Local Heroes #58 - Wine lover Marco Callegaro and owner of Cantine Sant'Ambroeus

An interview with Marco Callegaro who has been living in Berlin since 2011 and opened his wine shop Cantine Sant'Ambroeus in Prenzlauer Berg in 2013.

Published by Guest on 11/05/2017

So Marco, tell me, what led you to the world of wine?

I am a lawyer and I hated my first job because the people I was happy to help had no money, and the people with money were not the people I wanted to help.

So I was looking for something else to do and went to the center of Italy in Gubbo to try to work at a place that made Bucheri, the black terracotta traditional from the region.

When I arrived, the woman I was supposed to meet wasn’t there. So, I went to this wine bar in the village and that’s when I decided the idea to work with wine.

I started to study sommelier and then picked three places where I wanted to work for. My idea was that if none of the places would accept me, I would find a different path to succeed. One of these places was Cantine Isola, the top wine bar in Milan. I ended up working there for nine years.

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Could you please tell me a little bit more about Cantine Sant'Ambroeus?

I opened the shop in 2013 and decided to just focus on Italian wines. 80% of the producers I worked with were biodynamic or bio and the rest were normal wine makers, but whom I knew had a good soul. Here in Berlin, I am the official representative of the Italian Association of Sommelier.

I feel like I am a bridge between the different souls of the natural wines and the customers.

Why did you decide to specialize in natural wines? 

In 2003 when I started to work at the wine bar in Milano, I fell upon Portos magazine, a magazine which specialized in natural wine and wanted to understand what it was.

I am a man who always asks questions and I always want to know new things. So I went to the Villa Favorita wine fair, which was at the best time and place to try natural wines, so it started from there. 

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Why do you still sell some wines that are non-natural?

Well, to me as long as I know the wine is made with honestly it’s ok. There are areas where you cannot escape using chemicals; you need a little help. There is a big problem in Europe with climate change. For example, the sparkling wine in England used to be terrible, now it is not so bad. They are some areas in Italy or France where the wine was excellent and now it is not so bad.

(The wine producer) Franceso Valentini, said to me, ‘Marco, the climate is changing and maybe in 10 years, my son won’t be able to produce wine anymore. And maybe if Gabriele wants to make wine with time he will have to use chemicals.’ So that’s why I say, having a dogmatic vision is stupid, just like in religion.

Callegaro opens a bottle of wine.

What wine are we drinking right now?

Now we are drinking a rose from Nino Barraco, a Sicilian wine maker. This is a wine you want to spend time with. Sometimes you see a beautiful woman but when you come to talk with her there is nothing happening. Maybe it’s ok to just look at her, but maybe I want a woman that is less perfect but that I can exchange with. That is this wine for me.

Some wines are just drinking wines and it’s also fine but some need more reflection. They are different styles of sensibilities and complexity in wines, so I believe there is always a perfect wine for every person and every situation.

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What do you think about natural wines becoming more and more trendy?

When I opened my shop here in Berlin and started to work with natural wines, people would tell me that it’s not my place; they called me crazy. Now, all these people are running after me asking me to give them natural wines. But I tell them, “You? But Its not your soul, its not your philosophy.”

Anyways, I always go for crazy, When people speak to you of racing, they always mention Senna or Schumacher but my favorite is Nigel Mansell because he is crazy.

You know, we as crazy people, we can’t always win but when we do, it is incredible.

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Where do you see yourself growing in the next few years?

You know, when we met with all of these winemakers, we don’t just talk about wine we speak of life because wine is life.

But I’m not sure if the wine is my last life. I want to learn how to make shoes, so that might be my third life. But my old lives are always with me, I always look at situations from the eyes of a lawyer and I will always enjoy drinking wine.

Thank you, Marco, for this interview.

Words and photography by Solynka.

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