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Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place?

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Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place?

Matt Kramer is putting down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

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PORTO, Portugal—If you’ve read my stuff over the years, you may recall that I like to dive into places that grip my wine imagination. So in the past I, and my wife, Karen, have lived in Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Venice and Piedmont for varying lengths of time, our minimum residence three months. If there’s a privilege to being a wine writer, this is it.

Deciding where to go is not an entirely rational thing. Although all sorts of places appeal, the decision to set up house elsewhere is fundamentally emotional. Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull.

That, in the proverbial nutshell, is what happened with Portugal. For all the time I’ve spent in Europe over the decades—we’ve bicycled for months at a time in France alone, never mind living for long stretches in Italy—I have to confess that we never bothered with Portugal. The wines, apart from Port, for so long seemed lackluster. You could taste the lack of ambition.

But in the course of tasting, I began to receive different messages in the bottle, as it were. Something seemed to be stirring, or so the wines suggested. So in the past year or so, we visited Portugal twice. I loved what we saw, who we met, what we ate and, above all, what I tasted.

So I began to investigate Portuguese wines more closely. What at first appeared promising—and extremely enjoyable—turned out to be nothing less than revolutionary. I came to what I freely confess is an emotional conclusion: Portugal is arguably the most exciting wine place on the planet today.

Now, whether that’s demonstrably, provably so is beside the point. It’s how I as a wine lover, a wine taster, a wine drinker, felt. And that’s all that matters for any of us, isn’t it?

“Let’s live in Portugal for a few months,” I proposed to my wife.

“Why not?” she agreeably replied.

So now, as I write this, we’re newly settled into pretty nice digs in the Ribeira district of Porto. (And, yes, everything about this jaunt is on my own dime, just in case you were wondering.)

Much as we enjoyed Lisbon, there was no question that for us Porto would be “home.” It’s just the right size (1.3 million people in the larger urban area); it’s an ancient city that has retained much of its architecture intact (the Ribeira zone where we live is a UNESCO World Heritage site); and not least, it’s the closest city to the great Douro wine region.

That last fact is not insignificant. In the same way that you’ve really got to see the Grand Canyon sometime before you die, the same—for wine lovers, anyway—applies to the Douro wine zone. It is, in a word, boggling. Really, I’ve never seen anything quite like it: more vast than I had imagined, more forbidding in its endless stone vineyard terraces, and just plain more improbable than any other wine area I’ve seen. I mean, what kind of a wine area has growers using dynamite just to create a hole in which to plant a grapevine? It’s scary beautiful.

And now it’s changing. The Douro has famously been consecrated for more than three centuries to just one wine: Port. But the past few decades have not been kind to the Port business. The modern mass palate turned away from it, although there’s still a sizable number of drinkers who enjoy at least a sip from time to time. Make no mistake: Port is hardly about to disappear.

That noted, there’s no question that the Douro zone is changing. One (rough) fact tells all: In the past 15 years or so, about half of the wine production from the larger Douro zone—an area that extends beyond the boundaries designated for Port production—is now table wine. That’s really incredible. I know of no other historically significant wine zone that has transformed to anywhere near that degree.

So I wanted to be close to the Douro action. The table wines emerging from the Douro can be thrilling. Many—most even—are still works in progress. After all, nobody knew how to make table wine in the Douro. But they’re learning mighty fast. The best wines are stunners, truly world-class in their originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.

The dry white Douro wines can be surprisingly compelling. It’s surprising because the place is take-your-breath-away hot in the summer. (One winegrower said to me: “The Douro is eight months of paradise and four months of hell.”) So how can the white wines be so crisply good? Elevation. The best whites come from old vines grown in elevations upwards of 2,000 feet.

So the Douro is mighty interesting. But it’s not the real reason why I’ve chosen to take time to live in Portugal. It’s because of the grapes. Portugal is home to a dazzling number of indigenous grape varieties that create wines of supreme originality. You’re looking at red grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz, Baga and hundreds of others, and white grapes such as Arinto, Viosinho, Rabigato, Códega do Larinho and Gouveio, among many others.

