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Tips for second home buyers

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Tips for second home buyers

You have planned your trip and you have been dreaming for a long time for a place in the sun. Portugal offers unique conditions to make this dream come true. So you're in the car rolling along and you see it, your dream home. Set between pine trees, hillside down along a stretch of beach, or within easy walking distance of your favorite eatery, village centre or golf course. Whatever captured your attention, it's started you thinking this is it, I want a holiday home.

The rational in us always come second to our emotions, and only after a while you realize that you may not be able to afford the house of your dreams. While you're making a wish list of features to share with your real estate agent, Landlordsway is the right one for hundreds of reasons but I will not enter in to details right now,  check it twice, literally, to make sure that the options you have in mind make practical sense money wise.

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Tip 1 – A Big Yard - It's natural to want your first holiday home to be stunning villa, spacious inside and even bigger on the outside. Kids love big yards and you have your pets to accommodate as well. A large and cared garden gives enormous glamour to any house and is a special spot where you can enjoy an occasional barbecue with friends and family.

The big problem with big yards is its maintenance. The turf you see in the gardening magazines that look like lush outdoor carpets are hard work and expensive to keep up. They aren't kid or pet-friendly, either. If you do invest the time and disposable income maintaining a large plot and well developed landscape, you shouldn’t expect to recoup all that money or effort you put in when you sell.

A personal note – When looking for potential homes, I recommend for you to look for a rectangular and leveled plot. They are easier to maintain your lawn and fit a wider resale market.

Tip 2 - Home Cinema. A Cinema room is becoming increasingly popular in today's real estate market and you are probably thinking about this feature when you are looking for your holiday home.

Normally we spend about four hours in front of the TV every day. It is tempting to invest in a villa that has a space dedicated to making the home cinema experience more pleasurable. The problem is that the residential mindset of a few years ago is giving way to a more eco-friendly. On the holiday market bigger doesn’t always mean better, and you may be sitting on that extra square footage for a while when you try to sell it.

A personal note Home cinemas are also increasingly expensive and you better off investing in solar panels or triple-glaze windows.

Tip 3 - A fire place – Who doesn’t love a roaring fire for the holidays, but what do you do with dead space the rest of the year? A fireplace can also be a dangerous feature if you don't get it professionally cleaned regularly, and it's a big air polluter, too. You cannot forget that Portugal offer 300 days of sunshine and we never have the cold temperatures of northern European countries and rarely snow’s in the coastal areas

A personal note – invest in a good air con system that does heating and cooling, its less polluter and will give more value on the resale market. If you use your house more in the summer periods you will thank me for that.

Tip 4 – Stainless steel appliances - the popularity of stainless may simply be a flash in the pan. Often, these deceptively enticing elements are in the kitchen. As popular as these refinements are today, in a very few years, they'll be replaced by other latest, must-have styles. Worse, last year's "in" thing looks dated and drab once it goes out of fashion.

A personal note – To maintain a timeless kitchen independently of the style you choose being modern, classic, rustic or informal, integral appliances seam to do wonders, not only visually, as you will have wider harmony in the kitchen layout, but also financially as you may opt for less expensive equipment, especially if you are going to use only a couple of month in a year.

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The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

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The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

by Martin Page

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When a book arrives on one’s doorstep as a gift, it has not only come from the sender, but it’s also arrived from the universe as a token of change and an opportunity for expansive knowledge. This is what The First Global Village by Martin Page became for me.

Before it arrived, my understanding of Portugal was extremely minimal; having never been there, nor ever having studied Portugal’s past or present, in my life time. I grew up in Lewiston, Maine. Southeast of that city is Lisbon and then Lisbon Falls – a place where the Androscoggin River rages during the spring, and a rock formation caused a natural waterfall. Once I realized that Lisbon was the capital of Portugal, it had a very quiet, subliminal influence on my life, but nothing that drove to me to get to the depths of the small western European country.)

Once in the wine business, I found myself researching Port for the obvious reasons. Beyond that reason, I had a completely empty slate. So, it is with great gratitude that I mention Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines for sending Martin Page’s book to me, which has allowed me to expand my world view a bit more. Delfim is Portuguese, and we met at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008.

The title really tells it like it is, because of Portugal’s multicultural contributions to the world, much of it includes a food and wine lifestyle. According to Martin Page, the following are examples of Portuguese influences around the globe:

  • Portuguese Jesuits lived in Japan for generations before our ancestors knew of this, introducing words into the Japanese language; e.g., “orrigato,” which means “thank you.” They brought the recipe for tempura. They introduced the technique for gun manufacturing. The Portuguese also taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand artillery attack and earthquakes.
  • The chili plant was brought to India, allowing “curry” to be invented.
  • Portuguese is the third most spoken language in Europe (English, Spanish, then Portuguese), even before French and German. It’s the language of cattle ranchers in northern California and fishing communities on the New England coast line…. Both of which I have personal experiences.
  • The Portuguese own and operate over 400 restaurants in Paris as Italian trattorias.
  • Sintra, Portugal, has been an attraction for writers’ inspiration for generations; e.g.,  Henry Fielding, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Christoper Isherwood, W. H. Auden.
  • When the Arabs arrived, they brought with them bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, oil palms, maize and rice, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, wine grapes, and figs… All part of a Mediterranean diet.

