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Three Dynamic Female Portuguese Winemakers

Portugal might be on its knees economically, but the wine industry is going from strength to strength. Exports are growing quietly (between 5-10% per year over the last decade), and the country is beginning to escape the shackles of being seen only as a value producer. I’m not talking about Port, which has its own long-established market and following, but rather about “still” or non-fortified wines. Portugal was known for knocking out large quantities of “rustic” fare in decades gone by, but this started to change in 1986. Accession to the EU was a watershed which split apart the old cooperatives and saw the emergence of smaller, more quality-lead wineries. Not surprisingly for a country which is relatively new to […]

Vejer de la Frontera – The Dining Mecca of Costa de la Luz, Spain

One of the most unexpected thrills of Vejer de la Frontera for a first time visitor is the huge number of eateries hidden away in the beautiful Pueblo Blanco. A further surprise is the impossibility of eating badly in this gastronomic paradise. Vejer doesn’t rely just on summer tourists – there are the regular visitors as well; hence, if the food isn’t good, the restaurant will close. One would be forgiven for comparing Vejer in Cádiz, Spain to Ludlow in Shropshire, UK. Both are out of the way places, off the gourmet map. But interestingly, both have a plethora of spectacularly good eating places which makes Vejer a fab weekend getaway for the food minded. What’s made Vejer an enchanting foodie […]

Eggs: Sweet and Savory Portuguese Recipes

Prior to my migration from America to Portugal in 2011, I had often heard of the love affair that the Portuguese have with their eggs, especially when used in their sugar laden sweets. I didn’t really understand that eggs were also loved as additions to savory dishes until I got here and was pleasantly surprised by both the sweet and savory side of the ovos de Portugal. As savory dishes go, I find the egg to be an afterthought, an addition, not the center of attention that they often are in American cuisine. When it comes to ervilhas com ovos escalfados, or peas with poached eggs, that is definitely not the case. If there were no eggs in this dish, […]

Off the beaten track in Porto – Simplesmente Vinho

What do you call a group of small, artisan wine producers at a tasting? If you’re in France or Italy, the “natural wine” moniker might well rear its head. The suggestion being that these are winemakers who eschew overtly industrial production methods, intervene less and attempt above all else to express their terroir. The less charitable may claim this merely means long beards, stinky wines and radical stances on sulphur. In Portugal things are a little different. Here, no-one seems that interested in defining such a slippery category – least of all the 23,000+ visitors to Porto’s annual Essencia do Vinho tasting. The mix of trade and consumer attendees are packed in tighter than sardines, and beating a path to your favourite producer’s stand can turn into […]

Top 10 Things to do in Jerez – Other than Enjoy Sherry!

The history of Sherry is rich. For starters it is one of the oldest wines in the world, introduced to Britain when notorious pirate Drake, plundered Cadiz and filled his decks with over 2000 barrels as a gift for his adored Queen Elizabeth 1st. But prior to all that, the Moors tended the chalky vineyards around their occupied city of Sherish and made their wine of present day Jerez. For centuries, Britain was the main market for Sherry, sending their sons to oversee production- hence the many Anglicized names involved in the industry. A sometimes forgotten fact is that Sherry can only be called Sherry if it is produced within the DO of Jerez- likewise, Champagne can only be Champagne […]

Chestnut Season in Portugal

The sound of chestnuts (castanhas) crashing down through branches is one that I always associate with autumn in Minho. Throughout the baking summer, we watched the thick green prickly clusters growing on large majestic trees scattered about the surrounding hill slopes wondering if they would ever ripen. By the middle of October, the clusters turned brown, some splitting open and ejecting their chestnuts, while others fell whole creating a spiny carpet on the ground below. A change in the weather in late October found us bent double against the wind and rain, baskets in hand as we set about gathering chestnuts. Rubbing the soles of our boots over the surface of the shell to split them open we reveled at […]

The Top 10 Untold Stories of Rioja Wine

Editor’s Note: In lieu of the #EWBC, Mariëlla Beukers of Wijnkronieken, has provided us a fascinating article on the untold historical influences that has made Riojan wine what it is today!!  Like many of the ‘classic’ wine regions in Europe, Rioja has a long wine history dating back to even before the Romans. The Celtic tribes like the Vascones (hence Vasco, Basque) and Celtiberi (the Celts who lived in the valley of the Iberus, the Ebro) were already making wine in this corner of the world, while the Romans only had to add a touch of technology. With the simple introduction of the stone troughs, or lagares, a style of wine making was born that would continue for centuries. The […]

Schist: A Cultural Staple in the Douro Valley and Beyond

Editor’s Note: Fiona Lynch and her husband Jonathan, two passionate geologists, moved from Scotland to the Lima Valley in the Minho region in Portugal. We’re very appreciative of their willingness to share their experience, and hope this will be one of many we can expect from them in the future. Like most of northern Portugal, the geology of the Minho region is dominated by granite rocks. Rolling hills with massive round boulders cluster around peaks or are strewn about slopes and sandy river banks in the valleys. Every now and again, on my hikes through the forests or along the country lanes, I come across a ragged twist of dark orange schist called xisto. This thinly layered rock, ranging in […]

A Bubbling Relationship: Cava & Millennials

Editor’s Note: Lindsay Holas, a student at the Groupe ESC Dijon Bourgogne school, recently pitched a rather intriguing marketing observation among the Spanish Cava industry. We liked her take on it and offered the Catavino stage to show how Millennials genuinely interacted with the Spain’s sparkling wine, and where the industry might be able to take away some useful tips! Champagne. For centuries the name has evoked images of glamour, prestige, and celebration. For most, this bubbly concoction is reserved for special occasions, but in Spain the consumption of sparkling wines are not so limited. Last November a friend and I were in the small Catalan city of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, the heart of cava sparkling wine production.  We found our […]

Trashumancia: Celebrating Humanity through Woolly Sheep

Editor’s Note: In a fast pace world filled with sleek technology, John Perry highlights a Spanish festival dedicated to the bleating creatures that have provided us food and livelihood for centuries. Those familiar with Spain have undoubtedly heard of the encierros (running of the bulls) in Pamplona, but there are other events where Spaniards also celebrate animals invading their everyday urban space. One of them is the Fiesta de la Trashumancia, when traffic is completely cut to allow herds of livestock –mainly sheep- to parade through Madrid’s most bustling and upscale areas. Imagine London’s Piccadilly Circus full of sheep instead of cars and pedestrians! Celebrated once a year –generally in early autumn- this bleating procession through the city began as a […]