Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: William Wouters

William Wouters

In the world of gastronomy it are always the chefs that are put in the spotlight! Time for a change I’d say and put that spotlight on the sommeliers for a change :-). Especially with the ASI Worldchampionship for sommeliers coming to Belgium in 2019, they deserve it more then ever! That’s why I’ve send 10 questions to a few top sommeliers to find out more about their world… The first sommelier I’ve send the questions to is William Wouters aka ‘el presidente’ 🙂  or better the chairman of the Belgian Sommelier Guild and the person who we have to thank for bringing the championship to Belgium. I personally already know William since I’ve been born and have to admit that I look up to William when it comes down to wine and knowledge about wine!! He has learned me lots of things and still helps me to discover wines, vineyards, etc… I also know for a fact that I’m not the only one looking up to him. Lot’s of Top sommeliers still ask William for advice or help. For many years William has worked and participated in lots of competitions at international level with results one shouldn’t be modest about!! What I also always liked about William is that his motto is “wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good”!!! A motto that was also a golden rule in his restaurant (Pazzo)

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Every winegrower, (top)sommelier or person involved with wine I mention I’m from Belgium comes with a at least one story about a crazy night they had at the Pazzo winebar with William 🙂 (who used to be the owner of Pazzo). 2 years ago William decided to leave Pazzo in the good hands of  chef Ingrid Neven and Tom Dhooghe. The mean reason for that was William being able to spend more time with his wife and kids in Portugal. William’s wife Filipa Pato is a very renowned Portugese wine maker who comes from a long line of winemakers in her family. You could also see it as William changing sides 🙂 from sommelier serving the wines, to winemaker making the wines.

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Although it must be said he also spends lots of his time with his other passion… football. William is also the cook or better person coordinating the cooks for the Belgian national football team (Red Devils) and therefore also travelling a lot with them.

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What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Bairrada – you all know why… 😉 😉

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

A broad knowledge of all beverages and a good culture about food. Perhaps the most important thing is: a very good “social” intelligence

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Underestimated because a sommelier is a kind of a barometer in direct contact with the customer. He feels the straight needs and consequently acts to them. A good sommelier is a big added value in the front of a restaurant, bistro, wine bar, wine shop,…

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

From small on I was intrigued by the complexity of wine and the wine world in general, the diversity, the interaction with the climate, soil, grape varieties, perception of the winemakers, link to gastronomy… the more you know, the less you know, the more you want to know… (Confucius 🙂 )

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

Obelix, he fell into a barrel with the magical potion as a kid, I think sometimes the same happened to me, but I was probably too small to remember

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

Feeling… This is the biggest challenge for a sommelier! There is no such thing as right or wrong… Depends of many factors : people, the mood, time of the day, the weather, the budget, taste, …

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

Bairrada – you know why… 😉 . No, no kidding, I would recommend to visit as many wine regions as possible. As a sommelier it is very important to go into the vineyards and speak to the winegrowers and winemakers to understand better the wines that are made, and why they are made in a certain way. Wines for me should always reflect the place they are coming from. Authenticity is a key word for me

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

For all the wines I don’t know. So I think I still have a lot of work to do!

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school?

That I always “had to be” a volunteer to go to things related to wine and other beverages. I really loved it! Also to share these experiences with the friends and colleagues gave huge satisfaction.

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

Whatever, wherever, whenever be open minded and keep your eyes, ears and certainly your tastebuds open! This is the intriguing trigger that will always keep you eager to improve as a sommelier! You are never done!

Luis Pato

Before I continue talking about the rest of our Portugal trip I do want to say a few words about Luis PatoLuis Pato is the 4th generation of wine making  Pato family, who took over the family business from his father around the 1980’s. Luis Pato is a true legend in Portugal as he has had a very big impact  on Barraida wines (or Beiras wines as he prefers calling them) or maybe even wines from all over  Portugal… I think an addition of the words modernizer and innovator might be at its place here, as that is what he was/is for Portuguese wines. One of the biggest breaks with tradition was the changing from chestnut barrels to French oak and the usage of modern techniques like working with stainless steel vats. This innovation is a big step forward to be able to control the temperatures at which you want to do the fermentation and therefore also have a better control of the quality of your finished-product.

