Meet the somm: Frederico De Souza
Brazil transplant Frederico De Souza moved to Mendoza and cemented his passion for wine.
Initially moving to Argentina to accompany his mother who was taking up a position at the Brazilian consulate, eight years on and Brasilia transplant Frederico De Souza is an international sommelier who has immersed himself in the world of wine.
Upping roots to Mendoza opened plenty of doors for the enophile, as he explains. “My interest in wine stemmed from when I’d go shopping with my mother and I was always intrigued by the labels and wines from France, Italy and Argentina on the supermarket shelves. I was really interested in learning more more about the different zones in the world.
“Some friends were studying enology and we started talking about wine. That’s when the urge to learn something new clicked on and so I started studying to qualify as a sommelier, taking the two-year degree in Mendoza.
“There are a few schools in Brazil but they aren’t as intensive as the ones in Argentina, and while wine consumption has grown there, it’s been a slow process over the past 10 years – Brazilians tend to drink beer. But when I came to Mendoza and ate a great asado with a great wine, I thought ‘I’ll never eat beef with beer ever again!’ The taste and the pleasure is so much greater with wine!”
Once qualifying as a sommelier, Frederico threw himself into working in Mendoza’s wine industry, and has dealt in tastings, marketing and exports over the years. He says: “First I worked as a sommelier at Familia Zuccardi’s Casa del Visitante and I was there for four years. That was a very good experience for me as I learned so much from a practical point of view and how to answer all the thousands of questions that exist about wine! That was the place where I learnt to record information that I will never forget!
“Then, I worked for a period for a Brazilian importer to distribute Argentine wines, and that’s when I started to speak to Héctor Durigutti from Durigutti and Lamadrid wineries about his products. We talked about the tourism angle and given that they are small bodegas, I’ve been able to dedicate myself to different commercial areas – I’ve now been there for a year and a half.”
Coming from Brazil’s structured capital city to laidback Mendoza was quite the change for trilingual Frederico, but he has grasped the cultural differences such as preparing mate and taking a siesta with both hands.
Frederico says: “Brasilia is very organized and planned out, and everyone who lives there is the child or grandchild of someone who was sent to work there. There’s a large mixture of people from all around the country and there isn’t a consolidated identity as such – my parents are from Rio de Janeiro, for example – so it’s the new generation that lives there.
“Although Argentina and Brazil are neighbouring countries, there are lots of differences. In Mendoza, people take a siesta from 1.30pm to 4.30pm, carry on working until 8 o’ clock then eat dinner 10pm or 11pm and I wasn’t used to that in the beginning.
“But when I started to become more involved in the society and I wanted to meet my girlfriend to eat at 8pm, for example, she would always want to meet at 10pm so I had to learn how to adapt to these different habits!
“People like Brazil so people always want to talk about my country. I think people are more used to living with foreigners in Buenos Aires but as Mendoza is smaller, mendocinos are used to spending time with their groups of friends from school – they grow up with the same group all their lives. But I’ve adapted well to that and tried to understand how things work in order to integrate myself.”
In the beginning, Frederico and his family lived in downtown Mendoza, but he now flat-shares with a Brazilian friend just outside the city in Godoy Cruz. He says: “I lived in the quinta zone in the centre when I arrived, and when I started out I was hanging out more with foreigners. I now live in Godoy Cruz, just a few hundred metres from the city, and it’s a quiet place where neighbours greet each other, everyone knows everyone else by their surnames and who your children are. It’s not too near to work but I can drive there in about 20 minutes.”
Give his passion for the sacred grape, Frederico says he enjoys visiting other wineries in his spare time. “My life is very involved in wine, both professionally and personally, so I like to visit other bodegas, sample their wares and see other concepts. I try and drink wine every day and always have an asado with wine, and I love Malbec though I also love more complex blends. It depends on the day – that’s why I have to try lots to know which one I want on a particular day!
“I also love getting together with friends to have asado. I didn’t know how to make it before but now I do, and I’ll also prepare a picada or mate. Those are things that are very integrated in society that I have adapted to. Here in Mendoza we make an asado with wood, so it has to burn for a long time. Churrasco in Brazil needs to be turned over time and again and it’s cooked by the flames, but here the asado cooks on its own.
“As for other hobbies, in summer, as it’s so hot I go to the pool and I talk a lot to my friends and family in Brazil. At the weekend I like to go to the mountains or other peaceful areas nearby.”
Love in Mendoza
While Frederico was fortunate enough to have his mother and brother around for the first few years, he’s now on his own, besides his girlfriend and her family.
He says: “We met when we were both working at Zuccardi and she was on work experience as a chef. The staff can make a hot drink each morning at the coffee machine and she didn’t really understand how the machine worked. So I asked her if she wanted a coffee and we started to chat every day. Then she left the winery so I sent her an email and asked why she wasn’t going to work any more and then we started to go out. That was in 2010. She is from Mendoza and I’ve learned a lot about the local customs from her and her family.”
Besides his friends and family, there are plenty of Brazilian dishes that the sommelier yearns for. Frederico says: “I miss rice and beans every day, and other typical dishes such as feijoada! There’s a bar I always used to go to for a cold, almost frozen, beer and kibbeh before I’d go home. Argentine beef is far tastier than Brazilian beef but it’s those moments, going to the pool or to my grandma’s or dad’s house, that I miss. Saturday is feijoada day and I miss that. I can get some ingredients to make my own but not all of them, so it’s not quite the same!”
Education: International relations degree and international sommelier
Profession: Marketing director and exports at Lamadrid winery
Currently reading: Books on the wine industry
Last film: Midnight in Paris
Buenos Aires Herald, January 17, 2015