Their foods and irrigation system for watering is still studied to day by northern European medical researchers for clues to what makes their heart-healthy such a study lot.

Irrigation, which was driven by water wheels, was brought to Portugal from Alexandria. This act created a technological revolution, the likes of which had never been seen in Europe prior to the Arabs arriving.  This allowed for the crops mentioned above to be farmed and successfully introduced.

In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people, which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. This book’s chapters outline the dates and people who migrated to Portugal, giving it such a varied culture. Each transformation, as adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry threads of these fascinating people of today.

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On New Year’s Day, my resolution was to learn the Portuguese culture, which was inspired by this book. The titles of the chapters indicate each invasion and the ethnic traditions left behind as a result. To read these titles puts into perspective how the last (nearly) 3,000 years, Portugal became a nation set apart from all others, and yet has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese of today.

  •     From Jonah to Julius Caesar (700 BC )
  •     Rome on the Atlantic (55 BC)
  •     Rise & Fall of Christianity (212 AD)
  •     Arabs Bring Civilization to Europe (712)
  •     The Christian Reconquest (1126)
  •     The Cistercian Peace
  •     Prince Henry the Misadventure
  •     King João and the Great Adventure
  •     Pêro da Covilhã: Master Spy
  •     Vasco da Gama and the Lord of the Oceans
  •     India and Beyond
  •     The Golden Age of Lisbon; Disaster Abroad
  •     The Coming of the Inquisition; The Departure of the Jews
  •     Freedom Regained
  •     Pombal and the King: A duet in Megalomania
  •     Playground of the great Powers
  •     The fall of the House of Braganca
  •     The Slide to Dictatorship
  •     World War II: Betrayal and hte Fight for Freedom
  •     Freedom at Dawn
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“Why were there so many invaders?” you might ask. The answer is quite simple. The first invaders discovered that this is a country rich in minerals, most especially gold and silver. the lure of gold has always set men into a frenzy of need to own.

It all begins in the Bible with a story we’ve all heard. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell the sinners that God was angry, he didn’t want to go, and bought a ticket – supposedly – beyond God’s reach. Soon after the ship sailed, a violent storm erupted, and the captain and crew threw Jonah overboard. He was swallowed by a whale, and then spit out onto land. It was Portugal where he landed. Jonah traveled on to Tarshish, which today survives as a name of a small town in Spain, which is only 3 miles and 1281.6 yards from the border of Portugal.

By 230 BC, Hamilcar (father) was exiled to Tarshish. He took his son Hannibal (who was eight years old at the time, and wanted to go with his father). This was a costly mistake, as Hannibal would avenge his father by crossing the Apennines Mountains, win a major battle, and march toward Rome…

And so, their history begins, changing the pastoral landscape of a quiet people, who have managed to remain peaceful through all time, regardless of whom was the next to invade their homeland. The Portuguese were open to the civilization refinements that were delivered to them during each invasion. Along the way, they created the Institution of Good Men (in the 700s), which still exists today. A social consciousness was created whereby widows and orphans are cared for, social welfare for all was created and has been maintained, all duties of the town are seen as everyone’s responsibility – including fire fighting – and are as independent and self sufficient as some parts of the United State might be. It is a daily way of life, however, in Portugal throughout the country, not just pockets of social consciousness that we might find in successful regions of rural America today. Imagine – for instance – if this were our complete and utter culture during Hurricane Katrina. One neighboring town would not have closed out its neighbor in need. Our country would not have wondered what to do for a week, all the wheels would have begun turning without regard for anything else.

There is a lot to be learned from The First Global Village. Martin Page moved to Portugal for a reason, and I can only image as his eyesight failed during his last years, this culture would have made his disability more manageable, with a tolerant people, great food, and excellent wine.

My life is enriched by this Portuguese culture, which I plan to continue studying through Delfim’s eye. The universe has delivered an amazingly adventurous opportunity to my life.

Source:http://www.wine-blog.org/

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Portugal’s got talent

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Portugal’s got talent

No, there isn’t any series of the latest success show “Britain’s got talent” planned for Portugal. We do have some entertainment shows that are in line with Idols and this one in particular, but what we bring to you today is a different kind of talent. Not better just different and as well, a reflection of what Portugal is about by the hands of some of our dearest citizens that leverage this nation thorough their actions and success.

