I’ve much bemoaned the lack of travelling I’ve been doing of late. Get out your tiny violin and let me tell you that I’ve not been to anywhere but Ireland for more than 5 days in over 2 years. Now, what is that about?! I’ve been working hard but playing less, in the last few months particularly, so I figured it was time to do something about this somewhat depressing state of affairs, and headed to Lisbon for the weekend.
Why Lisbon? The European Wine Bloggers Wine Conference was there this year, and having met, and tasted much wine with Gabriella & Ryan Opaz and their co-organiser Rob MacIntosh this year, I had to go. They’re great people and extremely innovative, whatever they were organising, it was sure to be good. There’s also been much talk of organising a food one over a few days next year, since last March in fact so it made sense to see how it was done before getting that moving after the Blaggers’ Banquet. The bonus was that I had never been to Portugal and was keen to explore.
How was it? Well, great. The Portugese people, in the wine world and without are open, friendly and beyond hospitable. I had a somewhat twisted expectation that I may be seen as a fraud deeply entrenched in the world of wine, but really, that says more about me than them, as my experience was quite the opposite.
Highlights were Friday nights tasting and dinner with the Douro Boys, a meander through the Portugese wine stands on Saturday trying gorgeous ports, tawnys and many wines featuring the national grape touriga nacional, a wonderful canape and wine session at michelin starred restaurant Eleven, followed by a mildly misjudged dancing session in Lisbon, a superb trip to the Tejo region and winery Quinta Lagoalva, featuring a tour of their cork farm and a sample of theirs and the regions wines, followed by lunch with the winemakers. Such a treat.
More still, a wonderful dinner, lots of delicious wines, and more dancing at Alfandega in Lisbon. Where things got really special, however was, bus journey aside, for I am a terrible bus passenger, especially after much dancing, wine swilling and little sleep, a trip to the Douro and to (for me) two wineries. This was a wonderful exposure to the wine and food culture in Portugal and the really lovely people. There was no pretension, just warm, friendly people and lovely food and wine. Thanks so much to Francisco Olazabal of Quinta do Vale Meão, Cristiano Van Zeller of Quinta do Vale D. Maria, Jorge, Tomas and Miguel Roquette of Quinta do Crasto for a wonderful experience.
Throughout all of this I had exposure to a whole new community of bloggers, the wine bloggers, who are enormous fun and very knowledgable. I look forward to seeing them next year, and before then in some cases.