For the Love of Port

Oh joy! We have just received notification that our Vieira de Sousa ports are on their way to Sweden. A journey that started almost a year ago is coming to a close.

We have had plans for including port wine to our selection for some time now. December 2014 we received a tip from a friend in Denmark about a young port producer, Luisa Borges, in Douro valley, who makes exceptional wines. Now at that time, I did not know very much about Port. Continue reading “For the Love of Port”

Field Blend Friday

This Friday, I thought I would write a bit about field blends. Field blends are wines from vineyards with more than one grape variety planted together in the same block. Some field blends might have over 50 different grape varieties planted in a mosaik-like pattern and the winemaker might even be unaware what all of the varietals are. Sounds daunting? Well I actually love (most) field blends. Even with many different “ingredients” they blend together to characterize the terroir; the climate, soil and surrounding fauna.

In the past, before the time of varietal purism, different varieties weren’t always planted separately in distinct blocks as they often are today. Growers used this as a relatively inexpensive way to blend wine and planted their vineyards as a “field blend” of different grapes that they figured would combine to make a good wine. The growers would often pick all of the grapes at the same time, even if they weren’t equally ripe, and pour them into the same vat to ferment together — a technique called co-fermentation.

Filed blends can be found for example in the Douro valley in Portugal
Filed blends can be found for example in the Douro valley in Portugal
Initially co-fermentation may have been popular because it was easier and less expensive. It required less equipment, from big fermentation vats to barrels. Co-fermentation might seem old-fashioned, but some contemporary winemakers believe that combining different grapes during fermentation can produce wines that are better integrated, more seamless and perhaps more aromatic — a true field blend is whatever Nature gives that vintage.

Most of today’s field blends are from these old vineyards of post-Gold Rush America or the ones that survived the European wine plague of 1948, making them interesting from both a historical and quality perspective. Many winemakers also believe in the superiority of old vines. Initially field blending may have been perceived as a budget way of making wine, however, today co-fermented wines made from those old field-blend vineyards still produce some of the worlds most sought-after wines.

The Winecurious also has some great field blends in the selection. Our Portuguese producer Quinta do Escudial make an Old Vines edition from their family vineyards in the Dao region. The wine is a combination of over 30 different varietals. Also, Antonio Madeira, a producer who makes just one (perfect) red, uses a field blend of around 20 different varietals. Both wines are aromatic and earthy with red fruits and herbal character.

So don’t be daunted by field blends, give them a try. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you will at least have an interesting ride!

My week in Portugal, vol 1

As readers of this blog may already have noted I have spent almost the entire last week in the wonderful country of Portugal. While I was already before convinced that I would find a lot of good wine the trip to some extent blew me away. I did not only find wonderful wine but also met a lot of interesting people. There is both a new generation of wine makers (yes, I know it is a bit tired – every region/country talks about the new generation of wine makers) but also a great many experienced wine makers who still make great wines. The sheer variety of both grape varieties but also of philosophies and types of wines made me just want to already go back.

The primary reason for the visit was to meet with Luisa from Vieira de Sousa. I did however also want to meet with others when I was any way visiting Portugal. I had a very interesting list of wine producers and I managed to meet with most of them. The fac that I also got to see a lot of the country, visit beautiful sites and also enjoy good food and wine made it a great trip.

The trip started with my arriving in Porto meeting with Luis Robredo from Gravato wines and he had also been kind enough of to arrange for an additional producer to meet up with me. So in Porto I also meet with João Santos from Valle de Nideo in the Duoro Valley. We met at the beatiful ‘cheese’ castle, Castelo do Queijo (literally Castle of the cheese. Apparently from it looking like a piece of cheese from above) but unfortunately the weather did not show it from the best side as it was a bit grayish.

My trip continued to Bairrada where I was hoping to meet with Luis Pato and Filipa Pato. They were however both in London for a Portuguese wine event but I still managed to visit Luis Pato’s estate and meet with his youngest daughter Maria João. I also had the chance for an improvised visit at sparkling wine producer São Domingos. A brief stop at the regional wine musuem in Anadia was also on the agenda.

The journey then continued into Dao where meetings with Quinta do Escuidal, Quinta do Pellada and Antonio Madeira where truly exciting. There was even time for some additional touristing with a visit to the magnificent old village of Linhares da Beira. The views from the old fortress are splendid.