The words you are looking for are “cool” or “Wow, I didn’t know that “ 🙂 no just kidding, I know this might seem like a minor change, but I can guaranty you it wasn’t! I love talking to people  like Luis Pato who have passion for what they do!  The signs of knowing if people are doing their job with passion is for example the sparkle in their eyes when they are talking about it and when they are able to transmit this sparkle to you.. Also their drive on always wanting to make something new, to learn and experiment and trying to do “better” than the last time…

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FYI the reason Luis is holding a duck, is because Pato means duck in Portuguese 🙂

At one side Luis broke with tradition by using new ‘more modern’ ways of making wine, but on the other hand he did embrace the “tradition” of only using only local and sometimes even forgotten grape varieties. A big surprise at that time was Luis putting a big focus on the “Baga” grape that until than had a reputation of producing harsh red wines that are not drinkable at young age and therefore need to age to mellow and lighten their flavors. This was before our dear friend Luis came along (for some reason I hearing the Superman tune in my head right now 😉 ). Luis Pato showed everybody Baga deserved more respect! I FYI Baga has similarities with the Italian Nebbiolo grape, and it can even approach the elegance of riper Pinot Noir vintages. To make long story shorter, it all went well and now thanks to Luis Pato (who influenced lots of winemakers on  to also start doing this, now known as Baga friends) Baga wines are now know over the whole world and finally gets the recognition it always deserved! I had one sip of the 2001 Vinhas Velhas and was sold 🙂 (all the wines that followed just confirmed my first thought and feeling)

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What I think is the biggest reward for somebody like Luis, is the recognition and the fact that winemakers from other regions in Portugal started to ask Luis’ help on improving their wine making and in that way also contributing in showing the world that Portugal is not just that country right next to Spain! Something I do hope to be part of one day is to one of Luis Pato’s famous signature lunches, where famous national and international chefs try to find the perfect dishes to serve with the Pato wines… 😉

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Luis Pato’s future  is also being covert, as not only Filipa, but also his other 2 daughters Luisa (who is also doing a very good job in making very nice olive oil) and Maria João help a hand in the wine making. And who knows maybe Fernao or Kiko (Filipa’s children)will be covering the 6th generation  and get bitten by the same wine loving bugs as his all their ancestors… I do hope so! Luis did already make a wine to celebrate the birth of his grandson Ferñao 🙂

Fernao

Find the whole Luis Pato wine assortment of wines on the following link

Authentic wines without make-up: Filipa Pato

Time to talk vineyard 🙂 finally getting to my part of the deal 😉 (She got her beach time). As I mentioned before, Barraida has another thing it is famous for (not as famous yet as they should be, but they’re getting there) and that’s for their wines… Baga wines to be more precise. Just like for tourism Portugal is often forgotten as a wine country (besides may be for its Porto and Mateus wine) sad enough… but thanks to my blogpost this will change 🙂 🙂

My love for Portuguese wines and interest to travel Portgual all started with the Filipa Pato wines (and William Wouters). NO, I’m not saying this to suck up, it’s just a fact!! I’m sure you all also read my old blogpost about my diner with Filipa Pato wines? I’m not sure when I first tried Filipa’s wines, but of 1 thing I’m sure and that is that I tried at the Pazzo winebar.