Portugal, with a privileged geographical position on Europe’s West Coast, has an Atlantic vocation that has always left its mark on the country’s history and culture.

The country’s proximity to the sea had a key influence on the maritime discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries in which Portugal played a pioneering role in connecting together the world’s continents - thus triggering the first wave of economic and social globalisation. Today, Portugal is proud of the many influences that it has assimilated – visible in much of the country’s material and immaterial heritage - and also the influence it has left on other countries and continents, including the fact that the Portuguese language is spoken by over 200 million people.

In a territory of only 92 000 Km², there is such a tremendous diversity of landscapes and cultural and historical riches that visitors are sure to find of a wide array of experiences close at hand - whether in the mountains or the sea, in cities or historic villages in the hinterland.

Enjoying a particularly dynamic moment in its history, Portugal is the homeland of many people renowned throughout the world for their talents. Allow us to present six among many others and some of their thoughts towards their country.

José Mourinho – Football Coach

José Mourinho – Football Coach

My country has 220 days of sunshine a year. Sunshine and a gentle climate are bound to be waiting for me, whenever I return to Portugal.

Portugal has the highest number of sunshine hours per year in Europe. In the Algarve, where I like to spend my holidays, there are over 3,000 sunshine hours a year… and whether travelling north or south, in any season, Portugal always offers perfect conditions for enjoying nature, travelling or breathing in some fresh air.”

 “21% of my country is constituted by Nature Reserves and Parks. I can find charming, natural landscapes throughout the country, either along the coast or in the interior.

I was born in Gaia, next to Oporto. The River Douro flows into the Atlantic in this spot. Port wine and the river forge a special union between Gaia and the city of Oporto - located on the opposite bank. Oporto and the Douro’s winegrowing cultural landscape are two World Heritage jewels.

It’s possible to have a pleasant seaside walk along the 12 km eco-track starting in Gaia, or in the nature trails in Cabo da Roca, integrated within the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.There are also many BTT and pedestrian trails in the interior, for example the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park, in the Alentejo, that includes Marvão - a walled hilltop village. The Alentejo is better known for the beauty of its vast rolling plains, that is particularly popular in springtime when the fields are filled with scented flowers.”

Vanessa Fernandes, triathlon world champignon

Vanessa Fernandes, triathlon world champignon

Mariza, Fado singer

Mariza, Fado singer

 “The capital of my country is the only one in Europe where the sun sets over the sea. Lisbon is a city of contrasts where history and modernity are to be found standing hand in hand on the banks of the River Tagus.

 One of the most memorable concerts of my career took place in Belém. This is an area full of monuments, where modern buildings have successfully joined together with the uniquely Portuguese Manueline architecture classified as World Heritage.

Walking through Alfama – or Mouraria, where I grew up and learned to sing fado – you will eventually arrive at the Castle with its fabulous view over the river and sea. Stay there for a while to watch the sunset and then enjoy dinner in the typical atmosphere of a fado house.”

“In my country, I can appreciate over 20,000 years of History, from the early rock paintings to more recent contemporary art.

At the present time, Portugal is marked by harmonious contrasts between an age-old culture and all the excitement of innovative projects, geared towards the future.

Portugal is the country with the oldest borders in Europe, the homeland of the discoverers who, in the 15th and 16th centuries, set sail to conquer the seas and ended up connecting continents. Throughout its history, Portugal has brought together different and remote cultures, all of which have left their marks on the national heritage and on the personality and lifestyle of its free-spirited and hospitable people.”

Joana Vasconcelos, fine artist

Joana Vasconcelos, fine artist

Nelson Évora – triple jump world champignon

Nelson Évora – triple jump world champignon

My country has Europe’s longest white sand beach. 30 km of fine, golden sand awaits you next to Lisbon. Along Europe’s West Coast it’s possible to find open beaches and invigorating waves together with small coves and bays where one feels like an explorer. To the south, the waters are calmer and warmer, ideal for those who enjoy warmth and sun bathing.

My country is the world’s finest golf destination. With a gentle climate and lush, green landscapes overlooking the sea, holidays spent in Portugal offer an oasis in my annual schedule, whether in the island of Madeira or in the rest of the country.

The green turfs that I know best are those of football pitches but I also know that Portugal is famous for its first-class golf courses – with over 70 located throughout the country. The Algarve, in addition to being the country’s leading tourism zone is also famous for its golf courses and has been classified as the world’s finest golf destination. The Lisbon region - previously elected Europe’s best golf destination - has over 20 golf courses along the Estoril and Cascais Coast. I’m familiar with some of the resorts, located in wonderful settings, offering views over the sea or the Sintra Mountains - an exquisitely beautiful region included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

But for me, holidays are above all an opportunity to enjoy the sea and Portuguese gastronomy. The island of Madeira, where I was born, has a subtropical climate and bountiful flower-filled vegetation. For me, the local fish and shellfish taste better than in any other part of the world. And I also think the fruit has a more intense flavour!

