Home News > February 2024 > Q&A: Marcello Colletti, Head Sommelier at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square

Q&A: Marcello Colletti, Head Sommelier at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square

Charming, passionate and dangerously talented, the inimitable Marcello Colletti is head sommelier at one of London's most upmarket addresses. Yet as global inflation continues to bite, Colletti is finding that even the most well-heeled client expects a good value drop. He talks to James Lawrence about inflation, inspiration, and selling blue chip labels in a cost-of-living crisis.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Naples and moved to Tuscany when I was a young boy. I grew up in a beautiful valley called Casentino surrounded by mountains, lakes, and rivers. This valley is famous for its National Park, beautiful food, local wine, and Franciscan monasteries located in the mountains.

What inspired you to become a sommelier?

A connection between culture, history, food, and the final product inspired me to become a sommelier. The world of wine and beverage is full of history and touches many subjects that have always fascinated me; geography, geology, history, the unique identity, and typicity of a place. Wine perfectly describes the terroir, the flora, and the character of a winemaker depending on its location. Since moving to London, my passion became stronger after working with the best chefs, amazing ingredients, and wine lists - but especially the top professionals. Studying all of the regions, tasting and analysing wines and sharing my knowledge with the team, guests, and friends make me incredibly proud of my job.

What would be your advice to someone starting out today?

Follow your dream and passion! At the beginning, studying wine can be overwhelming as it touches many new subjects for a beginner. Practise and find a mentor/experienced sommelier who can guide you to become a professional. Attend wine masterclasses, events and tastings, read books and wine magazines daily and practice with your guests and team during service.

What is the balance between New and Old World on your list?

At Nobu we mostly sell old world wine from known regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Piedmont, and Rioja. We also have a big section from California, Australia, and New Zealand that are very attractive for quality, price, and a popular choice for our American guests. Our most sold would be Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Riesling.

Do you favour a shorter, more concise list or the classic tomes of old?

I prefer to work with a shorter list in our restaurant (around 150/ 200 wines). Last year I reduced the menu by around 20%, because some less-popular wines were being forced to remain in the cellar for too long. It is also easier to keep the list updated and the cellar organised by keeping the menu smaller. In my opinion the bigger the wine list, the more suppliers you work with, whereas if you can create a more bespoke menu of quality wines from fewer trusted suppliers, it means you can offer the guest a better and more knowledgeable experience whilst also offering them better prices. Also, this way the team can be more educated on the wines we serve, as well as the suppliers offering our team incentives for selling the wines.

Finally, how is inflation and other external factors influencing wine sales?

Sales are lower after Covid-19 and, looking at what we are selling, guests are mostly trying to buy what they like, just to play safe and not regret their choice. Overall, people are spending less than before due to high interest rates, higher duties after Brexit, and increasing prices. Indeed, it is true that it is hard to sell a wine over £1000 and it does not happen every week as before, but wines around £300-400 could easily sell daily (especially Bordeaux and Burgundy). Despite this, I still believe it is fascinating to keep some fine wines on the list as it adds value and makes the overall experience special.

At the end of the day, however, our goal is to make our customers happy. I am spending most of the time in search for really good wines worth their price. Nowadays, prices are also important for our guests due to inflation. Our wine list starts with a low price point (good quality/price) to give our clientele options. With our trusted suppliers we are able to take advantage of some discounts which are then passed on to our guests giving a really good wine at an affordable price. That also encourages them to drink a good glass of wine instead of a cocktail or spirit, and increases our sales.