The highlight, in my memory now, (remember? We can’t truly recall our taste buds, for the mind fails at reconstructing such monumental pleasure) the grapes triumphed. Confession: I am NOT a big proponent of French Wine. I can find a good Lorraine now and again, but Bordeaux and Burgundy just don’t cut the mustard for me. The countries, in sequential order, that gravitate my heart? Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia, THEN France….and NOW! Da-da-da-da! (That’s a drum roll!) Portugal might surpass Germany. The reason why you don’t see Portugal on menus in America IS BEYOND ME! They are friendly, versatile, and perhaps just the ones I tasted, linger lightly rather than bombard with their dramatic tannins. One of my favorite pastimes is tasting wine, because it truly is a psychological-biological tango, and if you happen to be tasting at a vineyard. When you tour a vineyard, you want a small tour group where a staff member can educate you about the philosophy of the producers. You want to know where the grapes are grown, what type of barrels they use and for how long, how they came into the business, and how they select their flavors for the year. And if the tour is large, then you just want to drink!
Given that none of us ever formally tasted Port before, the Famous Sandeman caves, located in Porto, were a must-do on the vacation radar. Remember a few things: Porto is on the ocean, as well as near a few rivers, and thus, a perfect place for aging wine. Down in the cellars, the wine can grow legs in a cool place, be stored during times of flooding, and then be accessible for moving it out into the grateful arms of the masses.
- The Cellar View
Sandeman is one of the most famous port producers primarily because of their logo, one of the earliest recognizable brands in history. Port comes in three varieties, a white, a ruby and a tawny, and all of them have higher alcohol levels and thus sugar than wine (around 20% to 15%…this is due to the fact that they take out part of the solution before all the sugars are transformed into alcohol and then add it back in. Port can be kept for uber-long periods of time, and once the bottle is opened, can be drunk over the course of 6 month. I have to be honest, being the serious chick that I am, these wines are too sweet for my sipping inclinations. But, wine truly depends on the company you keep, and the tour remains one of the highlights of the trip due to the fact that our group tasted with a dozen men from Kent, England on a Stag Weekend. We all sipped, and sipped, and sipped some more. Making us all seem more funny, more at ease, more energetic and free than the preceding hour. So, Sandeman’s, I’ll grab if ever I buy some port again. And did you know that the flavors of Port never change? The winemaker has to match the tastes each year, somewhat like coca-cola or pepsi….it is an art form, indeed!
The next day, I dragged somewhat compliant family members through windy back roads to visit Pancheca Vineyard. When we arrived (of course after the obligatory numerous wrong turns!) the vineyard was oddly quiet. The sista proclaimed that it was closed, as we walked around seemingly empty buildings. This was 11 o clock in the morning or so…finally, I walked into what appeared to be a personal kitchen, where our tour guide, Ms. Joanna first greeted us. This young woman sponsored us for over an hour, free of charge, while she allowed us to see the stomping room and cellars. The family owned business still uses men to stomp the grapes!
usually for 8 days, 8 hours a day, although they are having more and more difficulty getting men to sign up for the job during harvest. Their wine, especially their reserved red wine, may be some of the best I’ve had. And she informed me to keep it a decade where the flavors would continue to become more sturdy and layered. I bought my sista her favorite (white) and nabbed one for the brother (the red), and promised to try and contact the German distributor when getting home (already done, people!). It just goes to show you how making personal connections touches our perception of good and makes it “superb”. Dad even liked their port (about 20% of their production, it is highly specific and more fruity) and nabbed a bottle. I was thinking of an almond-port reduction sauce over spinach stuffed chicken and baby potatoes…of course too much FUTURE thinking for me!
Ah! I LOVE wine tasting….but even more so, meeting wine makers. Kind of like meeting your favorite artist and asking them to discuss inspirations for harmony, melody, of taking a risk and going into a business solely for the purpose of giving pleasurable nourishment….
So Port? Why not? Wine? OF COURSE! But then, goodness, I had to go and try another one of Pedro’s MUST HAVEs…Caipirinha. It took me 5 times trying to pronounce it to various cafes before finally scoring one from a menu. It is well worth the tongue twister. YOu know Portugal is Brazil’s patronage, and thus, Brazil’s national drink makes it way into the lifestyle here. Can not think of a better summer concoction. Something similar to a moijito but, oh, so much more delicious. Of course, this baby was all mine…until the sista caught wind of it and began mooching mine! That’s the pleasure of tripping with with loved ones, you forget about germs in love of the higher good….shared intoxication!
That was Portugal for you…no straw really required. It has my vote for your next European Vacation!