Having lived in Portugal for over a year now, I’m embarrassed to admit that I have only visited one of the many wine bars in Lisbon to date. I don’t know how they’ve slipped past me for this long, but I’ve resolved to make a conscious intention to make the rounds throughout Lisbon in the near future. However, for the record, the only wine bar that I have frequented just so happens to be one of the most renown and traditionally styled wine bars in Lisbon called, the Garrafeira Alfaia. Nestled in the famous historical neighborhood of Bairro Alto, Garrafeira Alfaia is surrounded by a cultural mélange of trendy shops, restaurants, bars and Fado houses. So if you didn’t originally trek up to Bairro Alto’s colorful alleyways for a wine bar, you will probably happen across it along your “pub crawl” one Friday night and be delighted by its warm and inviting aura.
Opened in 2003, Garrafeira Alfaia was the combined effort of Hilário Castro and Pedro Marques who originally intended to create a relaxing and spacious area for customers to enjoy an aperitif while awaiting their table at Restaurante Afaia. But over time, its popularity grew, as wine lovers stumbled upon its inviting decor and appealing wine selection; whereby provoking a much need transformation. A lengthy remodeling ensued, led by famous Portuguese architect, João Nascimento, and now Garrafeira Alfaia offers vibrant colors and recovered traditional antique tiles lining the entire bar front. And in addition to outside seating and a well stocked wine shop in front of the bar, wines by the glass were added to the bar menu in back, along with traditional appetizer plates or “petiscos”.
Today, the Garrafeira Alfaia has a continuing reputation for serving quality wines (“garrafeira” also meaning a term of quality in the Portuguese wine world) and products. In my visits with friends and family alike, we are continually impressed by both the ambiance and wine selection. I enjoy the fact that their wine by the glass list is continuously changing, emphasized by their wide variety of vintages and regions offered. And although prices for wines by the glass range considerably, the same as what you would pay for a couple bottles of table wines in a supermarket, the quality you will encounter is well worth the price.
One of my favorite visits to date was when I experienced a horizontal tasting of 95′ Douro and Dão reds. I had previously been enjoying one of their mixed cheese platters that included the deliciously creamy queijo Azeitão. When the glasses of Douro and Dão tintos were placed before me, one smell of the Douro instantly reminded me of that particular cheese. So similar was the aroma that I was motivated to order a second cheese platter solely to confirm my perception. Although this is not to say that I didn’t have a hidden agenda to savor the wine with the cheese, because the marriage of the two is spectacular.
With such a memorable experience visiting Garrafeira Alfaia, this classy wine bar may be the reason why I have yet to visit another one, and instead, keep returning for more. Don’t miss this then on your next trip to Bairro Alto.