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?)
We are heading into week number 4 of lockdown here in Portugal and, I have to say that it hasn’t been too bad. The lines to get into the stores have been minimal. There has not been a shortage of much of anything so far. I am happy to report that there is plenty of TP, food, and drink. It is a far cry from the pandemonium we are hearing coming from our friends in Italy, Spain, and the US. We wish you all well. So sorry that you are the victims of so much trumpery. (Yup, it’s a word. Go ahead, look it up.)
Kudos to the Portuguese government for handling the crisis so well thus far. Thanks to the quick official response, and cooperation of the people, it looks like the virus will be contained here sooner rather than later. We hope so. In any case, it is being taken a lot more seriously than in a lot of countries.
There have even been some perks. One of our favorite wineries, Quinta da Pacheca, has been offering 20% off their wines with free delivery on a case or more. We now have plenty of wine. More and more restaurants are offering take-out and delivery. That includes our favorite pizza place, Rei da Gula, here in Gaia. So, theoretically, we wouldn’t have to leave the house at all except to walk the dog. The mandate is to, “Fique em casa.” Stay home, which we are doing. We hope that you are too. Lay low and know that better times are coming. Stay strong and stay well, everyone.
I was glad that our things arrived when they did as I was thinking of taking a trip to the Douro valley wine country before the tourist season got underway and the weather got too hot to handle. I picked up a book on Enotourism in Portugal that runs down the best Quintas (wineries) in every region. There are 12 wine regions in Portugal, including the island of Madeira. (Pretty much all of Portugal is a wine region!) Guia de Enoturismo Portugal, O que provar, O que visitar by Maria João de Almeida: Enotourism guide to Portugal, where to try and where to visit. It is a handy reference for visiting wineries in Portugal. Good thing I’m making headway with my Portuguese because I did not find it in English! Luckily, it’s pretty easy reading.
I spent some time poring over the Douro section and picked an assortment of wineries that sounded the most interesting. One can take a day trip to the Douro on a boat or by train, but we decided to rent a car and drive. It is impossible to realize the scope of the area in only one day, especially when it takes 1.5-2 hours to get there from Porto. I could spend a month in the Douro valley, but we chose to do three days, two wineries per day. Sounds reasonable, right?
Our first mistake was bringing Jiver, our dog. I thought, we have some doggie downers, and it’s only an hour and a half away. Ha, ha, ha. Remember that flight from Denver to Porto? Oh, yeah, enter the incredible shaking, panting, and whining dog. Ok, it was a bad idea. Oh, and shedding machine of a dog too. Of course, our not so smart rental car had a black interior. Nice. After half an hour, it had a white dog hair interior! The only thing worse than Jiver was my husband Joe, who is also a nervous traveler and a back-seat driver. Ugh. Again, good thing it was a short road trip!
Google wasn’t much help either. While the car’s GPS system got us out of Porto, it quit about 20 minutes into the trip. And, what is it with the use of coordinates to find a place? We missed the turn off to Villa Real, which takes you to Peso de Régua, our first stop, which cost us about 20 minutes. When we finally arrived, we used the coordinates given to find our Airbnb. Joe punched it in with one wrong number, and we drove all over hell and gone before we ended up back where we started! The Airbnb was right in the center of town! Damn! So now, we are late for our first winery tour. Raios!
Here is an important safety tip: You must make an appointment to visit Quintas in Portugal. DO NOT just show up at a winery and expect to take a tour. These places are small and muito popular! This is one of the first things the Guide tells you. (Thank you, Maria!) Our original plan was to leave Jiver at the Airbnb. But since we were running so late, we just brought him with us. Even as a service dog in uniform, he is not allowed in a lot of places. Portugal is not super dog friendly, sadly.
We arrived at Quinta da Pacheca half an hour late and were told, no dogs at first. Then, they told us to go ahead up to the winery, and they let us join the group with Jiver after all. Whew, it was stressful getting there, but once we settled down, it was beautiful! Jiver made friends instantly with Aqua, the winery dog, and it was all good. (She was cute, and hey, Jiver is a handsome guy!)
Quinta da Pacheca, besides being a fantastically beautiful winery with wonderful wines, has wine barrel rooms where guests can stay! That’s right folks, for $3-$400 per night, you can stay in a giant wine barrel that has been converted into a room on the property. While they looked cool, it was a little out of our price range. We cheaped out on accommodations so that we could buy more wine to take home! The wines at Pacheca were so good that we bought a mixed case of red and white wines and port. Hey, they had free shipping within Portugal and, as Joe likes to say, why wouldn’t you? Keep calm and drink wine. That’s our motto!