Anne de Stoop not only captures the heart and soul of these wine regions:

  • Minho
  • Douro
  • Oporto
  • Alentejo

… But, she also writes about:

  • where to stay
  • where to eat
  • markets to visit
  • museums to explore
  • gardens to experience
  • where shopping is the most fun

If ever there was a female author whose command of the English language and skill of sentence construction was such that I wish I had inherited her gift, Anne de Stoop is that person. This book was given to me by my Portuguese client Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines (Finisterra, Alente, and Além). Delfim is a complete visionary, who doesn’t want me to just focus on his brands, he also wants me to become an avid fan of Portugal, its people, its culture, and its wines… all of them, so that I tell a much better story for his country. This, he knows, will build world awareness, and has given me this amazing, monumental, and completely delightful task. So… the book… it did the trick, again. I fell in love with Anne de Stoops words, the images by Jerome Darblay, and the regions of Portugal are so well defined.

Here’s a snippet, demonstrating how her words just take my breath away… Perhaps yours, too.

“Is Portugal really such a small country? When looking at the immensity of the Alentejo such as assumption seems impossible. Além Tejo “beyond the Tagus” is a region of huge plains with rolling hills that stretch out to infinity–an unblunding land that is easy to love.

“It is winter, the cold is settling in, the wind blows, and hte earth is brown. The melancholy of the landscape is somewhat assuaged by the gray of immense skies–a paradox expressed in another way by thousands of olive trees with gnarled trunks but light, silvery foliage. However the abandoned impression given by this countryside is illusory. The Alentejanos are harvesting the fruit of the trees that give precious olive oil. Smoke from burners making charcoal rises in the distance. Sometimes the chirping of birds and the grunting of wild boars can be heard. And in the sheltered orchards, fragrant orange and lemon trees bow under thee weight of their fruit.”

In Lisbon, Anne describes a neighborhood that I simply must visit on my next trip there. It’s the Alfama, which is one of the older quarters of Lisbon. It’s a region that has similarities of San Francisco, where houses are built on existing terrain, with its slopes and curves of the land. Park your car somewhere, because these narrow walkways are intimate neighborhoods… laundry still streaming from one house to across the street, connected to a neighbor’s. Fishmongers exist, selling from their door frames, as white linens flap in the gentle breezes of this riverside community. The streets and walkways are made from cobblestones, which cover all of Lisbon,that are made from black basalt and white limestone. The patterns are not only geometric, but some are also figurative. It’s a cultural phenomenon that dates back to the rebuilding of Lisbon, after the great quake of 1755.

Anne also touches on the azulejos (tiles of Portugal), which I’ve also written about: Alentejo’s Azulejos and beyond ~ the art of Portuguese tiles.

Beyond all the “where to stay and what to dos,” lay the stories of viticultural areas that I now crave, and Anne didn’t disappoint in her book. The images by freelance photographer Jérôme Darblay are amazing and spectacular, and her descriptions represent the heart of that region’s unique offerings. Check out QUINTAS AND GRAPEVINES on page 29 to learn the process for how vinho do Porto got its name. I don’t even want to quote it here, for fear of it being used elsewhere, as it’s so beautifully written and described. The best explanation that exists, as near as I can tell. Again, it’s her gift with words that makes this woman such a remarkable writer, and one that I immensely enjoy reading.

If you’re traveling to Portugal, and have never been there, this is a wonderful primer and trip planning source.

If you have traveled to Portugal, this book brings  you right back to the cafes in Lisboa and the countryside that you so love. I don’t care who I talk to about Portugal, if that person has been there, it’s always the same reaction: “Oh, I just love Portugal!”

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