A reason to smile: Taylor’s port

Since my visit to Tio Pepe last year I became a very big fan of wines like Sherry, Porto and Madeira (as they are more or less similar products). So I figured now that I was doing a Portugal trip and stopping in Porto, a visit to a Port lodge is just obliged! I am of the opinion that if you do something you do it well and therefore if you want to visit a Port Lodge you visit one that makes a high quality product… which in this case lead me to the Lodge of Taylor’s or better Taylor’s, Fladgate and Yeatman as those are all 3 names of the founders from Taylor’s Port and the full name (FYI, this is still a family owned Brand). First things first, there are a few things you should know about Port wine before we can talk more about Taylor’s itself (although one can’t go without the other 🙂 ).

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

20140626_113716

I already mentioned it a few times in previous posts , the wine itself gets made in the Douro valley where the grapes are actually picked and later in the process they will be transported to Vila Nova de Gaia to age. Of course there is more to it to make a Port. There around 48 different types of grapes that port makers use to make Port wines, in the case of Taylor’s they only use 10 of those4 white varieties and 6 red of which 30% is still pressed by trampling them barefoot (so not using a machine). The manual trampling is because it gives the best result, not entirely because of tourism. I’m sure you have already heard some people speak about Ruby or Tawny and maybe if you are lucky also about Vintage or LBV (Late Bottled Vintage), but have no clue what the differences are? Well let me enlighten your thoughts by briefly explaining it to you (trying to keep it as short as possible). The most important things to know is that the 2 big port wine “types” or “families” are Tawny and Ruby all the other terms used are usually indicating a special type of those 2…

SAMSUNG CSC

Let’s start with Ruby (Vintage) that thanks its name because of its color resembling the color of the ruby stone/diamond . Ruby ages in large(old) barrels (in case of Taylor’s always wooden barrels) as they don’t want a hard wood smell/flavor in the wine. This wine gets made with the best grapes from good years.

SAMSUNG CSC

LBV (Ruby style) stands for Late Bottled Vintage. LBV gets made every year from the best Ruby grapes. Once it is put in a bottle it won’t change or age further anymore. Best is when you open the bottle to decant it, otherwise there might get oxidation in the bottle and you will have some expensive vinegar :-). Also the difference with the Vintage would be just like the name indicates is that it is bottled later… It is also important that once you opened the bottle to drink it within 3 months if you want to enjoy it in the optimal conditions and maximum flavors.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Tawny on the other hand gets aged in smaller wooden barrels (French oak) giving them a slightly woodier flavor, but not too much as they use old barrels. Taylor’s also prefers their wines having a herbal taste instead of a wood taste. Tawny also gets made with a combination of grapes from different years. Differently than Ruby, Tawny does change over the years in the bottle, it will get a lighter color. Tawny is also best served a little bit cooler. It is also best to drink the Tawny within 6 months

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Something you should also know is that Taylor’s doesn’t sell his used barrels like some other Port makers. They re-use their old barrels (they repair them of course) as when they are older than 60 years they don’t give any more flavor to the wines in them… the oldest barrel that still gets used is one from 1864… talking about an investment.

I think this is already a good base for you to know about Port, if you want the Port making process in more detail, please check following link.

The tour around the Lodge was nice, but tasting the finished product is even nicer (also if you do it in company of a real port specialist like Luis Carneiro). As I might have already told, is that Taylor’s Port house is part of a group of Port 3 port houses: Taylor’s, Fonseca & Croft. These 3 together are aka the Fladgate Partnership :-). Which made the tasting better as we tasted all Port from all 3 estates. This tasting taught us that although they all belong to 1 group, each one still has their own identity, tasts and uniqueness. This is first of all  because of the location of each estate and grapes (see on map below), as the altitude, north/south location, types of grapes, etc… will have a big influence on the finished product.

SAMSUNG CSC

If we would have to draw a line between the 3 different brands or give characteristics that make them different, I would say that Taylor’s is the most straight and stronger taste (less sweet taste), Fonseca a more rounder and more fruity (a nice cherry after taste 🙂 and slightly sweeter ) and Croft as the sweetest from all 3, but then again also very play full flavors… In general my preference went to the 20 (30 and 40) year old tawny Taylor’s ports and Single harvest Port from 1964 as my favorites because of their round, full and nutty flavor. My fiancée had a bigger preference for the Fonseca & Croft ports, I think because they were a bit sweeter and fruiter… and I think she definitely liked the 2009 LBV from Croft because of its chocolaty flavors :-). One thing is sure that Port wine is best for at the beginning or end of a meal as during it might become a bit heavy (minimum 19,5% alcohol). Like with all things, this is a personal taste… and my biggest problem like with all visits to vineyards is that I want them all in my collection 😦 . That’s it I’m moving to a warehouse 🙂 😉

20140626_132710

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

FYI, please check following link to find out the best way to serve Port wines. I’m also convinced that if you are not used yet to drink Port wines the best is to start with the White or for example the Bin 27 by Fonseca  or maybe using a Croft Pink in a cocktail (mixed with Tonic water, few leafs of mint and slice of lemon) . After this the next level would be the LBV and if you get used to it the vintages…

I did get hungry from all that tasting, so a “light” lunch at the Barão Fladgate Restaurant in the Taylor’s lodge (open for public). I followed our host on taking a succulent piece of Lombinho meat with a Port sauce, my fiancée on the other hand preferred keeping it light (although she made up for it with a dessert) and took the Turbot with sepia Linguini. For with our 40 year old Taylor Port we chose the perfect dessert for on a summer’s day, they heaviest (but definitely worth it) chocolate dessert from the menu: Chocolate cake with dark chocolate sauce, milk chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse.

20140626_143509

20140626_143520

20140626_145859

SAMSUNG CSC

PEOPLE, please stop seeing Sherry, Port or Madeira as old people drinks!!! Just try a good Port (or Sherry or Madeira) and a whole new world will be opening for you, one with lots of flavors and with lots of history!!! DO IT 🙂 you won’t regret it, I promise you (and don’t buy the junk Ports, buy a good one or try a good one in a place where you know they only serve good stuff)

THE END!

Roadtripping through Portugal: Porto

The last stop on our Portugal trip was Porto. I liked Lisbon, but Porto is more my kind of town… probably because it was a bit smaller (but still bigger than imagined) or because that for some reason lots of landmarks in Porto are build by or inspired by Belgians? Yes, in Porto there are many buildings or landmarks that are build by Belgians. One good example would be the Dom Luis 1st Bridge that connects Porto city with Villa Nova de Gaia, this bridge was build by Théophile Seyrig a partner and former student of Gustave Eiffel (from the Eiffel tower). Another “Belgian” design is the Porto Townhall, which was inspired by either the Brussels townhall or the Antwerp town hall (not sure anymore).

20140624_191932

20140624_182529

20140624_192640

Town hall

20140624_164220

Just like in Lisbon in Porto you’ll have to climb a bit when getting around in the city due to the hills and Porto might look small but isn’t! What helps is the fact there are lots of ways to get to places without having to climb, like old trams, elevators or the cable cars 🙂 (we’re not lazy, we just do like the locals 😉 ). That last one is nice because it will give some very nice panoramic views over Porto as you take it at the Villa Nova de Gaia side of the city. Also to get a very good overview over the city you might consider taking the Tour buses, I know it is very touristy!! Many years ago I would have never thought of taking them, but they do give you the best general overview and give you the chance to hop on/off where you want and for you to decide what you want to see in more detail in the next days…

20140625_122600

20140625_122534

20140624_183906

Porto also lends itself for if you just like wondering around in small narrow streets… and the water being always closeby makes it that there is always a nice breeze and during hot days a more supportable heat. There are also many beautiful landmarks (like Palacio da BolsaTorre dos Clerigos and many more) to visit and if you want want you can maybe also take a little boat trip on the Douro river… Do try to get up to the Jardim do Boavista and visit both the gardens and the Mosteiro de Serra do Pilar. From up here you have very nice panoramic views and you’ll learn a lot about the history of Porto (visit costs 1 euro, guided tour 3euro).

20140624_184241

What’s the difference between Porto and Villa Nova de Gaia you might be asking yourself? Well the biggest difference would be that you at the Villa Nova de Gaia side you’ll find all the Port wine makers and at the Porto city side you won’t :-). As you probably all read in one of my previous posts, the Port wines get and always got made in the Douro Valley and were transported over water to Villa Nova de Gaia to age. The reason they brought it to Villa Nova de Gaia and not to Porto city is because the Gaia side has less sun shining on it during a day and therefore has a better temperature for the Port wines to age… A view I like is when you are standing at the waterfront in Porto city (right next to the Dom Luis Bridge) and you see all the Port winemakers ‘bill boards and Lodges… but both sides of the city have the same high picturesque level if you ask me…

Vila Nova de Gaia

As Porto is right at the Ocean, having a city trip combined with time at the beach seems like a good idea… although you could just go to the seaside at Porto city aka Foz do Douro , I would recommend you to go to Matosinhos or Madalena (where we went) as there you’ll find more peace and quiet and to my opinion more beautiful sandy beaches.

20140626_195359

20140626_191937 20140626_172410

Now my favorite part to talk about, the food! Just like during our whole trip the red wire in the food is simple food full of flavor. You know when you sometimes are craving for a burger but somehow it feels wrong eating it in southern countries where they have so much great local food? Well we did feel it, but didn’t last long after passing by Munchie on the Praca Filipa de Lencastre (close to av. dos Aliados) our craving only became bigger… I would say, just go for it as you won’t regret it (we didn’t 🙂 You’ll be able to make it a whole burger feast, they have some real beauties on the menu. FYI, in the back of the restaurant they have lots of seating (just FYI , as you don’t notice it from outside)

20140624_164732

20140625_193501

20140625_193815

If you feel like having more refined food I can recommend you one (or all) of the following restaurants: DOP (the first Rui Paula restaurant), Pedro Lemos (a rizing star who for sure will be awarded with Michelin star and a favorite amongst the Portuguese). I can also recommend a meal at the Taylors Port lodge restaurant (more details about this restaurant in my next post).

Pedro Lemos restaurant

The cherry on the cake in Porto would be The Yeatman which is the only Michelin star awarded restaurant in Porto and is part of the 5 star luxury hotel (same name)  with the best view over Porto. What makes the Yeatman hotel so special is that it is seen as one of the best wine related hotels in the world known for its winetourismn (also to get SPA treatments using winerelated products). Although the Yeatman hotel is part of the Taylors & Fonseca Port group, it has a connection with vineyards from whole Portugal. In their wine cellars for example they have one of the biggest collections of Portuguese wines. The hotel also has partnerships with many of Portugal’s finest wine producers who actively participate in The Yeatman’s wine tastings, seminars and wine dinners (I think every wine maker has to at least give 1 or 2 dinners per year in this hotel). These partner wineries  also sponsor individual rooms and suites (so all rooms have instead of numbers the name of a vineyard) that are decorated with pictures and objects  from each of these winery’s unique history and give a unique touch to each guest room. This shows that Portuguese winemakers stick together even-though they are competitors! FYI you can also buy wines from these partner in the hotel wine shop. I must admit that it is a superb hotel, but rather to the expensive side to stay at… but you only life once I always say 😉

20140625_122441

The yeatman hotel

the yeatman hotel 2

The yeatman cellar

Try to avoid the tourist traps I’d say 🙂

My next blogpost will also be my last blogpost (for now) about Portugal and I couldn’t think of a better way to end  than with a post about Taylors Port 🙂

Stay tuned….

