A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 351: A week in Portugal

Saturday, July 10: An Air Canada flight to Frankfurt where I will connect to Oporto tomorrow. The flight is late leaving.

Sunday, July 11: Lots of air traffic over Frankfurt so we arrive an hour and ten minutes late, which means Sheila Swerling Puritt and I have to race across the airport for our connecting flight. Sheila has organised this trip to visit the G7 association of wineries in Portugal and Sandro Bottega’s distillery and wineries in Veneto and Tuscany. We just make it.

I’m seated in front of a three-year-old boy who thinks my seat is a football. Our wine writer group is on this flight – Sheila, Sean Wood from Halifax, Gurvinder Bhatia from Edmonton, Raymond Chalifoux from Quebec and I. We will meet Irvin Wolkoff at the hotel.

The town of Amarante

A bus picks us up at the airport and drives us to Casa da Calçanda in Amarante, a drive of about 40 minutes from Oporto. We lunch on the terrace overlooking the River Tamega and the town. On the wine list is Dirk Van der Niepoort’s Redoma Rosé but they don’t have any. The maître d’ brings us three wines all made for the hotel: Lago Cerqueira Espumante de Vinho Verde Rosé, Quinta da Calçada Espumante de Vinho Verde and Quinta da Calçada Vinho Verde Branco. I order a smoked salmon and arugula wrap.

After lunch we walk around the town of Amarante, crossing the bridge to visit the church of S. Gonçalo with its magnificent organ and on to the ruins of the Magalhães manor. Then along the river bank to an open area where the locals come to order wine and snacks from merchants whose products are displayed under tents. They sit at open-air tables, smoking. Just beyond is a series of other tents with artisans selling their works.

Dinner in the hotel hosted by Pedro Costa and Chantal Guilhonato of Aveleda. A glass of Quinta da Calçada Espumante de Vinho Verde in the wine cellar before sitting at table. Amuse-gueule of foie gras, fig, wild strawberries and strawberry jam.

First course: Cannelon Lobster and crab with passion fruit and flowers, served with Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé (NV).

Second course: Smoked salmon, poached oysters, Alvarhino and tarragon sauce, Moluga Imperial caviar and quail egg yolk, with Aveleda Follies Alvarhino Vinho Regional Minho 2010.

Main course: Pig “Bisaro” confit and browned with Charamba red wine sauce, caramelized apple with orange and cider vinegar, Oxtail truffle, mashed carrot and coconut, with Charamba Douro Tinto 2008.

Dessert: Verde Rosé wine foam with salted cherries, red fruits ice cream, raspberry macaroon and chocolate.

On the terrace for a glass of Adega Velha Aguardente de Vinho Verde with coffee and Mignardises while the music festival outside the church brings us a local singer’s rendition of the song from Titanic. She sounds like Celine Dion.

The goat tower at Aveleda

Monday, July 11: A visit to Aveleda. We walk around the magnificent gardens of this 200-hectare estate (founded in 1671), of which 100 hectares are planted to grapes. Peacocks wander the grounds and there are eleven follies dotted around the wooded grounds, including a goat tower complete with goats. I had seen something like this at Backsberg in South Africa. Apparently Charles Back had visited the property and asked if he could copy the idea. That’s how Goats Do Roam came about. The follies are celebrated on Aveleda’s labels.

After a tour of the winery we settle into the tasting in a tasting lab. Pedro leads us through the following wines:

  • Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde (Trajaduro, Loureiro, Arinto, Azal): very pale with a green tint. Very fresh, lemony, minerally with a slight spritz; light and easy drinking. (87) (8 million bottles are made of this wine!)
  • Aveleda Quinta da Aveleda 2010 (60% Loueiro, 30% Trajadura, 10% Alvarinho): very pale with a lime tint; minerally, wet salt, citrus peel with a hint of white flowers; light, fresh, lemony, wet stones; clean and bright. (87)
  • Aveleda Follies 2010 (Alvarinho): very pale with a lime tint; minerally, citrus, white peach; peachy-citrus flavour, well extracted fruit; light-bodied, fresh, lively acidity. (88)
  • Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Tinto (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz): ruby with a violet rim; spicy, minerally, plum with an earthy note; dry, earthy, volatile, cherry, bitter chocolate and almond flavour. (85)
  • Aveleda Charamba 2008 (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz): purple-ruby colour; peppery, black cherry nose; spicy, dry, firmly structured with a savoury finish. Tannic lift on the finish. (86)
  • Aveleda Follies 2007 (Touriga Nacional from Bairrada): dense purple colour; malty, blackberry, violets and pencil lead; dry, medium-bodied, blackcurrant flavour, firm structure with a strong acidic spine; well integrated oak; ripe tannins. (88)
  • Aveleda Grande Follies 2004 (Touriga Nacional with 5% Tinta Cão): dense purple, very youthful looking, stains the glass; violets, blackberry, earthy note with vanilla oak; very elegant and concentrated, sweet black cherry; firmly structured with tannins that are a touch green. (90)

In to lunch: Melon and ham served in a hollowed-out melon shell with Aveleda Fonte 2010; duck and rice with ham and bacon and a salad of tomato, beetroot, lettuce, carrot and corn, served with Aveleda Follies Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. Dessert: Raspberry ice cream with Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé (NV).

On to the bus to drive to our hotel in Bairrada the Curia Palace in Anadia, about two hours’ drive. At 6:30 pm we are picked up by Messias Vigário and his winemaker João Soares and driven to their winery in Mealhada for dinner. A glass of Messias Quinta do Valdoeiro 2006 (a Chardonnay sparkling wine) with ham, goat’s cheese, olives and deep fried cheese patties before sitting down to dinner. First course: potato salad with crab and shrimps, served with Messias Quinta do Valdoeiro White 2010 (Arinto, Bical and Chardonnay). Roast goat with potatoes, greens and carrots, with Messias Quinta do Cachão Douro Reserva Red 2009 followed by egg custard tart, sliced pineapple and mango, with Porto Messias Colheita 1991.

At dinner Gurvinder told us about the warehouse situation in Alberta. Apparently all wines entering Alberta have to be stored in a warehouse in St. Albert by a company who has the monopoly. Connect Logistics Services is owned by Exel, who are based in Cleveland. Excel is a sister company of DHL, which is owned by the German Post Office!

Tuesday, July 12: After breakfast we drive to Messias for a tour of the winery and tasting; but first a visit to their Quinta do Valdoeiro estate, one of the most southerly vineyards in Bairrada and the largest walled vineyard in the region.

  • Quinta do Penedo Dão Red 2008: (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro) dense purple colour; meaty, black fruits; chunky mouth feel, loads of fruit with a rustic quality and lively acidic finish. Full-bodied with evident tannins. (87)
  • Messias Red Sparkling Bruto: (Castelão and Baga) dense purple; floral and fruity with gripping tannins. Very dry with an earthy note. Rustic and short. (86)
  • Douro Messias Red Grande Escolha 2007 (Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca): dense purple colour; earthy, barnyard, tobacco leaf, blackberry nose; dry, dark chocolate, driving acidity, ripe powdery tannins. Very youthful. (88)
  • Messias Dados Reserva 2008 (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca – a joint Spanish/Portuguese venture) dense purple colour; cedar, blackberry nose; dry, fruity, spicy red berry fruit; elegant and well balanced; firm structure with a floral and tobacco note. (89+)
  • Messias Quinta do Cachão Grande Eschola 2007 (Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz): dense purple; floral, blackcurrant, very expressive nose; concentrated, rich and spicy black cherry; elegant, beautifully balanced; firm structure, blunt tannic finish. (88+)
  • Messias Quinta do Valdoeiro Syrah 2009: (Bairrada) dense purple-black; earthy, struck flint, smoky blackberry; floral note, firmly structured, full-bodied, minerally, red berry flavour with a lively spine of acidity. (88)
  • Messias Quinta do Valdoeiro Reserva Red 2005 (Baga, Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby-purple colour; cigar box, blackcurrant with a floral note; sweet and fruity, elegant, well integrated oak; surprisingly light on the palate but firmly structured. (90)
  • Messias Triunvirato n°2 (N/V but all 2007 fruit) (Touriga Nacional [Douro, Bairrada and Dão] and Syrah): Dense purple colour; cedar, currants and red fruits on the nose, creamy and floral; elegant, strong acidic spine, floral note sings through; firmly structured, great length. Lovely mouth feel. (91)
  • Porto Messias 10 Anos (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão): tawny ruby; fig, alcohol, dried apple; dry, date, alcoholic hot finish. (87)