Before heading up to the Douro valley I also stopped by Almeida Garret wines in Beira Interior. The week was then wrapped up with Vieira de Sousa and Quinta do Pôpa in the Douro. we wrapped up the week in Porto with visit to the wine shop at El Corte Ingles as well as a great dinner and wine at Taberna do Largo (recommendation from Maria João). A fabulous week and in the coming week or so I will describe the wines and the visits in more detail in separate posts.

Wineweek 16: Portugal Edition

Amazing! That is the word to characterize this wineweek. I had some high hopes for Portugal as a wine country, but having experienced it, I was blown away. It’s also a big step for our business, as we met with several producers that have a philosophy to fit the Winecurious.

The week started of with M taking off ahead of me towards Portugal (and with me tasting some Portuguese wine). He flew to Porto, where he started working his way south through Bairrada to Dao via Beira Interior. By Thursday evening he had met with eight producers and collected an impressive amount of samples, thirty three bottles of them to be exact. I arrived to Porto Thursday night and the next morning we embarked for Douro.

In Douro we spent the Friday with Luisa Borges, the owner of Vieira de Sousa wines. She showed us around her new winery in Sabrosa, took us for a tour around her lovely vineyards and sampled some of her old family ports. Today Vieira de Sousa produce some pretty impressive entry level ports, but omg some of the old family reserves were wonderful. We tried some tawny port from the 70’s and Luisa told us that their oldest wines are closer to a hundred years old. We also did some thinking around how to best market her products and I think we have a great plan. More about that to come.

Luisa also took us to visit a friend of hers, Stéphane Ferreira at Quinta do Popa wines. M had actually eyed that winery before he left, but we had assumed we did not have time for it. So it was a wonderful surprise that Luisa took us there for a visit. Quinta do Popa makes some great “table wines” (regular reds and whites). They have some wonderful reds with 100% Tinta Roriz and blends from their old vines. Many of the old Portuguese vineyards can grow up to 40 or 50 different grape varieties. Stéphanes ‘only’ had a mix of 21, but nevertheless the wines were great. As a speciality Quinta do Popa also makes a “sweet”, low alcohol fermented wine. It is not a Port, but it has some of the same characteristics but with a freshnes coming from the low (11%) alcohol level. I was very surprised how much I liked it and could imagine it being very popular in Sweden as a summer drink. I think we might need to contact Stéphane again for some samples.

After the wine-heavy week, we spent the night in a cabin at Luisas vineyards in Quinta do Roncao. In the evening, we sipped on some wonderful 10 year old White Port, one of Luisas most popular wines, and in the morning we woke up to an amazing view of the Douro river. The only downside was the heart stopping drive there. I don’t think I have ever been so afraid in my life in a car, and this time it was not due to M’s driving (he did a good job) but the narrow and steep roads without any fences. Really, that is the only downside of Douro as a wine-destination, you need a good car (don’t even think about cheaping out by going for a compact).

Saturday was spent in Porto wine-shopping (as if we didn’t have enough bottles to pack already) and dining out. We had received a great tip from one of the vineyards on a small restaurant called Taberna do Largo serving Portuguese tapas from around the country and small producer wines by the glass. We stuffed ourselves with some local meats, cheeses and sauteed mushrooms. They had so much interesting wines for sale also, but thank God we were able to leave them on the shelf.

I could spend all afternoon writing about the greatness of Portugal, but I will save some for the next few weeks. Have a great week, and when you next think of wine, think of Portugal. It has wonderful wines and to make things better it is exceptional value for money!

A Postcard from Douro

Greerings from the beautiful Douro valley in Portugal. Today we are relaxing, as yesterday was spent tasting wines (about 20 of them). So I will keep this short.

We finally fisited our friends at Vieira de Sousa in the village of Sabrosa in Douro. The young and talented Luisa Borges took a whole day showing us around and introducing her wines. We also visited Luisas friends at Quinta do Popa, and followed as they bottled wine. Finally we were privileged enough to spend the night at a cabin on Luisas vineyard at Quint a do Roncao and to wake up to the site you see in the picture, the tranquil Rio Douro.

It has been an unbelievably great trip also business wise. Portugal is a wonderful wine-country and we cant wait to have some of our new finds available also to you. More about our trip in tomorrows wine-week.