Every wine is their best wine: Niepoort

I have already met quite a few winemakers, but non as “crazy” about wines as Dirk Niepoort, owner and fifth generation of the Niepoort winery. Niepoort has so many different types of wine in its assortment that I think not even Dirk himself knows 100% how many they actually make 🙂 🙂 Next to their “regular” gamma of wines and Port wines, Dirk also has something he calls “projects” (basically Dirk’s playground 🙂 ) . These “projects”go from making a Portuguese Riesling to making Baga to …. Niepoort even has an own app for your Smartphone where you can find almost all their wines (including some of the projects), but I’m sure there are still other projects that haven’t been officialised yet and therefore aren’t on the app yet. BTW, Dirk also loves to taste good wines (also non-Niepoort), he didn’t tell me, but something gave it away 🙂 (see pictures below)

3 generations Niepoort Family by Niepoort

20140623_113940

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

We had an appointment to meet Dirk Niepoort in Quinta de Nápoles in the Douro valley, but due to unforeseen circumstances he was only able to meet us in the evening, so it was the lovely Gabriella who showed us around the estate and introduced us to the wonderful world of Niepoort wines where we enjoyed again some very beautiful views of the Douro valley.

20140623_121326

20140623_140337

20140623_142227

20140623_142234 20140623_142238

20140623_142245 

20140623_142758

The Niepoort vineyard can be subdivided in 2 parts, the Port wine vineyard and the “regular” wine vineyard. Like with all Port makers, Niepoort also age most of their Port wines in Villa nova de Gaia. Their regular wines on the other hand in Quinta de Nápoles in the Douro valley. When you first arrive at this Quinta you think it is a small vineyard as you  only see 2 small houses, but once you enter them you notice that half the hill ( at the interior 4 levels down) is all part of the wine estate and is where the wines are made and age. Inredible!!  With a total wine production between 1,5 and 2 million bottles a year (depending on harvest, etc… of course)… Niepoort is seen as a big vineyard amongst the small ones and a “small” one of the big ones :-). I must be honest with you and admit that until maybe 1 or 2 years ago I was of the idea that Niepoort only produced Port wines, so that is why my visit to the vineyard was mostly with a focus on their regular wines… What I won’t be doing is describe all their wines, as that would make my blogpost even bigger than they usually already are + they are already very well described on their website that I would just be doing double work. So in case you want to know all their wines and project do check the Niepoort website or download the free app of your Smartphone or tablet. A nice thing to know is that the first wine Dirk Niepoort made since his “leadership” of the Niepoort vineyard was the 1990 Robustus that back in the 90’s didn’t get released, but since 2004 got tributed under the same name (and I’m sure also an improved version). Not sure why it didn’t get released in 90’s though…

SAMSUNG CSC

For me Niepoort wines are fun wines, first of all because of the fun product in the bottle, but also because of the bottles itself or better their labels. You will ALWAYS be able to recognize a Niepoort wine (even from a far distance) thanks to its “stamp-like” labels (or at least, that is what it reminds me of – check picture below) and their country specific labels… Yes, country specific labels. They have a particular type of wine (Fabulous wines) for which they had asked designer Cordula Allesandri to make a comic book story to label their bottles and for each country a different one… It’s almost a pity to throw away the bottle afterwards… (I had a few “Allez santé” at home). A collector’s item I guess …although I’m not really the type of person who likes to keep the bottles too long in their cellar as they are to “njammy” to not touch…

SAMSUNG CSC

20140623_145711

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Dirk Niepoort is “private” person, someone who doesn’t talk that much when you first meet him (at least that the impression I had, but it could have been because of me of course). Once you start talking about and tasting wines you see him opening up with sparkles in his eyes… and the enthusiasm to have you taste all his best wines and all his new wine projects. If it were for Dirk, I think he would have opened every barrel. I know I keep repeating myself, but it is so much more fun to be around a person who is passionate about something and who wants to teach you something than somebody who doesn’t like what he’s doing… and Dirk has that enthusiasm x 10 🙂  and the amount of knowledge he has about wines from all over the world, WOW!

Luckily for us we visited Niepoort on ‘Dia de São João’aka St. John’s as because of this we could join the celebration that goes along to this day involving food and meeting interesting people. On Dia de São João it is tradition to eat grilled sardines and a local soup… to make a long story short, we had a wonderful celebration with lots of food and some great Niepoort wines… basically it all comes down to that it are the simple things in life that make people happy not matter how rich or famous… Simple food and wine in the company of Friends and/ or family . Events like this are also what I dream of whole year while working in Belgium…

20140623_205439

20140623_210200

20140623_201405

Niepoort has such a wide range of Ports and wines that it is difficult to really indicate a favorite, I mean for every moment or occasion you’ll find the perfect wine due to their difference and particularity. Each wine is as good as all the passion, know-how, good products and devotion you put in them, this makes that every wine you make is your best wine… Although I would suggest to try all of them, from the Ports I loved their Colheita’s and from their “regular” wines to many to mention… my wine-cabinet will be to small for all the new wines I’ll be buying after my Portugal trip 🙂

Enjoy!

Each man has a dream: Quinta do popa

As mentioned in my previous blog post, the main reason to visit the Douro Valley is for its wines. The vineyards in Douro have all been given the name ‘Quinta’ which would mean little farmhouse in Portuguese. You can compare it with the French using “Chateau”, only the Portuguese are more modest and therefore use a more modest name 😉 . The first vineyard I want to introduce to you is a newer vineyard from the Douro valley, Quinta do Popa. I know it might not immediately sound familiar, but after reading my blogpost that’ll change 🙂

SAMSUNG CSC

After a quite steep climb towards Quinta do Popa (you have incredible views from up here) you get a welcome like you wouldn’t believe, they welcomed us like they would welcome family in their home. A very nice feeling (really)! Normally we were here to meet Stéphane Ferriera (owner), but he got hold of some Worldcup tickets for Brazil 🙂 I can imagine for a football fan this is like finding the holy grail so unfortunately he wasn’t able to meet us… but if it weren’t’ for this we would have never met the very charming Leila +now I have the perfect excuse to come back to Quinta do Popa.