Cristiano Ronaldo, football player

Cristiano Ronaldo, football player

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There many other talents behind this great country, great communities of mix cultures that thrive this nation and as a all make also outstanding achievements. Portugal, Europe’s West Coast is also known by having the biggest solar plant in the world and being the fastest growing European country in wind energy.

Source:Condensed information www.visitportugal.com, Portugal Tourism Board

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Óbidos, a short visit with a return ticket

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Óbidos, a short visit with a return ticket

Óbidos in a flash can even recall the ominous word 'death', but actually means "walled city", and the general joy the Portuguese city lives up to its meaning. This fortress offers history, culture, beauty and peace and a good portion of tranquility for anyone planning to spend a different day away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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Founded by the Romans, the village of Óbidos gives its first impression in a long, narrow street called  Straight Street .

The street is lined with shops of  handicrafts, where you can also taste the  cherry brandy, a wild fruit  that gives the flavor to the city's famous liqueur.

Right at the end of the street sits the Castelo de Óbidos, were mounted inside spaces that give us an idea of how daily life was the village and within the walls of the castle.

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The visitor is surprised to encounter a hostel set up inside the castle. To spend the night you need to spend 250 euros and if you want VIP treatment can opt for one quarter of kings and queens, where charges to the tune of 350 euros. Too bad I have no picture of this room to heal our curiosity. It will be so pompous and is meant to be? I heard that the kings bed is huge!

Well, back to the historical facts of Óbidos ... Walking through town is well understood because it is an asset, just crossing Porta da Vila all decorated in traditional blue and white tiles.

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Following the historic tour, the heart of Óbidos is the square of Santa Maria, a symbol of urban restructuring has gone through the city in the sixteenth century by King Catherine of Austria, wife of John III. The  Church of Santa Maria , built in 1148 during the reign of Afonso Henriques in order of S. Teotonio was also restructured in sixteenth and worth a visit!

Take a few minutes of the Solar Aboins, which for centuries was the staging point of the royal entourage at the Shed of the village built in the medieval period and the symbol of municipal powers - Pelourinho, built in 1513. If you have plenty of time to spend in the Museum Abilio de Matos and Silva (Old Town Hall Council), built during the reign of King Manuel in the sixteenth century, then visit the Manor of St. Mary's Square (the former residence of the painter Eduardo Malta in the twentieth century) and save breath for one more stop: how about tossing a coin and make a request in the beautiful Fountain of the village? It is not any one fountain was built in 1535 at the behest of Queen Catarina.

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The most important of all, go with your eyes open and look beyond the tourism atraction. Take for example the tenderness of flowery balconies, the houses painted white and blue, and the whim of manicured gardens in private homes. Forgive me if I appear in almost all the photos below, the local architecture is so inspiring that had took from my personal folder just to share with you.

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This is an invitation to visit the Obidos town.

Article by Priscilla Rios Wheel Razuk on July 18, 2011, source Myguide.pt

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A lady’s choice, Portuguese Wine in the feminine

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A lady’s choice, Portuguese Wine in the feminine

Portugal is a country of passions. Some say that Lisbon is the last romantic city in the world, our coast is one of the most beautiful in all Europe, our gastronomy sinful, our culture and heritage admirable, and our people gentle.  But it’s our wine that gets the most attention and drives the biggest passion of all.

The Portuguese wine industry has come a long way from traditional production just 15 years ago to the development of highly sophisticated wines from all regions which are now competing with the best and most prestigious wines from countries around the world including South Africa, Australia and France.

Like football, when it comes to Portuguese Wine everybody has a word to say. In the North, Port Wine is famous and graces the after dinner table in the finest restaurants and homes around the world. Sir Cliff Richards was not a pioneer in the production of Algarve Wines but he has definitely help to increase the visibility of the Portuguese wine industry and to promote the Algarve as a wine region.

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When it comes to the wine it’s not a man’s world any more. The natural growth and influence of women in today’s society is reflected in many aspects of our life, and the wine sector is no exception. Women buy more wine than men. An online survey conducted by Wine Spectator in 2009 concerning women and wine concluded that 93% of the respondents drank wine at least once a week and 80% of the time during meals. Having wine during a meal defiantly helps to promote the wine culture as an integral accompaniment to food. The survey also found that 79% of women prefer red wine to white or rose. This was quite surprising as it goes against the stereotype of women usually preferring white wine. And when it comes to loyalty to a particular brand the survey concluded that 65% of the time women would try a new wine rather than buy a wine they have had before and enjoyed.