Drive to Aliança in Sangalhos. The winery has an amazing art collection.

  • Aliança Galeria Bairrada White 2010 (Bical – known in the Dão as fly shit): pale straw; minerally, mute; dry, lemon peel, light on the palate, easy drinking. (86)
  • Aliança Quinta da Garrida Reserva Dão White 2010 (Encruzado): pale straw; citrus, vanilla oak, citrus peel; crisp, light-bodied, well balanced, creamy mid-palate with a mineral flavour. Fresh acidic finish. (87)
  • Aliança Vinho Verde White 2010: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, white pepper; spritzy, herbal, lemon; lively acidity, light on the palate; clean and fresh. (87)
  • Aliança Vista Tinto Roriz Rosé 2010: deep bluish pink; minerally, strawberry nose; dry, wild strawberry, fresh acidity; light on the palate; a little bitter on the finish. (86)
  • Aliança Vista Tinto Roriz Beiras Red 2008: deep purple-ruby; minerally, tobacco leaf, light floral note, cherry; dry, sour cherry flavour with a floral note, fresh acidity; light-bodied and finishes firmly. (87) $10.95 at the LCBO.
  • Aliança Reserva Bairrada Red 2008 (Baga, Tinta Roriz): dense purple; plum, wet salt nose; dry, sour plum; tannins kick in early. Short finish. (85)
  • Aliança Reserva Dão Red 2008 (Jaen, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional): deep ruby; earthy, spicy plum with an oak note; dry, dried rose petal, cherry and cherry pit flavours; firm structure. (86)
  • Aliança Quinta da Garrida Reserva Dão 2008 (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Jaen): dense purple-ruby; floral, vanilla oak, cherry; remarkably elegant, fruity and floral with a lively acidic spine. (88)
  • Aliança Foral Reserva Douro Red 2008 (Toriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Franca): dense purple; vanilla oak, minerally, black fruits; round, full on the palate, dry, black cherry. (87)
  • Aliança Vista Touriga Nacional Beiras Red 2008 (dense purple): minerally, oak, subdued fruit; sweet blackberry fruit, firmly structured, supple tannins. (87)
  • Aliança Quinta das Baceladas Bairrada Red 2006 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Baga): deep ruby; tobacco leaf, green note; medicinal, dry, lean and sinewy; firm tannic finish. (86)
  • Aliança Quinta da Terrugem Alentejo Red 2007 (Tinta Roriz, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouchet): dense ruby; rose petal, cedar, vanilla oak; dense, dry, floral flavour. Firm structure, elegant; good length. (89)

Before lunch we are offered a glass of Aliança Particular Extra Brut (Chardonnay and Baga). At table, rice and pig offal with Aliança Galeria 2010, followed by Aliança Quinta da Garrida Reserva Dão 2005 with suckling pig, slices of orange and lettuce. Then Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Reserva 2006 (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Toriz, Touriga Franca – rich New World style). Dessert: a cake made of eggs, almonds and coconut. We end with Aliança XC 40 Year old Brandy. After lunch we are given a tour of the underground art collection – a fabulous display of African art, ceramics, tiles and fossils set in traditional wine cellars.

