67 Pall Mall's Federico Moccia joins Star Wine List’s UK jury

Federico Moccia.
Jonathan Newton
By Jonathan Newton
Published 15-February-2024
Interview / UK

Meet Federico Moccia, the top sommelier who has joined Star Wine List’s jury for the United Kingdom, as he describes his “missionary” work and explains what makes a really good wine list.

As Federico Moccia discovered his interest in wine, it dawned on him that it wasn’t his native Brescia – where wine had been cultivated since the time of the Romans – that offered the best opportunities for him to learn. Instead, over the mere course of roughly Federico Moccia’s own lifetime so far, it was London that had become the place to go to.

“I used to work at a company that makes many things, and one of them is wine, sparkling wine. I got my passion for wine there,” Federico Moccia says. “I wanted to know more, so I decided to go to London. It was the best place, better than any other city, where you could taste the best wines from around the world.”

Having arrived in London, he started out at a gastropub, before “there was this news of a new wine member club to open back in August of 2015,” to which he promptly applied in spite of having no previous experience as a sommelier.

That club was none other than 67 Pall Mall, the private members’ wine club in the heart of London’s historic gentleman’s club district, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.

”It was the first time I was about to open some of the greatest wines from around the world”, Federico Moccia says. “There were wines there that I’d only seen the labels of, I’d never really touched them! It was good for me, I learned a lot…”

From there, Federico Moccia quickly rose through the ranks. Today, he holds the position of Head Sommelier in charge of 20 sommeliers, while also holding masterclasses, being on the jury of Decanter’s wine awards, and about to becoming a judge for the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) – that is, when not helping 67 Pall Mall expand into such places as Singapore or Melbourne.

However, London remains his home turf, and fertile ground it remains, too. So, the secret to the city’s rapid transformation from benightedness to enlightenment? Federico Moccia believes it is largely because Britain until recently had no wine industry of its own.

People who aren’t willing to listen might not become educated

“In Italy, Spain, or any other big region, they focus too much on their own region. The beauty of being here is that people are always willing to discover new things. London is the best place for a young generation to show their wines. There are lots of wines and sommeliers. It’s a really competitive city.”

In fact, such an environment of plenty has even helped Federico Moccia to discover fine wines from other parts of his own country as well; he often mentions wines from Sicily as one example.

What do you think caused the change in Britain?
“I definitely believe that food helps so much. Many chefs want to come here and show their food. “At the same time,” he continues, “there are also the supermarkets. In places like Waitrose, there’s a lot on the shelves from different countries. And while they may not be fine wines, at least it tells people to discover something new.”

“Say you buy wine from the Rhône region and discover this area. ‘I like this kind of wine, so let me go to something more refined.’ So, you start from entry-level wines and got to fine wines.” Needless to say, a good sommelier is an invaluable help in such a journey of palate expansion.

As for Star Wine List’s UK awards, nearly 100 entries have been submitted, and to Federico Moccia, the quality of the entries is high. However, when reviewing the wine lists, it isn’t only the number or the types of wine available that catches his attention. There needs to be a balance, there needs to be good value for money, it needs to suit those who would typically visit the restaurant or bar, and the wines need to go well together with the food on offer.

So, what makes a really good wine list, in your opinion?
“Knowledge. And not just that you know the wine. You need to know about the market, your clientele, your food. You have to know your budget. It’s important to update yourself and see what’s going on in the market. The main thing is knowledge.”

Finally, 67 Pall Mall of course couldn’t compete for a Star Wine List award, since you’re on the jury and since private clubs aren’t allowed. But how do you think it would do if you could?
“We work with a very big wine list, and we also make sure to have wines from different places. We have wines from more than 40 countries, 5000 bins and sell 850 wines by the glass. That would be a nightmare for a judge!”

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