In mid-July, my wife Evi and I went to Portugal again. The intervals between stays shouldn't be too long... ;)
The first appointment took us to Pinhais in Matosinhos, north of Porto, where Nuno Rocha, the new managing director, had good news to announce: After there had been bottlenecks from time to time that required a certain inventiveness, Pinhais is working again this year fresh sardines. The company is now much better organized and now works – just like other professionals, such as La Belle-Iloise in Brittany – with buyers who can buy the fresh fish from the Algarve in the south to Galicia in the north at the very best conditions.
They also have some new projects in the pipeline: they are working on the first “vintage sardines made in Portugal” and a new design for the Pinhais brand, which will soon also be launched wrapped in paper and cellophane.
The next thing was actually a lunch date with Pedro Araujo from Quinta do Ameal in Salta o Muro , but he couldn't be there in time for dinner, so we had lunch without him. However, his wines were part of the party: with the Robalho (sea bass) we drank the Loureiro 2017 from Quinta do Ameal, which we really liked. It is even fresher, leaner and more mineral than the 2016. A pallet is already on the way.
We finally met Pedro later in the afternoon at the Fundação Serralves, a modern museum with a beautiful garden. Here we could sit in the shade on the terrace, discuss business and enjoy the view.
In the evening we went to the Vinho Verde Wine Fest, one of the real reasons for the trip. We had our first appointment there with Márcio Lopes, a rising star of the Vinho Verde scene, who also learned from the “Vinho Verde Pope” Anselmo Mendes and, as a garage winemaker, brought the Pequenos Rebentos (the small seeds) brand to life. He had already sent us samples to Berlin and everything we tried was good. Let's see if we can make something out of it.
Otherwise, the Wine Fest was not very interesting for us and so we preferred to end the evening in our regular restaurant O Gaveto in Matosinhos ...
The next day we left Porto for Lisbon. Our first stop took us near Aveiro to Liporfir, a small Bacalhau processing factory and a purely family business with a total of 16 employees. Incidentally, 99% of the time the bacalhau, the much-loved national dish of the Portuguese, does not come from domestic waters at all, but from Iceland or Norway. Liporfir imports the fish from Iceland because the fish is never frozen there, the fishing there is very sustainable and it is still a family affair: Usually the boats are occupied by 3 generations - grandfather, father and son. They all care about the sea, respect the vast ecosystem that has sustained them and their families for centuries, and fishing has been in their veins since birth.
And this is how cod becomes the famous bacalhau:
After catching, the fish is deboned, salted and air dried. Then it is sent to Portugal in large boxes, where it arrives still wet. This dried fish, while still wet, is now transformed by Liporfir (and colleagues) into dry, very long-lasting bacalhau. To do this, it is washed by hand and freed from impurities, then divided into different pieces according to certain quality criteria, then salted again with fine salt from Aveiro (similar to the quality of Fleur de Sel) and finally dried on pine wood frames in special ventilated areas specifically for this purpose chambers stored. This can take up to a month.
To determine if the bacalhau is finished and meets the quality requirements of the brand, several senses are needed, almost all senses are needed:
- The sense of touch: consistency, flexibility and breaking moment are checked by touch,
- Seeing: the color is controlled with the eyes,
- Smell: of course the smell has to be right.
The bacalhau in cans, which we also sell, hasn't been around at Liporfir for that long - it used to be sold mainly in pieces on the domestic market. But now the business with the cans is going well and new recipes are already in the works. To complement the existing recipes – with chickpeas, with black-eyed peas, grilled with garlic – there will probably soon be a bacalahau with seaweed.
The next appointment of the day brought us to Luís Patrão from Vadio (= vagabond), a small but very interesting project in the Bairrada region, which is run by Luís Patrão and his wife Eduarda and which we have been following for several years.
Luís is already quite famous in Portugal, having worked as a winemaker at Esporão in the Alentejo for a long time before starting his own project, Vadio. He's also employed by Coelheiros in the Alentejo, so he's really busy.
This permanent position gives him the necessary security to take care of Vadio with his time and leisure, which he does slowly and conscientiously. From the current 4.5 hectares of vineyards he would like to grow to 10 because that would be the perfect size for his small team.
The good thing about Vadio: The wines are allowed to mature in the cellar for a very long time and are only sold very late. For example, the current “small” Vadio Tinto is from the 2015 vintage. By the way, it tastes very, very good. The red wines from Vadio are all made from the Baga grape, the whites from Bical and Cercial. The espumantes are also very interesting. The base wines are soleras of more than 10 vintages that remain on the lees for 18 to 24 months before disgorgement, which provides great complexity. Luís took us to the very clean and state of the art cellar where we sampled the 2016 reds which will be bottled next. They are at least as good as the 2015s.
The lunch that followed - after all, you can't drink all day without having something in your stomach - consisted of the Portuguese version of the suckling pig, the “Leitão”. There were also other wines from Luís: the two Espumantes for the aperitif. We were particularly taken with the Espumante Brut Rosé. The red wines are excellent, both the entry-level wine and the "Grande Vadio". The whites are also very good, but it might be difficult to sell them in Germany.
Back in Lisbon, after breakfast, we walked “downtown” to the Conserveira de Lisboa to check the status of our order. Then we played the tourists and just walked through the city, bought 3 cans of tuna from the Azorean company Corretora at the Loja das Conservas, which we will probably soon add to our range. As a complement to Santa Catarina, because they do everything that Santa Catarina doesn't do: tuna with tomato, with spicy tomato and in spicy olive oil.
In the evening we went to Vinho ao Vivo as planned, where we had arranged to meet our Berlin friends Anabela and Marion from Anabelas Kitchen . Here we also met Tiago Teles (Maria da Graça), Antonio Madeira, Álvaro Castro, Sergio Nuno from Quinta das Bageiras and Miguel Louro from Quinta do Mouro. All in all, the wine festival is a rather small festival for locals. Very nice with a great setting, but Simplesmente Vinho is more worthwhile for us.