Until very recently, the Portuguese did a pretty poor job with this patrimony. Too often the wines were dirty-tasting, from old, unclean barrels. The winemaking was crude, the ambition for greatness non-existent.

No more. Portugal is now gushing with stunning wines—and yes, stunning deals. Call me a value hound, but except for a tiny handful of reach-for-the-sky wines (and every wine nation needs those, too), Portugal very likely now offers some of the greatest wine values on the market today. The reason is easily grasped: Portugal’s achievement is still recent, and the word hasn’t quite made the rounds.

That’s why I’m here. And that’s why you’ll be hearing yet more. (And no, we don’t have a guest room.)

Source: Winespectator

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10 Best Wine Region to Visit

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10 Best Wine Region to Visit

The corks are pulled, the votes are in, and readers of USA TODAY and 10Best have passionately voted Portugal's Alentejo the #1 'Best Wine Region to Visit,' from among 20 worthy nominees.  

Our well-travelled expert nomination panel - a wine educator and a wine buyer - made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest's four-week run.  While British Columbia's Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal's appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honors.

Photo of Ronald Isarin

Photo of Ronald Isarin

"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."

The vast Alentejo, stretching to Portugal's southwestern coast, is still off the radar for many travelers.  This intriguing rural region is like a trip back in time.  The diverse terrain holds olive groves and vineyards, quaint villages, flower-filled meadows and forests. 

"The Alentejo is best known for its hardy red wines made from a unique combination of indigenous varietals," says Kerry Woolard, who served on the expert panel.  "Now, more familiar vinifera such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are being produced there too."

The food in Alentejo is rustic and authentic, taking full advantage of the agrarian lifestyle in the area.  You won't find a developed coastline of hotels;  instead Alentejo's beaches - considered some of the most dramatic and beautiful in Europe - require visitors to seek out lodging in independent guest houses.  The Alentejo is like a trip back in time for wine lovers.  The Faro and Lisbon airports are each less than two hours away.  

The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Wine Region to Visit' contest category is as follows:

  1. Alentejo, Portugal
  2. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  3. Maipo, Chile
  4. Marlborough, New Zealand
  5. Croatia
  6. Napa Valley, Calif.
  7. Tuscany, Italy
  8. Oregon
  9. Hunter Valley, Australia
  10. Virginia

Source: 10 best

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Portuguese wines

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Portuguese wines

It's no secret that Portugal has gifted the world with astounding fortified wines for over 200 years, yet what has remained a well-kept secret, in recent years, is that Portugal's table wines have reached new crescendos of quality, while maintaining a firm grip on vino value. While fortified wines, largely Port and Madeira, have been the exclusive focus of Portugal's wine scene for centuries, it's the Portuguese table wines that have started garnering some well deserved notoriety abroad. That's not to say that you can't find high end, high dollar wines from Portugal, just that there are plenty of good bargain wines to be had as well.

Portugal's Wine Regions and Grape Varieties

For being a relatively small country, Portugal enjoys an immense amount of both geographical and climatic diversity. Situated along the Atlantic ocean and sharing a top to bottom border with Spain, Portugal maintains over twenty distinct DOC wine growing regions. For the majority of consumers there are really only a few wine regions to focus on at this point of the Portuguese table wine story, the Douro and Dao in the north and the Alentejo in Portugal's southeast corner. Over a half million acres are currently under vine in Portugal and these vines host over 250 different grape varieties. Many of Portugal's grapes are indigenous to the Iberian peninsula and the majority are not even known by name to local Portuguese fans. A few international varietal favorites have also been thrown into the Portuguese vineyard mix (think Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay). Expect to see frequent flyers from Spanish wine regions appear in Portugal's wines as well, just under new names. Take Spain's famous red wine grape, Tempranillo, for starters. In Portugal's Alentejo region, Tempranillo is referred to as Tinta Roriz; however, in Portugal's northern Douro it is often called Aragonez, same grape just three jazzy names. In general, the top value wines tend to come from the Dao and Alentejo regions (typically in the $10-15 price range), leaving the top dollar wines to the Douro (at $25+ per bottle on average).

What Makes Portuguese Wines Different?

