In conversation with Gianmaria Garbin of Enoteca Baldi in Panzano

Enoteca Baldi is one of our favourite restaurants in the world and it just happens to be a few minutes away from Montecalvi.

1. Tell us a little bit about Enoteca Baldi. Who are the Baldi? When did it start?
Enoteca Baldi is a family-run business. Mimmo Baldi is the foundation of it and its engine, while Chicca – one of his daughters – runs the kitchen, Eleonora, Chicca’s sister and my partner, manages the front of house and I look after the wine program. The enoteca was established in 1996 and it was converted into a wine bar in 2009 when my Mimmo closed the restaurant he had in Panzano for around 25 years.

2. We love Mimmo’s cooking. How and where did he get his start in the kitchen?
Mimmo is a very talented chef and I could say he has been gifted by nature. However, his talent has been complemented by the technique acquired at the Berkeley Hotel (Savoy Group) in London and at the Sabatini Hotel in Florence. After these experiences he moved to Tuscany, bringing his culinary expertise in an area where it was not easy to find preparations outside of the Tuscan traditional cuisine. This was probably the key to his success, to be innovative with quality! 

3. You probably have the best wine list in the region. Who puts that together? What guides your choices?
Thank you for such a compliment! Wine is my biggest passion, I do a lot of research, I attend tastings, masterclasses and some fairs to monitor the market and to keep up to date. I read about wine in order to discover new interesting producers and I also spend time visiting wineries to understand how different techniques and philosophies impact on wine. This is important to develop an analytical approach especially when tasting blind. My choices are often guided by emerging trends as well as tradition, however it is crucial in my selection to embrace different styles to look for labels which please any wine palate, as my role is to make my guests happy! 

4. Gianmaria, you caught the wine bug in Australia, how did that happen?
I have always been passionate about wine, since a fairly young age; I remember I enjoyed it when my mother took me to visit wineries in the Valpolicella region and when it was Vinitaly time. In Australia, while I was working at RMIT University as an assistant researcher, I had an accident which took me many months to recover. During this time, I started to study wine and, after the recovery, my new career started. I was incredibly lucky to work alongside top sommeliers from Australia and the world, especially when working at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal with Loic Avril and Mattia Antonio Cianca.

5. You also have Eleanor Baldi and Emily O’Hare, both of whom spent time at The River Café in London. That is a lot of wine talent, no?
I’m lucky to work alongside Eleonora and Emily, it is work and fun at the same time! They are great professionals and I always learn from them. I definitely cannot complain about the team as we all have different skills that complement each other.

6. Your wine list includes wines from all over Chianti Classico. Is it important to you to have representation from all of the different UGAs?
Yes, the wine list comprises producers coming from all over Chianti Classico and it is structured by geographical units. Since I started to work on the list back in 2019, I had sections of Chianti Classico wines organised by commune, even before UGAs were introduced. I felt it was important for the consumer to be able to explore the differences between territorial areas, even though I now believe the human factor – the producer’s style – often plays a dominant role over the territory.

7. Your wine list also includes wines from all over the world. When you are not drinking Tuscan, what are you drinking?
The idea I have about wine is that great wines come from all over the world and I hope this belief is reflected in my selection. I am a very curious person and I always like to discover and experience new labels. Generally speaking, I try to look for balance and finesse in the wines I choose to drink and I am lately on the hunt for Spanish white wines, in particular from the North West and from the Ebro and Duero river valleys.

8. Can we park in front of the enoteca?
I know why you’re asking me this! One of the visitors’ most taken pictures in Panzano is the funny sign we have in front of the Enoteca: “The last car that parked here is still missing”. To answer your question, it depends on what car you have!