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Essência do Vinho

ViniPortugal recently took 6 Portuguese wine buyers, bloggers and educators on a trip to Portugal to the Essência do Vinho wine fair in Oporto.

Charlie Young from Vinoteca, Rachel Brown from Majestic, Andrew Barrow (www.spittoon.biz), Robert Giorgione (www.robertggiorgione.com), Paul Quinn from Robinsons and myself, Sarah Johnson from JK Marketing/ViniPortugal, flew to Oporto on Thursday 3rd March for a 4 day adventure in Portugal.

The first day was spent at the Essencia do Vinho wine fair. As soon as we landed we were whisked away to the venue (no rest for the wicked) to take part in the Chrysteia Vertical Tasting with Charles Symington and Bruno Pratts. What a fantastic experience.

In the evening we dined at Mesa restaurant with Soalheiro Wines, Quinta do Ameal, Casa do Valle and
Quinta de Simaes (all from Vinho Verde region). With crab to start, followed by risotto then beef and finally pumpkin tart we certainly didn’t go hungry. Staggering to bed after coffee was served at 1.30am!

After a superb tour of Oporto, including tasting the famous Pasteis de Nata, we then joined the ViniPortugal team at Quarente4 restaurant with Sogrape Vinhos de Portugal. After a 6 course lunch we were ready to head to the fair and taste some more wine. The main tasting of the day was the Portuguese Rare Wines Tasting with Domingos Soares Franco, David Guimaraens and Ricardo Diogo.

In the evening we dined at DOP restaurant with João Portugal Ramos and José Maria Soares Franco. The food was prepared at the end of our table; the detail and precision which went into the presentation of each dish was extremely impressive. We tasted a range of dishes from prawns to monkfish, from partridge to chocolate pudding; for me – it was possibly the best restaurant experience of the whole trip.

After a mad few days of wine tasting, eating, drinking, tasting more wine and eating more food we were ready to leave Opotro and begin our 2 day regional tour of Portugal.

We left on Saturday morning and headed to Casa de Mouraz. They are a small organic producer based in the Dão where we sampled some very interesting wines. The wine which was an ‘all round winner’ with the group was the Vinho Verde Air 2010, it was beautiful, and has one of the best labels I have seen…

This wine is available from Raymond Reynolds Ltd, click here for further information.

Our next stop was another small producer, Quinta do Perdigão, followed by the final producer of the day at the Julia Kemper project. This wine is not available in the UK, but this may soon change. The family produces just 2 wines, but it is a project from them, rather than a business.

We enjoyed a superb dinner with the producers in the evening at our hotel, Casa da Ìnsua.

I wish we had more time at this hotel, it was like being in a scene from Alice in Wonderland, the grounds were beautiful and the hotel was fantastic, I did not want to leave.

However, it was our final day of the tour on Sunday and we had another 3 producers to visit, so we didn’t have time to waste.

After a short tour of the hotel grounds, we left for a tasting and Lunch at Paço dos Cunhas de Santar, Dão Sul, we enjoyed sparkling wine on the terrace, the sun was shining and everyone was looking forward to more food and wine. We ONLY had a 3 course meal for lunch with this producer (I joke) but the portion sizes could have fed a small family. During lunch we enjoyed an ‘express’ tasting with a wide selection of wines to enjoy.

With a belly full of food (again) we then set off to the Aliança winery and underground museum. I had been lucky enough to visit this producer before, so I knew what to expect, so it was great to see the reaction of the UK guests when we arrived. It’s a winery that you do not forget in a hurry as it holds the largest collection of art in Portugal, you could spend hours there looking around.

Our final tasting and dinner of the trip was at Vinhos Sidónio Sousa with Baga friends Group (Luis Pato, Filipa Pato, Quinta das Bageiras, Sidónio de Sousa, João Póvia, François Chasans, Palace Hotel do Bussaco and Dirk Niepoort).

The evening started with a ‘mini annual tasting’ as we called it, guests spent about an hour tasting wines with the producers, and then we were lead downstairs where we were served suckling pig (my first experience of this iconic dish) it was amazing, we were not disappointed.

After a fantastic 4 days, we all headed back to the hotel for a quick beer before preparing for a 6:30am start.

Overall I would have to say it’s been the most interesting, educational and enjoyable trip I’ve been on. The only downfall now… I’m back to sandwiches for lunch and cups of tea, no more 3 course lunches and wine in the middle of the day!

Sarah Johnson