Food and wine pairing: Sushi and Sashimi with Vinho Verde from Portugal

September 8, 2012

A selection of sushi and sashimi

We had a kind of quick lunch today. We bought a selection of sushi and sashimi. The question was what wine to have with it? Well, we had not much choice because my wine fridge is almost empty.

So I picked out of distress (I did not want to take one of my great Riesling wines) the last bottle of Vinho Verde we had, a bottle by Casal Mendes, which can be obtained in Bangkok super markets at relatively low cost.

Casal Mendes Vinho Verde

Woh, what a surprise: it worked wonders, I thought. The Portuguese Vinho Verde with its low alcohol and freshness was just the right wine with the raw fish and the rice. What an excellent choice this was. I highly recommend to try this pairing of Eastern food with Western wine.

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Summer lunch with Vinho Verde in Bangkok

May 21, 2012

Casal Mendes Vinho Verde

At the end of the dry season in tropical Bangkok temperatures reach above the 40 Celsius. Fortunately, the humidity is rather low at this time of the year, at least before the casual tropical rain shower goes down. These showeres become more and more frequent over the next weeks until the transition to the rainy season is completed.

Therefore, light lunches are the go. Nobody wants rich and filling food but instead prefers salads, grilled vegetables and maybe something fresh from the water.

Regarding the wine selection low alcohol Riesling wines are my preferred choice. But another wine which is ideally suited to the conditions are whites from Portugal, especially Vinho Verde. Fortunately for us in Bangkok some Casal Mendes Vinho Verde is available.

We had such a lunch last Staurday, with grilled green asparagus, an insalata caprese, and some grilled scampi. The olive oil we are using is of first quality. Needless to say the disheses were just delicious.

Green asparagus

Mozzarella with organic tomatoes

Grilled scampi

What a meal


Vinho Verde in Bangkok – a Portuguese delight

February 18, 2012

Vinho Verde from Caves Alianca Casal Mendes, Portugal

In the tropics (with its warm and humid days) a wine with low alcohol content is one of the most enjoyable day drinks. So when I found Vinho Verde by Casal Mendes in our supermarket, I was thrilled.

I bought all the bottles on offer despite the fact that I did not know what I was buying. It reminded me of the many happy days we had when visiting northern Portugal some years ago. With 9% alcohol and the typical Vinho Verde character, this wine is a treat.

Vinho Verde

I also liked the shape of the bottle, this voluminous, round and low bottles just fitted into my hand. I had to pay about TB 600 (12 EURO) for it. Internet wine dealers offer the product for 5 EURO in Europe.

I could not find an English website explaining what “Caves Alianca Casal Mendes” is all about. I mean there is a small English section, but not a very evocative one (“problem loading page”, said my browser).

From the Portuguese one, I figured that the winery is more than 80 years old with about 5 “quintas” or vineyards/wineries. My uninformed guess is that it is a mass producer sourcing grapes from different locations and vineyards.

Some bread, ham and olives helped to make this a special occasion today, leisurely relaxing on my terrace. Join me one day.
Cheers to Portugal and its Vinho Verde.


Germany: Asparagus season

May 26, 2009

Asparagus1

A spring delicacy in Germany

It is the asparagus season in Germany and I had the opportunity to indulge myself into quite a few “asparagus orgies”. Fresh white asparagus is so delicious. I like it with just some melted butter, a few potatoes, and maybe some fresh German ham.

Asparagus2

Tender asparagus tops

Asparagus3

Delicious potatoes

What wine do you drink with asparagus? Well, I had a simple Riesling from the Rheingau. But almost all white wines pair well with white asparagus. Germany is a Mecca for white wines. The recent edition of the “Weinwelt” (wine world) magazine identified four best buy whites to consume with asparagus. All were of different grape varieties (Vinho Verde, Silvaner, Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner but no Riesling), and all can be purchased for under € 7.-, what a bargain. They were:

‘2008 Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde’ by Sogrape Vinhos, Portugal;

‘2008 Grüner Silvaner, dry’ by Weingut Manz, Rheinhessen;

‘2008 Tour de Pocé Sauvignon Blanc Réserve’ by Pierre Chainier, Touraine, France;

‘2008 Grüner Veltliner Hundschupfen, dry’ by Weingut Hagn, Mailberg, Austria.

I have not tried any of them as yet but reading the review brought tears to my eyes, my nose was hallucinating, and my taste buds seemed to feel the crispness of the wines.

Asparagus4

My “simple” Rheingau Riesling


Portugal – Quinta da Aveleda

October 18, 2008

The first bottle of vinho verde I bought in my life came from a small local supermarket in S. Martinho de Recesinhos near Penafiel about 40 km east of Porto. We had just put up at Quinta de Gatao and went to shop for some groceries. I browsed the shelves of the wine section and bought a selection of local wines from EURO 1.50 to 5.50. And the bottle in the picture above was one of them. Quinta da Aveleda said the label. It did not mean anything to me.

I also bought cheese produced by Quinta da Aveleda (picture above). There were two varieties of it on offer. Only much later would we learn that Quinta da Aveleda is a rather big wine and cheese producing enterprise nearby in Penafiel (in fact one of the biggest in Portugal). By the way both cheeses, the soft and the hard one, are delicious and we should eat many more of them during our week long stay.

One afternoon, we went to visit the place and check it out. We came just at the right time for the last guided tour. We were shown the bottling plant, and a kind of museum before settling for the tasting which was held on a large veranda on the backside of one of the buildings. We did not visit the enormous park and the gardens.

