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Back from Portugal with a belly full of wine


How do I start this post? I wish I knew. Last night – or more accurately, this morning – we arrived back in Barcelona after a long day of traveling through the Cork forests of Portugal, followed by trains, planes and automobile adventures back to our house in Terrassa. Over the course of the past four days, we’ve tasted wines, met with people and seen things that we’ve never have had the opportunity to do/see before. And in the end, we walked away with one very important message from Portugal, “Please pay attention to us”!

Allow me to step aside for a moment so that I may clarify something. As a blogger, I have walked a fine line that I want to call your attention to. Cameras, notebooks and microphones often cause people to act differently. While I’m not technically a journalist(this is up for debate in many parts of the blog-o-sphere), I do come across as one, allowed to see things that the average person may not typically experience. At times I get treated with a different level of respect. We all do as journalists/bloggers. Therefore, at times, it’s important to step back and evaluate the question as to whether or not you can truly be objective when you cover a region and it’s wines. In my heart of hearts, I know I try my best to be objective, to listen to both sides of a story, and, when I have time, research the story further to make sure that what I saw/heard was a fair and accurate representation of the situation. No journalist is one hundred percent effective at this, but we need to try.

Why do I say this? I say this because the Portuguese wine coverage that we are going to include for the entire month of August is going to sound VERY biased, and I don’t want you thinking that we’ve sold ourselves across the border. We’ve just experienced 4 days in Lisbon which included: 100+ wines, 1 cork factory, 1 fancy dinner, 2 meals with hosts, a bit of sightseeing, a rooftop tasting, a wine and cheese tasting, and a whole lot of conversation. What we learned about Portuguese wine not only reinforced our previous love for their culture and wine, but it also showed a side of Portugal that we had no idea exsisted.

Generally, the quality of the wines we tasted, were at the very least, exceptional. Did every wine blow us away? No! Baga, a traditional grape from the Bairrada region, is often used for blending. By itself, you need to have buckets of water near by to rehydrate your mouth after suffering its enormous tannins. Yet, when blended well, it can give the good, solid structure needed for some of the more delicate grapes we tried. On the other had we were very please to learn that the sparkling wines of Portugal needneed recognition! One producer in particular, Murganheira, showed us that Cava and Champagne could be given a run for their money with the stunningly fine bubbles and complex flavors of there Portuguese sparking wines.

The most impressionable lesson for me was that Portugal does not have so much an up and coming wine industry, but rather a wine industry that has yet to be discovered. Production may be lower than in Spain, but the wines are truly stunning. With well over 200 of its own native varietals, 8 main wine regions, and 32 “quality wine regions” (we’ll try to explain this further), the diversity of flavors and styles made my mind spin. They have up and come, they just need some better marketing.

What we hope to truly convey throughout the month of August is that Portugal is the place for wine lovers to visit. We all know about wine tourism in Napa, France, Italy and Spain, but few of you know about the treasure that lies here in Portugal. Portugal is a stunningly beautiful country with two main bustling cities of Oporto and Lisbon, both complete with major airports nearby. You have a country rich in cuisine and culture where the value of the Euro has yet to fully effect the prices. You have wineries where language is rarely a problem, most able to handle a minimum of Portuguese, Spanish and English at the minimum. You have some of the finest cuisine we have ever tasted in Iberia. And finally, you have a country small enough to rent a car, drive about, and in the course of one week, experience a wide variety of terrains, wines and local traditions.

I have one request this month for all of you. Please take what we say and talk about, to heart. Share it with friends and fellow wine lovers. Then go out to your local wine shops and ask for the wines that we write about. They are truely AMAZING.

Stay tuned this month. We have plenty of articles, videos, photos and audio to share with you. We’ll be posting an almost constant stream of tasting notes, consistently doing our best to share exactly what we experienced. If you have questions, requests or ideas, we would love to hear about them and we hope that you join us in our forums for what we hope are some fun discussions on Portuguese wine.

Cheers and till soon,

Ryan Opaz

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