Q & A with Wine Director Carlos Simoes Santos
How did your family’s vineyard in Portugal shape your wine career?
Our vineyard in Portugal was quite small and I remember running around with my brother throwing grapes at each other, infuriating my grandfather while he worked. As I grew up though, there was more required of me and I began helping out in the vineyard. My favourite activity was to crush the grapes in the ‘lagar’ with my feet!
You’ve worked at some fantastic establishments with some very distinguished restaurateurs and chefs. What are your most memorable career highlights?
I few years ago I was working at Dinner by Heston in London and simultaneously studying for both my WSET and Court of Master Sommeliers. It was incredibly inspiring to be a part of such an internationally recognised and awarded restaurant. I also received wonderful support from such accomplished mentors in my studies. I found myself working so hard that I was doing 17 hours a day, 9 days straight! On my last day, I actually fell asleep in the wine cellar and stayed there all night. My boss found me in the morning and wasn’t very happy about it. Despite that, I hold very happy memories from this time.
What has been your favourite country to work in and why?
Australia is very special to me because of the unbelievable opportunities that I’ve been afforded since joining the Vue de monde team. Shannon Bennett is a great chef and leader to work with and the team he’s created is like family; this is where I feel most at home. I’m also working with my brother again at Vue de monde, Hugo (General Manager). Also the Victorian wine region is so rich in quality, abundance and variety. I’ve met some very passionate winemakers here who always surprise me with something new and innovative.
What’s the best part about being a sommelier and working at Vue de monde?
Vue de monde is a very special place to work. The standard and calibre of the staff, food and service, the passion from everyone who works here and of course, the unrivalled views from Level 55. For me, without a doubt the best part is having the opportunity to try some of the greatest wines in the world every day. We’ve been in service for almost 20 years now, which has developed a significant reputation for quality and excellence. Fortunately, this also means that incredible wines seem to find us, rather than looking for them ourselves!
What sets Vue de monde apart from other fine dining establishments?
The level of service, passion and dedication from our whole kitchen reflects the strong relationships and leadership in our senior team who lead by example. Our commitment to quality doesn’t just stop at food, wine or service too, it is infused within everything we do. From the knives and forks that sit on the table, to the chocolate in our famous souffle, everything is carefully considered. We particularly focus on the importance of sustainability and the impact that we make on our environment. It’s a long-term goal of the restaurant to achieve a carbon neutral kitchen and offset the energy used to put each meal on the plate.
How do you decide which wines to include on Vue de monde’s prestigious wine list?
The most important thing to consider is what our guests want, not what the sommelier thinks they should have. I try to never be pretentious in my selection – of course, we have popular and trendy wines, but our focus is to source wines that represent the winemaker and complement our current menu.
If you had to pick a favourite wine on the list, which one would it be and why?
The 1995 Krug Clos de Ambonnay because I have been there and loved the atmosphere. I visited Krug again a few years ago and was lucky enough to try the 1996, which was only the second vintage produced after the special 1995. Our bottle is also signed by Olivier Krug himself.
What advice would you give to those pursuing a career in wine?
Not so much advice, but encouragement – if you love wine, this is the best job in the world. There’s so much learning and discovery to be had and you will have the opportunity to experience so many different cultures and meet so many people in your travels. Don’t take yourself too seriously, be honest and keep working and having fun.
What’s your favourite wine varietal and wine?
Riesling or a nicely aged Semillon. Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. I can’t decide, they’re all too good.
What’s your ultimate wine and food match?
The Vue de monde chocolate souffle with warm chocolate mousse and coffee ice cream pairs perfectly with a nicely aged Madeira Sercial.
What is your favourite…
Vue de monde menu item:
2012 Herdade do Esporao Private Selection from Portugal
2005 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia from Italy
Apart from the Krug, the best Sparkling is the one you enjoy with your favourite company. For me, that’s my family and friends.
Australian holiday destination:
Ningaloo in Western Australia. The crystal-clear water is filled with so much life and you can swim with whale sharks!
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