Friday, 20 July 2018

Hotspot Lisbon

Aah, Jacarandas
Unique place Lisbon. 18th century city, lovely people (did you ever meet a Portuguese you didn't like?), art (Gulbenkian Museum among others), food (note José Avillez's operation), still flourishing bookshops, markets, trams, proximity to interesting places nearby (Estoril, Cascais, Sintra) - and wine!

Colares bottles at Joaninha, Cascais (see below)
Slotovino has a few obsessions. Perhaps the main one is Colares, the wine grown in sand on the coast to the north of Lisbon. Indeed so near as to be in the process of being swallowed up by the outskirts of Lisbon itself. The vineyard area of Colares is now reduced to perhaps 10 ha. The unique Ramisco (red) and Colares Malvasia grapes are not grown anywhere else. Because they are grown in sand they were never attacked by Phylloxera and enjoyed a period of international distibution during the Phylloxera epidemic. The reds in particular are age-worthy and are typically low in alcohol.

Talking about the red, not everyone shares our love of this wine. More eminent palates than ours find it not to their liking ('Hmmm, where's the fruit?' 'Not for me I'm afaid...' 'A little sour... Definitely one for wine geeks.' 'Tight and tart.'

Our experience has been quite different. True, the ageworthiness is sometimes overstated and the few remaining producers have different styles. Arenae seem to be on a mission to make more highly extracted wines. Their alcohol levels have been creeping up. The above comments related to Viuva Gomes, Monte Cascas, Casal Santa Maria and Adega Regional whereas our benchmark is Colares Chitas (Antonio Bernardino Paulo da Silva).

Prices for Colares tend to be high, reflecting the rarity of this wine. However, if you go to Lisbon and the area around you can see a reassuring number of bottles and not all are expensive.

The best deal we found came from the venerable Manuel Tavares shop. Colates Chitas 2007 for only Eur. 20.60. We had seen the same bottle elsewhere for almost double that price.

Mauel Tavares is also a nice Gastronomia

Although looking delightfully old-fashioned, Manuel Tavares is super efficient online. We bought a case of this Colares Chitas from them and it arrived in record time.

The veritable wine hotspot of Lisbon is at the corner of Rua Dos Fanqueiros and the Rua de Santa Justa where there are not just one but two branches of Garrafeira Napoleão as well as a bright new branch of Garrafeira Nacional whose original shop is just up the road. 

Here are the two branches of Garrafeira Napoleao on either side of the rua Santa Justa. It is difficult to walk up the street without buying a bottle or two.

The founder Francisco Napoleao can still be found at one or other of the shops having his lunch most days.

Garrafeira Nacional's new shop is opposite

The top two shelves are devoted to Colares at Garrafeira Nacional
It was heartening to see shelves of Colares at all these shops. These are in the original Garrafeira Nacional shop nearby.

on a neighbouring shelf, these bottles caught our eye at Eur. 450 each. Pêra-Manca was news to us. An assistant explained that it is the most expensive wine of the South of Portugal whereas Barca Velha had that distinction in the North. Pêra-Manca is made from Trincadeira and Aragonês (Tempranillo) and is produced only in exceptional years.

On an excursion to Cascais we discovered Joaninha, a lovely modern wine boutique, also with a fine selection of Colares (see photo above).

Pedro was our helpful guide.

We mentioned the chef/restauranteur José Avillez at the top. He is Mr. Portugal as far as restaurants are concerned. Still young he studied with Alain Ducasse and was an intern at El Bulli. He took over the 'Bel Canto' restaurant next to the Teatro Sao Carlos opera house in Lisbon and achieved 2 Michelin stars in no time. He then proceeded to open at least a dozen restaurants and bars in Lisbon and Porto, all very good if the two we went to are anything to go by.

As well as the excellent menu, staff and atmosphere we were very taken with the first winelist on a tablet we had ever seen. At the top there is a description of the wine - in this case

Country; Portugal
Appellation; Vinhos Verdes
Grape Variety; Alvarinho

and then a list of dishes 'Best with' - "peixinhos da Horta", Beef Tartare, Bt Egg, Cantinho Salad, Cherry Gazpacho, Mushroon Risotto, Octopus, Professor Eggs, Roasted Cheese, Sausage with cornbread, Scallops, Shrimp, Tuna Tartare, Vegetable Curry, Vegetable Tangine, Barrosa Burger.

You can click on Wines by the glass, Natural Wine, Red, Champagne and Sparkling, White etc. and receive similar information on every entry. Perfect. Note to all other restauranteurs worldwide, please copy.

Lisbon sometimes feels wine-mad.

At the airport, an entire display of wines from 'Native Grapes.' Astonishing. There was even Colares to be had. It is really worth getting to the airport early.

