Portugal

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Portuguese wines in the under twenty dollar range. Touriga Nacional with aging potential like that of a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied wines from warm climates that are bold and lush and will certainly stain your teeth. And there are still people who haven’t tasted these wines.

Let me re-introduce everyone to Portugal:

I had started to write this specific story some months ago and like most, I became a bit distracted with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now would be as good a time as any to revisit my last visit to Portugal, which was harvest 2019. With every hope I have of returning, I must say that Portugal, with its unbelievable wines and foods to match, can no longer be pushed to the back shelves. I was invited to go on a short promotional trip sponsored by The Lisbon Wine Commission of Portugal to reintroduce their wines to the American markets. All I have heard lately was the advances that have been made, and I was far from disappointed. The trip was more than professionally organized by Joana Carmo – absolutely everything down to the most minute detail. Traveling to Europe from the United States, one most often always arrives in the early morning hours. Jet lagged and hungry, I always try and stay awake through the day so as to get rid of that jetlag on the first day. Taking a brief walk through Lisbon, only to find the most quaint European cafe’s that never disappoint. My afternoon started with a customary Planalto Douro Reserva, a blending of the region’s most indigenous grapes (Malvasia Fina Viosinho and Arinto Perdona to name a few). Outstanding! You can find this style of wines, as well as the others mentioned, for all under $20.00. You will not be disappointed.

But the best is yet to come. That evening, as a result of Joana, she had shared with our group of 5 all our numbers via WhatsApp. We then would start one of the most successful and informative 6 days. I was pleased to meet Kelly Mitchell, a renowned influencer, who sent out a mass text asking if anyone would like to join her for a negroni, along with Jackie, Michael, and Tim, all of whom are importers. This would be the start of a wonderful spontaneous gathering in a restaurant called BouBou on our first night. A night of tasting almost every main Portuguese wine varietal paired wonderfully with a few different versions of octopus. This is a must-visit for anyone in Lisbon, especially on a Sunday night.

As our full week begins, we were off to visit and take the region of Lisboa, a region with 100% Atlantic influences and all it had to offer with its wines and accompanying foods – Arinto, Fernao Piras, Syrah, Malvasia, Alicante Bouchet, along with Touriga Nacional. All of these wines were fresh and exciting. They are generally low in alcohol and can be as high as 13% and very low in price. Certainly, a time for the consumer to take advantage.

This adventure in Portugal was about winemakers who share a passion like no other, being invited to their homes and vineyards to share in a labor of love often not understood by many. We were the right group for this visit as each and every one of us from six different parts of the United States all shared a passion for wine and food that also brought passion and knowledge to one of the most professional organized trips that I have ever been a part of. Each and every vineyard and winemaker spoke for hours on end. In the last few years, the wines of Portugal are gaining momentum, and rightfully so. Joana Carmo saw to it that each importer had a wide view of the varietals that the region of Lisboa had to offer. Malvasia’s that were round and full of apricot. Arinto’s filled with aromas of flowers, citrus, and stone fruit flavors. And my favorite was a Syrah with notes of cherries and herbs that can’t be missed. I’m pretty sure that eating octopus grilled and seasoned to perfection would match up perfectly with all of these wines. The artistic abilities of each winemaker will leave you with difficult decisions as to what to bring back into the States.

As a result of this trade, we most often find ourselves in many parts of the world. Tasting wines with strangers and not always being presented with the best of foods that the region would have to offer. I always break away from some of these scheduled tastings and live vicariously as a local as best I can – not so on this trip. Lisbon and Portugal, and most especially Joana, thank you for making this past trip one that truly reflects the wines of the region. There are people you meet on these trips, and there are people you meet and actually like on these trips. A special thank you to Kelly, Jackie, Tim, and Michael – this was one of the best trips I have taken in some time. This story has been sitting in my queue for some months now. I hope you all are safe and healthy and not affected by COVID-19, as well as all the good people of Lisboa. Cheers!