Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
The first ever Umbria is for #winelovers event happened last week in Umbria in the green heart of Italy. With an exciting programme planned for the week this was a great opportunity to discover the region’s wines and their connection to the local food culture.
To make it even more interesting the #winelover group organized a Food & Wine Pairing Competition to better understand the richness of Umbria’s food and wine pairing. Here’s the competition menu with the different Italian dishes and the wines that better worked for each of them:
1. Frittatina Morbida al Tartufo della Valnerina
We started with a Frittatina Morbida al Tartufo della Valnerina, an egg-based dish, similar to an omelette or quiche, enriched with black truffles from the Valnerina valley in Umbria. A rich combination of flavors where the black truffle definitely stood out.
Best wines for this dish:
- FiorFiore 2010 Roccafiore (White) - 100% Grechetto
- Lamborghini (La Firorita) Trescone Umbria 2009 (Red) - Sangiovese, Merlot, Ciliegiolo
2. Risotto Allo Zafferano di Cascia e Guanciale Croccante
As a first course the Chef planned a Risotto with saffron and crisp Italian bacon. The crispy bacon added a different dimension to this simple dish and made it extra enjoyable. I could spend a whole day eating this crispy bacon.
Best wines for this dish:
- Colli Perugini Chiorri Rosato 2011 (Red) - Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon
- Adanti Arquata Montefalco Riserva 2008 (Red) - Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Barbera, Merlot, Cabernet
- Montefalco Rosso Scacciadiavoli 2009 (Red) - Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Merlot
3. Porchetta di Maialino Aromatica Bardata al Prosciutto
The main course was the highlight of the food and wine competition and one of the best foods I’ve had in Italy. A fabulous savoury, fatty and juicy boneless piglet roast covered with slices of bacon. Simply outstanding.
Best wines for this dish:
- Re del Sole LS08 Leonucci (Red) – Sagrantino
- Marchesi Antinori Cervaro della Sala Antinori 2011 (White) - Chardonnay, Grechetto
- La Palazzola Vin Santo Stefano Grilli 2005 (Sweet)
4. Crostata di Mele e Crema Cotta and Cheesecake
Finally dessert time. An Apple Custard Pie and a Ricotta, Chocolate, Raisins and Rhum Cake. A happy overdose of sugar created specifically to match the Umbrian Vin Santo (a style of italian sweet wine).
Best wine for the Crostata di Mele e Crema Cotta:
- Poggio Forno Cantina Neri 2011 - (Sweet) Grechetto, Sauvignon
Best wines for the Torta di Ricotta, Cioccolato, Uvetta e Rhum
- Sperello VinSanto Colli del Trasimeno Berioli 2011 (Sweet) - Trebbiano, Malvasia
- Grappa di Sagrantino Romanelli (Spirit)
Fabien Lainé (a French Sommelier working in Norway) was in charge of coordinating the food and wine competition. With the help of Luciana Braz and other #winelovers they’ve pre-selected 70 wines (from a pool of around 200), organized the tasters in teams and collected the competition results. A great job, explained in more detail in Fabien’s blog.
Umbrian Chef, Matteo Barbarossa was in charge of creating four different dishes for the competition. With this mission, Matteo created a dynamic menu of local and delicious Umbrian food to match the region’s diverse array of wines.
Overall this a fantastic wine and food discovery experience in the heart of Italy. Umbria is definitely a fantastic food and wine destination and I can’t wait to go back and discover more.
I’m in the beautiful region of Umbria in Italy preparing for the first Umbria for #winelovers event that will take place in the next few days in Terni. It’s a great opportunity to discover the local food and wine culture of one of the most exciting Italian wine regions.
Today I had the opportunity to visit Castello delle Regine, a local winery making good to excellent Umbrian wines. All proven by the very good (and consistent) level of quality at the 2 comprehensive 2001 to 2006 vertical tastings of the 100% Sangiovese and the 100% Merlot. My favorite vintages were the 2001, 2002 and 2004 for the Sangiovese and the 2001 and 2005 for the Merlot. All showing great potential for a good pairing with food.
To test this we headed to the winery’s own Restaurant Podernovo for lunch. A meal with lots of different dishes (see below) where all the meat which came from the winery’s cow farm. Simply delicious ingredients and fantastic wine lunch that has again confirmed how amazing Italy can be when it comes to fantastic food and wine experiences.
For a wine lover, visiting Quinta do Noval is a great opportunity to experience in loco the birthplace of some of the best Port wines on the market and to learn more about the incredible history and culture of wine in the Douro. On top of that, getting a chance to taste a very unique Quinta do Noval Nacional is, I assure you, nothing short of heaven.
Driving through the Douro, Quinta do Noval is a particularly hard property to miss. A few minutes after passing by the small village of Pinhão, Quinta do Noval shows up magnificiently on the hillside with its lines of terraced vineyards and aligned stair walls painted in white. Inside Quinta do Noval, the old house and cedar tree are a welcoming sign that people and history have had a long and strong connection in this place.