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The vast majority of Portugal's table wines are made from a blend of predominately native grapes. While many New World wine drinkers tend to be more comfortable with varietal-based (and labeled) wines, Portugal opens the door to a whole new wine adventure. The average American wine consumer has been fed wines by varietal for so long that it requires a bit of a paradigm shift to encounter and embrace Portuguese wines. However, on the flipside, there are certain categories of American wine fans that are looking for the next "wine adventure" - they want to be the first to taste, tweet and talk about a "new wine" from a "new region" - Portuguese wines will find a nice niche with this category of younger oenophiles. There is another segment of consumer that has an experienced palate and strives to diversify both their cellar and their wine tasting resume, and Portugal's wine offerings can uniquely cater to this market segment quite well.

While Portugal is not known for a handful of specific varietals like say Chile, Argentina or California, though if pressed they can offer up some of their top five grapes grown locally: Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira Preta, Gouveio, Aragonez and Alvarinho for starters. What Portugal is known for is its traditional blend of grapes, whether it's a field blend or a variety of grapes that have come together in the winery. The Portuguese enjoy a strong history of blending grapes and have become masters at it, beginning with Port and bringing their table wine blends to remarkable levels over the last two decades. Not unlike many well-known, Old World wine regions, Portugal's winemaking paradigms perform a delicate dance between tradition (complete with full scale lagares, for foot-treading higher end wines) and technology. While tradition and technology are often competing for the upper-hand, many of Portugal's producers are discovering that tradition and technology are fully capable of completing one another, in ways that make the wines better than they would be if stranded with just one vinification philosophy at work.

Like much of Europe, the wines of Portugal tend to be regionally labeled, with the producer and region appearing as the most prominent feature of a Portuguese wine label. Back labels may disclose which grapes were used in the blend, but this is not always a top priority for Portugal's table wines.

Styles of Portuguese Wine

Stylistically speaking, Portugal's wines cover the gamut. From traditional Port and Madeira to full-bodied, rustic reds and oak-driven whites to vibrant, almost effervescent Vinho Verde, whose acidity and food-friendly nature make it a prime time candidate for all things summer and perfect for seafood. Most of the Portuguese wines that I've tasted display solid structure, with forward, fruit-focused character. Some of the reds can show a touch rustic when sipped alone, but then shine extremely well with food, a significant motivator for making Portuguese wine in the first place.

Portugal Wine Producers to Look For:

While there are plenty of Portuguese wine producers to choose from, these producers provide a good starting point with decent distribution and consistent Portuguese wines: Herdade do Esporão; Quinta de Roriz; Quinta do Vallado; Quinta do Crasto; Quinta da Pellada; Quinta de la Rosa

Wines from Portugal are among the market's top contenders for the industry's highly coveted quality-to-price ratio, or QPR. With Portuguese wines consistently showcasing exceptional QPR across the board these quality-conscious, value-driven wines from the Old World are worth seeking out on several counts. Different, distinct and adventurous, Portuguese wines have something to offer everyone.

Source: About.com by Stacy Slinkard

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Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

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Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

People often ask me to name my favorite wine countries. I like to surprise them by putting Portugal high on the list.

Portugal seems to be stuck in an unfortunate dichotomy in our mind’s eye: There’s cheap Mateus, the wine of unsophisticates — Saddam Hussein supposedly was a fan — and vintage port, the expensive postprandial tipple of the stodgy British aristocracy. 

That’s as regrettable as it is incomplete.

I love Portugal because it offers tremendous value and variety, with wines that you won’t find anywhere else. And the Douro Valley, the region famous for those fortified ports and its stunningly beautiful landscape, leads the way.

Much of the country’s charm is in the sheer variety of its grapes, many of which are indigenous and not widely grown in other countries. Portugal has not succumbed to the lure of chardonnay and cabernet. It shares some grapes with Spain, of course. Albariño and godello appear here as alvarinho and gouveio. Tempranillo, the great red grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, plays a supporting role throughout Portugal under a variety of pseudonyms. Syrah makes a cameo appearance, though it hasn’t stolen the show. 