SAMSUNG CSC

Quinta do Popa view 2

Quinta do Popa view 3

Quinta do Popa view 4

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Quinta do Pôpa was bought by José Ferreira in 2003 as tribute to his father and to build up his father’s (Francisco Ferreira aka Pôpa) long life dream of one day owning his own Quinta. Pôpa actually refers to the crested hair like Elvis used to have and to a particular type of bird. The reason his father was given the nickname Pôpa was because after a whole day of hard work on the fields he would very dirty except for his hear, his hair was always in the perfect condition 🙂 talking about a proud man.

Popa

The reason why I wanted to visit this vineyard was first of all because I like wines and am always keen on trying something new… but also because no one less then Luis Pato believed so much in this project he decided to help Stéphane and Vanessa (José’s children who are the faces of the vineyard and hardworking team behind José) with realizing their dream. It made me very curious on knowing more about this dream.

On their 30ha estate only on 14ha they have mostly old vines (some even up to 80 years old) where they mostly grow grapes to make red wine (although they do have a white as well). With Tinta Amarela (for dark coloring and full body flavour), Tinto Cão (will add finesse and complexity to the wine, is also rare grape kind), Touriga Franca (very perfumed), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo)and Touriga Nacional (gives structure and body to wine, with high tannins and concentrated flavours of black fruit ) as their mean grape varieties. On the other remaining 16ha. they have olive trees from which they make some nice olive oil.

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

In their wines they have 4 distinctions or I might even say levels.

  •  Contos da Terra: these are to me everybody’s friend easy to drink wines for when you are sitting outside or in front of TV. and feel like having a glass of wine
  • Pôpa: more complex wines than the Contos wines and my preferred type of wines (bit stronger and full bodied). Here you have a choice between TR (Tinta Roriz), TN (Touriga Nacional) or VV (old vines and my personal favorite and soon part of my wine collection 😉 )
  • Pôpa Doce: a sweet wine (not to sweet) perfect for with dessert
  • TRePA / PAPO: the perfect marriage between Douro and Barraida wines. The Roriz from Douro (Quinta do Pôpa) and Baga from Barraida (Luis Pato). Also a very interesting (must try) wine and very soon also another addition to my collection 🙂

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

I know I indicated which ones were my favorites, but this is of course a personal choice and it also depends on which occasion you are drinking it (and if there is no, we’ll find an occasion 😉 ). Whenever I buy wines, I always prefer buying from vineyards I know and I have visited and have seen the sparkle in the eyes of the winemakers (which I did also see in Leila’s eyes (I didn’t stare to long, I promise!) and I’m sure José, Vanessa and Stéphane also have) which basically means the wine has been made with so much love, care and respect for the product you can be sure you’ll be having a great glass/ bottle… something that mass production products can and will never have….

 SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Quinta do Pôpa gave me one a gift I will cherish a lot. They gave me a little bottle filled with sand from their vineyards… so every time I feel sad or feel like going to the Douro valley, I just poor the sand on the floor, sit in it, serve myself a nice glass of Quita’s VV wine and close my eyes… it will feel like I’m back at Quinta do Pôpa on a summery day! (A holiday feeling right in my living room thanks to them 🙂 ) Thank you for that Leila (And Stéphane, Vanessa, José) and I’m sure we’ll be meeting again very soon!!

20140722_204357

One last thing about the winemaking I want to share, in the Douro valley to press the wine (to get the juice out of the grapes) they still have people stumble them like in the old days. FYI this is not for nostalgic or touristic reason they do this, they do this because it still seems the best way to do it…. just FYI 🙂

SAMSUNG CSC

Roadtripping through Portugal: The Douro Valley

The most memorable panoramic views we’ve seen during our trip were without any doubt those of the vineyards in the Douro valley. I might even say that it were some of the most beautiful vineyards I have ever seen. It had something mystical to it… also your respect for the winegrowers or better for the grape pickers grows enormously as all of the grapes are handpicked!!! I’m sure the harvest here takes a bit longer than in other parts of the world 🙂

20140623_120411

20140623_120447

20140623_142238

20140623_172312

20140623_172421

Do try to take a little cruise on the Douro River (if the weather permits it, unfortunately for us it didn’t), it normally takes 2,5hours (you can also take one for a whole day if you really like it) and brings you to some very beautiful place and gives you a totally different perspective and will bring to some very beautiful little towns aboard the Douro river like Pinhão with a very picturesque little train station and São João da Pesqueira with the beautiful Praça da República.

Pinhao station

Praca  da replublica

What many people actually don’t know it the importance of the Douro River for the Port wine? Did you know that the Port wine is actually made in the Douro valley, as it is here were all the vineyards are (there non in Porto itself) and until the 1960’s all the Port wines got transported over water (aka the Douro River) in barrels to Vila Nova de Gaia where the Port wine would be aging, bottled and exported all over the world with Porto as starting shipping point (which is right at the opposite site of the over the river from Vila Nova de Gaia). Nowadays they obviously use more modern ways to transport the wines to Vila Nova de Gaia. This is why you will also be finding all the Port estates here in the Douro valley represented by a Quinta.

