Category Archives: Portugal

Wine Wednesday: Quinta Monte Sao Sebastião


This week’s Wine Wednesday post is all about Quinta Monte São Sebastião from the Douro Valley. The quinta’s history started in 1950. They have 4 hectares devoted to wine and three to olive growing near the town of Murca out of a property of 50 hectares. Pinhao is the largest city near the winery. We arrived there after a long day and had perhaps the best meal of the week that I was in the Douro Valley. The fantastic homemade meal was a moment to also try their wines with food.


They also have guest rooms where one can stay while visiting the Douro. The quinta is located in the Cimo Corgo Sub-region, that runs  from the junction of the Corgo river
and the Temilobos stream to Cachão da Valeira. They grow mostly only indigenous varieties such as white grapes Códegado Larinho, Gouveio and Rabigato and red varieties Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. The white varieties grow on granite at an average altitude of 500 meters in order to preserve their natural freshness, while the red grapes are grown at lower altitudes.

Unlike most of the other farms we visited in the Douro, they also make sparkling wine such as the one seen in the picture above. They make three types of these wines and are doing quite well with it, we were told. This was not at all typical of the area. Pedro Guedes is their winemaker who we nicknamed winegyver because he apparently was quite inventive with his use of random tools to make fermentation tanks and the like such as a washing machine drum and a fish tank tube…

I also really liked their white wine, which was a blend of Rabigato, Gouveio and Codegado Larinho. It was an easy drinking wine with bright acidity. Apparently that comes from the Rabigato while the Codegado grape brings aromatics.


They also made a red that was interesting using Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barocca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It went through a cold soak for 48 hours. It was ripe and full bodied with juicy, silky tannins.

I thought the owner and his father were truly lovely and welcoming. We didn’t get too spend much time visiting the winery but it’s definitely a place to watch and somewhere I would return if and when I get back to the Douro valley.


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Wine Wednesday: Old Vines Great Reserva 2013 from Teoria Winery in Douro Valley (Portugal)


During my recent trip to the Douro Valley in September, we visited 15 wineries, four a day. As most press people know, that isn’t too many wineries, often you are asked to visit twice that number in one day. Yet even if it is only four wineries, journalists are never the same at the start of the day as they are at the end of it.


I know this from first hand experience, as the organizer of press trips and as a participant of other press trips led by different agencies. The mix of how many wineries, which wineries and where to take people is never easy. Couple that with people’s desire to read and check their own email and maybe do some work, it is a often a delicate balancing act. All of that said, these are first world wine writer problems as Gabe Sasso from Gabe’s View mentioned to me in an email weeks ago.


This week’s wine of the week is from a winery called Teoria. They are a young winery in the Douro, having started in 2010. They have four hectares. Located in Celeiró, in the Cima Corgo, the winery is owned by the couple in the picture, both are winemakers. Their winery was our last on one of the days we were traveling. Everyone was pretty tired and not as enthusiastic as we might have been at a different hour. That is until we met this couple and their smart daughter. They were lovely and their winery was in the most amazing location.


They had a hammock out back and frankly, I would have loved to stay there and sleep for an hour. It would have been great to have a picnic overlooking the vines as well. Their property was small but they had big plans and were doing it all on their own, building the infrastructure piece by piece.


I loved their can do spirit and found it to be an extremely relaxing place to hang out. They make five wines with the Douro DOC designation. Three reds and two whites. My favorite was their Teoria Old Vines Great Reserva 2013 made from port varieties Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. They couldn’t say the exact percentages because it was a field blend.

The wines had good acidity and minerality coming from the terroir. It was full bodied with big tannins, juicy fruit and lots of spice coming from the Touriga Nacional. It was a young wine when we tried it and I would like to see how it develops in a few years. Rosa, one of the winemaker-owners, is a wine judge. This wine in particular probably does well in competitions and would certainly please some American palates.


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Wine Wednesday: Coimbra De Mattos 1858 Port Valriz


Coimbra De Mattos was one of the older estates I visited during my trip to the Douro Valley in September. The family has 55 hectares and produces port wines and still wines from a host of indigenous grape varieties. The sell their port wines under the brand Valriz while their still wines are sold under the brand names Quinta dos Mattos, Quinta de Laceira and Quinta das Condessas.  They have seven quintas as part of the group.