It starts raining slowly but for what seemed like an eternity we stay beneath the cedar tree listening to Rute’s voice telling the history of Quinta do Noval and observing the immensity of the Douro valley as it spreads throughout the hills in front of me.
As we visit the beautiful vineyards we make a stop at the birthplace vineyard of the great Noval Nacional. A small 2 hectare plot (ungrafted vines and untouched by phylloxera) where the average age is around 40 years and still includes some 80 year old vines.
Amazed by the beautiful landscape and the intense sense of history we head to the the first tasting, Noval’s Douro red wines. The Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional were my favorites of the tasting and are good examples of the kind of delicious reds that are coming out of the Douro. We move on to start tasting some Port.
- Noval Black
First Noval Black which is an easily accessible Port made to be enjoyed with no complications (no aging or decanting necessary). Like a good LBV, it screams for a piece of dark chocolate to go with it. Perfect Valentine’s day gift with that special box of dark chocolate. Deliciousness: 6.
- Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2005
Next the Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2005 which is simply one of the best LBVs on the market. Lush and powerful but beautifully balanced. Simply delicious. Pairs perfectly with a Stilton cheese. A great wine to have at home and sip one glass or two every week. Deliciousness: 8.
We move on to the Tawny Ports. Tasting 10 to 40 year old tawnies side-by-side is one of the most exciting Port wine experiences and one I like very much. Each of the wines is constantly evolving in the glass and transforms a tasting with a few wines in a rich experience of aromas and flavors. This tasting was no different.
- Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old
We start with the Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old which has a wonderful freshness and despite being just a 10 Years Old it already demonstrates an attractive complexity. Served chilled and on its own it’s one of the most delicious aperitifs you can have. Having friends over for dinner? Open this bottle, it’s a crowd pleaser. Great option for cocktails too. Deliciousness: 7.
- Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old
Next is the Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old which is an explosive, powerful and rich Tawny with a great long finish. Beautifully complex and vibrant at the same time. One of my favorite 20 Years Old on the market. A wine to be enjoyed with some time letting it evolve on your glass. A perfect companion for a dinner with special friends where you can prepare that delicious foie gras starter (a pairing made in heaven!) or end the meal with a tasty crème brûlée. Serve slightly chilled. Deliciousness: 8.
- Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old
Finally the oldest tawny of the tasting. The Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old is a fabulous tawny Port. Highly refined and delicate and showing some great freshness for its age. Lets not forget that a 40 year old Tawny is a blend of old tawny Ports from different vintages with an average age of 40 or more years. It’s quite impressive and I could be here for hours tasting this wine. This is a wine that I’ll enjoy as dessert on it’s own, no other pairing necessary, just time. Deliciousness: 8
Incredibly, the best of the night is yet to come. I’m now having dinner at Quinta do Noval looking at its amazing view of the Douro valley and enjoying a good conversation with a friend and our host. Finally it’s dessert and cheese time and I’m ready to taste some very fine Port.
- Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997
The Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997 is a fantastic pleasure to drink. Powerful but balanced and well defined with a lovely complexity and a vibrant finish. When tasting this bottle you can understand the richness in craftsmanship that goes into each bottle of Tawny Port in a house like Noval. Pure quality. The Colheita 1997 has been, since the day I first tasted, a loyal companion when I want to show my friends what a great young Colheita can be like. At around 40€, this a must buy. Deliciousness: 8
- Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994
The Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994 starts with subtleness like it was trying to hide something. But, as it opens, it starts showing why subtleness in this case it’s actually a virtue. The previously hidden complex layers of flavors are now present and the 1994 is just showing how different and elegant a Port wine can be. Pure balance and great pairing with a delicious Serra da Estrela cheese. Deliciousness: 8
We move on to taste and enjoy the last bottle of the night.
Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994
The Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994 is charming from the first moment. Extremely delicate yet firm. With incredible finesse but highly complex. Incredibly balanced at all levels. A pleasure to sense, an indulgence to taste.
Enjoying this Noval Nacional is like enjoying a slice of the perfect chocolate cake, made with layers and layers of very well defined and focused flavors of different quality chocolats that blend perfectly on each bite.
Simply one of the best Port Wines I’ve ever had. This is one of those wines that when you open them, that’s the special occasion they were made for. Unique. Deliciousness: 10
I woke up the next morning at 6am as if wanting to finish the previous night once again. I take a look outside and the valley is fully covered in low clouds. I can barely see outside the window but I decide to go for a walk. No matter where I look the view is always beautiful and surprising. I spend the next couple of hours lost between the vines, the view and my thoughts.
Returning to the house and after a fortifying breakfast (no wine but pun intended) we head over to the magnificent cellar at Noval’s. The cellar is a Port wine lover’s dream. It’s filled with a few thousand barrels that are used to store and age Port wine. Each individual barrel has its own story which is tightly connected to the wine they protect and age and is deeply related to the people (winemakers, barrel-makers and blenders) that handle them. An impressive heritage that contributes massively to the kind of quality Port Wines that Noval is putting on the market every year.
A last stop at the main house to buy some old Port. Suddenly I realize that I’m just leaving the Douro one more time and already can’t wait to come back. While away I miss the history, the culture and the people that make the Douro and Port Wine such an incredible rich part of our culture.
