Megavino 2014

Normally I’m not too crazy about going to wine fairs. Megavino made me change my mind this year.. Like for example with the fact that this year’s guest country is Portugal and you guys know how much I like Portuguese wines?! They have some very interesting masterclasses like one given by my friend Cesar Roman (Comme Chez Soi) where he will be talking about wines in Amphora or one where you can discover which is your preferred French wine region, etc…. I’m also looking forward discovering new vineyards and seeing back some old friends…

I can only advice everybody to make a visit Megavino and who knows what discoveries you’ll make.

Megavino

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).

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Town hall

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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…

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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).

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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.

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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)

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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 😉

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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….

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 🙂

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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

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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 🙂

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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

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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

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 😉

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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 🙂

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…)

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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..