Sommelier Ben Giacchino
An Interview with Ben Giacchino, Five and Ten Restaurant and Gosford Wine, Athens, Georgia
By Jim Clarke
Your interest in wine began with an interest in agriculture; what prompted the switch or development into wine?
Ben Giacchino: The real switch happened when I finish my degree and was deciding what to do with my life. My good friend Chris Luke was running a wine shop in Atlanta and offered me a job while I figured things out. I already had a great interest in wine and geography, so it just stuck; I love the interaction with people and haven’t looked back in seven years.
JC: What differences do you find in making recommendations for retail customers versus guests at the restaurant?
BG: I really enjoy the fact that I can see the satisfaction immediately at the restaurant. At the retail level I have to wait for the customer to return for the report. It sounds silly but that is one of the greatest parts of my jobs.
JC: How involved is Chef Acheson with the wine program at Five and Ten?
BG: Hugh is involved 100% - we talk about wine all of the time, we drink wine almost everyday together and discuss the list constantly. He has incredible passion for wine and the list is a labor of love to him.
JC: What’s the best way to get started with education beginners about wine?
BG: Tasting! Always sounds funny but that is the only way to learn. Mastering the geography of wine producing regions, the varietals used and styles being made is where to start in understanding wine. Kevin Zraly’s book Windows on the World Wine Course 2002 is an excellent resource for the beginner.
JC: You’re working toward the MS certification; what led you to choose that program as opposed the MW, etc.?
BG: I like the service aspect. In the MW program an enormous part of it is technical writing and I am not truly interested in that, I like dealing with people and being in the restaurant so the MS path serves my needs more.
JC: What sorts of wine tend to appear on your own table? Is there a region or varietal your particularly keen on?
BG: Wines from the Mediterranean, Southern French, Italian and Spanish wines. I would have to say Chateauneuf du Pape is my favorite region, but truly I love all wine from the Old and New Worlds.
JC: Your next project is to begin making your own cheese – a chčvre – is making your own wine on the horizon?
BG: Maybe someday for fun – but I would have to go out to the West Coast and get fruit from friends out there; I do not feel the grapes around here are worth the effort. I will probably stick to tomato vines, pepper plants, and my goats; I have too much too do already with my farm.