Drive to Aveiro. They call it the Venice of Portugal because of its canals complete with large gondolas. Many of the houses along the canals are in Art Nouveau style. We check into Hotel Moliceiro before being driven to a restaurant called Dori on the Costa Nova, from where Portuguese fishing fleets used
to leave to fish for cod off Newfoundland. Many of the houses here are painted with broad stripes. The food keeps coming – clams, gooseneck barnacles, deep-fried sole, sea bass, squid, calamari, cuttle fish, then a huge sea bass with rice. Lashings of wine – Aliança Galeria 2010, Aliança Quinta da Garrida Reserva Dão White 2010 and Aliança Particular Extra Brut.

The canal at Aveiro

Striped houses in Costa Nova

Wednesday, July 13: Drive from Aveiro south to Bombarral, about two hours to Quinta Dos Loridos, 45 minutes north of Lisbon. Here José Berardo has created the Buddha Eden Garden “in response to the destruction in 2001 of the great Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan by the Taliban… Over 6000 tons of marble and granite buddhas, lanterns, terracotta soldiers and various oriental sculptures of all descriptions have been carefully placed among the natural vegetation.” Apart from the massive reclining Buddha, the most impressive sight is the double line of painted terracotta soldiers standing on a hill overlooking an ornamental lake.

Painted terra cottta warriors at the Buddha Garden

Irvin Wolkoff and Buddha

In the Quinta dos Loridos (a 16th-century house) we sample three sparkling wines – Loridos Extra Brut 2007 (75% Castelão, 25% Arinto) – crisp, light, pear flavour (87); Loridos Rosé (Castelão and Merlot) – fresh raspberry flavour, deep colour (88); and Loridos Chardonnay 2007 – touch of oak on the nose, crisp, green apple flavour; good length (89).

Then in to lunch in the dining room. Cream of turnip soup with Quinta dos Loridos 2010 (100% Alvarinho – straw colour; grassy-floral nose; fine fruit expression of pineapple and lemon. Good length (89)). Main course of roast duck and fried potatoes, served with Quinta dos Loridos 2009 (Castelão and Merlot – leather and mint on the nose with a geranium note; red berry flavour (84)). Dessert ice cream and honey cake with Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal 1999 (copper-bronze colour; nutty, spicy, tobacco nose with raisin and dried apricot bouquet; honeyed orange, sweet flavour (90)). And Bacalhoa Muscatel Roxo 2000 (made from the rare purple Muscat grape – spicy nose, honey, orange blossom with a nutty note; not as sweet as Moscatel de Setubal and more balanced (91)).

A log bus ride from Bombarral to Azeitão to visit the Bacalhoa winery and shake hands with Joe Berardo, the President of the Bacalhoa group of wineries, whom I had met at his house in Madeira several years ago. (He is the co-owner of Colio Wines in Ontario.) After touring the facility, which used to be a huge book depository, our group were driven to the Palacio da Bacalhoa, where we stay tonight.

The Palacio de Bacalhoa

This is an amazing old building dating back to the late 13th century that has been substantially restored. The property stands on 12 hectares of grounds in the middle of Azeitão, complete with a formal miniature maze, a large pond and about 10 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon vines all within its walls.

We settle on a terrace overlooking the vineyard for a comprehensive tasting of the company’s wines, conducted by the winemaker Vasco Penha Garcia and his colleague Filipa Tomaz Da Costa.

  • J.P. Azeitão White 2010 (Moscatel de Setubal and Fernão Pires): straw colour; lychee, peach nose; spicy, lycee, orange and peach, rich in the mouth. Clean, good length. (87)
  • Serras de Azeitão 2010 (Fernão Pires, Verdelho and Arinto): straw colour; muted nose; minerally, light floral note; soft mouth feel, peachy. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Quinta do Carmo 2010 (Roupeiro, Arinto and Antao Vaz from Alentejo): light straw colour; grassy, minerally, citrus; full on the palate, dry, peach pit flavour. (86)
  • Catarina 2010 (Chardonnay,, Fernao Pires and Arinto from Setubal): straw colour; apple, hint of oak; fresh, apple and pear flavours; medium-bodied, clean and fresh. (88)
  • Cova da Ursa 2010 (Chardonnay 100% from Setubal): straw colour; toasty, vanilla, spicy, apple nose; rich, spicytangerine and peach flavours; full in the mouth with good length. Oak is there certainly but nicely integrated. (89)
  • Quinta da Bacalhoa 2010 (Semillon, Alvarhino, Sauvignon Blanc from Setubal): yellow straw colour; light floral, grassy, green bean; fresh and lively. (87)
  • J. P Azeitão Rosé 2010 (Touriga Nacional, Moscatel Roxo, Syrah): deep pink colour; raspberry candy; raspberry and orange; full on the palate, dry but fruity and fresh. (87)
  • J. P. Azeitão Rosé 2010 (Castelão, Argonez, 10% Syrah): deep ruby; plum, earthy; medium-bodied, dry, cherry with lively acidity; a little short on finish. (86)
  • Serras de Azeitão 2010 (Aragonez, Syrah, Merlot, Tourigal Nacional from Setubal): dense purple; cedar, blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, firm, currant flavour with ripe tannins. (88)
  • Monte das Anforas 2010 (Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro from Alentejo): ruby; redcurrant and black cherry nose; fruity but firm. Easy drinking. Good value. (86+)
  • Dom Martinho 2008 (Aragonez, Alicante Bouchet, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah from Alentego): deep ruby; sweet black raspberry fruit; well extracted fruit; soft tannins with a good spine of acidity to carry the flavour. Not very complex but very enjoyable. (88)
  • Tinto da Anfora 2008 (Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon from Alentejo): very deep ruby; plum and cherry pit bouquet; well structured, cherry flavour with balancing acidity. Good length. (88)
  • Mea Pipa 2008 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Castelão from Setubal): deep ruby colour; cedar, currants, strawberry nose; light-bodied, dry and firm with redcurrant with a spicy, minty note. Carries its 14% alcohol well. (87)
  • J. P. Private Selection 2007 (Castelão from Palmela): deep ruby; raspberry with an earthy note; firm, well structured, muscular, resiny note, dry finish with a tannic lift. (88)
  • Tinta da Anfora 2008 (Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon from Alentejo): deep ruby; cedar, red berry with vanilla oak bouquet; soft mouth feel, dark chocolate, black fruits, firm finish. (88) (LCBO)
  • Quinta do Carmo 2007 (Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah from Alentejo): deep ruby: sweet red berry fruit, vanilla oak with a floral note on the nose; elegant, firm structure, great balance here, silky mouth feel. (89)
  • Só Syrah 2008 (Setubal): deep ruby; blackberry, minty-medicinal nose; ripe fruit, dry, black cherry, smoky flavours with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Só Touriga Nacional 2007 (Setubal): dense ruby-purple; inky, rose petal, pencil lead, black fruit nose; firmly structured, black cherry, chunky mouth feel. Ripe tannins. Needs time. (90)
  • Ma Partilha 2008 (Merlot from Setubal): deep ruby; clove, oak sitting on top; firm, juicy red berry fruit but not together yet. (87)
  • Quinta Da Bacalhoa 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Setubal): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak; juicy blackcurrant fruit, lively acidity, firm structure. Well balanced and youthful. (90)
  • Palácio Da Bacalhoa 2007 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot from Setubal): cedar, currants, very Bordelais on the nose; elegant, St. Julian style, well structured, firm and sculptured. Tannic finish but will develop in the bottle. (90+)
  • Tinto Da Anfora Grande Escolha 2008 (Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon from Alentejo): dense ruby colour; concentrated red berry fruit, spicy-floral nose; spicy, orange peel and red berry fruit; firm structure, raspberry jam. (91)
  • Quinta Do Carmo Reserve 2007 (Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah fro Alentejo): dense ruby-purple; tobacco leaf, cedar, red berry fruit nose; spicy plum and redcurrant; firmly structured. Toasty finish. Good length. (90)
  • Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal 2005: tawny copper colour; orange, honey, ginger; spicy, sweet raisins on the nose; medium-bodied and lively acidity with a toasty finish. Ginger marmalade flavour. Good length. 17% alcohol. (91)

Dinner in the Palacio crypt. Shrimp and lobster ravioli in cream sauce with Quinta da Bacalhoa 2010, followed by sliced filet mignon with creamed spinach and bird’s nest potatoes with Quinta da Bacalhoa 2009. Dessert: chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream with Quinta da Bacalhoa de Setubal Moscatel 1999.

I share a bedroom with Irvin Wolkoff which is reputedly haunted. Above our beds are portraits of two women but apparently the ghost is male.

Thursday, July 14: A restless night listening for the ghost. The only evidence of his presence is the creaking of the bathroom door, an effect worthy of a horror movie.

J.M. da Fonseca Trilogia Moscatel blend (1900 + 1934 + 1965)

We breakfast on the terrace and then drive to José Maria de Fonseca, which is nearby. At 10 am we are given a tour of the cellars with the aging casks of Moscatel slumbering to the sound of Gregorian chant, and we see the family reserves that date back to 1880. The only years not available are 1901, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940.

Jose de Maria Fonseca's old winery

Domingos Soares Franco

Following the tour we are offered a glass of Periquita 2010 (dry, minerally, herbal and bitter almond nose; reminds me of Vedrnaccia di San Gimignano (86)) and Domingos Soares Franco Coleccao Privada Moscatel Roxo 2001 (copper-orange; spirity, candied orange peel; unctuous, honey and dried apricot flavours; spcy with a good spine of acidity (89)).

Then we meet Domingos Soares Franco, who takes us into the table wine cellar at the new facility on the edge of town for a barrel tasting of 2010 reds: Trincadiera, Touriga National in both American and French oak and Touriga Franca, the same. Then back to the old winery for an outdoor tasting:

  • Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde 2010 (Loureiro, Trajadura, Paderna and Alvarinho): very pale colour; minerally, lemon peel; slight spritz, light and crisp crab apple and lemon flavour. (85)
  • Fonseca Alabis 2010 (Moscatel and Arinto from Setubal): pale straw; aromatic, lychee and orange blossom nose; dry, fruity, orange and citrus flavours. Sustains well on the palate. (86)
  • Fonseca Periquita 2009 (Castelão, Trincadeira, Aragonez from Setubal): dense ruby; blackberry, plum with a high toned cherry pit note; well extracted fruit, full on the palate, rustic but flavourful. (86)
  • Quinta de Camarate 2008 (Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Castelão from Setubal): deep ruby; spicy, cedar, pepper, blackcurrant; spicy, firm, well extracted fruit with a note of cloves. Good length. (87)
  • Fonseca Domingos 2009 (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca from Douro): deep ruby; creamy, vanilla and blackberry with a spicy note on the nose; New World style, creamy fruity with vanilla oak. (86)
  • Fonseca José De Sousa 2009 (Grand Noir, Trincadeira, Aragonez from Alentejo): deep ruby; rose petal, smoky note, black fruits on the nose; round and velvety on the palate, creamy and soft with a tannic lift on the finish. (87)
  • Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2008 (Castelão, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca from Setubal): deep ruby; cedar, blueberry, vanilla note; creamy, soft, fruity but finishes with good structure. Nice balance of acidity. (88)
  • Fonseca José De Sousa Mayor 2007 (Grand Noir, Aragonez, Trincadeira from Alentejo): dense ruby; deep ruby; plum, tobacco leaf, touch of oak on the nose; lean and sinewy, dry, elegant, firm structure, red berry flavours. (87)
  • Setubal José Maria da Fonseca 2006 (Moscatel de Setubal): copper-orange colour; spicy, grapey, spirity, orange blossom; toasty, nutty flavour, mouth-filling; well-balanced medium sweet with a warm finish. (88)
  • Domingos Soares Franco Private Collection Setubal Moscatel 1998 (Moscatel de Setubal): bronze-orange colour; spicy, orange, wood note; elegant, medium sweet, beautifully balanced, honey and orange peel flavour. (90)

At the end of the tasting Domingos served us a white wine blind: it turned out to be Lancers Free, a non-alcoholic wine which was light, lemony and very refreshing.

