Francesco Benvenuto was very attentive when he opened his first bottle at the new IGNIV restaurant by Andreas Caminada in Bad Ragaz on December 16. The now 33-year-old sommelier praises his new chef for his collaborative spirit during the preparation of the opening and he is truly excited at the idea of being in charge of the wine at this prestigious new address.
Born and raised in Düsseldorf, Germany, this Italian of Calabrian descent has spent most of his working life in Switzerland in various mountain resorts, which makes him a good European citizen.
After his hospitality training in Düsseldorf, he started his working life at the Schweizerhof in Zermatt, then moved to the Lenkerhof in the Bernese Oberland, followed by a short stay in Hotel du Cap d’Antibes to perfect his French. He returns to Switzerland at the Lenkerhof where he trains as a sommelier and later moves to Basel to work as full time sommelier at the Bad Bubendorf Hotel. In 2012 he finally sets foot in Heidiland where he falls in love with the region. First chef sommelier at the Quellenhof in Bad Ragaz, he moves to the Äbtestube in Bad Ragaz, after a season in Kloster, in 2013. Now he has joined the famous chef Andreas Caminada in his new restaurant.
“We did not drink much at the family table, wine is really an interest I chose” says Francesco, who became passionate about wine at a symposium during his training years in Germany. While at the Lenkerhof, he passed his Swiss diploma as professional sommelier and from there on cultivated his interest and tasting ability.
First wine emotions
The first Swiss wines emotional experiences he recalls were a magnificent Merlot by Cantina Kopp von der Crone Visini from Ticino, exciting wines from Valais by Nicolas Zufferey and off course the rare fortified Completer by the pope of traditional Completer (a local grape), Alfred Bohner, in Malans Graubünden.
While the new wine list is still work in progress, he tells us about his love for Pinot Noir; the Romanée Conti and of course the wines from the Bündner Herrschaft. He likes to mention Georg Fromm but does not forget his friends from the Vinotiv group. The wine list will also include Marie-Thérèse Chappaz and Gerald Besse among other quality producers.
His most recent discoveries are a Patrick Piuze Chablis, a Müller Thurgau grown in an amphora by Markus Ruch and a Merlot Horizonte by Christian Zuendel.
What drives Francesco, as a sommelier, is the relationship he builds with his customers and the joy he provides through his knowledgeable advice.
He enjoys his life in Bad Ragaz where he takes advantage of the mountain proximity to ride his bike or jog. To be true to his Italian origins, he also enjoys cooking and he is looking forward to his next visit to a winery with sommelier friends. For Francesco wine is also a hobby worth sharing.