The family enterprise has a long history going back to 1671. But it can be assumed that the place is much older. In the Celtic tradition of Lusitania, the women who predicted the future, were sacrificed and called “Velledas”. That’s most probably were the name comes from. The place and the family business has a long and winding history and experienced all the ups and downs typical for the wine industry, from phylloxera to international wine awards, from expansion to contraction everything can be found.

The cellar door and gift shop offers not only wine and cheese but various kinds of local produce from the Minho and Douro wine regions.

A newly planted vineyard can be seen from the tasting terrace.

Vinho verde is being offered in various variations, but together with the self-produced cheese and some bread. The wine is fruity and fresh, young and bubbly, ideal for hot summer days. Alcohol is about 9-10%.

This is the light vinho verde (branded as Casal Garcia) mainly produced for the US market (even lower in alcohol, about 8%) where Quinta da Aveleda sells millions bottles. I forgot the exact figure, but the number is mind blowing for a small vintner like me who produces just a couple of thousand bottles a year. I found the winery tour interesting (tough I prefer visiting smaller establishments), the staff was friendly and accommodating. Take your time, and explore the gardens.

Address:


Portugal – Quinta de Gatão

October 10, 2008

This summer we spent a wonderful week on Quinta de Gatão (www.quintagatao.com), near Penafiel, about 40 km east of Porto. “Quinta” is either translated as “Farm/Vineyard/Winery” or “Manor house”.

Quinta de Gatão is owned and managed by Mr. Jorge Coelho da Silva, a very lovely man who’s day job is being a professor at a teachers college in Porto. The property has been with the family since four generations. Five peasant families used to live and work there. Today, the vineyards are only cultivated every other year to produce vinho verde., a bottle of which waited for us in the fridge. In the mornings, fresh bread is delivred and you can find it hanging on the door. What a treat! The horse stable and the riding school were the main attractions for our daughters. The old folks were equally attracted by the vineyard feature.

The Quinta de Gatão consists of a manor house with a chapel surrounded by various farm buildings. Some of these were converted into cottage type accommodation. We had rented one of them. Because of its elevation one has a magnificent view of the area which is quite densely populated. In comparison to the rural Australia we are used to around Glenburn, the housing sprawl in Penafiel is a bit too much. However, it does not seem fair to compare quasi empty rural Australia to the vicinity of a bustling port city such as Porto.

The Manor house from the backside

The entrance to our cottage

We loved our cottage. With its rustic rural charm it put a spell on all of us. The walls consisted of big granite stone blocks. It has a fire place in the kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom with a loft (just as our home in Australia).

This is the place where we prepared delicious country meals

The vines are providing shade, originally to produce vegetables and other crops underneath.

A typical snack in the afternoon consisted of Vinho Verde (here ni rose), country cheese, some sausages, olives and bread.

An Australian vintner in a Portugeuse vineyard

The swimming pool with a great view of the surroundings

Apart from the riding stable and the riding arena, Quinta de Gatão has other facilities to offer its visitors. Among them is the beautiful swimming pool, a tennis court, and a large field to play all kinds of ball games; indoor entertainment such as kicker etc. and billyard is also available. One can have long walks in the vineyards and the surrounding forests.

The entrance to the chapel

We had a great time there and I can only highly recommend the place. Actually, we plan to return next year and spend some more time in this region. We had juts not sufficient time to explore the region. There is so much to see. The Douro is close by. Porto less an an hour away. But it is the hospitality of Mr. da Silva and his family which will draw us back. There are no words to describe the welcome we received on Quinta de Gatão.

Address:
Quinta de Gatão


Vinho Verde – Portuguese delight

September 11, 2008

Vinho Verde wines are unique among the blended white wines of Portugal (and the world) attempting to harmonize delicate aromas and flavours. The name, Vinho Verde, is somehow misleading. Vinho Verde wines are not made of “unripe” grapes as some people say, but are rather “young” wines in contrast to “aged” wines. There are red and white Vinho Verde wines available. The red ones are often a challenge to our culturally determined palates. During my recent trip to Porto, Portugal I had ample opportunity to taste and explore the wines of Northern Portugal. Among them the famous Vinho Verde wines of the Minho wine region.

It is not easy to find a “pure”, varietal wine in the Minho wine region of Portugal. Traditionally Vinho Verde is a blend consisting of several grape varieties (www.vinhoverde.pt) such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Trajadura and Loureiro.

However, with a bit of luck I found some bottles in the café next to the cathedral in Amarante, a small town at the (Rio) Tamega river, about 50 km east of Porto. The wines came from Quinta da Lixa (www.quintadelixa.pt), a well known producer located in the village of Vila da Lixa about 20 minutes northwest of Amarante.

From left to right: 2007 Quinta da Lixa Loureiro, Alvarinho and Trajadura

The tasting notes for the three wines you can find on the websites which I mentioned above. Average production for the three varieties at Quinta da Lixa is bout 7 tons per hectare. The wines are low in alcohol (10 to 11.5%) and show an acidity of about 6.5 g/l.

The Trajadura grape has, in contrast to Alvarinho and Loureiro, a rather plush character and is less acidic than the other two varieties. It is often used to soften the blended Vinho Verde wines.

The Loureiro grape provides the fragrant character of the blended Vinho Verde wines. The single varietal wine of Quinta da Lixa which I tasted was slightly “sparkling” and very aromatic (more aromatic than the other two single varietal wines of Quinta da Lixa). All three wines showed citrus, lime and green apple aromas. They were very fresh and clean, served at the right temperature they are wonderful summer wines. Earlier vintages of Quinta da Lixa Loureiro and Trajadura received 89 and 90 points by some tasters. I loved them as single varietals as well as in the blended incarnation.