Sarah Ahmed is known as the Wine Detective. She’s an independent, award-winning wine writer with a particular passion for Portuguese wines. Her main areas of expertise are Australian wines, the wines of the Loire region, South African wines and of course Portuguese wines. Anyone familiar with wine will recognize Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as the dominant grape varieties. Sarah however became fascinated by the glittering array of over 300 native grape varieties plantedacross some thirty wine regions across Portugal.  The result as she says is “a rich kaleidoscope of unique flavours, textures and aromas”. According to this Wine Detective “Portugalis really exciting because winemaking bravado wed to viticulture excellence is unleashing the full potential of these diverse grape varieties and regions”. As a writer passionate about Portuguese wines she feels a certain frustration to encounter so many unsung heroes – producers, wine styles or regions – yet to make their mark.

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Sarah Ahmed was honoured with the invitation to select the line up for the annual Fifty Great Portuguese Wines press and trade tasting in 2010. This was a fantastic opportunity for her to showcase Portugal’s dynamic and diverse wine scene.  The list of wines chosen for the tasting are listed below and having tasted some of them we recommend you have a taste of your own.

White

    * Quinta do Chocapalha Arinto 2008

    * Quinta de Ameal Loureiro 2008

    * Anselmo Mendes Contacto Alvarinho 2008

    * Quinta do Louridal Poema Alvarinho 2007

    * Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho 2008

    * Vale d’Algares Seleccion White

    * Quinta das Bágeiras Vinho Branco Garrafeira 2007

    * Quinta do Cardo Siria 2008 

    * Quinta dos Currais Colheita Seleccionado 2007

    * Quinta de Saes Reserva Branco 2008

    * Poeira Pó de Poeira Branco 2008

    * Niepoort Reserva Redoma Branco 2008

    * J. Portugal Ramos Vila Santa Branco 2008 (VR)

    * Adega da Cartuxa Pera Manca White 2007  

Red

    * Quinta das Vinhas de Areia Fundação Oriente Ramisco 2005

    * Monte da Casteleja Maria Selection 2007

    * Monte d’Oiro Reserva 2006

    * Quinta dos Currais Reserva 2003

    * Filipa Pato Lokal Silex 2008

    * Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa 2005

    * Dao Sul Encontro 1 2007

    * Quinta da Dona Bairrada 2004

    * Quinta Vale das Escadinhas, Quinta da Falorca T-Nac 2007

    * Dão Sul Quinta de Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada 2007

    * Quinta da Pellada Tinto Reserva 2006

    * Vinha Paz Reserva 2005

    * Quinta dos Roques Garrafeira 2003

    * Quinta de S Jose Colheita 2007

    * CARM Quinta do Coa 2007

    * Quinta do Noval Cedro do Noval 2007

    * Quinta do Noval Labrador 2007

    * Niepoort Redoma 2007

    * Quinta do Passadouro Reserva Tinto 2007

    * Lemos & Van Zeller Curriculum Vitae "C.V" 2007

    * Quinta do Crasto Vinha de Ponte 2007

    * Quinta Macedos Pinga do Torto 2005

    * Alves de Sousa Abandonada Tinto 2005

    * Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinhas Velhas 2004

    * Quinta do Vale Dona Maria 2004

    * Herdade dos Grous 23 Barricas 2008

    * Terrenus Tinto 2007

    * Herdade de São Miguel dos Descobridores Reserva 2007

    * Herdade do Esporão Private Selection Garrafeira Red 2007

    * Herdade do Rocim Grande Rocim 2007

    * Herdade da Malhadinha Nova Malhadinha Tinto 2007 (VR)

    * Herdade de Mouchão Tonel 3-4 2005

    * Quinta do Zambujeiro 2004

    * Quinta do Mouro 2004 

Moscatel

    * Quinta do Portal Late Harvest 2007

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Portugal Finest Wine Regions - Douro Wines

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Portugal Finest Wine Regions - Douro Wines

Following our previous post of Portugal Wine & Vineyards’ where we presented the Tejo wine region, I want you to continue to be enchanted by this fine country by helping you to discover the one of the oldest wine regions in the world – Douro Region, also known by Porto wine region

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The Douro valley is one of the most impressive landscapes in the world. Unesco has classify it as a World Heritage site.

"Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social and economic evolution. It is an outstanding example of a traditional European wine-producing region, reflecting the evolution of this human activity over time."

Source: UNESCO

The extraordinary stepped terraces hill sided have been carved by generations of men who labored the land to produce the finest liqueur on hearth – the Porto Wines.

The region offers great contrasts, the Douro is marked by the shale mountains ranges of Marão and Montemuro, sheltered from Atlantic winds and creating a Mediterranean and continental climate. The Douro River and its tributaries wend their way at the bottom of vertiginous valleys, forming a landscape of wild and mysterious beauty subject to huge temperature changes from scorching summers to freezing winters.