The family which has lived in Calafura for over seven generations is a descendant of Francisco Ayres de Carvalho and Maria de Mattos who lived on the property in the 17th century and were focused on viticulture.


We tried a number of their wines and ports and I enjoyed many but the stand-out was the 1858 tawny. It was fantastic and had hints of dried fig, nuts, carmel, fresh fruit and even great acidity with a rich long finish. Apparently over the years as evaporation takes place, the acidity becomes even more explosive. It was fantastic and such a treat. In the past I had tasted one older port, Scion, an 1855 port from Taylor Fladgate.


What a memorable experience both of these amazing ports were. The family was very generous to share this wine with us, they only have 600 bottles of it.


We met this father and son team who share this gem with us. Apparently the older gentleman’s father only opened one bottle of the wine throughout his life, at his wedding.

I also liked their white port which was salty with racy acidity made from Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Rabigato and Siría.


The 20 year old tawny was another standout with dried fruit, vanilla, oak, bramble and nuts on the palate as well as a rich and layered finish. It was made from Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. Apparently Tinta Amarela is a thinner skinned grape than the others. It was the first time during the trip that someone spoke about this particular variety. Tinta Roriz is of course Tempranillo by another name.


The 40 year old Port Valriz was also exceptional with great concentration and aromas of coffee, chocolate and dried fruit and nuts. Again, the acidity was surprising and exciting.


It was a truly gorgeous location and they showed us photos of how the pipes were brought down the mountain on oxen to the river. It had a lot of history and I was impressed with the owners and their humble approach. I found that at many of the wineries but not all.


I  am enjoying looking through  my notes and the photos from this magical trip which was a real gift and a surprise. Feliz Ano Novo!


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Quinta Do Beijo: Kisses from Douro Valley


All of the wineries that I visited on my September trip to the Douro Valley were family owned concerns except for one, Caves Santa Marta, a cooperative. Today’s post is about Quinta Do Beijo located in Celeiró do Douro. The winery owns 15 hectares of vineyards and olive trees. They make a range of port wines and still wines.


The two pictures above are of the father and son team who we met. The father, Professor Miguel Videira Monteiro, is responsible for the growth and development of the farm and the son just recently joined the business. In these pictures they are showing old presses that were used in the winery.


As in all of the wineries we saw a number of older barrels. In this particular winery we also saw one that had recently been restored, quite a laborious process.


I love these old barrels and wish I had space for one in my home but of course my apartment isn’t big enough.


One of the parts of the visit to this particular winery that I enjoyed most was that each child in the family gets a pipe of port when they are born. That Port is the colheita (vintage) from their birth year. We tasted a number of the different ones that the children had.


You can see the names on the pipes in this picture. I would love to be able to buy one of these pipes for my son.


In addition to wanting to have my own pipe resting in their winery, I really liked this wine called Porta Celeiró D’Oiro Douro Riserva from 2011. A blend of the traditional Port varieties, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. It was a big and plushy wine with juicy tannins, ripe black and red fruits and a hint of spice. At 13.5% alcohol it paired well with their local meat and pork dishes.


We also tried the 2009 of the same wine. It was even more elegant and enjoyable. Touriga needs a bit of time in the bottle in my opinion.


I took so many photos on this trip I thought I would just share a few more. The man in the picture below is a wine journalist from Poland. He had an amazing eye and took a series of pictures of everything red one day and then anything with a faucet the next, if memory serves. He was lovey. I need to find the name of his blog and link to it. Marius Kapczyński is one of the most famous wine bloggers in Poland apparently. Lovely guy. I wish I could read Polish. And did you know that Polish people under some Portuguese and vice versa because the accents are similar….




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Women In Wine Fridays: An Interview with Justina Teixeira from Quinta da Barca in the Douro Valley


This week’s Friday post is in the Women in Wine Fridays series. I meet a lot of wonderful women in the wine industry during my travels and I also seek them out at whatever trade tasting I attend when in New York. I have done this series over the years with a variety of women. Usually I pick someone because I either love the wine, something about them appeals to me, the property is beautiful or some other feeling of connection. I met Justina Teixeira just once at her amazing winery this past September during a press trip. I immediately took a liking to her, even before I tasted her wines. She seemed very down to earth and approachable. Someone I could imagine as a friend if I lived in the Douro. She was also very humble and somewhat shy which was appealing as well. She brought her daughter out to say hello at the end and that too, endeared her to me. Quinta da Barca is located at a stunning point along the Douro with incredible views and sun exposure for the grapes


The vines were quite close to the river in what is called the Baixa Corgo. The river valley is split into three areas. Quinta da Barca make its first wine in 2005 with the label Busto.


