Thursday, 22 August 2013

Sabor de Portugal

I have been a little bit skeptical about Portuguese wines for quite a long time.
I had read they were either greenish white wines (vinhos verde) produced with unripe and unflavoured grapes or dense, thick, excessively heavy reds. With the exception of Port, Portuguese wines didn't seem to be that appealing to me.
Then I tasted some of them. And I changed my mind.

Probably everything started that night of 3 years ago in Evora, an inland old Roman city not far from Lisbon, in the 'O Fialho restaurant where a great dinner was paired with a fantastic wine.

My first experience with a wine from Alentejo. The fact that I can't remember the name is due only to my increasing age and the consequent bad effects on my memory but the wine was impressive and perfectly matching the dish of pork with clams (yes you got it right, with clams! And yes it was absolutely ultra-delicious!) I was greedily enjoying.

Curiosity brought me to read a bit more about Portuguese wines. Similarly to the other European countries that have gone through a fascist regime in the last century, such as Spain and Italy, Portugal wine production has been strongly affected by Salazar's dictatorship. His program of cooperativization has certainly been one of the major causes of the country backwardness in viticulture and vinification techniques until recent times.
But, as most experts say, in the last decades there has been a proper revolution thanks to some audacious winemakers.
And even if, for a while these wines have struggled to get the deserved attentions the move to stick to indigenous varietals instead of choosing the 'easily approachable' international ones have proved to be the right one. Nowadays Portuguese wines are not anymore `the next thing`, they are THE thing.
They offer very good quality, competitive prices and a unique sense of place.

And here are a few snapshots of some of my Portuguese favorites...

What's the moral of this story?
Don't ever let your wine curiosity be killed by prejudices.
Just taste!


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Perfect day (or almost!)

There is no perfect day such as those Sundays when I am relaxing at home and doing a bit of cooking. 

To me Saturdays are for the things I NEED  to do (food shopping, cleaning, gym...) and possibly to see friends. But Sundays are just for myself.
This is why I always try to save these days only for the things I like: reading, cooking (while listening) to music, maybe having a walk in the park and taking everything slowly!!

Preparing pizza perfectly fits in the put together your ingredients and then just wait for the dough to rise...A few more steps and a lovely dinner is ready. 

It's comfy food. Just like your old slippers!

I also like to experiment with desserts. Last week I made some ricotta mousse with strawberries, pistachio and amaretti (on the bottom). It was very good!

Wine can't be missing on a day like this. If it's a sunny BBQ Sunday it will probably be a refreshing white....

If it's a wintery roast lunch, then a generous red....

What could possibly ruin a day like this? ......any idea?

A corked bottle!!! If you happen to be so unlucky to get a bottle that falls in that 5% statistic of corked wine, even a day of total relax like this can end up in a miserable way!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Pizza, pasta, mafia & mandolino....

I think we all know the common stereotypes on Italians.
Once it was pizza, pasta, mafia, mandolino and the legend about the Italian stallions (yes, I am sorry it is only a legend!)

More recently we also tend to be seen as bad drivers, short-tempered, loud, a bit messy and bunga bunga people. Well, as an Italian living abroad, you can imagine that sometimes being categorized this way it's not that pleasant. I definitely don’t see myself as loud, maybe a bit messy yes and not the most patient woman in the world, ok. But I can drive decently and definitely don’t want to be associated to anything Berlusconi-related. On the other hand I have to admit that we all tend to have stereotypes on other populations or different cultures. It’s human. Often these are wrong. More often they are actually right.

But if we are talking about Italian wines instead, what are the stereotypes and is there any truth in them?

Let me start destroying a couple of the old cliche'....First of all, Italy does not only produce Pinot Grigio, Chianti and Lambrusco as some may think. There is much more out there. One of the greatest characteristics of wine production in Italy is its diversity. Wine is produced all over the country and each regions has indigenous varieties and traditional techniques, so be adventurous and next time you are about to choose a bottle of wine, try something different even if you can't pronounce the name!!

Second, Chianti is not just a cheap wine sold in traditional fiascos. 
Have you ever tried some Fontodi, Selvapiana, Felsina or Isole e Olena for example? Well if you haven't yet, it's really time to do it. Get out, find a bottle of one of these, taste it and think about what people say about Chianti. It ain't right, uhm?!

And for those considering themselves Italian wine conosseurs because they happen to have tried some Super Tuscans and are now convinced that these wines are the maximum (or the only) expression of this country wine production, well...I am sorry to disappoint you but I think you need more exercise. When the first Super Tuscans appeared in the late 70s they could have possibly been some of the best wines on the market but now this is not true anymore. Get a taste of Barolos, Aglianicos, Brunellos, good Soaves...and many more....

Last but not least, if the only wines that pop up on your mind when thinking about Italy are those coming from Tuscany, let me tell you that Italy is divided in 20 regions and as said before, they all produce wines, so why don't you explore other areas? 
Maybe some wines from Southern Italy, maybe Friuli Venezia Giulia or will be pleasantly surprised.

There is definitely much yet to be discovered on Italian wines and plenty of wrong beliefs. The common stereotypes are not doing them justice.
Maybe we should all revise our stereotypes and be more open minded....not only for the Italian wines!


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Ready for wine partying?!

For those who haven't been on holiday yet or are just packing now, Winehippie has great news!!
August is a perfect time of the year for traveling around Europe.

Ok, right, it is high (very high, actually the highest) season which means that beaches and tourist destinations are crowded and it is impossible to find a cheap flight or place to stay, but is also festival time!!

Especially if you are staying in the Mediterranean area you will find plenty of little local feasts celebrating patrons, local products or just summer. And if you are lucky enough (or if you chose your destination based on wine interest as well) you can possibly find a wine festival going on....

I have made a bit research for you and found out some interesting things.
Let's start with France....

On August 14th in Rasteau, Southern France, from 5pm onwards there will a Nuit de Vin, where all wine producers will be showing their wines in the town streets, together with other local products and some musical bands. The night will end up with a ball in the main place. For more info you can email the tourist board at

On August 31st, in Avignon, the winemakers will celebrate the Harvest Proclamation with a traditional feast that dates back to the Middle Ages. You will find plenty of food and wine stands, tastings and music  all around this beautiful historic city of the Rhone Valley. And all for free!

Let's move to Italy...

The main summer event for wine tourists will be, for sure, Calici di Stelle which goes on between the 5th and 11th of August. A  lot of wineries all around the Bel Paese will be open to visitors during these dates but the event will culminate on the night of the shooting stars with an exceptional late opening of the wineries that will organize tastings or dinners. Here you will find all the wineries that are participating.

In the Tuscia Viterbese, north of Rome, the Feste del Vino della Tuscia will continue until the 18th of August with different events in different towns including Tarquinia and Montefiascone.

And if you are in Southern Tuscany today or tomorrow, you can't miss the little festival of theater and wine in Scansano called Teatro nel bicchiere. A mix of free tastings and live performances among the streets of this medieval little countryside town with young Italian artists and a lot of good Morellino!

Hope you will enjoy and....salute!