Get Away With Fran

October 27, 2009

Passion for Portugal

Filed under: Food,International,Travel Advice,Wine and booze — admin @ 8:00 am


The Portuguese are passionate people. Some might even call them emotional (anyone who has ever seen Fado music performed in Lisbon will surely get this). And this month, I had a couple of opportunities to see how that passion pours over (excuse the pun) to Portuguese wine.

At a tasting featuring several dozen vintners, I sampled everything from young verde(the Portuguese prefer not to call it “green wine” though that’s how most American’s know it) to aged port (a personal favorite).


And last week at Grill 23 n Boston, I sampled a full range of red wines – and one rose – created in the Alentejo region by the Adega Cooperativa de Borba (and distributed locally by L & B Beverage of East Providence, R.I.).

The Rose 2008 was fine with a terrine of foie gras with apples poached in cherry lambic, served with a tarragon egg and “soldiers” toasts.

But the perfect pairing for me was the Reserva Red, 2004, one of three wines served with the main course of slow roasted and braised elk (with yummy creamed bacon and salsify and tobacco onions). In fact, this very drinkable red (which goes for a bargain price of about $15 per bottle), with its violets and spice and hints of oak and vanilla, would match well with a variety of food. The blend includes Trincadeira (75%), Alicante Bouschet (10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%); the color lushly red.


In the Alentejo region, the soil includes chalky clay and schist, and wine has been produced by the cooperative since 1955 – with the vineyards covering 2,000 hectares. With the Reserva,  they clearly have their act together (for me, less impressive was the popular Borba, known for the fact its label is made of cork).

Louis Gaspar, the representative of the vineyard at the press dinner, told us the wine has passion and “a lot of love in it.” And added, “We sweat a lot to do this,” (presumably, sweat not being a key ingredient).

Portugal actually has more then 200 indigeous grapes, And despite being a small country it is impressively in the top 10 of winegrowing places in the world. The Douro Valley in Northern Portugal is one of the few places in the world where pressing grapes in signficant quantities is still done by foot – in shallow, open wine fermenters called lagares. That’s on my list of must-see things, some day.

Interestingly, an increasing number of Portuguese winemakes are women. You can learn more about Portuguese wine and the regions to visit (there are vineyards in many parts of the country including the Azores islands) and yes, hints at the passion too, at Vini Portugal.

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