Video – in the Douro Valley at Quinta do Noval Nacional vineyard

I was in the Douro Valley not long ago visiting one of the historic port houses of Portugal, Quinta do Noval. The quinta was founded in 1715 and was bought by the French conglomerate AXA Millesimes in 1993, which is how Christian Seely came to be managing director of the Quinta. Christian was my host while I was visiting the Quinta and after a morning spent tramping around the very special “Nacional” vineyard, we had a chat about what makes that vineyard so special and a quick tasting of the already legendary 2003 Nacional Vintage Port. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Thursday snapshot – Quinta do Noval 1937 Colheita

Sep 20, 12 Thursday snapshot – Quinta do Noval 1937 Colheita

Posted by in Portugal

I was in the Douro about a week and a half ago as a guest of the port house, Quinta do Noval. The very charming Mr. Christian Seely (managing director) and his wife, Corinne were our hosts. We had numerous colheitas* at dinner the first night and found we were all in agreement that colheita really is an unsung hero of the port family. Christian loves them and although I know many vintage port wine buffs turn up their nose at them, I love them too. At some point during dinner Christian mentioned the 1937 and somebody else mentioned cigars and before you know it, he was bringing out boxes of cigars for us to choose from and popping open the 1937 Colheita. It was a magical evening on the terrace of the Quinta, looking down at the silvery ribbon that was the Douro river at the bottom of the valley floor, sipping the old tawny, puffing away on a fine Cuban cigar and basically solving all the port wine world’s problems. And that Colheita? It was a fantastic companion to the Montecristo I was puffing away on. The intense flavours and aromas of the port and cigar melding into one, a wickedly decadent experience. People often pair cigars with vintage port or red wine but honestly, an old colheita can be just as good. Yet another reason to love the Douro…. *colheita is a tawny port made from a single harvest Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Celebrity Cruises with Vinopolis and Oz Clarke this Autumn

Aug 14, 12 Celebrity Cruises with Vinopolis and Oz Clarke this Autumn

Posted by in Food and Wine, France, Portugal, Spain

Earlier this year I was invited to learn more about Celebrity Cruises at Vinopolis and it was a surprising evening for me. Cruise ships have definitely changed from the days of shuffleboard and the blue-rinse brigade, focusing on fine dining and wine as well as having a variety of shipboard activities and themed cruises. Celebrity Cruises is going to be offering wine themed cruises in September, October and November featuring some of the premier European wine regions. The cruises will be stopping in Spain, France and Portugal and will be offering wine seminars and sessions whilst on board. A very special cruise is departing on Oct 13 with Oz Clark and resident wine expert of Vinopolis, Tom Forrest on board to lead the wine masterclasses. Departing directly from Southampton the programme includes on board activities and expert led-sessions, such as introductions to wine tasting, meet and greet sessions and wine masterclasses from the key regions visited. The cruise will be calling at Paris (Le Havre, France), Bordeaux (Le Verdon, France), Bilbao (Spain), Vigo (Spain) and Porto (Portugal) and  is only available if booked directly with Celebrity Cruises on 0844 481 7682. The Winesleuth is going to be on this cruise as well so you can be sure to follow my adventures here, both at sea and ashore. In the meantime, here is a small taste of what to expect from Tom Forrest, who will be be conducting wine seminars along with Oz Clarke. Here, Tom is talking about a few of the wines and the regions they come from… *pics and video courtesy of Celebrity Cruises Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Preto Branco 2010, Portuguese red wine

