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Time to put the sommelier in the spotlight: Sergio Santos

This time we take you to Portugal to introduce to you Sommelier Sergio Santos , who travelled to Belgian some months ago to help us out during the Best sommelier of the World as volunteer!! We are very grateful.

When Sergio finished his studies at the Lisbon hotellerie school he started his career in Horeca working in some of the best 5star hotels in Portugal like the Ritz Four Seasons, Tivoli, Lapa Palace and the Meridien. Although at that time he mostly worked as Bartender. But it wasn’t until 2006 when he started working at the famous Lisbon restaurant Olivier where he first came in contact with wine service. he liked it that much that he went back to school to study some more and specialize in Food and Beverage Management and Sommelier. Studies that he combined with a position as manager of a Gourmet store "Club del Gourmet" in El Corte Inglês in Sintra where he was lucky enough to taste some of the best wines from accross the world. Work at el Club del Gourmet did give him a boost go learning more about wines and travelling to vineyards, etc… that eventually resulted into helping restaurants with their wines list, teaching, etc…

In 2010 Sergio moved from Lisbon to Porto and started working in Wine Trade and in combination with Wine Consulting for Restaurants Today Sergio owns his own business, Portus Wine, but he still worked as a freelance Sommelier and I still with my Wine distribution in our days. Last year he also started doing a Portugal Wine Expirience on AirBndB. And as cherry on the cake he won the Blind Wine Tasting Championship in Portugal.

Please enjoy getting to know this wonderful man better!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

This is a very difficult question! In Portugal we love to work with Portuguese Wines. I Personally love Champagne, Bourgogne, Jura, Piedmont. When it comes to wines from Portugal I love Bairrada!! I love it because they produce beautiful sparkling wines, whites and great Reds. Next to that I’m also fan of wines from the Douro valley, as we can find many kinds of wine here. In this region we mostly have Shell (Xisto) soil and also some granite in Douro Superior and the highest points of the Douro. In the Douro we have more than 30 different varieties in both red and white wines. The Vineyards close to River are mostly (to not say always) used for "Beneficio" Port Wine. That’s why I love working with wines from my own country, there is such a variety and choice… and I’m proud of my heritage.

Sergio with Filipa Pato and William Wouters (winemakers in Bairrada)

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

You first of all must have a passion for wine, but also dedication and studying is very important. It is very important for a good sommelier to share this love and knowledge and trying to understand preferences of your customers. Your palate is something that you need to train and something that will change every day. You must also learn to respect the choices and preferences from your costumers as they might be different then yours.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Nowadays I think a Sommelier had one of the most important roles in a Restaurant, but also in a wine shop... The Sommelier can make a big difference during a nice meal and making it an unforgettable moment. Even for who doesn't drink wine, because a Sommelier had knowledge about all beverages. And it is not just about the drink, as the service in top quality glasses, temperature, pairing with the food...all on this together will make the difference. For me it is the same like when you go watch a live orchestra, the musicians are the chefs preparing good food and the ‘Maestro’ (conductor) is the sommelier creating they perfect harmony of everything!

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I was Bartender for a few years and that is where my passion for "drinks"(in general) started. But let’s say that the movie ‘Cocktail’ with Tom Cruise also played a big role in it 😉 ! From that point the step to loving Wine was a small step. In 2006 I started studying wine on a more serious basis and that’s where I got my addiction. It has been a wonderful trip since then, the lovely people that I met because of wine. So many beautiful memories, for me wine is like a great song that immortalizes moments.

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

I have a few but the most important ones are Manuel Moreira and João Pires, but I must add all my colleagues to that list as I also learn a lot from them.

Manuel Moreira

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

Nowadays, I think it makes more sense to have different drinks for each dish but without exaggeration. To have a good meal and enjoy the moment I would say 3 to 5 different drinks is enough. In the ‘harmonization’ I like teasing a bit but that obviously depends on the level of knowledge and interest of the client.

At the level of combinations, although each of us has its own preferences, I think it is good to be pairing with less obvious wines/beverages and don’t be afraid to do so. I can advise you to watchthe the videos from MW Tim Hanni, he made a few videos regarding this subject.

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

This one is simple to respond, I love many wine regions but none of them means as much to me as the Douro. It is the first region in the world to be demarcated with rules since 1755. It makes wines with great intensity, diversity, complexity AND our iconic Port Wine is made here. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, the mountain-cut heights are just breathtaking.

The local people are spotless, not to mention the fantastic food of the region that is getting better and better. I've done a half marathon along the Douro River, from Folgosa to Regua and it was one of the most beautiful races I've ever done. And also very nice to know is that Porto is also only a 1 ½ hour train ride away.

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

I don't like making sacrifices, but there are some wines that I taste every 2/3 years just to know how they are doing!

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

I have a few memories, but I think the most important or memorable was a Master with a Master of Wine during a whole weekend, thanks to Symington Family that took a big part of the cost on them. In that weekend I've learned the basics in how to taste and thing like a master.

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

I have a very interesting wine experience on Airbnb for anyone who wants to taste wines from North to South Portugal. I explain how to taste and give the main Portuguese grape varieties with different methods of vinification. During these wine experience I serve sparkling wine, five white wines, five red wines and a Port Wine. Accompanied by Portuguese Cheese and Sausages.

It's not to be pretentious, the idea is to create and give very enriching experience in terms of knowledge and tasting, but it must also fun… that is the best part of wine. The sharing and the pleasure.

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