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Lessons from Antigua’s Only Female Sommelier

DATE POSTED:July 29, 2020
Silvia Tremolini holds the rare distinction of being the only female sommelier on Antigua.
Silvia Tremolini holds the rare distinction of being the only female sommelier on Antigua. (Silvia Tremolini /)

Happy hour at Hammock Cove Resort and Spa, the ultra-high-end 42-villa resort on Antigua, is already an elevated affair—literally, as the destination sits atop a small cliff overlooking a narrow Caribbean bay. Then consider the fact that the resort’s own sommelier, Silvia Tremolini, is tasked solely with making sure every guest is having the highest wine experience possible every time a bottle from the list of 66 labels is uncorked.

Here, she offers some helpful tips on what to look for when choosing and enjoying wine, so you’ll be better prepared for your next trip to Antigua.

Isn’t good wine just a question of personal taste?

Yes and no. When you have a person who intimately knows wine guiding you, you gain so much more richness to the experience of food. The wine can give the food more flavor. Make a poor choice, and the wine can cover up the flavor of the food. 

For example?

Take a salmon tartar. Someone with no wine knowledge might pick a Bordeaux, but that wine has a strong taste that would cover the taste of the salmon. But if I give you a sparkling rosé or a sparkling wine, then that kind of bubble cleans your mouth. Then, with every bite, you enjoy 100 percent the flavor of that salmon. You keep tasting that salmon anew. 

What about after dinner?

I am a dessert lover. In every part of the world, there is a way to end the meal. In Italy, we like a tiramisu, which would be very nice to pair with a wine that is sweet—but not too sweet, because the dessert is already sweet. A Moscato from Italy is dry enough and would clean your mouth between bites and complement the tiramisu. 

Or, you could opt for a post-dinner cheese with a sweet wine. Take a blue cheese—something with a very strong taste—and that would pair beautifully with a Sauterne, a sweet French wine from the Sauternais region in Bordeaux. The acidity of the blue cheese would be gorgeous with the sweet wine. One more good pairing would be a biscotti with a Passito—a sweet Italian wine made from raisins. Together, that would be an explosion in your mouth. 

Best wine pick for the beach?

I would drink something easy. Something that would help me relax and enjoy the sea and the sun. A white or rosé. Nothing too old—something young with good acidity. Acidity gives it that freshness. For example, we have a queen rosé on the menu—it’s elegant and fruity with a good bit of acidity.

At Hammock Cove Resort and Spa, Silvia not only aims to ensure guests have the best wine experience possible, but she also wants them to leave with a better understanding.
At Hammock Cove Resort and Spa, Silvia not only aims to ensure guests have the best wine experience possible, but she also wants them to leave with a better understanding. (Silvia Tremolini/)

What is the most challenging part of the job?

The most difficult challenge for me is to connect guests to the real culture of wine. There are a lot of misunderstandings.

Such as?

Only some people know that there is a difference between Champagne and all other sparkling wines. Champagne is only from the region known as Champagne, a specific area in France. Among the other sparkling wines, there is Prosecco, only coming from one region in Italy. So why does this matter? Once you know that there are big differences between Champagne and Prosecco—which can appear to be the same thing—can you truly begin to pair them with food.

Anything else?

Then there is how you serve the wine. There is a correct way to let the guests see the bottle they asked for. Then, of course, you open the bottle at the table, in front of the guest, so that they can constantly see it and know they are getting what they asked for. You serve an older lady first, then the younger lady, then the older man, then the younger man. A politician or minister will change that order—they would come first. There is always a correct sequence.

What else can guests look forward to at the resort?

Here at Hammock Cove, we will be doing cooking classes soon, teaching our guests so they can take the experience home. Chef Marco offers instruction in how to make a pumpkin ravioli and a tomato gnocchi. With the tomato gnocchi, I recommend a sauvignon blanc with good acidity to balance the sweetness of the tomato. With the pumpkin ravioli, I recommend a chardonnay.

Are the guests surprised to see a female sommelier?

The world is changing. There are guests that are very happy to see me. They didn’t expect the resort to have its own sommelier at all. And they certainly didn’t expect to find a woman in this position.

Any last lessons?

At the end, the only real school is to just drink. To try something different every time. It is like traveling the world—every time you travel somewhere different, you learn something different.