Douro

During our stay we slept at the Douro Folgosa Hotel, which is right t the waterfront. If you prefer a bit more luxury and a massage from time to time I’d recommend you to go to the Aquapura Duoro Valley hotel. If you have a bit of time and like refined gastronomical food, do try to stop at restaurant DOC, one of the 3 restaurants from Chef Riu Paula located right on the Douro river across the Douro Folgosa Hotel. I don’t think they are Michelin star awarded, but they definitely are at that level on both service and food!! The cuisine they serve is one I like a lot, as it is simpel with a twist… I mean you still know what you’re eating and they still were able to add that bit of special to it 🙂

20140623_134430

20140623_144238

20140623_152538

20140623_150616

20140623_135922

Please feast your eyes on our lunch menu  they served us at DOC all paired with Niepoort wines (I’ll be talking more about Niepoort). I loved every single dish and wine, it is true the hamburgers might seem small, but that were full of taste :-). We finished our meal with a glass filled with a heavenly drink aka a 1998 Niepoort Colhieta

Leatao Hamburger

Quail with portuguese cabbage

Cod fish with a maisbread crust topped with hot olive oil

White chocolat filled with red fruits

Trio of desserts Almond ice, Port sabayon, lemon souffle

20140623_150736

If you would drive towards Porto, take the old road for a while before going on the highway. We did this while heading to Porto and I can say that even though there are quite a few turns it was a very relaxing drive through the hills of the Douro valley

BUT the mean reason to come to the Douro valley is for its wines… more about my visit to the wine crazy Dirk Niepoort and the beautiful Quinta do Popa vineyard in my next blog posts

Luis Pato

Before I continue talking about the rest of our Portugal trip I do want to say a few words about Luis PatoLuis Pato is the 4th generation of wine making  Pato family, who took over the family business from his father around the 1980’s. Luis Pato is a true legend in Portugal as he has had a very big impact  on Barraida wines (or Beiras wines as he prefers calling them) or maybe even wines from all over  Portugal… I think an addition of the words modernizer and innovator might be at its place here, as that is what he was/is for Portuguese wines. One of the biggest breaks with tradition was the changing from chestnut barrels to French oak and the usage of modern techniques like working with stainless steel vats. This innovation is a big step forward to be able to control the temperatures at which you want to do the fermentation and therefore also have a better control of the quality of your finished-product.

The words you are looking for are “cool” or “Wow, I didn’t know that “ 🙂 no just kidding, I know this might seem like a minor change, but I can guaranty you it wasn’t! I love talking to people  like Luis Pato who have passion for what they do!  The signs of knowing if people are doing their job with passion is for example the sparkle in their eyes when they are talking about it and when they are able to transmit this sparkle to you.. Also their drive on always wanting to make something new, to learn and experiment and trying to do “better” than the last time…

Luis Pato 7

FYI the reason Luis is holding a duck, is because Pato means duck in Portuguese 🙂

At one side Luis broke with tradition by using new ‘more modern’ ways of making wine, but on the other hand he did embrace the “tradition” of only using only local and sometimes even forgotten grape varieties. A big surprise at that time was Luis putting a big focus on the “Baga” grape that until than had a reputation of producing harsh red wines that are not drinkable at young age and therefore need to age to mellow and lighten their flavors. This was before our dear friend Luis came along (for some reason I hearing the Superman tune in my head right now 😉 ). Luis Pato showed everybody Baga deserved more respect! I FYI Baga has similarities with the Italian Nebbiolo grape, and it can even approach the elegance of riper Pinot Noir vintages. To make long story shorter, it all went well and now thanks to Luis Pato (who influenced lots of winemakers on  to also start doing this, now known as Baga friends) Baga wines are now know over the whole world and finally gets the recognition it always deserved! I had one sip of the 2001 Vinhas Velhas and was sold 🙂 (all the wines that followed just confirmed my first thought and feeling)

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

What I think is the biggest reward for somebody like Luis, is the recognition and the fact that winemakers from other regions in Portugal started to ask Luis’ help on improving their wine making and in that way also contributing in showing the world that Portugal is not just that country right next to Spain! Something I do hope to be part of one day is to one of Luis Pato’s famous signature lunches, where famous national and international chefs try to find the perfect dishes to serve with the Pato wines… 😉

SAMSUNG CSC

Luis Pato’s future  is also being covert, as not only Filipa, but also his other 2 daughters Luisa (who is also doing a very good job in making very nice olive oil) and Maria João help a hand in the wine making. And who knows maybe Fernao or Kiko (Filipa’s children)will be covering the 6th generation  and get bitten by the same wine loving bugs as his all their ancestors… I do hope so! Luis did already make a wine to celebrate the birth of his grandson Ferñao 🙂

Fernao

Find the whole Luis Pato wine assortment of wines on the following link

Authentic wines without make-up: Filipa Pato

Time to talk vineyard 🙂 finally getting to my part of the deal 😉 (She got her beach time). As I mentioned before, Barraida has another thing it is famous for (not as famous yet as they should be, but they’re getting there) and that’s for their wines… Baga wines to be more precise. Just like for tourism Portugal is often forgotten as a wine country (besides may be for its Porto and Mateus wine) sad enough… but thanks to my blogpost this will change 🙂 🙂

My love for Portuguese wines and interest to travel Portgual all started with the Filipa Pato wines (and William Wouters). NO, I’m not saying this to suck up, it’s just a fact!! I’m sure you all also read my old blogpost about my diner with Filipa Pato wines? I’m not sure when I first tried Filipa’s wines, but of 1 thing I’m sure and that is that I tried at the Pazzo winebar.

Filipa Pato

FYI it must also be said that if it weren’t for Filipa and William (her husband) our Portugal trip would have had worse food 😉

IMG_20140619_074115

What I admire about Filipa Pato aka daughter of legendary Portugese winemarker Luis Pato (I’ll talk more about him in a next blogpost)is that even though she could have easily just joined her father’s wine estate, she chose to first go and find her own way (with obviously from time to time some valuable advice from her father)… which after around 13 years results in that people are not referring to Filipa as “daughter from”, but to Luis as “father from” 🙂 :-). As you can find her wines from Belgium, to Brazil, to Japan and to god knows where… (here a list of the global distributors 🙂 )

SAMSUNG CSC

Making wine runs through Filipa’s veins , wine making in the Pato family already goes back for 5 generations (both at her mother’s side as her father’s side) which I think gave Filipa a solid background to build upon. A background she gets reminded of every day as her vineyard is right next to her father’s vineyard and grandmother’s house (a feisty 90 years old lady). A golden rule Filipa takes into account is respecting her Portuguese heritage. She does this by only using autochthon Portuguese/Barraida grapes with the goal making quality products (wine without make-up) showing the world Portugal’s greatness and know-how. A very important influencing factor was Filipa’s marriage to my dear friend Belgian top sommelier William Wouters (that’s right, from restaurant Pazzo). To say it in her own words “He introduced me to many different wines from regions I only knew from the books. He helped me opening up my horizons again to more wine and gastronomy.” But this influence works in both ways as I think William learned more about winemaking itself… he added the practical knowledge to the theoretic knowledge. Not only did this marriage lead to 2 adorable children, it also resulted in some great wines like Nossa :-).

