Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho is located just up the street from Os Goliardos near Praça da Alegria and right down the hill from Principe Real. What makes Chafariz do Vinho attractive is its unique location within an 18th century stone reservoir. This Mãe de Agua (Mother of Water), which also happens to be the name of the street it’s situated on, connects with the rest of a 36 mile aqueduct used during water shortages to bring clean water into the city up and until the 20th century. The reservoir was eventually refurbished and converted into the enoteca where it stands now. Beginning at the very bottom of the cistern and traveling up a towering 3 stories, tables fill every nook and cranny of the medieval, yet romantic, space. At night, the reservoir is now used as a great storage cellar for wine; but during the day, the bar collaborates with the Water Museum, taking visitors on tours throughout the underground reservoir galleries from the Patriarcal in Principe Real.
With the intention of avoiding the crowds, I arrived to Chafariz do Vinho at 6pm last Tuesday with fellow Lisbon Twitterer and Twinelis fan @jnogueira. We also wanted to take advantage of their “Happy Hour” discount sampler from 6-8:30pm advertised on their website. The sampler allows you to try4 different wines from their by the glass menu and “the cost will be the average of those wines sold by the glass at the time”.Â This sounded a bit misleading, so upon arriving to the bar, we checked out the menu which listed 4 wine samples for €10 a person or 4 ofÂ “the best” wines for €15 a person. Having asked the apparition like waiter for clarification, magically disappearing whenever we desperately needed him, we still found ourselves lost in meaning. We eventually assumed that we could each choose 4 different wines from the menu as long as it wasn’t the most expensive red or white. And as their by the glass selection is quite small, and not very diverse (only 1 international selection), we chose 3 Â whites, a rosé and 4 reds, which essentially covered their entire list!
Chafariz do Vinho writes on their website that customers can easily make a great meal out of their appetizer offerings, which include gourmet dishes like foie gras torchons and octopus carpaccio and even features a “4 course tasting menu” with a dessert. Before we even ordered our wine, our server had brought us a basket of mixed bread and croutons and a small plate with marinated Portuguese black olives and 3 vastly different dips: a mustard based dip, a tuna and roasted red pepper dip and a Middle Eastern style cucumber yogurt dip – all delicious starters to the meal. We then ordered their large Mediterranean platter to share, consisting of a mouthwatering assortment of marinated vegetables and pickled caper berries (a nice surprise!), mozzarella and tomato salad, cured meats, duck paté with a sweet comfit and a strong flavored cream cheese.
What made this experience so enticing was that the food paired with just about every wine we tasted. Out of the whites, we had a 2007 Quinta de San Joanne Vinho Verde, a 2007 Vinhas Velhas Reserva from Luis Pato and a 2007 Quinta da Camarate Doce (Sweet) from José Maria da Fonseca which was my favorite as it reminded me of a lovely German Auslese.Â The 2007 Pink Elephant Rosé by DFJ Vinhos followed by their red 2005 Vega, neither lacked pizzaz to me, but the next red, a 2005 Vinhas Velhas Baga by Luis Pato again was quite approachable and round in the mouth. Then there was the 2005 Vinha da Malhada by Quinta da Montalto in Estremadura, a biological wine that was a dead ringer for chouriço in both the bouquet and the palate! Finally, the 2005 Altano “Chryseia” Reserva showed silky tannins and ripe red currant and berry flavors in the mouth.
Overall, our experience at Chafariz do Vinho may have had a rough start, but we ended up having incredible food and a wonderful sampling of wine. The quality of the food was spectacular, and by coming early on a Tuesday, when plenty of seating room was available, we were able to get a great table and not have a lot of noise drown out our conversation. I would highly suggest Happy Hour at Chafariz do Vinho. You can also bring your own bottle at €2.50 per bottle, or take advantage of their Port sampler, consisting of a 10, 20, 30 and 40 year Port in sequence, essentially a hundred years in one sitting! Come early and visit this historically unique wine bar to experience a fountain of good food and wine that won’t disappoint.