Interview With A Sommelier – Marco Alessandro Felicissimo
19th September 2023
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 who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Marco Alessandro Felicissimo, let’s find out a bit about his life as a Sommelier.
Tell Us About Yourself
“My name is Marco, I’m Italian and I prefer to define myself as a ‘Digital wine teller’. In other words, I’m a wine blogger and writer. I’m a certified sommelier (Italian Sommelier Association – AIS) and I also passed the exam WSET 2 with distinction in English. The wine world is my sheer passion and this is why I have been studying wines and their respective regions for more than thirty years. I like tasting wines and good food, travelling and exploring wine regions all over the world to get to know as much as possible, there is so much to learn! My last wine trip was last July to Porto and the fascinating Douro Valley. I love sharing my experiences and what I have learned about the wine world. I have travelled to several wine regions and there is still a lot to see out there. All wine regions are fascinating and every bottle of wine tells its own story. Speaking about sparkling wines, I have traveled to Champagne several times and visited maisons de champagne as well as family run wineries. I also visited other sparkling wine regions, especially in Italy and Spain.”
Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?
“This is a difficult one! First of all, I think that to understand and appreciate sparkling wines some tasting experience and wine knowledge are needed. These wines are or can be pretty complex and also the vinification processes, for example, the traditional method, can be carried out in slightly different ways resulting in wines with important differences. Of course, I’m not speaking about a glass of sparkling wine we can have with relatives and/or friends to celebrate festivities or special occasions but I’m referring to drinking sparkling wine gastronomically, pairing it with food and appreciating its characteristics and in some cases its complexity. It’s not easy to answer your question, but I think my first experience with sparkling wine was probably at my parents’ house when I was pretty young and had no wine knowledge. My father loved sparkling wines like Prosecco and the ones produced by Cantine Ferrari in Trentino. He used to open one of those bottles to drink during meals, especially to pair with fish dishes.”
What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?
“A few factors inspired me to become a sommelier. First of all, I was born in the Abruzzo region but raised in Rome as my parents moved there when I was a child. In the summertime, as a kid I used to spend some time with my grandfather in Abruzzo and I remember being fascinated by his activities at the vineyard taking care of the Montepulciano vines and, of course, by him drinking his own wine during dinner.
In addition, I have always loved good food, either traditional dishes or more gourmet preparations and eating a good meal goes together with drinking wine, it is a well rooted habit. It is actually an historical combination, for centuries food and wine have been paired for a convivial meal with friends or just within the family. This is another aspect about wine that has always fascinated me. We don’t have to forget that wine origins date back 10,000 years! Especially for Mediterranean countries, the so called Mediterranean diet (UNESCO World Heritage) is the exemplification of the conviviality, the habit of eating together which is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities. It is a moment of social exchange and communication, an affirmation and renewal of family, group or community identity and wine has always been there to enhance this convivial attitude. This is why I continue to study wines and explore wine regions whenever possible, I’m fascinated by the history and traditions related to wine. Every wine is the result of the history of the territory where it comes from, especially if we speak about native grapes.
Growing up I also realised how much I was in love with the Italian wine regions’ countryside. Even now a long walk in a hilly area through vineyards is for me something that I would love to do every day, something that is unbeatable. I’m sure our lovely Luna, the golden retriever, agrees with me! “
During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?
“After so many years into wine, I have learned for sure one important thing, that in this field there is always something to learn. Being into wine is a never-ending learning process. It doesn’t matter which courses you have attended and what you have studied, you will never know enough and you will find out this every day when you are confronted with a new bottle of wine, with colleagues, during a winery and wine region visit, etc.. The wine world has to be approached with humility because it is so vast and has multiple facets. Unfortunately, this is not everyone’s attitude because some people lack modesty….”
What Sparkling Wine Producing Countries or Regions Hold A Special Place In Your Heart?
“As an Italian, I’m always tempted to support my country, also because sparkling wine is now produced in several Italian regions and the quality has reached acceptable levels. However, I have to be honest and say that my favourite region is Champagne. I have been there several times and, during my winery visits, I really appreciated the level of precision in their work which, in most cases, is the result of centuries of experience and traditions. There is no need to go to Maisons de Champagne to understand this, family run wineries located in small villages can show you how attached they are to their history and their traditional way of producing Champagne. Some people think that Champagne’s success is mainly because of the excellent marketing behind it. Obviously, producing and selling Champagne is a business and marketing is very important to support it. But its success is mainly due to the high quality reached by most of the producers in the region. The truth is that you don’t find the same level of complexity and elegance you find in a bottle of Champagne in other sparkling wines, with few exceptions of course.”
Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?
“I always like to remember places where I had Champagne during a meal rather than just a glass for a toast, an aperitif or whatever reason. From this perspective, maybe the most memorable place was the two Michelin star Jean-George’s restaurant in New York City. Apart from the high level of food and environment, we really loved the Champagne we had during our dinner. It was Jean Lallement et Fils, Reserve rosé, appellation Verzenay Grand Cru. This Champagne, disgorged in August 2019, is made from 100% Pinot Noir variety. On the nose, it had aromas of bread dough, red fruits, violet, and hints of rose petal and citrus zest. On the palate, notes of strawberry, rhubarb and yeast with a dry, pleasantly mineral and clean medium-long finish. It paired perfectly with the chef’s preparations and both the restaurant and Champagne were the perfect choice to celebrate our wedding anniversary.”
Thank you, Marco, 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 Marco Orru: IG @mo_art_ph. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.
You can follow Marco Alessandro Felicissimo on Instagram here to keep up to date with his wine adventures: @marco_felicissimo_sommelier
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.