If you enjoy keeping track of the grape varieties you’ve tasted, you can add extensively to your repertoire by exploring the wines of Portugal. The port grapes of touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz (Portugal’s main pseudonym for tempranillo) and tinta cao form the major red blends from the Douro. Farther south, trincadeira anchors the reds along with aragonez (another name for tempranillo), while fernao pires shines in aromatic whites. If you search, you can find touriga in Virginia or Australia, and others maybe in experimental vineyards, but most of these varieties are unique to Portugal. 

The Douro is the world’s oldest wine region, having been officially demarcated in 1756 in an attempt to guarantee the authenticity of its wines. Those wines were almost exclusively port — fortified and sweet, in a variety of styles — until the 1990s, when a few wineries began using the same grapes to make dry table wines. Those wines have proved popular enough that more vineyards have been planted farther upriver in the Douro Superior, near the Spanish border. So the Douro is both an old wine region and a new one.  

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Stylistically, Douro’s table wines are similar to Spain’s famous reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero; remember the tempranillo connection. Yet Douro reds have a complexity that seems to reach down into the schist that makes up the vineyard soils. They also have a leafy, somewhat woodsy character that speaks of the outdoors. They don’t conjure wood-paneled tasting rooms or barrel cellars as much as an autumn hike along a riverside trail. 

The Douro also leads Portugal in value, and I might not have said that a few years ago, when the wines seemed to aim at the higher end of the price spectrum. There are a few priced under $10: Charamba is nationally available, while Lello is available more in the Washington area market. The excitement now starts around the $15 level and up, with wines that outperform for their price. Quinta do Crasto and Muxagat are two labels I highly recommend for their entire line of wines. Others, such as Niepoort and Quinta do Vale Meao, are harder to find but worth seeking out and splurging on.

Another reason to love these wines: They often have a smoky, earthy character that pairs well with grilled foods. And the time for grilling is nigh.

Source: By Dave McIntyre www.washingtonpost.com

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Wines of Portugal Academy

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Wines of Portugal Academy

Anyone interested in Portuguese wine has the chance to learn more at a new academy being set up by Wines of Portugal, in association with Harpers Wine & Spirit.

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Wines of Portugal has developed three WSET-style training modules that take members of the trade through introductory, intermediate and advanced learning about Portuguese wines.

The Wines of Portugal Academy promises to give both individuals and companies interested in the country the training and ability to really help drive Portuguese wine sales in their business.

The course will provide insight into Portuguese regions, grape types and wine styles, and all attendees will receive a certificate on completion.

Nuno Vale, marketing director for Wines of Portugal, said: ‘There is a definite buzz around Portuguese wines at the moment, as the value and variety that they offer find increased relevance for buyers and retailers looking to ‘wow' their demanding customers.

"The Wines of Portugal Academy has been created specifically to help educate more fully those responsible for buying and selling our wines," he added.

Source: www.harpers.co.uk

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New York Times distinguishes Oporto as a ‘Place to Go’

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New York Times distinguishes Oporto as a ‘Place to Go’

According to the prestigious New York Times newspaper, the northern Portuguese city of Oporto is one of the ’46 Places to go in 2013’ – “whether you travel to eat or shop, surf or ski, new adventures await.”

Oporto ranks 28th on the NYT’s list of the top-46 destinations of 2013, chosen for its quality for price, its architecture, and, of course, its port.

Portugal’s economic pain is your gain in Oporto, one of Western Europe’s great bargains. New boutique hotels and restaurants, like the Yeatman, dramatically perched above the Douro River featuring Oporto’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, have brought a fresh burnish to this Unesco-protected city where labyrinthine narrow streets, ancient buildings and black-cloaked students inspired a young English tutor who lived here in the early 1990s named J. K. Rowling”, the author writes.

Wedged between Chang-baishan (China), at 27th, and Puerto Rico in 29th, Oporto is also praised for its most famous export; “The financial downturn doesn’t detract from the city’s most prominent industry — port wine — which can be sampled in the cellars of Sandeman, Graham’s or Taylor-Fladgate with a terraced restaurant, on the Douro’s south bank.”

Topping the NYT’s list of 46 destinations to see this year is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, “Because the whole world will be there in 2014”; the Mediterranean port town of Marseille (France) comes in second, and rounding off the top-three places to visit this year is Nicaragua, central America, for its new high-end lodges and up-and-coming food scene.