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Wineweek 15

Let it be Sunday! Not my favorite day of the week (because there is seldom wine on Sundays), but a day for relaxation and looking back on all the wine-action during the week. We are now back in business, making calls, filling in forms and planning our next order window. If everything goes well, it will not be the Easter-bunny knocking on your door in the beginning of April, it will be the nice man/woman from Jet pack delivering your Llagrima d’Or.

So what else have we been doing (except for working) this week. We had some nice Riesling on Monday. The bottle of Emrich-Schönleber had been started with the Coravin in the summer, and now was opened to find no traces of oxidation what so ever. As I have said before, the Coravin is one of our best purchases ever. I really hope it is introduced to more restaurants as it opens up completely new possibilities for wine by the glass.

We also visited a new wine bar in Stockholm, Hornstull’s Bodega. We have been meaning to go for a while, but Christmas hassle included, we have been quite busy the past two months. The place was a nice addition to the Stockholm wine-scene. The concept reminds me a bit of José (review here) with a no reservation policy, focus on wine by the glass and a decent selection of Spanish inspired bar food. We had a good time, so you can be sure that a review will follow.

M also made a great find at Amsterdam airport. He came home with two bottles of Mumm de Cramant that he picked up from a sale for just 45€ (!!) a bottle. I would say that 45€ for a Champagne is perhaps not cheap cheap, but for a Blanc de Blanc Champagne made solely from grapes from the village of Cramant, classified 100% Grand Cru, not a bad deal! We had one of the bottles Saturday night and it was lovely (and well worth the 45€).

That was about it for the week. Next Sunday we will be reporting from the beautiful Douro Valley in Portugal.

Discovering Portugal

The past month or so, our blog has been going a steady path. We have been writing a lot about shops, restaurant and reviewing some wines. We have shared experiences from along our travels and extended our focus to coffee and cocktails. We have shared all that we have enjoyed along the way and will continue to do so.

However, we are now back in Sweden and focus will inevitably shift back to Europe and more into our business. This is why today I would like to share with you something about our next adventure, which will be discovering Portugal as a wine region and a potential for extending our business. On Monday, M will be heading to Porto to meet up with some exciting new producers and I will join him for next weekend to meet our friends at Vieira de Sousa and drive around the beautiful Douro valley. But before we set out to travel, we thought we would do some studying to not sound like completely amateurs when talking to our new acquaintance.

Five things I read today about Portuguese wine:

  1. Wine laws today are based on the French Appelation d’Origine. There are three basic categories of Portuguese wine: Vinho de Mesa, Niho Regional, and Denominação de Origem Controlada. The lowest level is Vinho de Mesa, Table wine where grapes can come from anywhere in Portugal and the winery does not need to include a vintage. Above Vinho de Mesa is Vinho Regional, Regional wine. In a regional wine, 85 percent of grapes must come from the region on the label. Regional wines, however, are not subject to the strict requirements of a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) wine. Each DOC must follow specific guidelines and the grapes in these wines must come entirely from the region on the label.
  2. Portugal has eleven major wine regions. The Douro is by far the most significant to fine wine production. Other regions of international recognition include Dão, Vinho Verde and Alentejo.
  3. Portugal has the very large number of (up to 500) indigenous grape varieties. Some of the most commonly used both by traditional and modern winemakers are Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. Older vineyards are planted with multiple grape varieties and as a result, sometimes these field blends are so varied that identifying all of the grapes isn’t possible. When new vineyards are created, single planting is now the norm.
  4. The country has clear climatic divisions. In the northern part of the Portugal, the climate is maritime with warm summers and cool, wet winters. In some areas rainfall can reach 100 inches a year. Towards the south its a different story, as rainfall is lower and summer temperatures are much higher.
  5. Equally dramatic as France and Spain, Portugal suffered from the phylloxeira epidemic (wine plaque) of the early 19th century and lost a significant number of its old vines. After the plaque, many abandoned the wine-business and the ones who didn’t planted new, larger yield varieties resulting to overall lower quality. Today, we are seeing a rise of small boutique wineries, quintas, focusing on better wine making techniques and using grapes from a single region to create cleaner and softer wines that are better received by the international wine market.

I think I need to do some more studying before next week, but this is a good start for discovering wine in Portugal. I can’t wait to share pictures and stories about the actual trip. If you are up for Portuguese wine-talk, you can check out the post we did on Port a few months back (link here). Have a great weekend!