Filipa Pato

FYI it must also be said that if it weren’t for Filipa and William (her husband) our Portugal trip would have had worse food 😉

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What I admire about Filipa Pato aka daughter of legendary Portugese winemarker Luis Pato (I’ll talk more about him in a next blogpost)is that even though she could have easily just joined her father’s wine estate, she chose to first go and find her own way (with obviously from time to time some valuable advice from her father)… which after around 13 years results in that people are not referring to Filipa as “daughter from”, but to Luis as “father from” 🙂 :-). As you can find her wines from Belgium, to Brazil, to Japan and to god knows where… (here a list of the global distributors 🙂 )

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Making wine runs through Filipa’s veins , wine making in the Pato family already goes back for 5 generations (both at her mother’s side as her father’s side) which I think gave Filipa a solid background to build upon. A background she gets reminded of every day as her vineyard is right next to her father’s vineyard and grandmother’s house (a feisty 90 years old lady). A golden rule Filipa takes into account is respecting her Portuguese heritage. She does this by only using autochthon Portuguese/Barraida grapes with the goal making quality products (wine without make-up) showing the world Portugal’s greatness and know-how. A very important influencing factor was Filipa’s marriage to my dear friend Belgian top sommelier William Wouters (that’s right, from restaurant Pazzo). To say it in her own words “He introduced me to many different wines from regions I only knew from the books. He helped me opening up my horizons again to more wine and gastronomy.” But this influence works in both ways as I think William learned more about winemaking itself… he added the practical knowledge to the theoretic knowledge. Not only did this marriage lead to 2 adorable children, it also resulted in some great wines like Nossa :-).

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The Barraida wine region is mostly known for its deep colored tannic full flavoured red wines (FYI they also make some nasty (positive sense of the word) white wines 🙂 ) that has got the highest wine labelling in Portugal aka DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada) which means these wines can only be produced in this area/region. The wines in this region get mostly made with one (or a mix of) the following grape varieties: Baga, Borrado das Moscas, Castelao Frances, Fernao Pires, Rabo de Ovelha and Tinta Pinheira. With for me Baga as one of my favourites. A great added value to the region is the Barraida viticultural museum . Here you’ll learn all about the wine region’s history and winemaking and also find a huuuuuge collection of corkscrews. A very interesting museum that is worth a visit.

Vineyard map by Filipa Pato

The baga grape is also the red wire through the Filipa Pato wines. Besides the Nossa, the aim of Filipa is to make wine to drink and without make-up. With this I mean wine that you can immediately drink when buying the bottle and that doesn’t have to age to be at its best. For the Nossa this is a different story which is the vineyard’s TOP wine and is best to drink after aging a few more years. (I’m still trying not to open my Nossa’s I have at home, not easy). The fun part about making wine is the fact that besides making your ‘principal’ selection of wine, you also get to experiment trying to find a new wine. Choosing to either use old casks, new casks, Eastern Europe oak, Canadian oak, French oak, which grapes variety mixes, etc… an endless choice of varieties to be tested. For Filipa the last experiment lead to the creation of Espírito de Baga . Well Filipa, all the hard work was definitely worth it as it is a very nice and elegant wine and as I discovered a very good match with the roasted chicken we had and I talked to you about in my previous blogpost. And if she gets bored of making regular wines, she still has a line of Espumante that she can “play” with. I was surprised to see that in this region all wine estates have a very wide range of products, some white wine, red wine, espumante and sometimes also a sweeter wine… this way everybody will find something of his liking.

Espirito de Baga

I’d better stop talking as I getting carried away again by my enthusiasm. The last thing I’ll add is my curiosity for all the future wines Filipa and William will be making now that William decided to dedicate 100% ( of 99%) to winemaking and his family… but I’m sure it’ll be great. You guys rock my world!!

