In order to understand the wines of Portugal, first you must understand its people. My friend Delfim Costa sent this book to me from Portugal. I was so touched with his unexpected generosity, that it became a New Year’s resolution to learn more about Portugal. The book The First Global Village, How Portugal Changed the World, was written by the late Martin Page.
I read it, and then I traveled to Portugal to put it all into context. What a hospitality eye opener. The people of Portugal are charming, sincere, and willing to share this country’s ancient beginnings, as well as its historic culture. Portugal stole my heart. Is it kismet that I was raised on Lisbon Street? Now, I think not… Portugal was a destiny, having already been in my life’s soul and address for 20 years.
I spent 10 days in Portugal, as the guest of Enoforum Wines, and my concept for the world of wine became greatly expanded. It didn’t begin with the wine, though, it really did begin with the people. In this coming week, I’m going to be exploring what I’ve learned. It began the moment I was picked up at the airport my host Delfim Costa.
Delfim and I met at the US Wine Bloggers Conference. Someone else from his company had queried me a year before that, and at the time I was too busy to even consider another client. When Delfim handed me his business card, however, I recognized it from my past. As soon as I got home, I went into my computer’s history, and was able to track everything back to my earlier introduction to Enoforum Wines. “What a coincidence,” I thought. It wasn’t Delfim that queried me, but another person in the company.
At the WBC B-B-Q, I had given Delfim a ride back to the hotel, so he wouldn’t have to wait for the bus, and that began our adventure together. Little did either of us think at that time that the next ride would be Delfim picking me up at the Lisbon Airport and driving me downtown, but that’s exactly how it played itself out over a year later.
The stories contained within are much deeper than a simplified tourist’s guide to Portugal. It’s a complex Portuguese history of being on the receiving end of invasion and visitation – as soon as man could get himself around in a boat, by the Phoenician (they introduced grape vines and olives in Alentejo), the Celtics, the Germanics, the Romans, the Moors, and the Jews. These ethnic cultures, during their invasion and habitations, gave Portugal the gifts of their foods, their ways of living in not only mannerisms, but also their religious beliefs, their arts and their sciences.
This created a complex people who then went out into the world, themselves, to also establish world dominance, spreading their own culture to places around the globe. One only has to look at Brazil to see their affect. I, for instance, grew up on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, Maine. The city to my east was Lisbon, and the next city was Lisbon Falls. It had Portuguese residents, as you can only imagine, and is about 25 miles from the Atlantic.
The Portuguese today are simply delightful, immensely compassionate, extremely courteous, and have a multifaceted diversity that has to be experienced firsthand to even begin to comprehend all that Portugal continues to offer the world. It’s a lot, I dare say, and it’s splendid.
It was an overwhelming trip, as it’s taken me a week to finally begin to put the pieces of my mosaic together for concentrated writings. I loved my journey, which began each day at 9:00 a.m. (give or take) to 11:00 p.m. (again, give or take), and that went on for 10 days. Besides Delfim, my other Enoforum hosts were Isabel Ramos , Luís Ribeiro, and José Fonseca. This team of four people were ever gracious and so attentive. They have given me so much to write about.
It was a whirlwind tour that I know I wouldn’t have wanted any other way.
What I’ll be writing about first are the wine companies in the Alentejo Region of Portugal that we visited. Check out the map below to see our daily route from Évora. The village of Évora was our based, and we traveled from there each day to the towns circled. (Thanks to Google for the Google map.)
Borrowing from the Douro Boys, these are my Alentejo Boys (Alentejo winemakers) in the order of our visits:
- Rui Veladas ~ Carmim ~ Reguengos de Monsaraz (Left)
- Óscar Gato ~ Adega Coop de Borba ~ Borba (Middle left person)
- José Fonseca ~ (Middle right person ~ Enoforum Wines ~ Évora)
- Pedro Hipólito ~ Adega Coop de Redondo ~ Redondo (Right)
Writing about not only the wines, but also how we spent the day in their Alentejo regions is going to be my first order of business…
Interestingly, I was just queried by a Bordeaux company for a visit. I said it would be a while, because I have just returned from Portugal. The person who was asking me to come to France mentioned, “You must have been tasting Ports.”
Today, this is the favorite wine that comes from Portugal and has the most history, since it was what Portugal delivered to England as a beverage for their enjoyment. In order to get wine from Portugal to England (on what could be a slow ship, taken off course for weeks by storms), the wine had to be fortified.
With this much history, it makes sense that so many people love ports, and the mere mention of being in Portugal today, brings back one’s favorite wines. (For my new friend in Bordeaux, and in a later blog, I’ll have to share the 1983 Porto that I enjoyed with one of the Douro Boys, at the Digital Wine Conference. I was part of their Sherry and Porto tasting.)
I wasn’t in the Douro region, though. I was in the south of Portugal, visiting the Alentejo, an emerging region with wonderful red and white wines. These will be the stories that I’ll be sharing, and these are the wines now coming into the international market. And, what the world will come to understand is that the Alentejo region has been growing grapes and making wine for their own consumption, never thinking “marketing” for years and years. It’s only recently that the Alentejo has opened up for worldwide distribution, and when you taste these wines and hear of their pricing, you’re going to be seeking out Alentejo wines… I honestly believe.
We traveled from the city of Lisbon, to wineries in the Alentejo. We visited vineyards, olive groves, a cork plant and drove through cork forests. We saw indigenous animals that live in communion with the landscape and flora. It was an amazing symbiosis of the way a natural life still exists in an ancient land of this magnitude. It was more than I could have ever imagined, and more than I can ever explain, but I’ll try to give it some justice, as my heart was opened further in Portugal.