Looking Forward, Looking Back

It has been an interesting, and not always easy, year or more establishing a new role for myself independently of my prior employers here in Porto. With the increased recognition of Portuguese wine, food and tourism, there is a real need for good English translations for Portuguese websites and promotional materials to do justice to the products and services offered.  You can learn more about my activities on the Portfolio and Services pages (ou em português, Portfólio e Serviços).

My most recent project has been fascinating – Francisco Javier Olazabal, more generally known in the Douro as Vito, has written a history of Quinta do Vale Meão for which I have written the English translation. We have one more proof to complete and then the book should be published shortly, in a fully bi-lingual edition with lavish illustrations from the family archives as well as spectacular photos of the Quinta both historic and contemporary.

Barca Velha winery at Quinta do Vale Meão

Barca Velha winery at Quinta do Vale Meão

Whilst those of us conversant with Douro history are certainly familiar with Vito’s great-great-grandmother, Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, I enjoyed learning more about the subsequent generations and the history of the Quinta itself from its creation in the late 19th century until the present day, when Vito and his children were able to purchase all the shares in the property from various cousins. Since then he and his son Xito have created the Quinta do Vale Meão wines, which have been highly regarded since their launch in 2001; their Quinta do Vale Meão 2011 was ranked #4 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014.

Working with Vito was a wonderful experience, he is one of the handful of men who shaped the modern port trade during his years with Casa Ferreirinha and led the rise of Douro wines internationally first with Ferreirinha’s Barca Velha and now with Quinta do Vale Meão. His story of the Quinta was a great read and a fun challenge to translate.

Looking Back

In overhauling my blog to give it a fresh look, I have also reviewed every article, from my very first blog written in anticipation of going to Vosne-Romanée to cut grapes for the 2008 harvest at Domain Anne Gros. In re-reading I have updated or removed links and added a few notes with current information for reference.

It has been a bit sad to see the number of businesses, restaurants or websites that have closed – David Clarke, who made excellent wines in Morey St. Denis has sold up and returned to Scotland and his original profession as an engineer and some specialist amateur Burgundy sites have disappeared.  Here in Portugal sommelier Manuel Moreira whom I first met in Viseu at a tasting of Dão wines closed his bijou restaurant in Sintra but is now focussing on providing wine advisory and sommelier services through WineService4You. His team served the wines in the Premium Room at Adegga’s Porto Wine Market last year, and they were impeccable – knowledgeable and competent.

André Ribeirinho

André Ribeirinho

Along with Manuel’s new venture are some more great success stories during this time: I first met André Ribeirinho in Viseu as well, and from the launch of the Adegga social wine discovery website his enterprise has grown. The highly sucessful Wine Markets – the only wine show I know where you can buy and take home the wines from the show – have moved beyond Lisboa to Porto (11 April this year), the Algarve, and this year Stockholm and Berlin.

André has also created the award-winning Smart Glass, fitted with a computer chip by which you can gather information about the wines tasted at the shows, which will be sent to you by e-mail in a consolidated report after the event. Not only are the glasses used at all the Adegga events, but a major producer of wine shows in Brasil is using them. Well done, André!

And of course, Douro wines and Portuguese wines generally are increasingly visible and respected around the world, with three of the top four wines on that Wine Spectator Top 100 list being from the Douro, the top rated being Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port.

I first visited Mateus Nicolau de Almeida in March of 2010 – my first visit to a Douro winemaker at his quinta. I loved the property and his wines so much, I asked, and was granted, permission to use a photo of the quinta as my banner – and here you can see it in full, the view from Quinta do Monte Xisto looking up the Douro towards the mouth of the Côa River.

View from Quinta do Monte Xisto in the Douro

Mateus has grown his business from Mux Tinto and Mux Branco to a range of six wines. These include a wonderful earthy Tinta Barroca which I first tasted from cask when it was rather pale frothy pink, Xistos Altos, an elegant 100% Rabigato, and Cisne, a blend of Tinto Cão and Rabigato. He has also re-launched his Rosé which is wonderful and merits drinking year round. I had a bottle of one of his early rosés, a 2007, which for some reason was forgotten and not opened until 2014. It was marvelous, still fresh but more complex than you might expect from a rosé. It is not often that a wine meant for immediate drinking can age so well, I consider this a testament to Mateus’ meticulous wine making. Mateus was named Young Winemaker of the Year in Anibal Coutinho’s W awards list this month, and his feature photo of Mateus was taken from my report on a Muxagat tasting dinner held here in Porto.

João Nicolau de Almeida, his wife and three children L to R Mateus, Mafalda and João

João Nicolau de Almeida, his wife and three children, L to R Mateus, Mafalda and João

His father, João Nicolau de Almeida, known for his leadership of the winemaking at Ramos Pinto, has formed a family wine making business and launched the Quinta do Monte Xisto wines beginning with the 2011 vintage. Mateus makes the wines at his adega in Meda, though the whole family is involved in the project.

It’s just over five years since I arrived in Portugal. When I quit my job with Symington many people asked when I was returning to England. The answer then, and now, is that I love Portugal too well to leave, and my work and my heart both are here.

9 thoughts on “Looking Forward, Looking Back

  1. Cynthia, I smiled when I saw a new post from you. It sounds like you have transitioned into the next adventure. Good for you! I wish you tons of happiness. One of these days, I’ll be passing through and perhaps we can meet in person and have a glass of wine. All the best.

    • Hello Margaret! Thank you, good to see you too – I keep checking back to your blog and site for news of the next book. And yes, please do let me know if you are coming this way. Take care.

  2. Hi Cynthia, i am happy to run into your post. Looking forward to the publication of your work about Quinta do Vale Meão. Please let me know the dat of release. Warm regards, Eus

    • Hello Eus! Let me make clear – it is the work of Vito Olazabal, I only translated it! But yes, when it is published I will certainly mention it here and I am sure you will see it on their Facebook page and website as well. Let me know if you will be in Porto again this year. Take care.

  3. Cynthia,

    I love your writing it must seem along way from drinking hot cans of wine whilst sailing with your Dad !

    Your constant evolution is inspiring.


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