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Portuguese Wines
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Not just port!

Portugal has excellent wines, but the quantities are so small that few people know about them.  Many labels never leave their own valleys.  Few Portuguese wines are exported, even to Spain.

The most famous export product, of course, is port itself, the fortified wine whose name is taken from the northern city of Porto.  We did not visit Porto or the Duero valley on our visit in 2002, so we cannot add anything on that subject except to say that the store we visited in Lisbon, Napoleao, ships port all around the world.  See below.  The Duero Valley has famous tourist barge rides up the river that stop at vinyards.

Something that is special about  Portugal is the very lightly sparkling Vinho Verde, or Green Wine.  The description from the Napoleao wine store in Lisbon is right on:

"This is a wonderful, unique wine, produced in the northern part of the country, in a microclimate area, where there is a lot of rain and cloudiness and not a lot of sun.  This wine is produced from green grapes that won't mature, because of the lack of the sun.  It is a summer wine:  dry, citric fruity, slightly sparkling and delightfully fresh."

The region of Alentejo is a favorite wine region for some of the best red and white wines.  We stayed in Evora, one of the chief towns in the region, but did not have time to visit any of the near-by vinyards.  (I am looking for a source on an Alentejo wine route for future reference.)  According to Napoleao:

"Trinacdeira, Arangones, Periquita (red), Roupeiro, Antao Vaz, Esgana-Cao (white) are the predominant red grape varieties from Alentejo.  The Alentejo's wines are, usually, drunk young (from two to seven years), because this is a specially sunny, hot an dry area with an exceptional soil for grapes, so the grapes are more mature when harvested, extending the process of fermentation."

Members of our party in 2002 visited a vinyard near Obidos, in the west of Portugal.  This is another wine region.  There is a beautiful Portuguese language website identifying a Wine Route of the West (Obidos):

http://www.rt-oeste.pt/rota_vinho.htm

The tourist site for western region as a whole: http://www.rt-oeste.pt

We were interested in having some of our favorite Portuguese wines shipped back home to us.  The concierge at our hotel in Lisbon (during our 2002 stay) told us that the best wine store in town that is willing to ship is Napoleao.  We had a delightful visit there.  Its address is:

Rua dos Fanqueiros No. 70,

1100-231 Lisboa - Portugal.

Telephone:  (00 351) 21 886 11 08, or -- 887 20 42.

Fax:  21 886 11 09.

They kept offering us ports to drink!  They said, the current vintage will be rated the sixth best in history.  The way it works is you can drink it this year and next year, then the port closes -- whatever that means -- and you need to set it aside 10 years.  After that, you can drink it all you want.  I guess the Wine Spectator is about to do its annual rating, so the port may soon disappear.  Anyway, it was great, but we didn┤t order any port.  The one they were pushing was Burmester Zaco -- an unbelievable flavor!

What we did order a case of the green wine for ourselves.  The laughed when we showed an interest in the green wine we had enjoyed all over Portugal.  They had it, but said it was for the restaurants.  Instead, they showed us their favorite, the Alvarinho Deu-la-Deu 2001 for 6.78 and their second favorite, the Casa de Sezim 2001, for 4.12.  We got a case of the Alvarinho.

The UPS charge for 12 bottles was 89.90 and for 6 bottles was 54.10, so it seemed like the right thing to do was to order 12.

I am not an expert on the legalities of shipping wine to an address in the US, but I have heard that it depends on what state you are in.  Check the situation for your own state before ordering any wines.

We learned something else.  My wife always gets headaches when she drinks red wine, but it never happened in Portugal. They told her that Portugal still uses salt, not sulfite,  to wash the barrels not sulfite. They said that many Americans, especially women, made the same
observation.

The Napoleao website is:

 www.napoleao.co.pt

Orders and follow-up questions should be sent to their email at:

wine@napoleao.co.pt.

There should be no problems with orders because they have some fluent English speakers on staff.

For what it's worth, our local wine store -- one of the very best in the Chicago area -- had only one green wine in stock when I called them.  It was very expensive, and they described it as in the "novelty" category and did not carry it regularly.  This suggests the importance of establishing a way to order wines directly from Portugal, if, like us, you develop a fondness for them.

Our traveling companions have been able to order Portuguese imports from this store:

Ferry Wine & Liquor Store
158 Ferry St
Newark, NJ 07105
973-589-8251
An excellent touristical guide to Portuguese wines appeared in two articles in "American Way" magazine shortly after our visit:  http://gryjhnsn.tripod.com/traveladvice/americanwayportugalarticle.pdf

http://gryjhnsn.tripod.com/traveladvice/americanwayportugalsidebar.pdf

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