Source: http://www.vivainportugal.pt

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The Place Behind the Port: Diving into the Douro Valley

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The Place Behind the Port: Diving into the Douro Valley

Do you remember as a kid in the playground, climbing to the top of a slide and looking down to the bottom, thinking how high up you were? Well, standing at the top of any of the near-vertical vineyards in Portugal’s Douro Valley is a similar sensation!

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The Douro Valley runs west to east, 70km inland from the coastal city of Porto, and sits along the winding Douro River. The scenery in the valley is some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen in a wine region. Not only because of the precipitous nature of the vineyards, which are striking in their own right, but also as you stand on the top of a vineyard and look around, you see a kaleidoscope of shades of green much like tiles of quilt, made up of individual plots of vines, olive trees and shrubbery, all tied together by the meandering jade coloured river.

It is from these vineyards that some excellent red table wines are produced along with one of the world’s most revered wines, Port, for which the region is renowned.

Demarcating the Douro Valley

The Douro Valley is one of Europe’s oldest demarcated wine regions, meaning there have been regulations in place for over 300 years to protect the styles of wine produced there. It was back in 1756 that the Marquis de Pombal, then Prime Minister, instituted a sequence of actions to standarize the sales of Port, and amongst many of the things he did, was restrict the area within which the grapes planted for Port production could be grown.

There are three distinct regions within the demarcated area of the Douro Valley and we visited all three on a recent trip. Every quinta (farm) that produces port, or dry table wines, must be located within one of the 21 municipalities within these three areas. As I tried not to get car sick as we wound our way along narrow mountain roads and around stomach-churning hair-pin curves, we discovered that each of the 3 areas produce wines of different styles.

The vineyards in Baixo (by-sho) Corgo receive the most rainfall and therefore produce a lighter style of wine with less ageing potential that are used mainly for cost-effective, entry level ruby ports. As I tried not to get car sick as we wound our way along narrow mountain roads and around stomach-churning hair-pin curves, we discovered that each of the 3 areas produce wines of different styles. The vineyards in Baixo (by-sho) Corgo receive the most rainfall and therefore produce a lighter style of wine with less ageing potential that are used mainly for cost-effective, entry level ruby ports.

In the middle of the valley lies the Cima (see-ma) Corgo. A few of the wines produced here will become dry wine, but most are used for some of the region’s best ports, including Late Bottled Vintages and many of the premium vintage ports.

Vineyards in the Douro Valley

The Douro Superior, on the very eastern end of the valley, close to the Spanish border, has numerous vineyards whose grapes are destined for port, but its main claim to fame is it produces the best dry wines of the trio.

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As you can imagine, harvesting these extremely steep vineyards is not easy. Historically, when the vineyards were first planted, two or three rows were grown horizontally across the hillside on terraces. These were similar to large steps carved into the hillsides and built with the support of high brick walls. This worked well enough, but the vineyards had to be harvested by hand as they were too narrow for a tractor to pass between them.

Terraced vineyards still exist, but these days you will also see two other types of vineyard orientation: ‘patamares’ and ‘up-and-down’. Patamares are the modern answer to terraces. The vines are still planted horizontally across the hill, but there are no more walls, instead the rows of vines are connected by sloping ramps which are wide enough for a tractor to drive through.

The third style of vineyard you’ll see amongst the patchwork scenery, is the most common in other wine regions – the multiple rows or ‘up-and-down’ plantings. Tractors can rarely scale such heights, so these have to be harvested by hand by pickers who, while doing the back-breaking work, also have the added degree of difficulty of trying to keep their balance! We got out into the vineyards and tried our hand at picking grapes which was great fun for about the first 20 minutes, any longer and you start to wonder if you’ll ever be able to stand upright again!

One piece of advice I’d offer if you ever go to the Douro Valley, (do it if you can!) – travel as often as possible by boat or train, instead of driving along the winding roads by car, not only because of the tasting you’ll be doing at the quintas you visit, but, because experiencing the landscape from these different vantage points is exhilarating and it will prevent you from turning as green as the river, like I did!

