In the last week of February I flew to Porto with my wife Efi, our two daughters Anaïs and Noémie and our granddaughter Rosalie. So Maître Philippe & Filles were on the road again. The destination of our trip? Two important wine fairs were held in Porto this week: Essência do Vinho, in the Palacio da Bolsa and Simplesmente Vinho in the ruins of the Convento de Monchique.
At Essência we had an appointment with our main suppliers from Portugal: Luís Louro and Inês Capão from Adega do Monte Branco . They had the new Alento Rosé and Branco with them and we took the opportunity for a small tasting. Since the wines – how could it have been otherwise? – were very successful, we jumped at the chance and increased our rosé reservation. Apart from this pleasant reunion, however, the "Essência" was not interesting for us, since mainly large groups were represented. However, the old, magnificent building is definitely worth a visit.
The Essência do Vinho in the Palacio da Bolsa
Philippe Causse, Inez Capão, Luís Louro at the Essência do Vinho
That same evening, Luís invited us to dinner at the famous Paparico restaurant. The food was really excellent and we first enjoyed a very nice “old” Alvarinho from Alselmo Mendes, followed by the Monte Branco Tinto from Luís. It was actually a lot better than the wine that the innkeeper had recommended: a Covila Tinto made from Cabernet Sauvignon, although of course it doesn't have to hide either. After this direct comparison, we realized once again that Portugal doesn't actually need foreign vines - there are so many good autochthonous grape varieties there, more than 300!
Simplesmente Vinho, the other fair, was a more important date for us as smaller, more interesting winemakers are represented there. Here we were able to taste many exciting new wines, meet some well-known suppliers again and above all meet many nice new winemakers.
First we met Antonio Madeira, the "Frenchman from the Dão", who visited us last year on the occasion of our "Festa Portugesa" in Berlin and whom some of you probably still know. Anaïs and Noémie tasted his entire range and had a lot of fun We still have a few bottles of his Vinhas Velhas 2012 in stock, so if you haven't already made his acquaintance, hurry up now.The wine is light and expressive, with a mineral, slightly iodic taste that reflects the granti-rich soil on which the wine grows.
Antonio Madeira at the Simplesmente Vinho
We then had a long chat with Miguel Louro, the owner of Quinta do Mouro (and Luís' father) and took the wonderful opportunity to taste all his wines, which, as was to be expected, we really liked. It's good that we were able to get hold of the last 120 bottles of Quinta do Mouro 2009 in advance, because after the Parker points were awarded - he got 95/100 - the wine is completely sold out.
We also visited the booth of Luis Pato from the Bairrada, who wasn't there himself but was represented by his very pregnant youngest daughter Maria. From her stand we were drawn to Marta Soares from Casal Figueira, whose white wine we tasted with great pleasure. It is made north of Lisbon from the indigenous Vital grape variety.
Right next door was the stand of Quinta da Bageiras from the Bairrada region, an area famous for espumantes (crémants). We were particularly enthusiastic about the Espumante Branco Brut without dosage 2011 (from the Bical grape), freshly disgorged, with a very fine mousse and a complex freshness in the mouth. We also liked the Espumante Rosé 2013 from the Baga grape (also “Zero Dosage”). We tried it a day later as an aperitif in the " O Gaveto " restaurant in Matosinhos, the old fishing port north of Porto. The Quinta da Bageiras is definitely a winery with which we can imagine a cooperation.
A particularly important stage was of course the booth of the Young Winemakers from Portugal, which also includes Rita Marques Ferreira , with whom we are already working very successfully. She was also present at our “Festa Portuguesa” .
The Vinho Verde "Clip" made from 100% Loureiro by her colleague Pedro Maria Barbosa will replace our current Vinho Verde. It is very pleasant, fresh and fruity, without residual CO2 and with a nice mineral note. If all goes well, it will get to us just in time for the asparagus season.
Noémie Causse and Pedro Maria Barbosa at the Simplesmente Vinho
At the Young Winemakers, we then met Frederico Lobão from Gerações de Xisto, a very small producer of high-quality olive oil from the Douro Alto. Frederico left us a sample bottle of his olive oil which we are really excited about. Dense, complex, golden with green reflections, powerful and elegant, it bears clear notes of fresh artichoke. Added to this is an unbelievable price-performance ratio, which is particularly surprising when you know that the olive oil from the Douro Alto is the result of hard, genuine, traditional craftsmanship.
Olive harvest in the Douro
In addition to the olive oil, we were able to take home two other particularly nice souvenirs from Porto: the Contraste Rosé from Conceito (Rita Marques Ferreira) and a white port wine, the result of the collaboration between Rita and the well-known Madeira manufacturer Barbeito. We and the whole team were so enthusiastic about the rosé that we bought the entire production without further ado. It's "only" 1,200 bottles, but in terms of quality, we're not sure if that's enough for the summer...
An absolute new discovery were the wines from Nuno Mira do O, which bring Portugal back to the top of the wine world. Like many of his colleagues, Nuno is around 30, trained as a winemaker, then studied ecology, received further training abroad (often in Bordeaux, California or New Zealand) and then worked at a quinta at home before deciding to to settle as a “garage winemaker” in the Dão and Bairrada. We particularly liked his white Druid made from 100% encruzado, which we ordered straight away, along with some equally fantastic red wines. They will be with us soon and then you can see for yourself.
One last decisive experience that had nothing to do with wine was when we visited the “O Gavetto” restaurant in Matosinhos. Miguel Louro had recommended that we eat the local specialty "Lampreia a Bordelesa". However, we didn't dare and opted for the classic bacalhau instead. Or would you have dared to eat this primeval animal?