Massimo Leonori is much more than a Master of Senses. Concha y Toro’s head sommelier sat down to answer our questions and share some details on his interesting career in the world of food and wine, his passion for wine and his profession. Find out more below!
1- What sparked your passion for the world of wine?
Several generations of my family have worked in the area of agricultural production and wine growing. For instance, my paternal grandfather was an artisan who built wine barrels. I grew up immersed in the world of food and wine, so I developed a great passion for it at a young age.
2- What was the first wine you tried once you were legally able to drink?
I’m sure it was earlier than that (laughter). The first wines I had were those that my father, uncles and grandparents made in their homes. Unsophisticated handcrafted wines, but they were still delicious.
3- Do you have any special/magical memory related to wine? Please share.
Honestly, I have lots of nice memories related to wine. It’s hard to pick just one.
Once my best friend and business partner in Italy surprised me with a bottle of 1997 Sassicaia. That was a really special moment! And a true delight for the senses.
4- How have your tastes evolved in the world of wine?
Tasting, tasting and tasting… They are still evolving. The more wines you taste from different origins and with different characteristics, the more you define you own preferences. Today, mine are more geared towards wines with a fresh character, a sense of origin, energetic and vibrant, not too heavy, and easy to drink. But you never stop learning about the world of wine.
5- How did you decide to become a sommelier?
I’ve always felt a strong passion for the food and drinks sector, and that has led me to work and undertake businesses in this area my whole life. There was a time when I thought it would be a bonus to have a degree in something I was passionate about, although I never thought I would be working with wine full-time like I am now.
6- What is the best and worst thing about being a sommelier?
The best part of being a Sommelier is that I am always in contact with the public. Wine is a social and cultural element, and the sommelier plays an important educational role with respect to wine and food. The worst part is that you can no longer settle for basic wines, so drinking becomes more expensive.
7- When you get together with friends, what wine is a must?
That really depends on the occasion and the meal. A good Italian wine, a Maipo Cabernet, or a Limari Chardonnay, those are my usual picks.
8- Why is the Extraordinary 2018 Vintage special to you? And what do you hope people will learn/discover from it?
During the wine harvest, I always go to the winery and taste all of the wines for the year with the winemakers. In 2018, I was truly impressed. All of the wines are incredible! It was really something special, not something that happens every year. Consumers are going to enjoy the wines from this vintage. They have a very intense fruit expression, along with an excellent balance and complexity. They are wines that consumers are going to fall in love with.
9- How do you think traveling all over the world to promote the Extraordinary 2018 Vintage has influenced your professional career?
I think it has been and continues to be a nice experience, which has given me the chance to fully express my skills and competencies.
Last year I traveled to several cities in the U.S. – New York, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, New Jersey, Denver, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin- and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Extraordinary 2018 Vintage was received there. Among the comments I received, I remember one man who was amazed by the Challenge your Senses Experience. He said that it was challenging, fun, and a must for all wine lovers. I always remember one woman in Texas who said that it was a very interesting proposal by Concha y Toro, and it was very different from what she was used to.
10- What is your favorite wine from the Extraordinary 2018 Harvest? Why?
My favorite is Marques Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, a wine that has a unique personality, great balance, freshness and complexity. It’s wine that unequivocally tells you of its origin. It is the perfect expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from Alto Maipo, a privileged origin for this varietal.
11- What does it take to become a Master of Senses?
It takes passion, lots of training, dedication and consistency to become a Master of Senses. Also, in order to maintain an extraordinary sensitivity, you have to live a life without too many excesses.
12- Over your career, what would you say is fundamental to success in the world of wine?
A lot of passion and love for wine and food, because they go hand in hand. You also have to be a good communicator in order to transmit that passion and educate others. Wine is a part of our history and culture. If you can transmit that and spark emotion in people when they are drinking a glass of wine, that is a true success!