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Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Francesco Marzola

Time to go back North for our next sommelier, although we still touch a little bit of the south in this case as our next sommelier only moved from Sicily up North to Norway 9 years ago for love and got next to an amazing wife also a brilliant career in Norway… so a winner on the entire line. Speaking of winning, he also recently won the 2020 Best Sommelier of Norway competition and also became the Best Sommelier of the Nordics in 2018. Please meet Italo- Norwegian top sommelier Francesco Marzola

It is a known fact that Francesco has already been working in the world of HoReCa since the age of 16, but at that age his life goal was not really HoReCa related as he studied Political science at university. Italy might be very sad about missing-out on a good politician, but we are very happy that he chose a career in the world of sommeliers :-)

Jon Trygve Hegnar, Francesco Marzola and Liora Levi

Growing up in Italy with parents who own a restaurant, food and wine are a quit important part of your life. But it wasn’t until Francesco’s move to Norway in 2011 that his passion and journey towards this passion having a big impact on his daily work life. It was at Jacobs Bar & Kjøkken that he got bitten by the wine bug or better the bug to know and learn more about this drink of gods J It even went that far that in 2014 he decided to follow a sommelier course at the Norsk Sommelier Utdannelse. A course that lead to a career as sommelier in Norwegian top wine restaurants like Colonialen 44 and Fleischer's to eventually start working as wine director at Park Hotel Vossevangen in Voss, west Norway, which is the biggest and best wine cellar of Scandinavia with more than 40.000 bottles and around 5000 labels in our 280 pages wine list. The sky is the limit we’d say…

In 2018 Francesco started his path towards the Master Sommelier title, so in February 2018 he got his introductory and certified pin and in November 2019 he got his advanced pin at first attempt? Francesco is currently studying for my MS exam, which he will apply for in November right after the Advance which will probably will be in 2022, due to the long waiting list. In between all of that he also found time to participate in both national and international sommelier competitions with victories at the Best Sommelier of the Nordics in 2018 and Best Sommelier of Norway in 2020. So I’m sure we’ll her from Francesco a lot in the future and we wish him the best of luck with that future

Enjoy the read!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Burgundy is a favorite of mine, due to the complexity, the variation and the possibility to always find something new! BUT, a region I really love working with, and want to bring even more forward than it already is, Champagne: I think is very exciting what is happening there with a lot of new, small producers, coming out of their contract with the big houses and starting their own label, focusing on provenance, more than blend all together, and crafting high class, very distinctive Champagne with as much variation as Burgundy and with the fascinating possibility to be used in a lot of different ways, such as food and wine pairing, which is something still a lot of people do not connect with Champagne, and which I try to bring forward by having at my venue the possibility to have a multi-course meal paired only with Champagne...

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

I think the key is knowledge for a good sommelier: our guests are more and more knowledgeable, more conscious regarding their choices, so we need to keep our knowledge at the top all the time. It is important to have knowledge not only regarding the wine itself, but knowledge of history, sociology, economy. Be curious, read about that place, the history, why they produce that sort of wine.

Listen to your guest as well, and be subtle enough to not give out information just because you want to go under the spotlight, and last but not least, be honest with your guests, serve them a product you actually believe in and not just something you have to sell out, and even thought we have always try to be diplomatic, always answer honest, even if it is not maybe the answer the guests expect...

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

I am fortunate enough to live in a region, Scandinavia, which is quite "young" regarding culinary scene and interest for food and wine, so actually no it is not; here in Norway, at least in the big cities, it is normal that the majority of the restaurants do have a sommelier on their payroll, which is a very positive thing both for the guests, which are exposed to a lot of new experiences when it comes to wine, and for the restaurant itself which provides, the majority at least, a very high standard regarding the service. The sommeliers are becoming as famous as the chefs here in Norway and a prove to the how high are regarded up here are international competitions, where in the last 15 years Scandinavian sommeliers has always been very high up.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I worked with wine since I was 16, and I grew up in Sicily, which produces a lot of wine; in my family I had my grandfather who produced his own wine, not a very good one, but that exposed me to wine since I was a kid. Moving to Norway and starting to work with wine from all over the world did increase a lot my interest as well, since I got my horizon opened and I realized how exciting and never ending is this world, and that working with wine would have never been boring since there is always something you never tasted, always a new region you didn't know a lot about and so on.

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

I got a big inspiration from one of the first sommeliers I worked for in Bergen here in Norway, Joseph Di Blasi, who showed me how passionate and curious someone can be regarding wine and this world!

On a more international level, even if I'm not a big fan of having models, I appreciate the way of being and the opinions of Doug Frost, and I respect him for how humble he is even if he is one of the 4 people on earth with both MW and MS...

What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?

I like to push the boundaries: of course the basics are always there, and it is always safe to pair a wine from the region from where the dish come from, but I always try to pair the wine not as a companion to the food, but as an extension, so that the wine can bring to the dish what the dish lacks, or so that the combinations of the two can give a more complete experience! I do love as well to pair food with wine and not the way around, and I do that all the time at work with my guests, by choosing the wine and adapt the menu to the wine and not the way around.

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

I actually recommend a country: Austria! It is such a lovely, various country when it comes to wine, everything is close, you can start the morning with the sharp Rieslings of the North, have lunch with the robust reds of the East and dinner with the aromatics wine of the South! And the people are so welcoming and helpful, and the wines are still under the radar, really hidden gems!

© ÖWM / Peter Kramar

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

No wine is important enough to require a sacrifice, but there is a bottle I'm sure I will taste before I die, and that is a Chateau Lafite-Rotschild 1961, the only vintage produced with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

Definitely when I got my advanced pin in November 2019

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

The seafood of Norway: from beautiful scallops, to rich king crab, from wonderful cod to tasty salmon, it is really a beautiful variation which allowed to have a lot of fun pairing wine with.

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