Itineraries for the tourist are endless, from the famed Port producing “quintas” to the more recently-discovered pre-historic rock-carvings along the banks of the River Côa. There are fine restaurants and good hotels to discover, with boat trips up the Douro and steam-train journeys – all within sight of the countryside’s breathtaking beauty. Regional cuisine is matched well by fabulous Ports and the ever-increasing number of fine Douro wines.

Visiting the region

When visiting the region you will not only discover the magnificent beauty of Douro valley and its river you will also discover its history and its people. To go on a journey to discover this unique place, with unique history and culture you can chose the historic steam train – put it in your diary for this year between 5 June and 9 October 2010; by car, up and down the landscape or in a delightful cruise along the river with service on board and stops on the most charming little places. You will not forget this experience. Please click on the following link http://ow.ly/1i6A0 to view the river tour and for more information about cruises please go to http://ow.ly/1i6Ih

Enology

Today, there are two distinctly different ways of making a Douro wine.  The traditional method, where the grapes are trod in a lagar – a wide, shallow granite tank – produces wines with more colour and tannins which, generally speaking, improves their potential for ageing.  On the other hand, there is a more modern method that has risen in popularity, where the wines are made in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures.  The latter wines are more elegant and the aromas of the wine are better preserved.  Some winemakers use both winemaking techniques in order to obtain more complex wines.

There have also been changes in the manner by which these wines are aged before they are bottled.  Traditionally, the wines were aged in large wooden vats although these are being gradually replaced by oak casks or by stainless steel tanks.

Grapes variety

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Vintage, some of the best years

The year 1994: A “monumental” vintage, even more intense than that of 1992, with tannins and fruit concentration. According to James Suckling from the American magazine Wine Spectator, which back in 1997 attributed the highest rating (100 points) to the Taylor and da Fonseca Vintages, as well as first place among the hundred best wines of that year, “Great Vintage Ports as the ones from this year come around only a few times in a lifetime “. A general declaration. Excellent weather, harvests under ideal conditions, with perfect grapes.

The year 1992: Exceptional vintage, with tannins and fruit concentrations.

The year 1991: Excellent vintage, harmonious and rich. Hot and dry summer, with only a few light rains at the beginning of September. Harvest under ideal conditions.

The year 1989: Very hot summer. Premature harvest, under ideal climatic conditions. Some excellent wines.

The year 1987 Very dry winter and spring. Slow maturation. Very hot and dry summer. Premature harvest, at the beginning of September. It was not a Vintage year, because of the low production. Few producers declared production, although there were several single-quinta wines. Very fine and fruity wines.

The year 1985: Wines with a very fine aroma. Exceptional quality. A classic Vintage, with intense aromas and a firm structure in fruit and tannins. Almost all producers declared production. Excellent weather. Cold start to winter, but warm February and March. Some rain in spring and normal temperatures until summer. A very hot June, followed by a normal summer. Harvest under perfect conditions.

(...)

The year 1966: Exceptional quality. Very sweet wines and rich in tannins, some of them sublime, with large aging capacity. Almost all producers declared production. Normal winter, with some rain, but afterwards the weather became dry between April and September. Grapes with a high sugar level, some of them burned. It only rained slightly at the beginning of the harvest (end of September). Scarce production.

The year 1963: A classic Vintage, intense and balanced, deep-purple, fruity and with a large aging capacity. “An apotheosis of Vintage”, as Chantal Lecouty said. Almost all producers declared production. Large production. Normal winter and cold rainy spring, but with good weather when blooming. Hot and dry summer. It only drizzled just before the harvests. During the harvest (end of September), perfect weather, with very hot days and cool nights.

The year 1960: Excellent quality, with sweet and elegant wines, with a good structure and much colour and body. Almost all companies declared production. Very hot year and premature maturity. The harvests started in the second week of September, initially with hot weather but with drizzling rain and cold after 24 September, which harmed the later harvests.

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The year 1935: A classic Vintage, but some producers did not declare production because of having declared it in the previous year (example of a “split Vintage”). A harmonious wine, rich in fruity aromas and rich in tannins. Dry winter, Abnormally cold spring, with some frosts. Late blooming and fructification. Irregular summer, but the harvest occurred under ideal conditions. In 1937, Sandeman bottled its entire 1935 Vintage, simultaneously celebrating the George V (1935) Jubilee and the Coronation of George VI (1937), with two allusive medallions engraved on the bottles.

The Year 1934:Exceptional quality, mature and fruity, despite being a year of unstable weather. Dry winter, rainy spring. Late blooming and fructification. A very hot July. Some rain in September. A late harvest at the beginning of October, with ideal weather.

