Interview With A Sommelier – Jorge Alexandre

13th March 2024

Interview With A Sommelier Jorge Alexandre

The World of Wine is beautifully showcased by an army of talented Sommeliers, who help the consumer discover their next favourite bottle, understand the different regions and pair a delicious meal with the right Glass of Bubbly.

In this feature, I speak with a man from, Lisbon, Portugal, who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Jorge Alexandre, let’s find out about his life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“My name is Jorge Alexandre, I’m 53 years old and I was born in Portugal. I’ve always worked in the restaurant industry and I love what I do, I’ve held every position from counter waiter, to head waiter to manager, the job I was missing was being a sommelier, who has an incredible passion for wine and drinks in general. I was the one who ordered from them for many years and discussed prices with brand representatives. I was always interested in taking a course, but as time was limited, I let it go.

Eventually, I made up my mind and started applying for the position of sommelier in the restaurant industry. When I started my job. as a sommelier, it was fantastic to explain to customers how wine is produced and beers, digestives, sake, coffee and even water. Customers loved listening to me and praised my patience in explaining a little bit of everything, from the history of the wine to the bottle. Then I realized I had one more speech to entice customers to return to the restaurant. I started to have clients who didn’t even want the wine list, they just wanted my suggestions on the wines they would drink, they completely trusted the quality and price of what I offered them.

In the first restaurant I worked as a sommelier I had a salary and I also earned a commission, so I loved selling a flute of sparkling wine for starters, then a wine with the meal and a tasting of port wine, one aged 10 years and another aged 40 years, so I would encourage the customer to consume with pleasure and without ever complaining about what made everyone happy.”

Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?

“Unforgettable I’m from Coimbra, which by tradition has the most famous and appetizing dishes, one of them is the suckling pig from Bairrada which has to be accompanied by sparkling wine from the same region, preferably red. At a family dinner, I was a child and I secretly decided to try the sparkling wine when it fell to me in my mouth it gave me a sensation that I never forgot, those bubbles stinging my mouth. From then on, whenever we drank sparkling wine at home, I wanted to be the one to open the bottles to feel the gas coming out and try to make the noise, a sign of celebration.

I always looked for videos of sommeliers opening bottles with a saber, that fascinated me and challenged me to learn how it was done. Over the years I learned how sparkling wine was produced, which always gave me a tremendous desire not to stop and learn more. It should be noted that throughout Portugal there are some very good sparkling wines for me, they are not far from Champagnes and at incredible prices.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“Since I started in the restaurant industry, I always had great pleasure in selling wine and suggesting wines. At that time in Portugal, the role of sommelier didn’t exist and even now there are few restaurants that have this type of service, although more so in hotels or luxury restaurants and there was no information about courses or training.

As I have always been a very active person, whenever I presented the menu to the client, I challenged myself to choose the wine before handing it over, which I was having some success with, which led me to do it more and more times until the moment that I no longer even had the menu and I made the suggestive sale, thus gaining customers and the customers always trusting my choices without repeating the wines, creating a kind of itinerary through the restaurant’s cellar and never having any leftover wines.

I was then just missing the course, which I am doing with an excellent group of outstanding people who named me class president and motivated me to never give up (we have a group on WhatsApp which I don’t let die with all the information I learn, it ends there) and to continue this wonderful world of wine, I also have to thank the excellent professional teachers who always had incredible patience to motivate and teach us.”

During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?

“I am a person very dedicated to what I do, I love the profession I have and just to confess, every day I fall asleep listening to podcasts about wine and all drinks related to the sommelier course. What fascinates me is seeing those professionals who barely sleep fighting to give us an incredible nectar of the gods, come to discover that we can pair with most drinks and in a diplomatic way inform the customer of what they can sometimes gain by following our suggestions that we can serve anything from tea to beer and sparkling gins that can go well with almost all foods, so I do it when I have difficulties when suggesting wines.

I enjoy leading the customer to enjoy some bubbles with less or more sugar, resulting perfectly well in the service. For me, in the past, wine was red and nothing else, after many tastings I really came to discover this world of incredible work. I usually say whoever enters this world never leaves, the more you learn, the more desire you have.”

What Sparkling Wine Producing Countries or Regions Hold A Special Place In Your Heart?

“As I said, I’m from Coimbra, a city district capital of the Bairrada region that makes some very good sparkling wines, I would venture to say that it is one of the best in Portugal. Távora-Varosa is also an excellent region in Portugal that only makes perfect bubbles. If a green wine is said to have bubbles, now imagine a fine, elegant sparkling wine from this region with a lively acidity and made in such a cautious, slow and cold way that its bubble could only be bucolic, fine, delicate and persistent made with the Alvarinho grape variety and laurel, a variety that has aromas of green leaves, bay leaves, linden and lemon.

Then, of course, I can’t help but mention our neighbors in Spain with their ‘Cava’ they also do an excellent job. Moving on to the Champagnes, it’s a shame that not everyone can have the privilege of tasting them. As an option, I suggest trying the Crémants, they are fabulous and at much more affordable prices. Italy, with its tradition in Proseccos, continues to be on the market successfully. Now we also have our customers from Brazil doing things that will soon make people talk. But in my heart there is still Bairrada, perhaps because it was the first one I tried, I never forgot it.”

What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Sommeliers?

“Here is the best advice I can give in all sincerity. We have to continue to study constantly so that we can keep up with industry trends and develop our palate by practising tasting regularly to improve our skills in identifying flavors and aromas. Let’s all personalize our service to the maximum through wine recommendations, being ethical, maintaining integrity and impartiality in the customer’s preference, and promoting education about wine so that the customer understands and appreciates the drink.

Connect with professionals in the sector such as wine producers, importers and sommeliers. Show your passion and love for what you do in an engaging and accessible way to inspire everyone around us, traveling and exploring wine regions, visiting wineries, and participating in wine fairs and events, this is the only way we will be able to expand our knowledge and experience. We always have more to learn with humility, open to new trends, experiences and discoveries in the world of wine.”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“For me, family is very important every year at Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we are in harmony with the bubbles accompanying us. Nothing that takes this away from our memories, for all the affection and love they give me.”

Thank you, Jorge, for sharing your words, knowledge and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Jorge Alexandre. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.