20140620_122617 20140620_123154

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

The Barraida wine region is mostly known for its deep colored tannic full flavoured red wines (FYI they also make some nasty (positive sense of the word) white wines 🙂 ) that has got the highest wine labelling in Portugal aka DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada) which means these wines can only be produced in this area/region. The wines in this region get mostly made with one (or a mix of) the following grape varieties: Baga, Borrado das Moscas, Castelao Frances, Fernao Pires, Rabo de Ovelha and Tinta Pinheira. With for me Baga as one of my favourites. A great added value to the region is the Barraida viticultural museum . Here you’ll learn all about the wine region’s history and winemaking and also find a huuuuuge collection of corkscrews. A very interesting museum that is worth a visit.

Vineyard map by Filipa Pato

The baga grape is also the red wire through the Filipa Pato wines. Besides the Nossa, the aim of Filipa is to make wine to drink and without make-up. With this I mean wine that you can immediately drink when buying the bottle and that doesn’t have to age to be at its best. For the Nossa this is a different story which is the vineyard’s TOP wine and is best to drink after aging a few more years. (I’m still trying not to open my Nossa’s I have at home, not easy). The fun part about making wine is the fact that besides making your ‘principal’ selection of wine, you also get to experiment trying to find a new wine. Choosing to either use old casks, new casks, Eastern Europe oak, Canadian oak, French oak, which grapes variety mixes, etc… an endless choice of varieties to be tested. For Filipa the last experiment lead to the creation of Espírito de Baga . Well Filipa, all the hard work was definitely worth it as it is a very nice and elegant wine and as I discovered a very good match with the roasted chicken we had and I talked to you about in my previous blogpost. And if she gets bored of making regular wines, she still has a line of Espumante that she can “play” with. I was surprised to see that in this region all wine estates have a very wide range of products, some white wine, red wine, espumante and sometimes also a sweeter wine… this way everybody will find something of his liking.

Espirito de Baga

I’d better stop talking as I getting carried away again by my enthusiasm. The last thing I’ll add is my curiosity for all the future wines Filipa and William will be making now that William decided to dedicate 100% ( of 99%) to winemaking and his family… but I’m sure it’ll be great. You guys rock my world!!

FIlipa & William by lopinion.fr

In case you guys also want to try Filipa Pato’s wines, check the list of distributors all over the world that will be able to tell you where you can find their wines. OOOOR if you are ever in Belgium you can always stop at the Pazzo winebar or restaurant where you’ll be able to taste all the Filipa Pato wines 🙂

Roadtripping through Portugal: Curia

What I find a pity is when people decide to travel to Portugal they just stick to either the Algarve region or Lisbon, but Portugal is so much more than only those 2 and that are as beautiful if not more beautiful. A good example of this would be Beira region aka know as the centre of Portugal which is half way between Lisbon and Porto. In and around this region you’ll be finding cities like Coimbra, Curia, Aveiro, etc…and this region is also known for its SPA’s 🙂 just FYI

Map by wanderingsportugal.com

If you would ever be traveling to Portugal and want to stay in special hotels, you might want to consider the hotels of Alexander de Almeida’s group which are all historical hotels that were renovated just like they were when they opened. I can say for a fact that they one by one very spectacular. During our 5 day stay in the Curia area in the enormous Curia Palace a Bell époque hotel that first opened its doors in 1926 (created by Alexandre de Almeida, the current owner’s grandfather) and had Portugal’s first outdoor Olympic swimming pool (I gave it a test drive 😉 ). I know I’ll be repeating these words a lot during all my posts, but this was one of the beautiful hotels I have ever seen!! You feel like dressing up like in the 1920’s… everything is exactly how it was when the hotel first opened its doors (but with of course a few modern aspects like mini bars in the room)… just wonderful (obviously if you only like trendy modern hotels, this won’t be your piece of cake).

Curia Palace

SAMSUNG CSC

Curia Palace 7 

Curia Palace lobby 1926 and now

  Curia Palace  16 Curia Palace  14

Curia Palace  9

Curia Palace 6

Curia Palace17

The deal between me and my fiancee is always that I get my vineyards if she gets her beach time… so a promise is a promise…ok not that I don’t like going to the beach, but I wouldn’t be able to stay still and lay on the beach 14days in a row. The part I love about sitting at the beach is staring at the sea which always seems so endless!! When it comes to beaches Portugal has a very big choice of beaches, so just like for restaurants, hotels, etc… I ask advice to somebody who knows the area very well (thanks Filipa!!) and the beautiful beach we were advised to go was Costa Nova , a small town just outside of Aveiro. Wide/large spread beaches where even when it is busy it feels like there is nobody on the beach. That is the kind of beach I like and is exactly what Costa Nova’s beach is like. Costa nova is a small beach town filled with very colorful houses with from most parts of town a water view.