The busto or bust in question is of the Marquis of Pombal who first demarcated the Douro Valley in 1756 as the first region in the world of wine to have that designation as a demarcated area. All over the Douro people should us stones that the Marquis had planted to demarcate the area.


Justine answered my questions via email. I will write about the wines at the end of the post.

How did you get into the wine business?

This is a business family. Through the last 10 years I was working not in this business. But, because it´s a family business and I thought that it could be a very interesting challenge and the products were having a good ranking and good feedback from consumers and professionals from this sector, I decided that it was the right time to start with this new challenge. And the work on sales began in January 2016.

What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

Until now I didn´t feel any difficulties. What I notice is the surprise from customers, competition, distributors because is not usual to have a woman in this business particularly in sales. So sometimes what I feel is that the difficulty is in the other side: having to negotiate with a woman is something “strange”.

What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?

I really started some time ago, but my all experience tells me that we will start to see much more women in this business, especially in sales. Making wine, directly, at this moment we can see some women names getting notoriety and this will increase in the next 5-10 years. And this change needs to happen because we have a different sensibility and vision that is something very positive.


What do you see happening in the Douro Valley area?

At this moment in Douro Valley are appearing many small/medium producers with their own wines. And in this region, we have something that is fascinating: wines with profiles that are completely different from each other even when the farms are very close, in the same location.
Another point is that wine tourism that is growing very fast. It´s another opportunity to increase the products to offer to the customers.

What do you think about the level of wine education on Douro Valley in general?

In this point, I think that we have a lot of work to do. In Douro Valley we start later with “table wines”, because the big companies were only focused in Port Wines. Other Portuguese regions started much earlier to promote their “tables wines”, like Alentejo, Vinhos Verdes, Dão… So this kind of work takes time, and the final consumer needs time and a lot of promotion and education from the producers.

Who is the average wine drinker today in Portugal?

We have different segments, but nowadays people between 30-50 years are the principal consumers that want different things and are starting to have a critical sense, in a positive way.

Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

Slowly, I think that in the next 10 years women in industry (making wine directly) will be at the same level and number as men. In sales I think that will be a little more complicated because it´s necessary to change the “chip”. So in this case I think that we will see 15/20% of the sales being directed by women.

What do you think will happen with climate change in your area?

This is a delicate issue, because we depend a lot on the climate, and we know that the years have started to be more and more unstable and this can interfere with the production and quality, which is a big problem for us.

Where do you see your products in the US market? Restaurants? By the glass programs? Stores?

Restaurants and stores, particularly “gourmet” stores.

What do you like most about the business compared to your first career?

The dynamic of this business it´s completely different, the people and the fact of being a business family. It´s like a dream that we are looking for everyday!

Will your daughter be the future of the company?

I hope so! But who knows??


Quinta da Barca makes whites, roses and reds. I liked all of the wines.

Busto Branco Moscatel Galego 2015

A lovely white wine with refreshing acidity, nice citrus flavors and zest. It would have been great with seafood.

Busto Colheita Branco 2015

A nice white made from a blend of Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Arinto and Moscatel. Fresh and floral, I liked this wine which had perfume aromas and flavors. It too would work well as an aperitif or with light fare.

Busto Reserva Branco 2014

Made from Arinto, Viosinho, Rabigato and Malvasia Fina, this wine was lovely and one that I could drink a bottle of all on my own. Each of these indigenous varieties brought something to the party and the blend was elegant, full bodied and refreshing at the same time.

Busto Colheita rose 2015

Made from the typical port varieties, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Francisca.
It had both good acidity and moderate alcohol which was perfect. I could see drinking this with seafood, a light pasta, as an apertif or even with pizza.