Thank you Christian Seely and the rest of the team at Quinta do Noval for taking good care of such an important part of the Douro heritage. Thank you Marie-Louise for your kind invitation to visit Quinta do Noval. Thank you Rute for your hospitality. Thank you Luiz Alberto once again for sharing such a great moment.
2012 was a year full of great moments. I visited many countries, cities and places. Discovered new wines and wineries. Tasted some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. Met some exciting new people and learned about their stories. Made new friends. It was an incredibly exciting year! These are the 10 best moments.
1. Joining the Port Wine Brotherhood was easily The Best Moment of 2012.
An almost surreal experience that culminated with me wearing a bow tie and receiving a Tombaladeira (a traditional Port Wine tasting cup from the XVII century) in a ceremony with over 300 guests. It’s an incredible honor to be knighted and get recognition for my dedication and service to Port Wine. What a great moment.
That same weekend I enjoyed a full day visit to Quinta do Azevedo (Sogrape‘s Vinho Verde property) which included a relaxed lunch and conversation with Luís Sottomayor (Barca Velha winemaker, Director of Enology for Casa Ferreirinha and Sogrape’s Port Wines) and Joana Pais (Sogrape’s Head of PR). Great people. Great lunch. Great moment.
Still had time to participate in the traditional Rabelo Boat Regatta. The regatta is an exciting boat race where old Rabelo boats (that used to transport Port Wine from the Douro to Gaia) sail upriver trying to be the first to reach the finishing line. What an excitement! My Rabelo boat (from Ferreira) was 2nd! The whole mood is very festive and the regatta ended with a dinner at the Sandeman’s Port Cellars in Gaia.
As you might imagine it took me a few days to cool down from all this excitement!
The other 9 best moments of 2012
Joining the Port Wine Brotherhood was great but I had other special moments, each of which with its own story. It was a tough choice but here are my favorite moments of 2012:
- Launch of the new Barca Velha 2004. A great launch event for a great new wine. The wild boar cooked in Barca Velha sediment was also a delicious next day meal.
- Judging wines from across the globe at the 2012 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Great learning experience in Guimarães. A great opportunity to meet new people from the wine world.
- Visiting Quinta do Noval and tasting the exceptional 1994 Vintage Nacional. An out-of-this-world Port wine experience shared with good friend Luiz Alberto.
- An epic tasting at Graham’s. The occasion was the launch of the new 10, 20, 30 and 40 Years Old Tawny Ports. The tasting included a magnum of the magnificent Graham’s 1966 Vintage, the ultra-exclusive 1952 and 1969 Single Harvest Tawny Ports and the very old 1882 (!!).
- Organizing & hosting the first ever Summer Wine Market where 650 people tasted some of the best Portuguese white and red wines on the market and paired them with some delicious sushi.
- Sharing a tasting session on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily with a very special group of wine lovers who were participating in a Wine Bloggers trip to discover Etna Wines. The sun was setting and the moment was perfect.
- Visiting the top of Mount Etna and feeling literally on top of the world. Unforgettable.
- Organizing the first ever #wineloverweek together with Luiz Alberto (a very good friend, travel partner and fellow #winelover). It was a week full of exciting activities visiting wineries, tasting wines and attending #winelover Hangouts around Portugal (Lisboa, Porto, Vinho Verde, Alentejo and Douro). A great opportunity to show some of the best of what Portugal has to offer.
- Organizing & hosting the Adegga Wine Market 2012, the 4th edition of an award-wining 800-people wine event which includes some of the best wines and producers from Portugal and a very special Premium Room with some rare and old Port Wines. A huge success.
During the last 12 months I had other great experiences that made of 2012 a great year. I visited many other beautiful places, tasted some great wines and met exciting new people. Here’s a short photographic list of the other 15 great moments of 2012. Looking forward to a great 2013!
In September I visited Donnafugata in Sicily. Included in the two-day visit was a trip to Pantelleria, a satellite island of Sicily where Donnafugata makes one of its most precious treasures, a sweet Passito di Pantelleria. This treasure is the result of a strong local culture that is imposed by the challenges of the extremely difficult growing (and living) conditions of Pantelleria.
Algarve, the beautiful seaside region in the south of Portugal, has won the prestigious Europe’s Leading Beach Destination 2012 award. It’s definitely not a surprise since the Algarve has been one of my favorite regions in the world for many years. I’m lucky in that I get to travel to the Algarve at least once a month and take advantage of all the great things the region has to offer.
Here are some of my favorite:
I’m back from Italy and from an amazing week full of exciting people, great conversations, great places and great wine & food.
EWBC was again marked by a truly great experience of meeting old friends and making new ones.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anais Nin
Now I’ll let my photos tell the story of the trip to Italy:
Next week I’ll be heading to Italy to attend the European Wine Bloggers Conference 2011.
EWBC has been consistently one of the best wine events of the year (thanks Gabriella, Ryan & Robert). It’ll once again be a great opportunity to talk to old wine friends, meet other online wine entrepreneurs and taste some great wines with other wine geeks from all over the world.