Interview with Gennaro Iorio: Head Cellarman of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo

Published on February 16, 2024Updated on June 10, 2024

From Naples to Monaco... Itinerary of a man with a passion 

Voluble, with his Neapolitan accent that has never left him since he moved to France in 1986, Gennaro Iorio is a charismatic character. It has to be said that his career has something of a romance about it. In the mid-1980s, Gennaro completed his artistic training at the Istituto d'Arte Filippo Palizzi in Naples. 1987: at the opening of the summer season, there he was at the bar of the Casino de Monte-Carlo, trying his hand at being a waiter. He also worked at the Salle des Étoiles, where he rubbed shoulders with a certain Alain Ducasse, who had recently arrived in the Principality. The following season: "I had just become a father and I needed to work", recalls Gennaro Iorio, "so I joined the team of the wine cellars of the Hôtel de Paris for the first time, while doing extra waiter shifts in the dining room". And while following the oenology courses given by Michel Balanche. As well as preparing for his first wine-related competitions. Quickly captivated by the world of wine, the young man set to work. Still working in the cellar and dining room, Gennaro Iorio was appointed Head Cellarman in 1993. He then said goodbye to his job in the dining room, "with a little regret", but it was the only way for the new head of the cellars to "take the time to travel and meet the winemakers...". 

Interview caviste Gennaro Iorio
Interview caviste Gennaro Iorio

A short history of sommellerie


In his early years, first as a sommelier and then as a cellarman, Gennaro Iorio was watched and contributed to the job becoming more professional. For example, he witnessed the arrival of Jean-Pierre Rous, the first Head Sommelier at the Louis XV - Alain Ducasse restaurant of the Hôtel de Paris. Before that, the sommelier profession overlapped with that of maître d'hôtel. A time gone by with the gradual recognition of a profession in its own right. Then came the era of competitions, when "everyone wanted to be world champion". While the profession itself has not changed, the knowledge required is becoming "more technical and more specific" every year, according to the Head Cellarman. "We need people with a passion". And this is a subject of great interest to Gennaro Iorio: what can be done to help young people develop their passion? In his own small way, he strives to share and pass on his knowledge, taking young recruits on vineyard visits for example. This is a very important mission for him, even if the day-to-day running of the cellars takes up most of his time. 

The cellars, cutting-edge logistics among sleeping beauties 

Guarding and preserving the wine, supplying all the Resort's sales outlets, "from Michelin-starred restaurants to brasseries and nightclubs", taking part in trade shows and tasting committees... Gennaro Iorio's missions are many and varied. To supply the 40 or so points of sale, the organisation has to be meticulous, between the Sporting Monte-Carlo cellar, the entry point for supplies, and the Wine Cellars of the Hôtel de Paris, "mainly devoted to maturing the wine". Each Resort hotel has its own cellar, which in turn supplies the cellars of each sales outlet. Every day, Gennaro Iorio's team supplies the cellars of the establishments in such a way as to keep "several bottles in advance for each reference on the menu, in condition to be sold". The bottles are aged in the cellars of the Hôtel de Paris, where the temperature varies between 13.5°C and 14.5°C and the humidity between 75% and 85%. "It's not the bottle that comes out of the cellar in the morning that will be opened in the evening". Isn't it heartbreaking to see the bottles go when you've been looking after them for years? "As guardian of the temple, I'd love to sell nothing!", laughs Gennaro Iorio. "But I'm well aware that we're here to share the pleasure and open the bottles". Sometimes, the head sommeliers invite him to the tasting when a particularly special bottle is sold. These are very emotional moments of sharing. 

Interview caviste Gennaro Iorio

The excellence of a profession, combining passion and sharing 

Far from the stereotypical image of the solitary cellarman, Gennaro Iorio's job is above all one of contact and sharing. Contact with the Group's Executive Head Sommelier Patrice Frank, of course, for the most strategic questions. We are also in contact with all the sommeliers, to ensure that the fine mechanics of cellar management run smoothly, and that storage conditions in the establishments are good. Last but not least, it's all about sharing, during visits to vineyards and wine fairs, as well as during the tasting committees that bring together the head sommeliers and the head cellarman every Friday morning.

Interview caviste Gennaro Iorio

Time, that priceless luxury 


Thousands of exceptional bottles rest and age in the cellars of the Hôtel de Paris, and it's the job of Gennaro Iorio and his team to watch over their development so that they can be offered for service at the most opportune moment. But it's also part of the job of the cellar master to look after the cellar's heritage: "A few years ago, I felt the need to create a place to preserve the traces of history". This "stock de garde" includes special vintages, bottles linked to the princely family or the history of the Principality... You can see a cognac from the Napoleonic era resting there, still consumable and with its authentic cork: "Yes, touching these bottles can give you the shivers", admits the Head Cellarman. Other references have been preserved for ageing, waiting for time to do its work... And for that, there's no question of rushing things: "We sometimes have to say 'no' to customers as a matter of professionalism. Paradoxically, not being able to access certain things can feed the dream nowadays". It's also a way of preserving the reputation of the cellars and the Resort. 

Witness to fashions and eras 

Far from the image of the hermit cellarman, Gennaro Iorio is a first-hand witness to customs and traditions: "Drinking wine for 3 hours at a table in a gastronomic restaurant is a thing of the past. On the other hand, a bottle worth several thousand Euros can be consumed alongside a simple sandwich". Codes change, fashions come and go... Fashions that have mostly been anticipated by resort professionals. Today, Burgundy is on a roll, but what about tomorrow?  

After 36 years with Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, Gennaro Iorio is thinking about what's next. He even thinks about it every day. What's next? It's not retirement, no: it's making wine, "getting back to the land". While he waits to find his own parcel of happiness under the Mediterranean sun, Gennaro Iorio continues his love affair with the world of wine, to which he devotes all his time and energy, and which will never end.  

Interview caviste Gennaro Iorio

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