Costa Nova  67

Costa Nova 70

Costa Nova 72

Costa Nova 83

Costa Nova 122

As if faith wanted it, there also happened to be a very nice fish restaurant called Dori right above the local Costa Nova fish market (the deal was regarding vineyards, there was nothing said about restaurants 😉 ). Simple fish dishes, but again the simplicity makes it so njammy (we went back 2 times, so I guess we liked it) and a very nice price…

Dori 15

Dori 3

Dori 4

Dori 6

Dori 1  

Dori

Dori 5  

If one would have told me I would be eating the best chicken I have ever eaten in a local Curia restaurant, I would have told him/ her they were crazy… but I got proven otherwise. Our friend Filipa took us to restaurante Pompeu dos Frangos to taste this famous chicken. WOW, really WOW… not sure how they did it (I’m sure it is the type of seasoning), but that was one tasty chicken :-). I was also told that this restaurant used to be a stop for the postal office/ stop to sleep and eat form back in the days when everybody was still riding horse and carriage (so also the horses got to eat and sleep here)… so kid of an old school highway gas station. The restaurant also tried to keep as many original elements as possible.

Pompeu 1

Pompeu 6

Pompeu 2

Pompeu 3

Pompeu 4

The bigger city that is worth visiting while you are in the area is University city Coimbra (take good shoes, as you have to climb a bit to get to the university). With an obligated visit to the university’s old library and you get the marvellous view over the city as a bonus

Coimbra 2

Coimbra 3

Coimbra 4

Coimbra 12

Coimbra 13 Coimbra 18

Coimbra 21

Coimbra 34 Coimbra 35

Coimbra 37

For the non vegetarians (or better the meat lover) when you are in the Curia area you must try the Leitao or Barraida style roasted pork. The best place to do this, is at the king of Leitao aka restaurant Mugasa. The pig they prepare here is every chef’s dream, so you won’t be surprised if I tell you lots of Michelin starred chefs from all over the world came to Mugasa for their Leitoa. Again here simplicity is the rule… but that’s what we like right?

Mugasa 12

Mugasa 10

Mugasa 8

 

Mugasa 2 

Mugasa 5

Mugasa 4

Mugasa 7  

The main reason to visit Barraida are their Baga wines. But more about that in my next blogpost!!

Roadtripping through Portugal: Lisbon

When you do a Portugal roadtrip Lisbon is an inevitable stop or destination. Obviously already because of it is Portugal’s capital city, but also because of its heritage!! There is so much to see and to discover in this city. Lisbon was much larger than I had imagined it, not that I thought it would be a teeny tiny village, but that it was so spread out, no… not even in my wildest dreams ;-). I need to confess that the first day in Lisbon we were very lazy (Yes woman of mine! If you are reading this, you know we were) and the idea of having to do some climbing wasn’t helping! (as you might know Lisbon isn’t a flat city, it has quit the few hills…) so the best idea seemed to start our holiday in a very touristy way by taking the Hop-on hop-off bus tour (Yellow Bus) this way you get a very good overview of the whole city and decide what you would want to see in more detail the following days (when feeling less lazy). Good thing for us, the bus stopped right in front of the hotel 🙂 🙂 (Yes, it was that level of laziness)

Yellow bus

That first impression of the city was a slightly overwhelming one, because ever corner you turn and street you cross you see things reminding you the important role in discovering the world as we know it today Lisbon has played. Something that colors up the city is the beautiful tilings you see, it really brightens up the city. A square I enjoyed maybe most was Praça do Comércio , first of all as it reminded me of one of my favorite squares  ever Piazza unita d’Italia in Trieste.  Just like in Trieste this square is the gate to the town. On Praça do Comércio the entrance to the city is a very beautiful one through the Arco da rua Augusta which is as majestic as the square. I’m sure it is the waterfront that makes me happy on squares like this… I love the sea/ocean/ water smell. I can still see us sitting at the waterfront , feeling the sun on our skin, seeing old trams passing buy and thinking what we wanted to see next… (and ok the square is also a very good people watching spot 😉 ) Oh and if you look at your left (or right depending which way you’re looking) you get a very good view of Lisbon’s Golden Gate bridge or the 25 de Abril bridge which is its correct name.

20140616_131121

20140616_131110

There are sooooo many  things to see and try in Lisbon: Belém, Pasteis de Belém, taking the Santa Justa lift to have a great overview of the city, do some shopping Avenida da Liberdade or around Rua Garrett, go to Sintra, Cascais, … I really would know which one I would need to say you  to visit first?? Just explore the whole city that makes it easier for me 😉 no no, just kidding… try to get to the Mercado da Reibera if you’re a foodlover and even architechtural lover, this is a large indoor market (like the Boqueria in Barcelona). For the most beautiful view over the cities you could either go up the Santa Justa Lift or or when you up at the Jardim Amalia Rodrigues. I won’t even start talking about all the palaces there are because I’d be going on and on about it :-). And one more thing don’t be afraid to take a taxi, their price is very reasonable!Also try to get to the new part of town (Parque das Nações.)

20140617_173521

20140615_124920

20140615_125052

20140615_125402 20140615_125415

20140615_144232

20140615_144633  20140615_152745

20140616_171913

20140616_143144

20140615_145436

20140615_150021

  20140616_135943 20140616_155156

20140616_155237

20140616_173051

20140616_174148

20140616_174439

20140615_145614

20140615_122140

20140615_122124

Something I find my duty to share with you is where you should be eating 🙂 (sure you didn’t see this one coming) as like in lots of other capitals or cities there are a lot of tourist traps and I really HATE the restaurants where they try to drag you in when you pass them!!! This said I first need to thank my friend William as he was the one advising me all these spots I’ll be sharing with you (he lived in Lisbon for a few years and like good food as much or maybe even more than me 😉 ) Something I learned during my trip through Portugal is that the Portuguese have a soft spot for sweets and desserts. Every town and even every small village has its own pastry or dessert (mostly existing of egg yolks 🙂 ). If you have the same soft spot (guilty as charged) there are 2 places you must visit. First there is the Confeitaria de Belém to eat the world famous ‘pasteis de Belém’. Secondly there is the Confeitaria Nacional which is an institute when it comes to pastry in Lisbon (Good luck with only sticking to 1 piece of sweetness ;-), I know I didn’t) where they also make the pasties de belèm… maybe do a little own test to see which one you prefer.