FIlipa & William by lopinion.fr

In case you guys also want to try Filipa Pato’s wines, check the list of distributors all over the world that will be able to tell you where you can find their wines. OOOOR if you are ever in Belgium you can always stop at the Pazzo winebar or restaurant where you’ll be able to taste all the Filipa Pato wines 🙂

Roadtripping through Portugal: Curia

What I find a pity is when people decide to travel to Portugal they just stick to either the Algarve region or Lisbon, but Portugal is so much more than only those 2 and that are as beautiful if not more beautiful. A good example of this would be Beira region aka know as the centre of Portugal which is half way between Lisbon and Porto. In and around this region you’ll be finding cities like Coimbra, Curia, Aveiro, etc…and this region is also known for its SPA’s 🙂 just FYI

Map by wanderingsportugal.com

If you would ever be traveling to Portugal and want to stay in special hotels, you might want to consider the hotels of Alexander de Almeida’s group which are all historical hotels that were renovated just like they were when they opened. I can say for a fact that they one by one very spectacular. During our 5 day stay in the Curia area in the enormous Curia Palace a Bell époque hotel that first opened its doors in 1926 (created by Alexandre de Almeida, the current owner’s grandfather) and had Portugal’s first outdoor Olympic swimming pool (I gave it a test drive 😉 ). I know I’ll be repeating these words a lot during all my posts, but this was one of the beautiful hotels I have ever seen!! You feel like dressing up like in the 1920’s… everything is exactly how it was when the hotel first opened its doors (but with of course a few modern aspects like mini bars in the room)… just wonderful (obviously if you only like trendy modern hotels, this won’t be your piece of cake).

Curia Palace

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Curia Palace lobby 1926 and now

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The deal between me and my fiancee is always that I get my vineyards if she gets her beach time… so a promise is a promise…ok not that I don’t like going to the beach, but I wouldn’t be able to stay still and lay on the beach 14days in a row. The part I love about sitting at the beach is staring at the sea which always seems so endless!! When it comes to beaches Portugal has a very big choice of beaches, so just like for restaurants, hotels, etc… I ask advice to somebody who knows the area very well (thanks Filipa!!) and the beautiful beach we were advised to go was Costa Nova , a small town just outside of Aveiro. Wide/large spread beaches where even when it is busy it feels like there is nobody on the beach. That is the kind of beach I like and is exactly what Costa Nova’s beach is like. Costa nova is a small beach town filled with very colorful houses with from most parts of town a water view.

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As if faith wanted it, there also happened to be a very nice fish restaurant called Dori right above the local Costa Nova fish market (the deal was regarding vineyards, there was nothing said about restaurants 😉 ). Simple fish dishes, but again the simplicity makes it so njammy (we went back 2 times, so I guess we liked it) and a very nice price…

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If one would have told me I would be eating the best chicken I have ever eaten in a local Curia restaurant, I would have told him/ her they were crazy… but I got proven otherwise. Our friend Filipa took us to restaurante Pompeu dos Frangos to taste this famous chicken. WOW, really WOW… not sure how they did it (I’m sure it is the type of seasoning), but that was one tasty chicken :-). I was also told that this restaurant used to be a stop for the postal office/ stop to sleep and eat form back in the days when everybody was still riding horse and carriage (so also the horses got to eat and sleep here)… so kid of an old school highway gas station. The restaurant also tried to keep as many original elements as possible.

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The bigger city that is worth visiting while you are in the area is University city Coimbra (take good shoes, as you have to climb a bit to get to the university). With an obligated visit to the university’s old library and you get the marvellous view over the city as a bonus

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For the non vegetarians (or better the meat lover) when you are in the Curia area you must try the Leitao or Barraida style roasted pork. The best place to do this, is at the king of Leitao aka restaurant Mugasa. The pig they prepare here is every chef’s dream, so you won’t be surprised if I tell you lots of Michelin starred chefs from all over the world came to Mugasa for their Leitoa. Again here simplicity is the rule… but that’s what we like right?

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The main reason to visit Barraida are their Baga wines. But more about that in my next blogpost!!

A night back in time with a nice glass of wine

Filipa Pato

You might have noticed that I’ve become an even bigger wine lover than I already was. Wine can just be so different every time. Even when some winemakers use the same grape the end product can still be so different. I’m not a wine snob, so wine for me doesn’t have to be from Italy for me to be good… Just like with food it either is good or it isn’t. The advantage I have is that I lately always get surrounded by the ‘crème de la crème’ of people in the winery business (sommeliers, winemakers, etc…) that help me understanding smells and tastes I can’t always distinguish myself. So when last week top sommelier William Wouters and his wife Filipa Pato  ask me if I wanted to join a wine and dine tasting of their own wines I couldn’t refuse, as there is still so much to learn  or that I don’t know about wine yet…and ok I just like eating and tasting a lot 🙂 (And they are great people).

