At the beginning of this January, whist I do indeed love Scotland in the winter, I took off to Lisbon for a week, to search for regional Portuguese grape varieties that I had not yet encountered. The Palacio Ramalhete made a lovely base – an 18th century (or possibly older) large town house in the quarter where most of the foreign embassies are, it is small, personal, historic and has a soul and character, not to mention lovely period features and an all pervading air of tranquility.
In the space of a week I had the opportunity to try more than a dozen, new to me, grape varieties. If you are ever in Lisbon I can recommend the Club de Jornalistas in Rue Rodrigues Faria for a slightly quirky and enjoyable, off the beaten track, lunch or dinner venue. The best dinner though was at 100 Maneiras – sensational.
Another amazing restaurant worth a mention is “A Trevessa” which, hidden up a tiny back street has a modest front door that actually leads into a former 17th century convent. The restaurant is in a notable setting overlooking the convent quadrangle. Dinner starts with a series of surprise starters and you are left to choose your main course. I opted for a wild bull steak which went perfectly with a Quinta Ventozelo Touriga Nacional. A property in the Douro that I visited in 2012.
Beyra Quartz, Porrais, Quinta Monteirinho, Flor do Tua Tras-os-Montes, Quinta da Gandara Encruzado and Codega de Larinho were just a few of the wines that stood out from amongst those I tried and I was also made very aware of Portugal’s ability to work well with international grape varieties too after tasting a Q M O Lybra 2009 Syrah from Lisbon.