We bought

Casa de Vilacetinho white Vino Verde from their signature grape Avesso blended with Loureiro

A Joao Pires Moscatel Graudo - a synonym for Muscat D'Alexandrie - from the Setubal Peninsula,

another white Vinho Verde this time from Quinta de Avaleda (not to be confused with Quinta Azevedo) Loueiro/Alvarinho

And this remarkable Merlot/Saborinho/Cabernet Franc blend from the Azores. Saborinho is the local name for Negramoll. At 11.5% this was absolutely delicious. The very definition of more-ish. Undoubtedly the best red wine we have ever had from the Azores.

All these bottles were inexpensive and good.

And so we bade farewell to Lisbon - not before glimpsing a vineyard from the plane window (it's just below the big white building).

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


Last time
This time
Another visit to Paris. Another call on 007, Herve Lethielleux, owner and guiding spirit of L'Etiquette, the wine shop just over the Pont Louis Philippe on the Isle Saint Louis. L'Etiquette is our new go-to address for natural wine in Paris. Herve - sorry 007 - knows each and every producer personally. His stock changes constantly so bad luck if there was something you bought in February and attempt to replace in May.

The good news is there is always something new. As soon as we entered the shop, Herve remembered our obsession for unusual grape varieties and went straight to this bottle of Servant. Servant is a variety we had only found previously in a blend so we were delighted to find this 100% bottling. Servant also serves as a table grape and appears to come from the Languedoc. Rare.

Herve had this scrumptious Gamay on tasting. the winemaker Julien Altaber used to add a little Chardonnay or even Aligote hence the name Metisse but not in this vintage (2017). We at Slotovino have become so fixated on seeking the rarities that we have to remind ourselves not to forget great wine from familiar varieties.

Speaking of which we also bought this Chardonnay/Savignin blend from Lulu (Ludwig Bindernagel) of the Jura.

Back to the rare critters, we also boght this Tressallier. After having tasted hundreds of rare grape varieties we weren't sure if we had tried Tressallier before although the name is familiar enough.

Next was 'Anatheme,' a blend of Aramon (50%). Cinsault (30%), Grenache (10%) and Carignan (10%). A bit like a wine called 'Les mal aimes' we had once found by Pierre Cros (Picpoul noir, Alicante Bouchet, Carignan and - you guessed it, Aramon). We rather like these unorthodox blends.

Now this is what we call an orange wine. Just look at that colour! It's a Muscat from Brand et Fils of Alsace.

Note; Paysan Vigneron

The Brands call themselves Artisans Vignerons but one Remi Poujol calls himself 'Paysan Vigneron.' Commendable.

With so many bottles, we are no longer sure this Folle Blanche was from L'Etiquette but it could have been since Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin is organic. Folle Blanche is very refreshing when made in this style.

Finally, a Chenin Blanc from old vines grown not in the Loire but in Aveyron. We have come late in the day to Chenin Blanc possibly having been put off by some cheap and nasty examples of which there are quite a few but good Chenin is wonderfully aromatic and is very handy in food pairing.

On to 'Au Nouveau Nez' a great place we had discovered some years back but unjustly neglected since.

 Was it our imagination or had it become more of a wine bar and perhaps less of a caveiste since we first saw it? In any case it was hopping.

This where things get a bit hazy. We bought a bottle of something very interesting here but can't remember what. It may be one of the above. But it's the one that got away that we remember; a 100% Seyval Noir. Worries about the quantity we were planning to take home led us to resist this purchase but it haunted us to such a degree we returned to the shop the next day only to find it closed. Wikipedia has it;

While Seyval Noir was created in France, the grape is hardly planted there. It is not listed on the country's official registry of wine grape varieties nor is it permitted for use in any Appellation Controlle wines. Some experimental plantings of the grape do exist at Domaine Ganevat in Jura where it is used in a blend for a nouveau table wine. Outside France the grape is planted to a limited extent in Quebec where it used for both red and rosé wines as well as vinegar production.

In compensation we added to our Negrette collection with this example from 'Le repaire de Bacchus,' As already remarked in this blog, it is difficult to find Negrette that's nor blended with some Syrah. That dumbs the unique taste of Negrette down in the same way we reckon Lagrein does for Schiava in St. Magdalena. Strange how people like to homogenise grapes with strong characters.

To celbrate our rather mad spree, we nabbed a bottle of the Cremant de Bourgogne Extra Brut by Pierre-Marie Chermette. This Blanc de Blancs (aka Chardonnay) is stocked by the nice traditional shop on the Rue Francois Miron, Faubourg St. Antoine called appropriately Caves du Marais. The owner lived for a number of years in Australia so has wider horizons than the mostly French selection might suggest. He certainly knows how to pick a great Cremant de Bougogne, something we had once thought was an oxymoron. Now we think of it Moutard's Cremant de Bougogne is also excellent. It's one of life's mysteries why these wines don't seem to catch on whereas others (um... Prosecco) do. At .16 might it be that the Chermette is too expensive or is it just marketing?