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).

No comments: