We made the Portuguese press!

The Portuguese dream that attracts the Americans. Visão magazine.

Visão is considered to be the Portuguese Time magazine. They say that it is the most read news magazine in the country. I was lucky enough to be chosen as part of an article on ex-pat Americans living in Portugal. This month’s cover story is titled, The Portuguese dream that attracts the Americans. The sub heading is The stories of those who have left the American dream behind to move to Portugal because of the quality of life, property investments, the wines and to escape Trump. Resident permits for US citizens have almost doubled, and golden visas have multiplied six times.

I have translated the article and share it with you here.

Joe and Lisa Graziano in front of Clérigos Tower in Porto.

Lisa Graziano, wine specialist, and teacher. From Denver.
Before moving to Porto, Lisa Graziano thought about moving to Valencia, Spain. However, when she visited Portugal, she discovered that the country had a more stable government, friendlier people, and a lower cost of living. Besides this, the North American had for years had a passion for Portuguese wines. In the Invicta (Porto), she learned a new way of being. “We were used to doing everything right now, but now we have learned to be calm.” (To live more calmly.)

The attraction of the Douro.
“The USA is a bagunça,” (mess) says Lisa Graziano, mixing English and Portuguese in the eagerness of justifying the move to Portugal. “The election of Trump was terrible. If people thought it was a good idea this man should be president, I had to go”. The only thing left was to decide where to go. Years earlier, she had come across Portugal at a wine tasting in Denver, the capital of Colorado, where she lived for more than two decades. She worked in a wine shop and was used to trying the best vintages. But she was impressed by the quality of the national wines (Portuguese), especially the whites.


“One of the reasons for leaving Denver was the extreme heat that was becoming more and more common. “This is why we decided to live in Porto because it is cooler,” she says happily. The family, and their dog, moved to the Invicta (The unconquered, Porto is known as the unconquered city, a cidade invicta.) two years ago. But it was during the pandemic that they purchased a T3 (three-bedroom) apartment in Cedofeita. (A neighborhood in central Porto.) Lisa gives lessons in English to Italians online, and her husband is a graphic designer for a company in the US.

The North American feels very much that “the United States is not a country for older people.” To start with, “the health system is a joke,” she says. “We are close to retirement age, and we have access to the national health system that costs a small fraction of the cost in the US and has much better quality. That is important to us,” she admits. Besides social protection, safety has been surrendered in the country. “The US is no longer a safe place. There is always a shooting du jour, and we did not feel safe,” she laments. “Those who live in the US think that everything is better there, but that is a lie. It is a good illusion when you cannot leave, but here (in Portugal), everything is much better,” she believes.


Lisa would like to become a type of ambassador for Portuguese wines, and for this reason, she is writing a book. She has the objective of visiting all of the wine regions in the country. The Douro was the first region that she got to know, “one of the most beautiful in the world.”
Also, the adventures told in the blog The Road to Portugal, about the move to and life here in Portugal will be published.
What’s more, that digital showcase has already given origin to various contacts from north Americans asking for more information about the country.

Although now, “there is an adult as president,” the couple does not plan to return to the USA.” For this reason, the response to the question about how long do you think you will live in Portugal is unequivocal, “Forever.”

This just in…

Macieira Royal Spirit Brandy.

We got one! Ok, another one. Macieira Royal Spirit brandy.
It is another reasonably priced and magically delicious spirit from Portugal. In the odd facts department, Macieira means apple tree or apple in Portuguese. There are no apples in this brandy Macieira was the founder’s name. It is made from Portuguese grapes, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Touriga Franca, Arinto, and Fernão Pires. Created in 1865, it comes from the Estremadura region. Lisbon is located there, in what I like to call the nose of Portugal. And what a nose. Chocolate orange comes to mind.

This lovely spirit goes for about eighteen dollars a bottle and goes down in a smooth and enticing manner.
The thing about Portuguese spirits is this, they tend to be soft and elegant and a little bit sweeter than many other spirits. This drink personifies the difference between Portugal and the US. Bigger, bolder, stronger, is the battle cry in the states. Here on the Iberian Peninsula, softer, smoother, refined, and elegant are the key elements. This is part of why I like living here so much. As much as I can appreciate a good 100 proof spirit, I take issue with the in your face, always gotta be off the charts, mentality. Being extreme all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. I think that current events will attest to that. But I digress.

Back to the Macieira. It has a deep amber color with aromas of orange and caramel. There are rich flavors of caramel and chocolate with hints of orange on the finish, which is silky smooth. In a word, yumilicious! It is my new favorite winter warmer. And it clocks in at only 36% abv. Yes please, may I have another. 😉

So many great wines, so little time.

I have been a wine lover, professional and otherwise, for as long as I can remember. I have been a serious student of wine and spirits for the past twelve plus years.

When I was working in the wine and spirits retail business in Denver, I attended a lot of trade tastings. Little did I know back in 2014 that one of them would be a big preview of my then-unknown future.

Wines of Portugal is a collective put together in 2010 to help promote Portuguese wines internationally. I went to the day-long event they put on in Denver and was blown away by the quality and diversity of the wines. And now I live in what I consider to be one of the wine meccas of the world, Portugal. What are the odds? Pretty good in this case, as it turns out. 

Any type of wine you can think of exists in Portugal. Red, white, rose, light-bodied to full-bodied, dry to sweet, and sparkling in every possible form. I have had reds that could pass for Bordeaux or Barolo. Espumantes that could be mistaken for Champagne, and reds and whites that are every bit as good as any Burgundy. It is amazing. The world of wine lives in Portugal. And at the same time, they are totally unique. There are over 250 indigenous grapes grown here that are only grown here. And blends are king. If you like California red blends, you have got to love almost any of the Portuguese reds.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Pacheca Grande Reserva Touriga Nacional 2015.

Pacheca is an epic Douro winery that makes equally epic wines. They are all good. From the whites to the roses, along with the reds and ports, I have never met one that I did not like. The Touriga Nacional Grande Reserve pictured is a powerhouse equal to any great California Cab but with the elegance of a left bank Bordeaux. (No Cabernet necessary.) 

The Pedra do Gato from Vinhas da Passarella is a Dão blend that is reminiscent of Barolo. Light in color, it delivers dynamic power in the flavors, with firm tannins and great acidity. It hails from the Serra da Estrela sub-region, which is famous for its cheese. Together, they are a match made in heaven.

Cabriz Brut Bubbly.

Cabriz is another producer from the Dão region whose wines are all delicious. The sparkling brut is about as refreshing as they come. It has fine bubbles, citrine color, and fruit flavors of green apple and citrus. In a word, delightful.

Even though I am not currently in the wine trade, I plan to keep on tasting and learning about this unusual world of Portuguese wine and writing about it. This could take a while. Luckily, I have plenty of time.

Tomar: Portuguese verb meaning to take or to have. (Also, Thomar in English.) And, a city in central Portugal.

Tomar is a magical city in central Portugal. It is about an hour north of Lisbon, in the very center of the country, and has one of the most amazing castles to be seen anywhere. We are thankful to our friends Ken and Rose who live there. Without them, we might not have had a reason to go there.

The Nabão River, Tomar.

The lovely river Nabão runs through the city. It creates the perfect backdrop for a great meal at any of the restaurants situated within view of it. Tomar is a knights templar city, having been a headquarters for them in the middle ages. It is known for its medieval knight’s templar fest, which takes place every July. (Not this year though 2020 being the year that wasn’t.)

Convento de Cristo, Tomar

There are many great sites to see in and around Tomar, but the main attraction is the Convent of Christ. This former convent castle almost has to be seen to be believed. It is the size of a small city. In the 1500s a massive aqueduct was built to furnish it with water. Both edifices are impressive. The castle is so amazing that we drained our phone’s batteries taking pictures during our visit.

Tomar is part of the Tejo wine region in Portugal. Formerly known as the Ribatejo region, it is known mostly for good value and bulk wines. The best Tejo wines are full-bodied and complex, and the Castelo Templário is a great example of this. Akin to a good California red blend, its silky finish was long, and it’s rich black fruit flavors were delicious. It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, the flagship grape of Portugal, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Castelão.

Tomar is an enchanting city with great sites, restaurants, and wine bars. We are thrilled to have friends that live there and are willing to show us around. There is so much to see and do, one could easily spend a week exploring the area. We will certainly return soon.

Aguardente Anyone? (Agua who?)

Aguardente is the Portuguese take on brandy. And, OMG, it is good. As a longtime brandy, Cognac, and Armagnac lover, I was thrilled to find a Portuguese take on the spirit. In the US, a decent brandy starts at about $30 a bottle. Excellent everyday Portuguese brandy can be found for about fourteen euros a bottle. Yes, Virginia, Portugal is a dream come true for lovers of quality drink! (Wait ’till we get to the gins and vodkas.)

Aguarente.01
São Domingos Aguardente Vinica Velhíssima.

How does Portuguese brandy compare to its European counterparts? Favorably. It tends to be softer and sweeter than traditional cognacs and German brandies. For a stronger spirit from Portugal, there is bagaceira. Bagaceira is clear, strong, and delicious. If you are into that type of jet fuel.  Reminiscent of Italian grappa, it is usually bootlegged. But, it can be found for sale at some wineries.

Aguardente.XO.1
Aguardente from Lourinhã.

Portugal has a demarcated region for it’s best aguardente. It is called Lourinhã and is located on the coast near Lisbon. Lourinhã aguardente is magically delicious and costs more than your average supermarket variety. Aromas of candied fruit, and brown sugar on the nose. On the palate, dried fig and nut flavors with a silky smooth finish and a hint of sweetness. If you like brandy and come across a good aguardente, it is a must-try.

Famous Wines

Portugal is famous for its Port wines and Vinho Verde. Port wine is an entire subject unto itself. Port is a fortified wine which means that it has a higher alcohol content than most wines. Usually, around 20% alcohol by volume. Generally speaking, Port is considered a dessert wine. However, vintage Ports can be had like unfortified wines and paired with meals.

Monte bravo vineyards
The Vineyards at Quinta do Montebravo.

An authentic Port wine must come from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. The Douro is one of the most stunning wine growing regions in the world. And, it is one of the only regions in the world where foot-stomping is still used to press the grapes. Port wine is versatile and delicious. You should try it if you have not already. It is not just for old rich guys anymore.

CruzPort
White Port at Porto Cruz in Vila Nova de Gaia.

A recent trend in the Douro is the making of quality table wines. Here is where Portuguese wines are the underdogs of world wines. They have quality and diversity that is remarkable. However, most of the world is unaware of this. I am here to tell you that Portuguese red and white table wines are fantabulous.

And that brings us to Vinho Verde, which literally means green wine. Green meaning young in this case. Vinho Verde is historically a light white wine that has a little spritz to it and can be a little on the sweet side. It has become more and more popular in the US as a crushable summer white. Here’s a little secret, Vinho Verde comes in a variety of styles, including dry and red! Most of the red Vinho Verde stays in Portugal and it is too bad because it is delicious.

So, your first step in getting to know the wines of Portugal is to get yourself some Port and a good Vinho Verde. Since it is nearly summer, may I suggest a dry white port to start, which you should use to make yourself a port and tonic. Garnish with a slice of orange. Enjoy!

Gaia.Port
White port and biscuits at Quinta de Noval porthouse in Vila Nova de Gaia. (Delicious!) White Port makes an excellent aperitif.

And Now This…

Portuguese wine and spirits.  Because, I love me some wine and spirits!

Wine is a deep subject. There is no end to it once you start to study it. American wines are probably the most straightforward, but that doesn’t mean they are easy by any means. Then there are French wines, Italian, German and Austrian, and Portuguese, to name a few. Each one is a study in itself and, the approachability descends with each country listed!

I have been a student of wine and spirits for over ten years, and the learning curve continues to challenge me. So, in an attempt to educate myself and hopefully shed some light on the subject, I am going to write here about Portuguese wines and the derivatives thereof.
It would be a waste not to strive for expertise in the subject when I have the supreme good fortune to be living in Portugal! So, here goes!  Bring on the Vinhos Portugueses!(See previous post, Got Wine?)

Check out this little number! Pacheca Rosé Reserva. Now that the weather has started to heat up, it’s rosé all-day season! It is an herbaceous and complex rose made up of 100% Touriga Nacional, the premier grape of Portugal. With brambly red and black fruit flavors, it is outstanding, refreshing, and goes with just about anything. Think of it as the little black dress of wine!  Saúde!

Got Wine?

Portuguese wine is a world unto itself.  The geography of the country makes it more isolated than most. It is easier for Portugal to keep to itself more than many countries since its only neighbors are Spain to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.   

As a result of its relative isolation, the wines of Portugal have traditionally stayed mostly at home.  Port wine is the one exception.  Britain and Portugal have had a close relationship for centuries, and Port wine is one of the reasons.  The British have been port lovers since the 1700s, and this unique fortified wine comes from the Douro wine region in northern Portugal. The Douro was the first demarcated wine region in the world. The Marquis de Pombal made it so in 1756.  He knew a good thing when he saw it, and real port wine can only come from Portugal.  And while Port wine is one of the country’s many claims to fame, the table wines are the unsung heroes of the wine show in Portugal.  

Portugal has over 250 different indigenous grape varieties.  It is second only to Italy in this respect.  (Italy has over 1,000 different native grape varieties!)  Any self-respecting wine drinker knows the big names in Italian grapes.  (Nebbiolo, Sangiovese…anyone?  Anyone?)  Portuguese wine grapes?  Not so much. 

Here’s a hint, for reds, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and, Tinto Roriz (aka Tempranillo in Spain) are big names.  For whites, Alvarinho (same as Spanish Albarino, just spelled differently), Arinto, and, Antao Vaz.   

Porrais Douro Valley Red Wine

Traditionally both the red and white table wines have been blends of various grapes.   Single varietal wines are becoming more common as winemakers find the best grapes to vinify on their own.  Touriga Nacional is the star of the red grapes, while Alvarinho is the leading white grape.   

Here’s the thing, they are all so good! (To quote from the movie Bottle Shock.)   

Poeira Dusty Red Wine from the Douro Valley with local choriço and cheese.

When we first arrived on the Iberian Peninsula, we were excited to try the local wines.  So, the fact that 98% of the wines in the stores are local mattered not.  A year later, we are still trying all local vinhos and loving them all!  Even better, the Portuguese wines cost a fraction of what we were paying for wines in the states.  It is fun and exciting to try so many great wines that aren’t available outside the country. All of the drink in Portugal is deserving of a much bigger place on the world stage. Now that we live here, we will continue to enjoy them and look for opportunities to spread the word about them abroad. Viva Portugal! 

Vila Paraíso Sparkling Red Wine from the Beira Atlantico.

 

New World Order

How about that Covid-19 virus?! 

This means you!

Here’s some of what I’ve been reading in the news from the states:  38% of Americans are avoiding Corona Mexican beer because of the name!  Also, people are avoiding Chinese food because of the connection between the virus and its country of origin.  WOW! 

Some of the things I’ve seen online have only reinforced the contention that the level of stupidity has gone off the charts stateside.  Here are a couple more headlines out there right now: Why America’s Virus Response Looks Like a Patchwork, this from the New York Times, mind you.  Well, Captain Obvious, could it be that America is a patchwork of states that all have different rules?  And if you don’t know this, you might want to go back and study your American history.  Just saying. 

Also, Infected People Without Symptoms Might be Driving the Spread of the Corona Virus.  This one from CNN.  Yup, you heard right.  Now, I am not a science type by any stretch of the imagination but, if I was a betting person, I would bet big that people who are infected and not showing symptoms are driving the spread of this new virus. 

Think about your basic cold viruses. Just from personal experience, I know that when I start coming down with a common cold, I am in denial about it.  Oh, I’m just tired…   Meanwhile, I’m out and about probably infecting every other person with which I come into contact.  I guess only time will tell if this is the case and the big CV is transmitted similarly. 

In the meantime, people are reacting like the dumb, panicky, dangerous animals that they are. Buying out basics at the grocery store so that people who might really need said basics can’t get them.  Amazing and sad, but true to form, people are reacting with a panicked herd mentality. 

Important Safety Tip!

But enough of CV-19 and the blatant stupidity that is a rampant contagion worse than the virus.  It is funny how ahead of the curve we are, already working from home.  We have been homeworkers for over a year now. And have become used to our own company for the most part.  We still have to walk the dog but now taking walks is our main entertainment outside the house.  It’s not so bad, really.  It helps if you have a hermit kind of mentality, to begin with, I guess, which I do. 

Wisteria Blooming in Canidelo, Vila Nova de Gaia.

It is almost spring, and all of the trees are blooming here in the Porto area, and the air is redolent of the white Jasmine that grows in the area.  Nature says, silly humans, life goes on.  And so should we, albeit with the utmost caution. Stay well, everyone!

The Douro Valley, Part Three.

Tile work at the train station in Pinhão.

We visited two more wineries in Pinhão while we were there:  Quinta de la Rosa and Quinta do Seixo.  One would think that it would get old touring port wineries but, they were all unique.  Pacheca, while a larger operation, was spacious with lovely grounds and a wide selection of wines.  Quinta do Pôpa was a small boutique wine house that sat high above the Douro river and gave individual tastings from the terrace overlooking the water below.  (They were doing renovations, so tours were not available at the time.)  You could also order a picnic basket lunch to have with your wine tasting, which looked great!  (We had a cheese plate that was perfect with the wines.)

Quinta do Monte Bravo was the smallest and most endearing with unequaled personal hospitality. As well as being the perfect place to get away from it all at the same time.  The food and wines were fabulous, and we felt like we were staying with friends.  It was an unparalleled experience which we can’t recommend enough.  geral@quintadojontebravo.pt.

The vineyards at Quinta do Monte Bravo.

Quinta de la Rosa was medium-sized and, like Pôpa, offered panoramic views of the river.  It also had rooms and an excellent restaurant as well as an informative tour.  They also make beer at Quinta de la Rosa; a lager, an IPA, and a stout, all of which were as delicious as the wines and ports.

Quinta do Seixo was the largest operation we saw and is owned by Sogrape. Which is a huge port wine conglomerate that also owns Sandeman. It is one of the biggest port houses and has holdings in Spain. There they also make sherry. The Sandeman brand image is an international icon of port wine.  He is a silhouette of a man with a Spanish hat and Portuguese cape to symbolize both countries and was created in 1928.

Quinta do Seixo is a state-of-the-art port winery that gives a fun and informative tour.  The tour guide wore a hat and cape, like the Sandeman icon. And made sure that everyone had a good time while learning about the process of making port wine.  There was wine tasting at each winery, and Seixo was the only one that only offered port wines.  (That is one of the great aspects of visiting the Douro valley; most of the wineries make great table wines as well as port so, if sweet wines are not your thing, the dry wines are delicious as well.) They did have a bar where you could have port cocktails after the tour. which was awesome. It had a panoramic view of the surrounding vineyards!  Porto Tonico, anyone?

Porto e Tonico (dry white port and tonic water) is our new favorite cocktail. We have one or two almost every evening to celebrate the fim do dia.  Try it, and you’ll be hooked, at least for the summer!

In all, we made it to five wineries in three days and had an incredible time.  The Guia de Enoturismo lists 16 top wineries in the Douro valley, so we will be returning for more sometime soon!