Rating Douro Wines

A fact about the vineyards in the Douro, which I found interesting and that very few wine drinkers are aware of, is that they are classified by a rigorous rating system. The better the vineyard site, the better the rating, the better the perks for the winemakers.

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There are twelve features that are taken into account and points allotted, based on such elements as aspect, exposure to sunlight, soil density, gradient, age of vines – and according to Quinta do Tedo owner, Vincent Bouchard, the most important element in attaining a high rating is the vineyard location.

So what are the benefits of having a good rating? The main one is that quintas with the highest scores are allowed to make more wine that those with a lesser grade which means they’ll have more to sell.

Vineyards are given a score between A-F, and only about 2-2.5% of the vineyards have top ratings of A or B, the majority fall into the C and D categories. This doesn’t mean the wine are inferior, just that there’s not as much of it.

Grapes of the Douro Valley

We’ve talked a lot about the vineyards so far, so now let’s take a look at the grapes themselves. Incredibly there are over 90 varieties growing in the Douro and all of them are permitted for use in the port blend as stipulated by the Port and Douro Wine Institute (IVDP), which is charged with overseeing the modernized regulations set forth by the Marquis de Pombal.

Through several series of tests over the years, five grape varieties have been recognized as the ones best suited to Port production (many of which you’ll also see on the labels of bottles of dry wine from Portugal). They are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo in Spain), Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca, but there are many others used including Sausão, Tinta Amarella and Tinta Carvalha.

Historically vineyards were planted with a mixture of varieties all growing in amongst each other, to the point where even the growers weren’t sure exactly which ones they had on their land! This is still the case today and such vineyards are known as ‘field blends’. We picked grapes in a field blend and to our untrained eyes all the grapes looked the same – they were purple! But on closer inspection, the size of the berries varied slightly and when you crushed the grapes between your fingers and rubbed the skins together, some had dark, staining skins while others were juicy and pulpy with barely any colour at all.

Many of the newer vineyards are planted with just one variety simply in order to ensure all the grapes reach maturity by harvest time, since not all grapes in a field blend are as ready to be harvested as others.

The Extreme Douro Valley Climate

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One thing all the varieties grown in the Douro Valley have in common is their ability to withstand extremely warm temperatures. Summer in the Douro can see the mercury rise to over 40˚C for days at a time. Manuel de Novaes Cabral, President of the IVDP, describes the climate in the Douro as “9 months of winter and 3 months of hell!”.

Even though we visited at the end of September when the weather is usually still very hot, we got an early dose of winter with windy, cool conditions and didn’t experience the savage summer heat. It is the unbearable high temperatures that compelled Port shippers in the 18th century to send the wines away from the Douro Valley to age. They wanted to avoid the roasted characters, known as the ‘Douro bake’, that are associated with wine matured in the oppressive heat. The spring after the harvest the wines were always shipped down to the coast and the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, which lies across the river from Porto near the Atlantic coast.

‘Gaia’, as it’s referred to, may be considered the spiritual home of Port. Even though no wine is actually made there, the city is intrinsically tied to the Douro Valley, not just by the winding thread of the river, but because up until a couple of decades ago, every bottle of port produced in the Douro Valley had to be exported from the city of Gaia.

The Famed Port Lodges

We walked around the town amongst some of the vast lodges (cellars) owned by the big port shippers like Taylor’s, Cockburns, Grahams, Ramos Pinto, Sandeman, enjoying views of the long, slender Rabelo boats that used to bring the wine from the valley down to Gaia, before trains took over. We paid a visit to Taylor’s and saw the hundreds upon hundreds of barrels of port of all shapes and sizes resting in Gaia’s moderate climate, which unlike the heat of the valley, is ideal for ageing these special wines.

Until only a few decades ago, all the wine made in the Douro Valley had to be sold and shipped from Gaia, meaning many of the 32,500 winemakers had no choice but to sell their entire production to one of the big shippers who could afford to own a lodge in Gaia. Thankfully this restriction was lifted in 1986 and people like the fabulous, young, passionate Oscar Quevdeo can now ship his family’s wines directly from the Douro Valley, which is great for them and even better for us!

