Curiosity fuels Mario Cagnetta’s career path in wine

Photo of Mario Cagnetta

It’s curiosity that led certified sommelier Mario Cagnetta to make wine his career path and his lifelong learning adventure. As a child growing up in Italy, where the enjoyment of wine is commonplace, he would stare at his mother’s wine glass, intrigued by the swirling components inside.

“I remember wondering what was in it,” he says.

This fascination was set against a wine connoisseur’s dream backdrop: Milan, the city in which Cagnetta was born and raised, is nestled in Lombardy, a region known the world over for its wines. 

When he moved to Toronto in 2007, Cagnetta pursued a career in journalism while also pursuing a new life in wine. After completing his certifications, he took the plunge.

Since then, he’s worked as a sommelier at Don Alfonso 1890, Buca Cucina and Capra’s Kitchen. In August 2022, he assumed the role of manager sommelier at Jacob’s Steakhouse.

Throughout these experiences, his philosophy about wine has remained the same. “Wine is for everyone,” he says. “You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy it.”

He’s adverse to those who portray the drink as snobbish and exclusive. The opposite is true, Cagnetta says, adding that what a person likes or doesn’t is completely dependent on palette.

“I’ve always said that a sommelier is similar to a navigator: the guests have a destination to reach, and I have to find the right path to guide them.”

When it comes to the sommelier’s role in boosting restaurant revenue, Cagnetta responds, “A sommelier can always impact sales, but this is not what I like to focus on when I do my job; I like to think of what I do as selling an experience. A good sommelier searches for a great product based on the budget and possibilities of the guests.”

And the possibilities are seemingly endless since the pandemic.

Though the hospitality sector had to contend with a “complete turnover,” says Cagnetta, there’s a fresh energy now.

“We now have a new generation of young people with a lot of knowledge. This has allowed restaurants to reach the same levels as before COVID-19.”

And tastes are also changing. “Wines from three countries are gaining momentum: the U.S., particularly those from Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley — France with its Burgundy and Bordeaux; and Italian wines from Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto.”

There’s also another trend gaining traction. “There are more requests for sparkling wine,” observes Cagnetta.

Indeed, sparkling wine sales are on the rise in Canada. According to Statista, the segment reached sales of US$81 billion in 2022, and the market is expected to grow each year by almost 15 per cent. When it comes to top choices, Italy’s Prosecco reigns supreme although domestic offerings are also quite popular.

And Cagnetta is confident that Canada, with its unique terroir, has what it takes to continue making a mark in the sector.

“It’s a great place to produce exciting and vibrant sparkling wine,” he says. “I think we have an excellent product here.”

By Rita Simonetta

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.