Busto Colheita Tinto 2013

Again a blend of the same port grapes as the Rose but this deep ruby red wine had a nice mouth feel, juicy tannins and good balance. It would have worked perfectly with the roasts and pork that we were served each day in Portugal

Busto Reserva Tinto Touriga Nacional 2011

This wine was the big powerhouse of the lineup. Most wineries in the Douro are making a monovarietal of Touriga Nacional. Touriga produces full bodied wines with good tannins and structure. Theirs ages for 6-9 months in oak.

Busto Touriga Nacional  Grande Escolha 2010

This was the top of the ling of their wines. I found it to be elegant and balanced which is what they are looking for. Again, Touriga is making its claim to fame is the signature variety for the Douro and for Portugal in general. I think Americans who like powerful wines will warm to these very easily. All of their wines were very polished and refined, like their owners. Justine’s husband is the winemaker.

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Quinta Dos Castelares – A Winery To Watch From Douro Valley


On my recent trip to the Douro Valley, I was amazed at the breadth and diversity of producers. Some with new wineries others with generations of history and port barrels behind them. One of the men behind this winery in Freixo de Espada à Cinta in the Upper Douro Valley, reminded me of an American from the Silicon Valley. Unexpected deep in the Douro where this winery is located. Pedro Martins was on fire when we met him late in the evening. His father-in-law Manuel Caldeira created this estate and has long worked the lands in this area of the Douro while Pedro was born in Porto. The Douro river runs East to West from Spain through Northern Portugal. The valley is split into three regions and Castelares is in the most remote part of the Douro and closer to Spain than the others that we visited. Castelares also has a well-known winemaker, Rui Roboredo Madeira.


A lot of money went into making Quinta Dos Castelares what it is today and this young and driven man wants to make sure that his father in law recoups the investments made quickly. At Quinta de Castelares, they try to make the most of the differences in altitudes and sun exposure in their various vineyards. The white grape varieties are planted in the higher and cooler areas, facing North/Northeast while the reds are mostly planted at vineyards closer to the riverbank. The climate in the Upper Douro is a hot and dry Mediterranean one with harsh winters, hot summers and little rain. Soils are mainly schist and stones.


The produce a variety of whites and reds, my favorite was the 2014 Douro Valley tinto made from a blend of traditional grapes that included Touriga National, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Pedro said they have a very large market in Brazil and he hopes to do the same in the states.


One of the things that I found so interesting on this trip was how different people were at each winery, their grapes, their aspirations, their outlook and presentations.


Another part of the trip that was interesting was traveling with one American sommelier/Chef and three Polish journalists. Our outlooks and our palates at times intersected and at times diverged completely.


The location of this winery was spectacular and the night we arrived we were treated to a fabulous sunset. On press trips, the order of your visits can at times influence one’s view of the winery I think. What was great on this particular press trip was that the wineries were all so diverse that one was constantly learning a new way of looking at the region.


Castelares will be a name to watch in America I am sure as the wines are bold, clean and mostly ready to drink. They will appeal to the millennial consumer in my view and that is just what this owner is looking to do, pitch to his generation.



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Women In Wine Fridays: Aileen Robbins of the Dunn Robbins Group

Michele, Aileen, Mario

Thinking about my love for Portugal, I realized that it is all thanks to the lovely lady in the photo, Aileen Robbins of the Dunn Robbins Group. I first met Aileen when I moved back to New York after having lived in Italy for many years. She was and is always a pleasure to see and chat with. Aileen I believe studied to be an opera singer and she adds touches of song to her speech at various points in a conversation. I have had the pleasure of working with Aileen on a number of projects through the years and pitching others. Among those highlights was a project on Madeira and a fantastic trip to the Tejo in 2013 that sparked my interest in Portugal. I had been twice before but never to a wine region or more preciously never on a wine trip. Thanks to Aileen, indirectly this last time, I have now been on two wine trips. A consummate professional and a pleasure to be around, Aileen has opened a new world to me and for that, I am very grateful.

Portuguese wine fact #1: Alicante Bouchet grows in the Alentejo: “Despite not being an indigenous Portuguese grape variety, Alicante Bouschet is so deep-rooted in Alentejo collective patrimony that it is often assumed to be Portuguese. In fact it is a displaced variety, the result of conjoining the French varieties Petit Bouschet and Grenache. It is one of the world’s very few colouring grapes, able to provide concentrated, deeply coloured wines, a feature that has earned it the nickname “Writing Ink,” according to the website Vinhos do Alentejo.

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