The Whet Palette

Food. Wine. Travel. Life.

SOMM LIKE IT HOT: Featuring Jacqueline Pirolo

We already know Miami is a hot zone for craft cocktails and beer. Know what else is happening? The wine scene! Follow along as I continue this new blog section featuring some of South Florida’s buzziest movers and shakers swirlers, sniffers, and tasters.
Bookmark this page and check back often for updates.

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Managing Partner/Beverage Director at Macchialina

I was born in Avellino, in the Campania region of Italy.  I moved to the states at the age of two and grew up in Huntington, Long Island.  I attended SUNY Oswego University in Oswego, NY.  Upon graduating with a degree in business marketing, I worked for a visual effects production company briefly but always had a part-time serving job.  At this time I was living in Astoria, Queens.  I always loved working in restaurants, but was trying to work the corporate world and I think college tries to breed you for that.  When my brother Fabrizio (there are Pirolo siblings and we are the bestest of friends) brought the idea to me of opening our own restaurant, I jumped at the chance.  We opened The Saint Austere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2011.  Shortly after opening, I attended the WSET for my wine certification.  We opened Macchialina in 2012, however, I didn’t move here until 2016.  It made sense to balance out the sibling equation more (two brothers live in NYC, one brother and my sister in law live in Miami) as we have plans to expand within the Miami market.  

Although I love New York and there is no city quite like it, I absolutely love living and working in Miami.  The camaraderie that exists within the restaurant industry in Miami is something I’ve never experienced elsewhere. Although myself and all of my siblings are in the restaurant industry, neither of my parents were.  We grew up in a very classic Italian-American household, food was the center of every gathering.  Sunday dinner at 3 p.m. was never to be missed.  My parents divorced when I was young and my father moved back to Italy. We would occasionally get to visit and experience the culture and again, food was always the focus of these trips. More home-cooked meals than eating out – but learning about ingredients and wine and hours spent cooking and eating were the norm, and honestly still is.” 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? Turning guests into friends.  Most nights at Macchialina, it feels more like a lovely get together at our home, with friends stopping by to visit then it does a restaurant. 

Any industry pet peeves? Speaking in certainties i.e. “I don’t drink Italian wines”

What sparked your interest in wine? My brother Fabrizio sold wine for many years while I was in college.  On winter and summer breaks we would bop around NYC visiting his accounts, having dinners and tasting wines – (not how many other college kids were spending their breaks).  I began to really appreciate the conviviality of drinking and eating and the camaraderie within this industry, that I just saw from afar, but I knew I wanted to be a part of. 

What certification/education do you have as a sommelier? WSET Level 3

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Photograph: Macchialina

What does it take to learn to sniff and taste wine properly? Learning the basics!  When you first start tasting wine, you’ll hear people say crazy things like “I smell bubble gum and erasers” and then you smell it going “whaaaat?! Yeah sure, me too!”  
 
When I began taking wine courses, they made it so much simpler by teaching the basics; for starters the importance of having a clean palate (i.e. don’t drink coffee before tasting).  My professors, then broke it down into these simple steps teaching me to not only properly taste, but then make comparisons between wines, without trying to think of something so unique to say. 1) Appearance 2) The nose 3) The palate 4) Using your impressions to draw conclusions about the quality of the wine. 

Within each of these categories are descriptive words that are taught and allowed to be used, other descriptors aren’t welcomed. 

What is a common wine myth you’d like dispelled? This might be vague, but speaking in certainties.  “Old world is better than new world”, “California only makes oaked chardonnays and big bold cabernets”, “I don’t like Italian wines”

Opinions are one thing – but when you speak in certainties this bold – you’re suggesting your opinion as fact – which is what I dislike and have a problem with.  The world of wine can teach you something new every day.  It’s ok to not know it all, it’s ok to have your opinions change from time to time.  It’s also a good idea to just not be so opinionated – it’s just wine! 

Where would you steer a person wanting to learn more about wine? I think the WSET is a great tool and is offered in most states.  It’s not only great for someone working in this industry, but also for the consumer.  It teaches you how to properly taste, how to navigate a wine label or a wine list and much much more depending on the level you choose to advance to.  For those looking for something not so formal, I would say get yourself a few wines books and a notebook.  When you taste a new wine (at home) take a few minutes to think about it, the appearance, the nose, the palate… maybe jot down a few notes about it.  Then spend a few minutes reading about the region and the varietal.  It doesn’t have to be a daunting hour-long task, that may not be fun, but you can start small.  Also- utilize your local wine shops!  These small boutique shops usually have passionate, knowledgeable people working there.  Chat with them for recommendations and inquire about tastings.  Then on your next visit you can converse with them about what you did or didn’t enjoy about the last wine and you can really begin to know what you’re in the mood for.

What is a good starter wine? As mentioned, I grew up in an Italian family; the first restaurant I worked in was Italian, so I started with Italian wine and I think it’s a great region to start with.  You can learn that Italy has a lot to offer, from a simple glass of Nero d’Avola to a complex Barolo (and everything in between).  You can learn the difference between an everyday table wine, to a more special occasion wine and why both should exist.

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How do you feel about the current Miami wine scene overall? I am excited to be a part of the Miami wine culture.  I think we have a lot more independent restaurants excited about their wine programs, trying to curate and offer different options than their competition.  I do think there has to be more places taking their by the glass selection and temperature control more seriously.  You don’t have to have a ton storage, or fancy fridges, a bucket with some ice gets the job done, and I am not referring to white wines, it’s a pet peeve to get a red wine that’s so hot it burns your throat.  I also think if you serve wine, whether it’s a restaurant or a bar, a large or small list, you should have pride in what you’re serving.  I love when I go to some of the newly opened bars in Miami and aside from their amazing craft cocktail program, I can peruse a stellar by the glass list (even if it’s a small offering).

What do you wish every diner knew when ordering wine at a restaurant? To ask questions!  It’s ok if you don’t know.  My staff spends so much time studying, tasting and learning about our wine list, they actually enjoy putting that knowledge to use. Also – check temperature. A red wine shouldn’t be served hot – it should have a slight chill.  White wine shouldn’t be ice cold.  When ordering white wine, don’t automatically ask for an ice bucket, if it’s very cold, ask for it to be kept on the table and allow it to warm up a bit, you’d be surprised how much more flavorful the wine can be. 

What wine trend do you think needs to go away? Cheap, sweet prosecco!  Prosecco is delicious…when made correctly.  Not that it has to be expensive, but please quit buying the $7.00 cute label, witty named, sweet style, supermarket sold prosecco.

What is on its way to becoming a trend in 2019? Natural wine is for sure a trend and I think isn’t going anywhere and will continue to become a growing trend in 2019.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully with another Macchialina open!  My dream is to also open a wine and cheese shop here in Miami, we shall see! 

What would customers be surprised to learn about you? Multiplicity is my favorite movie. “I like pizza, Steve!”

New at Macchialina: In the interest of providing our guests with the most unique dining experience, we offer carafes of all of our bottles.  Half the bottle for half the price.  We use a Coravin system to preserve the other half of the bottle.  Anything that has been coravined is then offered as a by the glass special, encouraging diners to ask their server “What are you pouring this evening?”. It’s a fun way for diners to get to taste many different wines at all different price points during their visit. 

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Photographs by The Whet Palette

Macchialina
820 Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL
305.534.2124

 

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