Interview With A Sommelier – Tiago Alfaiate

15th May 2024

Interview With A Sommelier Tiago Alfaiate

The World of Wine is beautifully showcased by an army of talented Sommeliers, who help the consumer discover their next favourite bottle, understand the different regions and pair a delicious meal with the right Glass of Bubbly.

In this feature, I speak with a man from Portugal, who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Tiago Alfaiate, let’s find out about his life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“My name is Tiago Alfaiate, I’m 27 years old and I was born and raised in Aveiro, a city in the center of Portugal.

At the moment I’m the Head Sommelier at Buraco do Velho, a restaurant in Vagos. Moreover, I also work on presentations of small producers from my region – the Bairrada, who are incredible when it comes to making Sparkling Wines.

From an early age, I wanted to be independent and started working in beach restaurants, during summers, until I started working longer hours whenever I could escape from classes.

I usually say that I fell into this area quite by accident, but I believe that everything has a purpose. We just need to find out which one.

Before starting in this area, I was a very shy person, and when I started talking to people more often my shyness disappeared and I ended up becoming a more extroverted, fun person, with a lot of ease. That’s why I’m so grateful to this area which taught me so much about building my best version.

Having gained the taste, I applied, as soon as I finished secondary school, to the School of Hotel and Tourism in Coimbra (Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo de Coimbra), which for me was and will always be a positive milestone for the beginning of something very beautiful. There I met incredible people who opened many doors to the market for me.

However, my taste for Wines began when I went to do an internship at Vilalara Thalassa Resort, in Algarve, where I started working in Fine Dining while also helping the Head Sommelier with the wine service.

I went from taverns to Michelin stars; I won awards like the Best Room Service in Portugal and the Best Gastronomic Restaurant in terms of food and wine in Europe. I created projects and wine cellars. Despite that, I always preserved my humble way, while being happy doing what I love most.”

Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?

“My first experience with Sparkling Wine was at my grandmother’s house, over 10 years ago, while we were eating Leitão, an ex-libris in Bairrada. I opened a bottle from Adega Cooperativa de Cantanhede 100% Baga.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“I found my true calling during my internship at Vilalara Thalassa Resort, where I started working in a Fine Dining Restaurant, at the Resort. At the time, the Head Sommelier needed help with the wine service, and since I liked the area so much and am very proactive, I sought to learn and immediately assisted him. That’s when the true passion for the art of Wine began.”

During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?

“Learning is constant and in this world of wine, we are always discovering new projects, new methods, different styles of wine, which is what enriches us. But the most interesting thing I’ve learned is that Terroir does not only depend on atmospheric conditions, vineyard exposure, sun exposure, and soil, it depends on the art of the human hands that lives, loves and feels what it does.”

What Sparkling Wine Producing Countries or Regions Hold A Special Place In Your Heart?

“The Champagne region is incredible, and I always enjoy tasting great Champagnes. But without a doubt my favorite region for Sparkling Wine is Bairrada. In addition to being my home, Sparkling Wines are made for all types of tastes.

I also like the northern region of Portugal “Vinhos Verdes”, Sparkling Wines from the Dão and Távora Varosa regions.”

What Advice Would You Give Inspiring Sommeliers?

“May we always be ourselves, humble, genuine and friends of others. May we open our horizons to new ideologies and new concepts. May learning be constant. Continuous sharing of experiences. May we always be united and maintain respect for others.

Continue the excellent work you have done over the years, and don’t forget to live fully and be happy. Carpe Diem.”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“In the heart of Bairrada. In the middle of a vineyard, while the producer was explaining his project. He opened a 1997 Sparkling Wine. A memorable and surreal experience.”

Thank you, Tiago, for sharing your words, knowledge and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Tiago Alfaiate. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.