Jun 10, 12 Preto Branco 2010, Portuguese red wine

Posted by in Portugal

Portugal has so many diverse and unknown wine regions that it would be easy to spend a day just talking about all that we don’t know about the country and it’s wines. Sure, everyone knows about the Douro Valley and their justly famous port wines and some may be familiar with Vinho Verde – the light, quaffable, slightly fizzy white wine of the north – but that’s about it. The rounded bottle of Mateus is also emblematic of Portuguese wine but with a new generation and revitalization of the Portuguese table wine industry, that image will hopefully be changing soon. As a matter of fact, 2011 was the first year ever that table wine exports topped fortified (Port) wine exports. Very exciting news for Portugal’s table wine producers. You may be wondering what I mean when I refer to “table wines”. “Aren’t all wines drunk at a table?” you may be asking. Well, yes but what I mean by “table wines” are wines that are produced without bubbles or fortified, in other words, “still” red or white wine. The region of Bairrada has been traditionally known as a sparkling wine producing area but recently the growers there have ramped up still table wine production and we are seeing a lot more of it coming out of the region. Quinta do Encontro  is one of these wineries and they have a new winery set amongst the limestone and chalky fields. They are producing a delicious red wine which I got to sample the other night. The Preto Branco 2010 is a red blend of the traditional Portuguese grape varieties, Baga (which is widely grown in the Bairrada region) Touriga Nacional, and a white grape to add a bit of balance, Bical. The French in the Rhone Valley are known for adding a bit of Viognier to their Syrah to give it a floral note, and the Bical does much the same here. The wine had an enticing aroma of violets and black cherry which greeted my...

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Revitalizing an old family vineyard and 100 year old port, Quinta da Manuela

Apr 16, 12 Revitalizing an old family vineyard and 100 year old port, Quinta da Manuela

Posted by in Portugal, Travel

Bouncing along the dirt road, we slowly wound our way up and down the hills of the Douro Valley to get to Jorge Serodio Borges newest project in the Vale de Mendiz, the revitalization of Quinta da Maneula. Jorge is the winemaker for Quinta Passadouro but alongside that he also runs Wine & Sol with his wife, Sandra Tavares, wine maker for Quinta do Vale d. Maria. They make the Pintas label red wines and the fabulous white wine, Guru, which I had sampled earlier in the year at the annual Essencia do Vinho event in Porto, Portugal. Quinta da Manuela, though, is a family project. Jorge inherited the quinta and set out to discover what he could do with the vines. The vineyard consists of 14 hectares but the vines are 80 to 100 years old and they are producing a Vielles Vignes red wine, only 3,000 bottles are produced a year and we were able to try the latest vintage, the rechristened Quinta da Manoella 2009 VV. It is a  field blend, which is commonly found in old Portuguese vineyards. Jorge explained that field blends were the norm many years ago because of disease. The growers just planted as much and as many as they could in the hopes that something would survive to be harvested and made into wine. He estimates that there could be up to 30 different varieties in the blend. The wine was impressive, concentrated and complex, very aromatic with and intense nose of black fruit and licorice. Finely balanced, a fresh and elegant wine with finesse. It is fantastic what Jorge and Sandra have coaxed from the old vines. As we drove up to the old warehouse, Jorge pointed out abandoned one family houses/wineries that littered the valley slopes. In the past, it had been the custom to attach a small winery to the family house. We stopped at one to see the tiny moss and leaf covered lagars that had almost been overtaken by the forest....

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Tawny port and orange slices

Apr 13, 12 Tawny port and orange slices

Posted by in Food and Wine, Portugal, Travel, Videos

I never know what interesting food and wine combinations I’m going to come across but one of the more unlikely pairings, to me anyway, was 10 yr old tawny port and fresh orange slices.  They was presented as dessert at lunch while we were visiting Quinta da Gaviosa in the Douro Valley. I was in the Douro with Discover the Origin to well, discover the wines of the Douro (ok, I guess I was discovering the origins, didn’t want to be too obvious there – #fail). Anyway, we had wound our way through the rather steep hills of the Douro to visit the father/son wine making team of Domingo and Tiago Alves de Sousa of Quinta da Gaivosa. Unfortunately, as so often happens on press trips, we were running late and so Domingo had to rush off to Porto for a wine maker’s dinner. Tiago however, was able to stay and give us a grand tour of their vineyards and explain a bit about the land. Quinta da Gaivosa’s vines are perched high on the steep  hillsides and many of the vines are over 80 years old. It’s this longevity that gives their wines such concentration. I shot a short video of Tiago explaining the soil and climate of the region. Some of you may have seen it already as I inadvertently posted it as a stand alone video here last week: Many of the vines at Quinta da Gaivosa are as I mentioned over 80 years old and there is one vineyard in particular that Tiago is not even sure how old it is,  he thinks it’s over 100 years old but no one is sure as it was an abandonded vineyard. Tiago discovered it one day and decided to see what the vines would supply. We took a drive up to the top of the hill where the abandoned vines were and he has left it much as he found it. There are big gaps between the gnarled, stubby vine trunks and...

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