Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Rodolfo Tristão

Portugal is (re)putting itself on the map both as wine country with wonderful wines (next to Port and Madeira) from Barraida, Douro, etc… but also as gastronomical country. I can say for a fact that last time I was in Portugal it was a true gastronomical odyssey!! One of the people that has done its part in the gastronomical part is the next sommelier I’m putting in the spotlight Rodolfo Tristão.

Rodolfo is a classical trained at the ESHTE in Estoril, but over the years had the chance to learn some of the best sommeliers in the world like Josep Roca, João Pires (MS) and Matheiu Longere (MS)… knowing this it probably also won’t come as a surprise that Rodolfo has participated at many national and international sommeliers competitions with very satisfying results I must add.

When I look at his career, I must say you can tell he’s a man with passion for wine and wants to learn at lot. Besides working in many famous restaurant all over Portugal, he also worked as sommelier for winemakers like Niepoort. A nice mix I’d say :-) and he combined a few years with being president of the Portuguese Sommelier association.

Today Rodolfo is sommelier for the multiple Michelin awarded José Avillez restaurant group, teaches at the hotel management school he went too and works as sommelier/consultant for WIME (founded by Portuguese top chef Pedro Lemos) which is a online wine store that helps you discover the right wine for your palate. So still a busy bee as you can see

Have fun getting to know Rodolfo better!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Portugal! Wines of Lisbon in particular I like to recommend to many people. It´s a region with different terroirs and good value wines. I like to show people that there are other Portuguese wines besides the ones from Douro and Alentejo. Next to that I'm a big fan of white Burgundy wines or red Chilean Wines.

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

First of all, Passion for the "metier". Like to work with people and he should do lots of studying and tastings.

Be yourself, with respect towards the customer and be humble.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

I think it does get underestimated bit. In Portugal we are trying change the tie and upgrade the value of a sommelier in the restaurants, hotels and wine shops.

From my point of view people should have more respect and trust in our service/job. Slowly and step by step we're getting there :-)

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

My family produced wine in a region that had along tradition as wine making aka the Cartaxo/Azambuja in Tejo . So I did already get in touch with wine at very young age, but the 'click' or passion came during my year in hotel management school. I was fortunate enough to a great teachers like Mário Louro and Master João Pires . They helped discover a whole new world that I'm still discovering about every day.

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

If you saw the previous answer I guess the answer to this question will not come as a surprise :-) For me the 2 people that have inspired and keep inspiring me are Mário Louro and João Pires

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

This is a sensitive but also very exciting part of our job.. I try to choose the best wine to go with a dish, by either going for similarities or by contrasting and make it more funky :-)

When you have a long menu it´s best to choose wines with similarities and go less for contrast.

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

There are many wonderful regions to visit, but as there are a few regions in Portugal that everybody should have see starting with Douro. If they still have time a little trip to Colares and Bairrada. would be like the frosting on the cake.

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

I don´t have any wine...

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

The practical classes. Tasting wines and serving the guests. I loved schooll!!!

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

Taste Portuguese food: Cozido "Pot au feu" Portuguesa, Feijoada and the beautiful fish that Portugal has. Writing about it makes me feel like eating it :-)

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