A sommelier speaks: Américo Pereira

Américo Pereira is head sommelier at Quinta da Casa Branca, Rua da Casa Branca, nº 7, 9000-088 Funchal, Madeira; Tel: +351 291 700 770; www.quintacasabranca.pt

What’s your top tip for wine lovers picking a wine from a restaurant list?

Look for new releases, limited production, or award winning wines and match them according to your food. You’re bound to find something exciting if you step out of your comfort zone.

How much emphasis do you attach to food and wine matching?

A Lot. All our main courses have an accompanying wine suggestion. Before the chef puts his new menu out, I taste all the dishes and work the wine list around it.

What region would you like to have more of on your list, and which region less? Why?

The majority of our wine list is Portuguese. I’ve tried to introduce a number of New World wines but it’s commercial suicide. Most of our customers are tourists and they want to try the local wines.

What do you do when a customer claims a wine is corked or faulty but you don’t agree? What if it’s a 1982 classed growth?

If the wine was corked I’d replace the bottle. If the second bottle turned out to be corked I’d suggest changing to a different harvest or producer.

What’s the most annoying customer habit?

When a customer grabs the bottle from my hand and starts helping themself.

What’s the oddest request you’ve ever received from a customer?

I once served an oxidised white wine to a customer, who enjoyed the taste so much he insisted on drinking the bottle and asked for the same wine when he next ate with us. Unfortunately for him, all the other bottles were perfect.

What’s the biggest faux pas you’ve ever made, and/or your worst nightmare?

I organized a food and wine matching dinner for some of my students and served the menu blind, with a wine to match each dish. My starter was a Parmesan salad matched with a 10-year-old chilled Sercial. On the day the chef decided to innovate and made a hot cheese bake which was an appalling match for the Madeira. I was so embarrassed.

What are you buying for personal consumption at the moment?

I’m really into white wines from Dão. They have lovely minerality and go wonderfully well with meat. I can’t get enough Riesling from Dr. Loosen and I’m stocking up on Kracher’s late harvest wines.