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The year 1873: Great Vintage, with characteristics of sweetness. Almost all companies declared production. Late harvest, in ideal weather conditions.

The year 1872: Excellent Vintage, with very delicate and rich wines that proved to be better than was initially expected. Many companies declared production and others did not because they chose to give privilege to the previous year.

The year 1870: Great Vintage, very delicate and full-bodied, comparable to that of 1834, according to some traders. All companies declared. Scarce production.

The year 1868: One of the most delicate Vintages of the 19th Century, very rich and strong. A very hot year. In August the grapes appeared to be burnt and the year seemed a write-off. But a light rain that fell before the harvest saved the production. All companies declared production.

The year 1863: A great Vintage, one of the best years in the history of Port, according to Ernest Cockburn. A very hot year until the end of August. All companies declared production.

(…)

For more information and complete list please visit Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto.

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Silver Coast, a different kind of place . . .

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Silver Coast, a different kind of place . . .

Summer is a great time to relax, to be with family and friends, travel around the world discovering fantastic places, different cultures and celebrating life. I’ve been in Bilbao and Pamplona in the summer and took part of Sanfirmin bull-running which is quite an experience and also in Amsterdam and London which are two beautiful cities. I’m passionate about Cultures and Architecture and the way both mark each country and its people.

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This summer is being busy as ever and I have decided to stay at home and enjoy some quality time with my family whenever the job allows. For my surprise I’m doing what I usually recommend my clients, which is enjoying the beach and this fantastic weather, visiting places and delighting myself with the local gastronomy - sea food is highly recommended.

I discovered numerous events taking place in Óbidos and other parts of the Silver Coast and they are just making this summer such a special one. I start with Golf in the morning and a light breakfast around 10AM. Beach follows and I tend to vary between Praia D’El Rey beach, Foz and São Martinho. Occasionally I pick up the jeep and discover new and isolated places, which are so perfect without a single foot print. At night Óbidos and Foz have been my favourites. Foz has a fantastic night life, the bars are crowded and Greenhill night club, who has been open to public for more than 25 years, has many surprises Óbidos is always a fun place to visit and this summer is repeating the success of previous years.

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The medieval market has invaded the village and even confined to the castle walls, in the narrow streets is common to come across with knights fitting for land or a peace of meat.

This event is undoubtedly one of the most popular organized in Obidos. Flowing vibrant banners and heraldic flags, wizards, jugglers, court jesters, wandering minstrels, musicians, mimes and thespians provide the vivacious merriment. Craft demonstrators and some 150 food, beverage and merchandise vendors recreate the customs and spirit of medieval Europe. The afternoon concludes with four jousting knights on horseback.

For half a dozen "torreoes", the fair's official coin, visitors can buy a little bit of everything from medieval clothing to shoes, jewellery, or even experience a "medieval" meal

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The Opera Festival is held every year and in its five years of existence has drawn a large audience to the many operas that have been staged. It is a unique project that mergers the cultural heritage to the promotion and valorisation of Óbidos. This summer festival is unique in the country and presents some of the most popular operas of all time, always with an exceptional backdrop of Óbidos.

The operas concerts are "9th Symphony"  - Beethoven; The Barber of Seville" - Rossini; "La Bohème" - Puccini; and Opera Gala with Elisabete Matos (for more details go to obidos.pt)

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Secrets of the Silver Coast

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Secrets of the Silver Coast

Imagine a familiar place like the Algarve, with extensive sandy beaches, valleys and plains and cliffs that touch the sea. Now imagine the sought of France with green forests, less historic heritage and a big blue ocean. If you mix it all together and take out 30 years of urban development  you will probably get a snapshot of  the Silver Coast.

Long forgotten by the major developers that invested the last 30 years in the beautiful Algarve creating spectacular sites, luxurious resorts and a fantastic lifestyle that attracts people from over the world, the Silver Coast is now gaming new dynamics with an increasing supply of premium and super-premium properties with a lifestyle attached.

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This attraction is driving curiosity to the highlands and like treasure hunter’s people drive through little roads chancing small treasures in the form of empty beaches, cultural sanctuaries or unique homes. The real Portugal is very present and a friendly one despite the language barrier that occasionally blocks communication, which is always overcomed by the simplicity of body language. Going this way is an adventure indeed specially for foreignness but I promisse you it will give you a lifetime of memories with a few laughs.

Golf has been the main driver for many tourists, followed by beaches and culture. The equestrian sector is discovering this area as well, mostly due to a state-of-the-art equestrian resort being built in this region.

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The Garb al-Andalus

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The Garb al-Andalus

The Garb al-Andalus was the name given to the west of the Muslim Iberian Peninsula, which covered the centre and south of Portugal and also the extreme west of Spanish Estremadura and Andalusia. Portugal is a mystery of cultures, a Catholic country without a doubt and a very devoted one. But the old continent was the cradle of many civilizations way before the crusades conquered Europe. In the year 710 the Muslims entered in the Iberian Peninsula and one year later Cordoba and Toledo fell. It was only 800 years later that the last breath of the Muslin Empire in this peninsula was taken.