The location for the tasting was very unique it was the ‘Campveerse Toren’. A Unique and the perfect spot to spend a winter evening as the antique of the restaurant takes the cold away. Also nice to know is that the Campveerse toren already got used since the 15th – 16th century as hostelry or restaurant. So it goes back quite a while. The antique does bring a certain coziness and warm feeling, too bad they didn’t turn on the fireplace, but even without it felt like the perfect spot to be when it is cold outside. I really wouldn’t know how to describe it in a different way:-)

Campveerse toren by beeldbankrws

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What Filipa Pato’s wines and the location have in common is the respect for tradition, but still doing your own thing with it. For example Filipa uses (her own) old vines or traditional grapes from the area she is from and makes wine like her forefathers (she comes from a wine making family)did but makes use of modern technology to make it her own thing and give her own schwung. The same goes for the cuisine chef Xavier, he prepares classical dishes with little schwung of his own (and of course not forgetting the historical location).

Campveerse toren restaurant

It is true that I know William and his wife already a long time now, but that is not the reason why I like their wines.  I like their wines because they are good!! What I like about them is the fact that they are a bit stronger and remind me a bit of Burgundy wines. Also knowing most of their wines a only made from 1 type of grape is something I find incredible (like with Sherry)… This also shows that nothing goes to waste at the estate and that they make use of every part of the grape to make the espumante, red wine, white wine and/ or sweet wine. Great, right? I hope you are sharing my enthusiasm.

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I can’t say it enough,  the location was simply fantastic. With a location like ‘Campveerse Toren’ you just have to eat stews or game dishes… that get accompanied by strong and rich wines… So lucky me this was exactly what chef Xavier and Filipa served me. Please feast your eyes on the menu and of course the great wines we got served with them:

Appetizers

  • On hay smoked wild oyster, wild goose ham and Jerusalem artichoke that got accompanied by the Vino Branco

Oysters

Pheasant in cedar

  • Roast wild duck with a licorice gravy, white beans and a lentil polenta. This got served with Baby Baga

Wild duck

  • Stewed deer neck in red wine with cacao, parsnips, kale and celeriac. This dish just needed the top of the bill, a Nossa Calcario Tinto! I’m sure this is what the gods drink!!

Deer neck

  • There was also a cheese assortment, but as I am not really a cheese fan I skipped this dish, but I did drink the ‘Espirito de Bago’ Filipa braught over especially for this tasting 🙂 You could compare this as a combination of an sherry and grappa.

I didn’t really have a personal favorite wine or dish as everything was very good and it got proven to me once again that the time when Dutch chefs didn’t know how to cook has been looooong gone 🙂 Alexander made some great sauces!  My compliments to Xavier!!  As for the wines, If I would be in a shop to buy wine I wouldn’t be able to choose and probably walk out with the whole assortment as they are all so different. Ok it is a fact the Nossa is slightly more expensive then the “baby baga’, but the Nossa is a wine you can still keep for 7 or 8 years ( or maybe even more) and the “baby baga’ to drink immediately… What I’m basically trying to say is that I’m fan and have already been for quite a while now 🙂

I will go into the wines itself more in detail in one of my next blogpost as otherwise my post will become even longer then they usually already are 🙂

BTW if you wish to try these wines you can either go to my favorite restaurant Pazzo in Antwerp or pass by the distributers in Belgium or Netherlands (let me know if you want to know it from another country) or have a nice dinner at the ‘Campveerse Toren’ just like me.

Special thanks to Filipa, William, Xavier and  Mark for giving me yet another incredible food/ wine experience!