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In search of Alvarinho. Small wine journey through northern Portugal, November 2017

Auf der Suche nach Alvarinho. Kleine Weinreise durch Nord-Portugal, November 2017 | Maître Philippe & Filles

Douro_Sunset One day after Cheese 2017, I flew to Portugal with my wife for 6 days. As a last resort, so to speak, to take a little vacation before Christmas and recharge the batteries.
After arriving in Porto, we headed north, more precisely to Monção and Melgaço in the north of the Minho region, where the best Alvarinhos are known to come from. In Monção we stayed in a beautiful solar, but we discovered the best wines in Melgaço. The area is magical and very picturesque with many small wineries selling their wine by the roadside. Cute but not what we were looking for. Luis_Soalheiro Finally, on the second day we dared to visit one of the two most famous winegrowers in the region, Quinta do Soalheiro. I had already contacted him in 2015 and the winemaker even remembered us, which of course was perfect.
We were allowed to visit the cellar and taste the wines and immediately understood why the Alvarinho from Melgaço is so famous. It's just really good and you can't beat the price. One more reason to now offer two wines from the Quinta with us.

On Wednesday we drove down to the Douro Valley, towards Pinhão. Following a spontaneous inspiration, we visited Nuno and Antonio on the way. The two "Garage Winemakers" are the founders of a small project, as there are hundreds in Portugal. They have been producing the Boina tinto since 2015 and the Boina branco since 2016. The wines are interesting and have had a lot of success in France, for example, but we tried them last year and decided against including them in our programme. We just like Conceito's Rita Marques Contraste better.
Funnily enough, Nuno and Antonio just had a visit from the supplier of the Vinho Verde "Camaleão", who you also know from us. The three are good friends and help each other. A really nice afternoon!

On Thursday we went to Rita in Cedovim. It took us over 2 hours for the almost 60 kilometers as the path took us over small winding roads, but the weather and the landscape were so beautiful that we enjoyed the slow-paced journey. Rita's new Adega, whose construction work has only recently been completed, is really impressive: the basement area is brand new and perfectly integrated into the landscape. In addition, it is completely energetically autonomous, all year round. The first wine we tried was the Contraste rosé and we immediately placed an order for the last pallet. Then we tasted the Espumante 2014 Brut Natural made from 100% Grüner Veltliner, which is excellent again. Next we tasted the different Conceito brancos and tintos and of course the Único tinto 2015. We ordered 60 bottles of these – there weren't any more. Unfortunately, the Único branco is already sold out.

It got particularly exciting when we, together with Rita and Manuel, chose a Reserva quality exclusively for us. Douro_Reserva We chose 2 barriques from the 2016 vintage. The wine will be bottled for us in April 2018, as a special series of only 600 bottles!

Otherwise, Rita, Manuel and Rita's husband Luís have started a new project: they are making two "natural wines", one red and one white, from grapes from very old, forgotten vineyards in a region between the Douro and the Dão. The wines from this project bear the catchy name "Ontem", Portuguese for "yesterday". We tried them at lunch with the whole family. There was homemade black pudding and cabbage stew. The wines paired perfectly with this authentic meal and we find them very interesting. Let's see if we'll import some.

Sated and happy, we left Rita and her team and headed to the Dão region, where we fell into bed tired.
Dao BrancoThe next day we visited Álvaro Castro from Quinta de Saes and Quinta da Pellada. We started the wine tasting at 10am. It really isn't easy, this life... ;)
The simple wines are very good, especially the red ones. We also really liked his and our "bestseller": the Estagio Prolongado 2014, which we ordered right away. We currently have a few remaining bottles from the 2012 vintage.
Conserveira_Pinhais After the wine tasting we made our way to Matosinhos, the small port town north of Porto. Spontaneously we stopped by the Conserveira Pinhais, where we have often been turned away. But this time we were lucky and our persistence paid off: the new manager Nuno gave us a warm welcome, showed us around the factory and explained everything willingly.

In the evening we had a beer on the beach and enjoyed the sunset while we reviewed the many experiences of the last few days in front of our inner eyes. Now we look forward to the delivery of the various wines that will gradually arrive. Of course we will keep you up to date!

Sunset Matosinhos

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