Every diner at Garage Buona Forchetta knows Marco Zannoni speaks Italian, but did you know he also speaks wine? And it’s definitely his love language!

“Wine is so fascinating! It is history, geography, chemistry, passion, love!” Marco enthuses as he savors a glass of Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella.

While the stylish matte black bottle may be a perfect match for his outfit, Marco is all about pairing the ideal wine with food. “With the amarone it has to be a flavorful red meat – rib eye steak, osso buco or our amazing braised beef cheeks.”

He also loves matchmaking wine with his diner’s individual palate. “I always begin by asking what they typically enjoy – a cabernet, a pinot noir? It feels so good when something new hits the mark because it gives them a new pleasure in life!”

There are dozens of different vineyards, vintages and labels for Marco to draw upon on the wine list, as well as the well-stocked market shelves. How many has he tried himself? “All of them, of course! How else can I make a true recommendation?”

Let’s put that to the test! What would he choose for a big celebration? He reaches for a bottle of Ca’del Blosco in a rustling, transparent yellow wrapper. “This is basically champagne from Italy – same method of production: first fermentation in the tank, second fermentation in the bottle.”

What about a favorite white wine? He selects a slender bottle of Northern Italian Adler Kerner. “It is unusual. The nose and aromatics are similar to a sauvignon blanc but it has the structure from the minerality and the spikes of acidity required to make it round, big and lasting!”

Wine lingo seems to trip off his tongue – was he already vino-savvy before he worked in this industry?

“Well, I worked in restaurants since I was 14 so before then? No!” He laughs, explaining that his home town of Rimini is a bustling beach destination where he would spend his summer breaks working as he everything from barista to bartender.

Of course, the culture of wine drinking in Europe is very different. “Wine completes the meal. Do we have a glass of wine without food?” He gives the classic Italian shrug. “Yes, but not as commonly as here in America.”

He describes the way that wine can provide a palate-cleansing service between bites of say, oily calamari, with the acids cutting through.

Acids and tannins seem to get a bad rap though Marco sees them more as an acquired taste. “When you are new to wine you tend to be drawn to the sweeter options then the fruity. A wine from Europe can be more earthy, more floral with a sense of astringency as the saliva is sucked away from your palate. If you are not accustomed to those flavors, it’s not going to please you!”

Any final tips from his sommelier studies?

“Wine, like a lot of things in life, is really about personal preference – we are different people, we like different things. Yes there are guidelines but there is no right or wrong, so if it makes you happy to drink a certain wine then,” he raises his glass, ‘Salute!’”

GBF’s Market offers deliziosa take home snacks to enjoy with wine – everything from classic breadsticks to finely sliced meats. For further inspiration, pick up the Wine & Cheese Board Deck from Bay Books.