The Douro Valley and the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are fascinating – dramatic and striking is the landscape, alive and enthusiastic is the passion of everyone involved with port production (and almost everyone is in one way or another!) and steeped in tradition yet contemporary and refined is the wine.

There is great history and pride in every bottle of port and dry wine from the Douro Valley and whether you drink one in the steep vineyards or at home with friends, each one brings us a sense of pleasure in much the same way as slithering down that slide gave us as a kid.

Source: www.catavino.net

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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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Best Portuguese Wine Presentation ever . . .

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Best Portuguese Wine Presentation ever . . .

WOW! What a presenter! Can't blame him really, Portuguese wines are some of the bests in the world. Gary Vaynerchuk hosts one of the most popular online wine channels in US, and is a biggest fan of Alentejo Wines. Today he brings us a very enthusiastic overview of Alentejo wine. Relax and enjoy his presentation.

 

- Gary, a big THANK YOU for your enthusiastic presentation of Portuguese Wines!

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Food & Wine: Any Port in a storm

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Food & Wine: Any Port in a storm

By Robert Rabine

It’s finally getting cold and the holidays are here. Now is the perfect time to snuggle up next to the fire with a good glass of fortified red wine from the Douro Valley. A glass of what? From where? Port…you know, from Portugal.

When I was younger I had two misconceptions about port: (1) I used to think it gave me a hangover from all the sugar. Wrong. It was from all the assorted cocktails and glasses of wine I drank before actually getting to the port. (2) They added alcohol to port because the Portuguese wine itself was so bad. Well, not exactly. Initially, in the 1690s, they added a small amount of aguardente (similar to brandy) to plain red wine to stabilize it for shipping. Port was established as a protected appellation in 1756, but by the early 1800s the product had evolved into something quite different. Gradually, they began adding the aguardente to the barrels to stop fermentation while the wine was still sweet and strong (20 percent alcohol). It eventually became something similar to today’s port.

It’s called port because it was always shipped from the seaside city of Porto on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Which is weird, if you think about it. That would be like calling all wine from Napa Valley “San Mateo.” Port is actually grown and bottled in the hot, dry Douro Valley along the Douro River in northeastern Portugal. There are three sub-appellations that make different types of port reflecting their distinct terroirs. Most inexpensive ruby and tawny ports come from the Baixo (lower) Corgo. Tawny ports are barrel-aged and allow for considerable oxidation and evaporation in the barrel; hence their brownish color and somewhat nutty flavor. The Cima (upper) Corgo is hotter and gets less rainfall. It produces the best bottle-aged vintage and ruby ports. These are characterized by their bright color and freshness.

More fun facts: The grapes used in red ports are usually a blend of five or six varieties, both indigenous (like touriga nacional) and imports (like tempranillo). There are also white and rose ports. A LBV, or late bottle vintage, has spent more time in the barrel before being bottled due to lack of demand. Serve port at around 63 degrees Farenheit. The glass should be around 4 ounces and have a small bowl with sides that angle inward, like a shorter, fatter champagne flute. Vintage ports can be incredibly long lived. Always decant older ports, but drink them right away. The individual port houses – like Dow, Warres, Cockburn – decide when to declare the year a “vintage” year-meaning worthy of aging, but it must be approved by the Institute of Port. It’s in Lisbon. Not surprisingly, I have actually been there.

Source: shorelinetimes.com

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Tom Cannavan’s wine selection

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Tom Cannavan’s wine selection

After much hype and anticipation, Tom Cannavan’s 50 Great Portuguese wines selection was finally unveiled in London at the Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence in Belgrave Square.

 

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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 - Tejo Wines

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Portugal Finest Wine Regions - Tejo Wines

This month I'm presenting the first tribute to one of Portuguese passions – its Wine. I invite anyone to discover the Portuguese wine routes that will take you in to the heart of the country where simplicity and native traditions produce one of Portugal most demanded products. This will be the first of a series of articles about Portuguese Wine Regions, Wines and Cellars that I will share with you as an invitation to discover a country that welcome everyone with such joy and enthusiasm that many decide to stay for life.