20140616_171044

20140616_171642 20140616_171738

20140616_172312

Confeitaria Nacional

If on the other had you are a shellfish fan Cervejaria Ramiro will be your Walhalla. The difficult part is definitely deciding what kind you feel like eating as they have all nominations of (local) crabs, lobsters, clams, etc… which you will also be seeing in fish tanks all around you (even just outside the bathroom)  so they are FRESH that is sure!! So if the menu doesn’t help to decide you just point to which shellfish you want to eat. Everything is served in a very simple way with some buttered toast and lemon, heavenly that’s all I want to say (simple is the best). We shared a lobster, although the rock lobster or crab or langoustine that we saw passing by looked great as well. Oh and you’re not able to book a table at this restaurant so you might need to queue up for a while, but if worth it I promise you! BTW don’t expect a fancy restaurant as it isn’t, so entering in shorts isn’t a problem 🙂

20140615_195829

20140615_193257

20140615_195814

Foodies and winelovers who are also big soccer fans will like Solar dos Presuntos (but I’m sure all other people will like it as well) as the walls on all 3 floors of the restaurant are filled with pictures and signed jersey’s from famous soccer players that ate at this restaurant… sometimes “big” restaurant like this scare me as you’re never sure what the quality of the food and service will be, but in this case I can say for a fact that it was impeccable, but I didn’t expect otherwise under the coordination of Augustinho. I was advised by my friend William that I absolutely had to try the sea bass cooked in a salt crust, but as it was a 2 person dish and my fiancée didn’t feel like taking it I took the Grilled stone bass with roasted potatoes “a murro” and spinach puree… again the simplicity itself, but ooooh so good. Also try the Pata negra ham!! It is freshly cut. I know you’ll probably be thinking that I’m saying this because I’m an Italian… but until now I was never impressed with the Pata negra hams I ate, not until the one they served at Solar dos Presuntos was one very very tasty Pata Negra that did change my idea and shows again that is all comes down to the quality of product you buy. They also a very nice wine selection!! Just have them advice you and I’m sure you’ll get the prefect wine. I finished with this meal with a slice of almond tart (still dreaming about it).

Solar 12

Solar  2  Solar 4 Solar 5

Solar 6

Solar  8

Solar 11

For a great selection of old madeira’s a stop at Gambrinus is a must!! They have an incredible selection…. Gambrinus is in the same street as Solar dos Presuntos. In contrast with what lots of people think, Portugal also has some very nice meats (mostly Pork) not only fish. There are 2 places in Lisbon (that I know) where you’ll taste the best/tastiest pieces of Porco Preto (a local Porc kind). The first one is O Mattos, where we got very well explained the level of greasiness of every piece of pork J. If you are a meatlover like me I’m sure you’ll appreciate the Secretos or the Pluma cut (I’m sure you know which cut I took). But I’m sure if these are too fat there are enough cuts of meat that are less ‘fat’ or even fat free. The grill all their meat and is served with some kind of spinach puree and baked potatoes. Again here a very nice wine selection (I’m sure Antonio will advice you well). FYI I didn’t just get the piece you see on the picture below, there was a whole tray of meat next to us 🙂

mattos 4

mattos 1

mattos 3

The second must-do place for Porco Preto is restaurante Carvoaria Jacto. Unfortunately didn’t make it here as our days in Lisbon were numbered, but form all I’ve heard it is for pork meat what Ramiro is for shellfish 🙂 I could still give you many more restaurant tips, but I’ll keep them for another time.

Even though Lisbon was great and very beautiful, but what was about to come was even greater !! Stay tuned for more about beautiful Portugal…

Roadtripping though Portugal

It that time of year again… everybody starts packing their bags and starts traveling. My fiancée and I prefer traveling outside of the busy travel periods July and August which usually results in us coming back when others are ready for leaving. This year it finally seemed like the perfect time to travel to Portugal, a trip I’ve already wanted to make for years… what pulled the trigger to travel to Portugal was my fiancee’s enthusiasm after her surf trip last year to Portugal (her blogpost). Portugal is a destination that gets underestimated, most people travel to Spain but for some reason never seem to make it across the Portuguese border… so with all my coming blogposts I’ll try to convince all those people to travel those few extra miles as it is really worth it!!

The thing that I feared the most was the language barrier, I speak Italian, French, Spanish and I do understand a bit of Portuguese… but talking it is a different story. So I was very curious on how the Portuguese people’s language skills would be?! A very big surprise I must say!!! That some would speak English I expected, but the amount of people speaking a very good level of French was definitely unexpected for me… also to see that most movies or tv-series weren’t dubbed, but subtitled (big step ahead in comparison to Spain or Italy and even France) . So I was very convinced that Portugal would have many more surprises for us during this trip…

One thing I was sure of when I started planning our Portugal trip (around December/January) is that I wanted to see the ‘real’ Portugal and not only the Algarve beaches (how beautiful they might be). A good combination of city tripping and time at the beach was the ideal scenario… I think I managed it well (or at least I didn’t hear my fiancée complain 😉 ). We started our trip in Lisboa, continued towards Curia where besides visiting the vineyard from friends we were able to have some beach time (Costa Nova) and we stayed at one most beautiful hotels ever!! We continued  to Portugal’s “Bordeaux” region, aka the Douro valley which is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen!!! (Visiting vineyards was just mandatory… no choice) We eventually finished our trip in Porto which was much bigger than I had imagined it to be… and how else by visiting a Porto winemaker (some things you just can’t get around…)

Reis portugal

20140615_122124

20140616_155940

20140615_144232

20140615_145438

20140616_130837

20140616_172312

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

20140623_121326

20140625_124033

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Please stay tuned for my stories about how Portugal got a special place in my heart and became one of my favorite countries to travel to..