In May my wife and I were back in Portugal, north of Porto again. We like it there very much. It's not quite as touristy as Lisbon and we love Matosinhos because it's known to have some of the best fish in Portugal.
I've retired since the beginning of January, but I still often get itching to do something for the store. I prefer to be active as a wine scout. It happens automatically anyway. I just can't help it.
With Maître Philippe & Filles we are real pioneers in Berlin when it comes to “wines from Portugal”; especially when it comes to unknown but very talented winemakers. For years we have been going regularly to the off-wine fair "Simplesmente" in Porto and have tasted a lot of very interesting and very good wines there. We have since included some of them in our range. For us, attending this event is something of a pilgrimage that we look forward to all year round. Of course, at the “Simplesmente” you not only meet winegrowers, but also many trader colleagues with whom you can exchange ideas on a friendly basis. One of them is Tiago "Glouglou" Barbosa, a Portuguese from Paris who works with a nice selection of interesting winemakers. This time we received a real insider tip from Tiago.
You have to be crazy and brave to make wines in such a barren and inhospitable region. But that's exactly what we like about Portugal: It's not mainstream and that's a good thing.
He recommended that we visit the Arribas Wine Company project in the Trás-os-Montes (Portuguese: behind the mountains) region in the northeast of the country. This region lives from agriculture. Here everything is full of figs, almonds, olives and of course full of vineyards. Summers are very hot and dry and winters are cold, which is very good for wine growing.
The Arribas Wine Company project has its leased vineyards around Bemposta. The creators are two friends, Ricardo Alves and Fred Machado, who drive their project forward with a lot of energy, physical effort, passion and knowledge. We received a very warm welcome on a Sunday and Ricardo drove us straight to the vineyards on donkey paths in his old 4x4. At 80 or even 100 years old, the vines are very old and no longer yield much. Due to the very steep and rocky ground, no machines can be used, everything has to be worked on by hand. The red wines are always so-called “field blends”. A mixed set of red and white grapes is referred to as such, as the photo shows very well.
As so often in Portugal, only local autochthonous grape varieties are used, including Tinta Gorda, Tinta Serrana, Rufete, Alvarelhão, Bastardo, Malvasia, Verdelho, Verdelho Vermelho, Bastardo Branco, Formosa and Posto Branco. The wines are authentic and taste unique, and they also have little alcohol. The first wine of the 2017 project was the red Saroto, with only 11% alcohol by volume. The 2018 red Saroto has only 11.5 vol alcohol!
There is now also a white version of the Saroto, which was about to be bottled in May. The wines are not filtered and are bottled relatively late. The red Saroto 2018 was bottled in July 2019. Quantities are very limited. That's why we struck it straight away and bought a pallet of 300 bottles each of red and white Saroto. With that we have exhausted our annual quota. There is simply nothing more.
You have to be crazy and brave to make wines in such a barren and inhospitable region. But that's exactly what we like about Portugal: It's not mainstream and that's a good thing. The philosophy of the "Arribas Wine Company" is: "Our goal is to produce authentic, light and pleasing wines. For this reason we try to intervene as little as possible.” And that goes down well: the wines are already represented in many of the best restaurants in Portugal. Now it's Berlin's turn!