But before we approach our first Wine Region, I would like to make a short introduction.

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Portugal has a strong wine heritage that goes back to a period prior to its foundation, and has been recognized as a world class quality producer by many wine lovers. Our wines taste refreshingly different from any other wines due to its unique grape varieties that taste as different from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and the rest as Cox’s Orange Pippin apples do from Golden Delicious. Portugal also grows French grapes producing indeed very good wines, but these country scores of native varieties give Portuguese wines excitement and personalities you will find nowhere else on earth.

Most Portuguese wines are blends of different grapes. But a few grapes are stars: Grapes such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Fernão Pires and Loureiro among whites, and Alfrocheiro, Castelão, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira among reds are worth tucking away in an easily accessible corner of your mind.

More important to remember are the names of Portugal’s wine regions. Vinho Verde is for light, aromatic whites. The Douro makes lean, mineral whites and rich, structured reds (as well as ports). Bairrada is famous for long-lived, tannic reds (and roast suckling pig!).

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Dão is near-mountain territory, both whites and reds elegant and refreshing. The coastal Estremadura (Lisbon and Silver Coast region) gives stylish whites and reds. Tejo wines are easy and approachable. Terras do Sado and Palmela reds are light and balanced. Alentejo reds are warm and generous.

Our firts Wine Region is Tejo Region. You can find this region on the map bellow, with Santarém at its centre at only 30 minutes from Silver Coast beaches and 45 minutes from Lisbon.

Tejo Vine and Wine Route    

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The Ribatejo province is known for its fertile plains and gentle climate, heavily influenced by the majestic River Tagus that crosses the region on is way to the Atlantic. Vines are evident throughout the three distinct areas of the region; the lush riverbank fields (lezíria), the limestone area north of the river (bairro) and the arid, sandy soils south of the river (charneca). The plains are studded with bulls and horses, reared for bullfighting, a cultural sport that dominates the region.  It is also rich in flora and fauna, bringing life and colour to the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve.

A long history has left deep impressions on the region, where countless treasures of gothic art reach their pinnacle in the city of Santarem. The monumental 12th century seat of the Knights’ Templar at Tomar should also not be missed, with its heavy Manueline influence in the church. The tiny town of Constância, built on the confluence of the Zêzere and Tagus rivers, is another charming place to explore.  

But we can not write about these wines region without speaking with the leading parties that have been producing this nectar for more than a century. Without any compromise what so ever with any of the famous Wine Farms we have chosen 2 Ribatejo wine estates that best represent the region – Quinta da Fonte Bela and Quinta do Falcão. I have meet the owners on their secluded shelter in Sintra, a beautiful XVIII century house overlooking Sintra natural park and Ocean further ahead, an elected second home for them and a place where they recharge for the challenges of running a wine business.

Joaquim Pedro Monteiro and Maria Inês are a charming couple that speak about the family business with passion and enthusiasm of who lives the day-to-day business creating and innovating new ways to succeed on the production of the finest brand in the region.

Acknowledging that they have the infrastructure and know-how to produce a top quality product that bring justice to the cultural and costumes legacy of Ribatejo province, old vineyards are constantly substituted by new ones reinforcing the quality and production.

I couldn’t come with empty hands, they wouldn’t allow me, and I have to thank the generous gift that will certainly complement my table at New Year’s dinner. My favourite and recommendation goes to Quinta da Fonte Bela – Rosé (VRR*), a fine rosé cherry colour, clear and bright, with an intense aroma of red fruit, high-end structure and exuberant and Quinta do Falcão – Reserve (DOC*) – red wine with an intense ruby colour, concentrated aromas with notes of jam and wood, high complexity with a long finish with soft fragrance.

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The atmosphere in this area is absolutely charming; I came across farmers preparing the land and vineyards for new crops, a wild live of birds on Tagus borders, horses and black bulls on the pastures, Manor houses representing the culture heritage of its inhabitants.

There are hundreds of retailers currently stocking Portuguese wine in the UK. Please visit ViniPortugal.co.uk to find you a bottle, a retailer, an importer or a producer. To order directly any of the recommended wines or to know more about the region and real estate opportunities within please contact me directly

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