Italian winemakers are rethinking all the technological wizardry in winemaking and reverting back to ancient methods, like extended-maceration white wines (many of which are cloudy, amber-colored gems). They take some getting used to, but they are exceptional. From Etna I’m also a fan of wines made with the local Nerello Cappuccio and Nerello Moscalese grapes. I could go on and on…
You’ve also uncovered some affordable wines in Italy and France, I hear. Any insider tips?
Umm… buy my Wine Guide, perhaps? Okay, okay – the best advice I can give is to go to a great retailer (not a big box warehouse) and ask for a salesperson who has time to take you around. Explain what you like and what you want to spend — don’t be shy; it all shows up at the cash register! — and take a tour. If the retailer says they’re too busy, take your business elsewhere, and let them know that you’re leaving with your really, really big expense account budget!
Any other wines from around the world that we should be keeping our eyes on?
I have been telling anyone who will listen that Spain is where I find the greatest bargains because most Americans don’t take the time to search through the Spanish wine section of their stores (and if you don’t buy them, the prices stay reasonably low). With all due respect to California, France and Italy, I’m hard-pressed to find extraordinary wines for $10 – $15. But from Spain, I can find amazing wines in that range that would cost double or more if they were from those other more familiar countries. It also doesn’t help that many Americans buy “by the grape,” and none of the grapes from Spain are familiar; nor are the regions.
Along with being an author, journalist and sommelier, you’re also an educator. What do you teach?
Thanks to the good folks at Food & Wine Magazine, I’ve traveled all over the U.S., as well as to Grand Cayman and Barbados, to conduct seminars on their behalf. One theme that we’ve repeated with great success is our Smack-Down series, which I came up with at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen a couple of years back, where we pit grapes, regions or even countries against each other. Everyone learns a lot — and laughs a lot — while tasting great wines along the way. I also teach occasionally at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. And at DeGustibus Cooking School in New York City, too, where we pass entire Saturday afternoons — three hours — tasting round after round of wines. They are too much fun.
What can tourists expect on your Authentic Sicily wine tours?
They can expect a decidedly unhurried tour where we mix food, wine and tourism with relaxation — something Sicilians do much better than we Americans. We stay at spa properties along the southern coast where we can golf, sightsee, work out or do nothing at all under the Sicilian sun. I’m not surprised at all that it sold out in two weeks.
What’s next for you?
I’m finally committing myself to blogging more regularly on my own website. And I’ve just signed on to contribute to my dear friend Sally Schneider’s website, The Improvised Life, where I’m currently billed as their “resident sensualist,” because they haven’t figured out how to define all that I do. Which leads to my “Next Big Thing” project: I’m currently working on a book that’s not just about wine because it encompasses all of my interests and talents: wine buying/tasting, cooking, entertaining, food shopping, improvising, making cocktails, travel, etc. It’s very much a giant mess of a work in progress right now, but I’m excited to finally be putting the proverbial pen to paper on this. Stay tuned…