Taste of Portugal

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I had the opportunity to visit Lisbon Portugal a few weeks ago and knew before I even took off what I was going to do while I was there. I had to taste their wines. Anyone who knows me is not shocked by this statement.

Lisbon is an interesting city, I was really pleased with my visit, even though I really only had one day to explore and indulge in my “drink around the world” hobby.

Let’s talk about the city a little bit to begin with. Lisbon is/was a shipping and fishing town that sits on a large river outlet, protected from the Atlantic Ocean. Very old world architecture, cobblestone streets, fountains and piazzas, cathedrals, and many amazing restaurants and wine bars tucked into tiny backstreets.

Nearly everyone I ran into spoke English well, and they were super polite and helpful. I walked for miles and miles in the city spending most of my time in Alfama . Wear good shoes and get ready to climb some hills if you want to see some amazing vistas, although you can ride the famous streetcar that can negotiate the narrow streets.

Enough about the city, let’s talk wine. I’m going to talk about some specific wines, but first let me give some overall impressions. First, the wine is very inexpensive for the quality. Think Trader Joe’s or Grocery Outlet prices for really well-crafted wines. Second, know that Port wines and the rest of Portuguese wines are distinctly different. Third, Portugal has maintained more of their traditional grape varietals than most wine regions have.

So the week started with some casual hotel bar wine drinking, umm tasting. The first wine that was poured was a Conde De Serpa Vinho Regional Alentejano 2013. This is a southern Portuguese wine that is a fairly new world style, being fruit forward and very drinkable. Wine Enthusiast gave the 2014 vintage 89 point, it that king of score means anything to you. I didn’t have the 2014, but looking at the tasting notes on a few sites shows the 2013 running around a 3.4 against 3.5 for the 2014, so they seem fairly compatible to me. A bottle of the 2014 will set you back $8 dollars. We can all say it together, great value.

The next wine that I tasted turned out to be one of my favorites the whole trip. My trusty bartender, who didn’t speak much English but alcohol always helps language barriers, poured me a glass of Quinta do Valdoeiro Cabernet Red 2012. Wow. Remember I said most of the vineyards are still grow traditional grapes varietals? Cabernet Sauvignon was introduced about 20 years ago and based on this wine, it has hit its stride. This wine is stainless fermented and then put in French oak for 12 months. I’m going to be looking for some of this wine locally to put away for a couple of years if I can keep my hands off it… Oh, I see it online selling for $6 dollars a bottle.

The next wine was a Bartolo 2012 from Vinho Regional Lisboa. This was as local a wine as we were going to get here in Lisbon. Really nice full bodied and drinkable red. It was less memorable than the others, but I think the gin and tonics (that seem to be the drink of Lisbon), that were forced on us pre-dinner may have had something to do with that as well…

On my one day to explore, I made a beeline to one of Portugal’s official tasting rooms located in the

Praça do Comércio in Lisbon. The tasting room offers a dozen or so wines from different DOCs in Portugal. You can purchase an access card with as many Euros as you wish, insert the card into one of the wine dispensing machines, and dispense your taste. The wines run the gamut from rich Ports to the light Vinho Verde and everything in between. If you play your cards right, or am a wineo like I am, and you stick around long enough, some wines run out and they replace them with different new wines. So you get bonus selections about the 12 you started with.

Before you ask, yes, I tasted them all. I won’t try to call any out by name here as I was tasting too many to really give fair tasting notes or scores to any of them. General impression? I like 60-70% of them, and fell in love with their green wines (Vinho Verde). I spent a few hours tasting, looking over the plaza just enjoying life. All good things come to an end, good things meaning the Euros on my vending card, and it was time to check out some of the other sites of Lisbon.

I made it about 100 feet before I stopped to taste some Ginjinha. Ginjinha is a portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries, (sour cherry) (Prunus cerasus austera, the Morello cherry) in alcohol. This could be a headache in the making. Very sweet, very tasty. I avoid the splitting head by heading up the street to climb some hills.

Well, I didn’t quite make the hills before I found another wine bar. I did a flight of 4 reds. Again, I won’t try to give you a score, but I’ll give you my impressions. They are very well put together wines. The quality of the wines was amazing. Remember when I talked about some of the unique wine varietals that are still grown in Portugal? Drinking some of these wines was a unique experience.

Some of the wines I tasted :

The first was a 2012 wine by Madre De Agua using Touriga Nacional grapes, which is considered to be one of the best grapes in Portugal, a noble variety.

I also had a 2014 Caladessa Herdade Dacalada, a 2015 Lau Cheia Velhas Douro, a 2008  QC vino velha from the Beira Interior, and a young port to finish off the tasting.

The rest of the trip was climbing the hills, sweating out the gallons of wine I had consumed, and checking out some amazing sites of Lisbon while the sun set.

As I was writing this post I happened to listen to an episode of the Tasting Room (https://tastingwithtom.com), the Podcast by Tom Leykis. The episode I listed to, Tom was interviewed David Baverstock, the winemaker at Esporao Wines in Portugal. You can listed to that interview below.

Lessons learned? I going to find some Portuguese wines and relive my trip all over again.

As I was writing this post I happened to listen to an episode of the Tasting Room (https://tastingwithtom.com), the Podcast by Tom Leykis. The episode I listed to, Tom was interviewed David Baverstock, the winemaker at Esporao Wines in Portugal. You can listed to that interview below.


Steve spends his days living in the software world of Silicon Valley, dreaming of a day when he can live as a wino hobo riding a wine train.