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Folders  |  Portrait of Nathalie Amey: Wine expert
The story could be called ‘all roads lead to Rome… and wine-tasting’, or how within a few years Nathalie Amey has become a renowned and respected professional in the world of wine here in Portugal.
The story started with her mother and grandmother in a small village near Caen, in Normandy. This is where Nathalie learnt all about taste, how to cook with local produce, how to patiently and lovingly grow vegetables and, of course, about the wines served with Sunday lunch made up of fine dishes that simmered for hours on the stove in the large family kitchen. Her parents were farmers, so she knows all about how to taste and appreciate nature’s produce.
Although Nathalie does not come from a wine family, since early childhood she was taught how to appreciate and recognise the aromas and smells of the earth. This is essential for her work as a wine expert. After all, before being able to talk about and appreciate wine, surely one has to be able to apply the flowery vocabulary that is used to define odours, aromas and other essences that a wine evokes? This can only be obtained if you have smelt earth, peat, clay and wood on your fingers, or oak, moss and chalk. 

Nathalie started her studies at the Notre Dame de Nazareth catering and hotel management school. Then ensued six years of juggling between kitchens, serving dishes and wine glasses between Normandy and Paris. Nathalie also took many part-time jobs and courses in catering and hotel management, which gave her a unique life experience with all of the advantages this sector offers, such as entering the world of five-star hotels, with evocative names such as Lutecia (Paris) the Ritz-Carlton (Cannes), the Normandy (Deauville)...
Then came her first job in a luxury hotel, the Highcliff  Hotel in Bournemouth, England, just opposite the famous beaches of Ouistreham where Nathalie had her first experience of working in English. This was also her first contact with the Portuguese language, as her bosses were Portuguese.
Obliged to return to France because her salary in Bournemouth was not adequate to cover the student loans contracted to fund her studies, fate intervened. One of her former teachers from the hotel management college she attended asked her to step in at the last minute and give the classes on accommodation. This temporary arrangement that was due to last two weeks turned into three months. She then remained in teaching, running a range of courses on catering and oenology, closer to her personal preferences.

Nathalie gradually made a place for herself in the rather macho world of hotel management, where she could share her love of teaching and passing on of knowledge. She had been teaching for eight years when a second twist of fate occurred. When visiting a wine cellar in Chinon, she met a group of Japanese wine waiters from Kobe, who were in France to learn about its wine. Nathalie immediately offered to organise student exchanges between the school in Kobe and the one in Notre Dame de Nazareth. This exchange programme lasted three years and was beneficial for all. Nathalie took her first steps in the land of the rising sun, discovered real Japanese Saké, Kobe beef and the region’s wines with distinctive flavours due to the volcanic soil, but above all she experienced top-level hotel and catering reflecting the prestige of traditional France in terms of welcome and services. Moreover, during this period of her life she tasted the top vintage wines, exceptional champagnes in exceptional settings, such as Alain Chapel’s restaurant, where music is forbidden so that guests can focus on the tastes and odours of his famous ‘poularde en vessie’. Nathalie was also invited to accompany the Japanese students to California where she discovered the wines from the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
After such an exciting experience, Nathalie found it difficult to settle down to routine work again with the students, so she decided to set up an evening course on wine for adults through the ‘Cercles Culinaires’ of CIDIL.

It was at this time – in 2000 –  that she nearly made contact with Lisbon during a holiday break, but a suspected bout of appendicitis prevented Nathalie from getting to know Portugal.
Once again bored with routine, Nathalie tried to find a one-year posting in Japan, but the status of women and the cost of living in the country prevented her from realising this wish.  Then her personal life changed when she gave birth to a son. 
For Nathalie, having a child meant she could no longer travel. However, two years later her natural instinct took over again when she was given a second chance to visit Portugal for Christmas 2003. Her first steps on the Restauradores square under a bright blue sky were a revelation, and she knew that her next life change was to involve living in Portugal.  
With her three-and-a-half-year-old son holding one hand and her suitcase in the other, Nathalie left 15 years of teaching behind, took the plunge and finally arrived end June 2005 to settle in Estoril.

With only a few words of Portuguese, first contacts were made via the Lisbonne-Accueil French-speaking association, and particularly via the IWP-International Women in Portugal group, which she still actively supports to this day by creating oenology events for newcomers. It was, in fact, through contacts with women from this group that she had the idea to share knowledge and information on Portuguese wines, for as a wine expert, she already found it difficult to decipher the plethora of Portuguese wines on the supermarket shelves with their unfamiliar grape varieties, so how could other foreigners arriving here manage to succeed?
Nathalie organised her first dinner and wine-tasting in a Cascais restaurant in November 2005. Alongside this, she started to write articles on Portuguese wines for ‘A Janela’, the IWP’s magazine, and to organise her events under the name of IWBE – International Wine Business & Education.

In November 2006, Nathalie created an event called the IWBD, or International Wine Business Drink. The main concept is to link wine-tasting and networking. A wine producer is invited to come and present his domain and its wines. The participants wear badges showing their name and profession, and after the event, they receive the emails of all of the persons at the event.  The concept was immediately a success. A group of 40 or so persons from all horizons, individuals, company directors, diplomats, and from all nationalities (the Club now has 350 members) now meet once a month to taste a new wine and enjoy a dinner or snacks (usually held in the «Clube de Journalistas» in Lisbon).
Canadian and Australian wines are also presented and tasted, due to an arrangement with the respective embassies.
From May 2008, Nathalie’s links with former students from the Notre Dame de Nazareth hotel management school lead to the best Port wines being introduced with ease into the biggest names in Paris and Normandy.

That same year, the creation of the IWBE tasting club naturally led to the creation of a card offering members advantages and preferential rates in partner outlets.
Nathalie Amey then started her first classes in basic wine-tasting: for her, this first step is essential in order to be able to fully appreciate and evaluate any wine-tasting session. She set up her Wine Passport concept composed of five three-hour classes leading to a basic qualification in wine-tasting. The lessons can be given to private individuals, but also companies or other organisations in either English, French or Portuguese (Nathalie speaks all three languages).  Nathalie has even given lessons in wine-tasting on the Royal Navy ships docked in Lisbon!
Despite already organising many activities linked to wine, Nathalie still has more projects : her next step is to offer visits to lesser-known or unknown ‘quintas’ with wine-tasting, visits of the cellars and lunch on-site.  

Lastly, Nathalie has honoured us by becoming our wine correspondent on the  Livinginlisbon.com website. Together we will propose articles, courses, wine-tasting and other activities linked to wine.
 
Cédric Lecler
 
 
Thank you for welcoming me to the Living in Lisbon team, Cédric. It will be a pleasure to share my discoveries in terms of unusual Portuguese and foreign wines with the LiL readers.
My writing is guided by passion : I am a woman whose heart has been pierced by Cupid’s wine arrow and the words I write are the fruit of inspiration caused by this elixir. The tone has been set…. Happy reading…

Nathalie

  
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