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As I know you are passionate about Portugal, otherwise you wouldn’t be considering buying a home and maybe retire here to live under this splendid sun, I thought of sharing with you just a glance of the Arab heritage in the country. The Muslins left a strong presence in some Portuguese cities and as I know that sooner or later you will visit the cities in your process of getting to know us better, you will probably recall this article and look at the view with a different perspective.

The cities of Garb al-Andalus developed notably under Arab domain. They didn’t have a scorched earth policy, and often concede broad administrative autonomy in return for the recognition of the authority of the Caliph and the payment of taxes. The introduction of new products and goods brought about not only by sophisticated techniques in the areas of agriculture, science and handicrafts, but also by the silk and spices route revitalizing old cities that where fallen in to decadence, making them prosper. Muslim geographers describe the cities of Garb in glowing terms, boasting of their natural riches and the beauty and qualities of their inhabitants

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Beja (Baja) is probably the most important Arab city in Portugal, as it was the home of very illustrious intellectuals like the theologian Sulayman Ibn Khalaf al-Baji, the poet king al-Mu’tamid or the historian Ibn Sahib al-Sala, but also has the foremost of a region rich in cattle, olive oil, honey and other fruits of the heart.

Alcácer do Sal (Al-Qasr Abu Danis or Al-Qasr al-Fath) they say, had the advantage of its pine forest from where wood was taken for naval construction. For this reason, its shipyards and arsenals where famed.

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Lisbon (Lishbuna) is referred to as an important port, its city walls having many gates. The most important was the west gate (Bad al-Garb) near Aljama Mosque, on the site of the present cathedral. This gate was adorned with monumental marble arches and columns. It was, even then, a city of sailors and alfama was famous for its hot springs and baths. The Saga of the Adventures  took place here, the story tells of eight cousin-brothers who went off in search of the mythical Enchanted Islands and reached the Canary Islands before landing in Morocco. It is a true story, the precursor of the Atlantic navigations of the Portuguese. The best –known poet of the Lisbon region was Abu Zayd ibn Muqana.

Santarém (Shantarin), home of the great poet Ibn Sara and of the noted historian and literary commentator Ibn Bassam, is portrayed as an important agricultural town, living on the abundant harvest of wheat from the Tagus plains and the breeding of horses.

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Sintra (Shintara), probably the birthplace of the poet-mystic bakr Ibn Dawudal-Marwani al-Shantarini has two castles attributed to it. All indications point to these being the forticications today known as the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Vila, which would have been the governosrs palace. It was praised for its apples (hence Praia das Maças – Apple beach).

Coimbra (Qulumriya) is credited with an unconquerable castle on the banks of the Mondego (Mundik), which after flooding proved to provide excellent soil for abundant harvests. The riverside plains produce olives, apples, grapes and cherries. The Mozarab culture around the Lorvão Convent was prosperous.

Mértola (Mirtula) was important for its strategic position as the strong castle dominated the landscape of the Guadiana river (Wadi Ana), an important access route to the interior and to the sea. It was the birthplace of the poet Sufi AbuÍmran al-Mirtuli. At an early stage the centre of the ephemeral reign of the poet and notable Sufi master Ahmad Ibn Qasi was based here. In Mértola, there is the only relatively intact Portuguese mosque from the Arab period, although altered as a church. 

Évora (Yabura) described in Arab sources as an important city was, however, presented as dependent variously on Beja and Badajoz. It had beautiful estates outside the town, backing on the to the castle walls. One of its many illustrious sons was the poet and notable scholar Ibn’Abdun.

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Finally, Silves (Shilb) is the object of the most praise from the Arab historians and geographers, both for the beauty of its architecture and landscape and for the prosperity and culture of its people. In the castle was famous the Palácio das Varandas (Qasr Al-Sharajib), which existed inside it, was no less so. The river Arade, which the city is built on, was then navigable for a long extent and, along its course, there where watermills and shipyards for naval construction. If its markets where famous, no less where the poetic vain and the purity of the Arabic language of the inhabitants mainly of Yemeni origin.

These prosperous cities with fertile soils, strategic positions or riverside used their fortune and intellectual abilities to enrich the culture and footprint in the territory. Take a ride through these towns and explore ancient churches and take closer look to details – you will find 800 years of history that bring an exotic singularity to the scenery and an enchantment to handcrafts goods.

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Traditional properties in the Algarve are very representative of the Arab culture, their white walls, flat roofs and round shimmies are Algarve’s postcard and the culture brand of this coastal territory.

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