We lunched outdoors too. Staring with the sheep’s milk cheese that Domingos makes. Delicious. Melon and ham with José Maria da Fonseca Moscatel Roxo Rosé 2010 (pale orange-pink; light, floral and aromatic, dry and firm with a grapey flavour (89)) followed by garoupa salad with shrimps and chopped egg with Domini Plus 2008 (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Franca, Tinta Roriz – dense purple colour; plum and blackberry nose; full-bodied, soft mouth feel, chocolate and cocoa flavours (89)). Periquita Superyor 2008 (Castelão) (this is Domingos’s own spelling of Superior: dense purple; lovely nose, beautifully integrated oak with blackberry and blueberry fruit and a light floral note; firm structure, but fades to an acidic finish (89)). Hexigon 2007 (originally eight grapes, now six: Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Touriga Franca, Trincadeira, Tinta Cão and Tannat) (dense purple colour; spicy, cedar, vanilla oak and tobacco nose with notes of dark chocolate and blueberry with a floral top note; juicy blackcurrant fruit flavour but well-structured and even throughout the long palate (91)).

With dessert José Maria da Fonseca Moscatel Roxo 20 Year Old (high-toned nose of orange peel and coffee beans; unctuous, toffee and burnt orange peel flavour; semi-dry with great length. A majestic dessert wine (92)). After this we had an ice cream that was made with 1911 Moscatel.

Lunch seemed to run into dinner because we drove into Lisbon and checked into the Britania Hotel. Dinner was at a former convent, now a restaurant called A Travessa. We started with a wine called Domingos Soares Franca 208 Castas Branca, a satirical product made from what Domingos said was 208 different varieties. This we drank with a series of tapas – raw cod slivers, tapenade, fried goat’s cheese and pumpkin
jam, slivered pork, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, oysters and clams. My main course was venison with black truffles, served with José Maria da Fonseca Castelão CO 99 Garrafeira (intense raspberry jam on the nose but rich and dry on the palate, looking very youthful for its years (89)). And so bed with a wake-up call for 6 am.

Friday, July 15: This morning we fly to Rome and connect to a flight to Venice. At Rome airport a woman in front of me has a cat in a carrying box. She’s arguing with the security guy because she doesn’t want the box with the cat in it to bed put through the X-ray machine. The cat is obviously terrified though not actually complaining. We all wait to see who’s going to win this battle. The solution would be for the woman to take the cat out of the box and hold it while the box goes through the scanner. But after several minutes the box with the cat inside goes through the machine.

We arrive in Venice after a full day of travel and meet up with Sid Cross and Rhonda May from Vancouver, who have flown in via Amsterdam. (Ray and Irv fly back to Canada today.) Eventually we find our driver, who takes us to our hotel, Villa Giustinian in Portobuffolè, about an hour’s drive from Venice airport.

We have an hour to install ourselves, shower and change for dinner at Distilleria
Bottega, where we are welcomed by the irrepressible Sandro Bottega. A reception featuring Bottega Gold Prosecco, followed by dinner for 40 people – our group of journalists plus buyers from all over Europe and England. Sandro introduces the evening by saying, “Prosecco is our god. The first word I said when I was a child was not Mama, not Papa, but Prosecco.” The meal consisted of lots of plates of calamari salad, cauliflower, zucchini, pork balls, rice, followed by tomato soup, peach risotto made with prosecco accompanied by an endless flow of prosecco, then an Italian BBQ of pork and beef ribs with Bottega Brunello di Montalcino 2006. With a sheep’s cheese called Bastardo di Monte Grappa Bottega Amarone 2008. Back at the hotel by 12:30 am.

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