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 🙂

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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.

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Quinta do Popa view 2

Quinta do Popa view 3

Quinta do Popa view 4

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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.

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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 🙂

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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….

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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!!

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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 🙂

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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…

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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)

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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… 😉

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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.

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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 😉

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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 🙂 )

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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 :-).

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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 🙂